• May 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 4

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Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education Training

By Ted G. Futris, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Science, University of Georgia, and David Schramm, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri.

In 2008, a multistate partnership of Cooperative Extension Specialists from five land-grant universities was awarded a 5-year cooperative agreement from the Children's Bureau to develop and pilot the Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education Training (HRMET). The partnering States included Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina. The primary purpose of the project was to develop, deliver, and evaluate a relationship and marriage education (RME) training curriculum designed to support child welfare professionals (CWPs) and other professionals in building families' protective factors to improve the safety, stability, and well-being of children.

RME does this by teaching principles and practices that help parents and caregivers develop the knowledge and skills needed to form and maintain healthy couple and coparenting relationships. Based on the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Model, the principles and practices shared in the HRMET can be used by professionals both in their work with individuals not currently in a relationship (e.g., single parents, youth, grandparents, coparents) as well as those in a couple relationship (e.g., foster/adoptive parents, married couples, cohabiting couples).

In the first year of the project, a statewide needs assessment of over 1,000 CWPs in North Carolina and Missouri was conducted to identify and explore their attitudes, experiences, and possible barriers and concerns regarding RME. Findings showed that CWPs were largely open to RME and recognized the link between healthy couple relationships, positive parenting, and child safety and well-being (Schramm, Futris, Galovan, & Allen, 2013).

During the following 4 years of program development, 52 trainings were conducted across the five States, reaching 1,375 professionals. The evaluation focused on assessing not only trainee satisfaction but also pretraining and posttraining changes in the core competencies required to deliver RME. This included helping trainees see the usefulness of RME to their work and empowering them with the knowledge and efficacy to teach RME skills to their clients. Both quantitative (e.g., how often they used the resources) and qualitative (e.g., how they used the resources) data were collected 2 and 6 months following the training to examine what factors had influenced the transfer of learning to practice. Results showed that CWPs felt comfortable with delivering RME, believed the tools were a great way to help families, and used the resources in their work (Futris, Schramm, Lee, Thurston, & Barton, 2014). We also found that personal application, organizational support, and client needs and characteristics influenced their application of the training materials (Futris, Schramm, Richardson, & Lee, 2015; Scarrow, Futris, & Furhman, 2014). Here are a few comments shared by professionals:

  • "This information really can be used as a basis for managing so many of the problems that our families are facing." (Georgia)
  • "HRMET has fantastic information—it is important for anyone working with families to understand the importance of healthy relationships and the importance of parents having healthy relationships." (Iowa)
  • "I really wish it was a part of training required for all social workers. This has been the most beneficial training in the past 5 years." (Missouri)

Based on evaluation feedback, the curriculum development process culminated in a 6.5 hour training curriculum, a facilitator toolkit consisting of 60 educational fact/tip sheets, and nearly 2 hours of online training modules. For more information about the training curriculum, resources, and evaluation, visit http://www.hrmet.org.


Futris, T. G., Schramm, D., Lee, T. K., Thurston, W. D., & Barton, A. W. (2014). Training child welfare professionals to support healthy couple relationships: Examining the link to training transfer. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 8(5), 560–583. doi: 10.1080/15548732.2014.953719

Futris, T. G., Schramm, D. G., Richardson, E. W., & Lee, T., K. (2015). Integrating relationship education into child welfare services: The impact of organizational support on the transfer of learning to practice. Children and Youth Services Review, 51, 36–43. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.01.019

Scarrow, A., Futris, T. G., & Fuhrman, N. E. (2014). The factors associated with child welfare professionals' application of relationship education. Children and Youth Services Review, 46, 265–275. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.08.023

Schramm, D., Futris, T. G., Galovan, A. M., & Allen, K. (2013). Is relationship and marriage education relevant and appropriate to child welfare? Children and Youth Services Review, 35(3), 429–438. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.12.013

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