The Building Strong Families (BSF) project originated from these bodies of research, and is one of the centerpieces of a broader policy strategy to support healthy marriage. BSF is a multi-year, multi-site project sponsored by USDHHS/Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Its goal is to learn whether well-designed interventions can help interested, romantically involved, unwed parents to build stronger relationships and fulfill their aspirations for a healthy marriage if they choose to wed. This report comprises four chapters. Following an introduction, Chapter II, Implementation Approaches, describes the organizational context of the pilot sites, such as the host program or infrastructure, presence in the community, and experiences with hiring and training. It examines how the context facilitates or hinders the start-up and success of early implementation, and describes the different approaches sites have taken to developing a system for delivering BSF services. Chapter III, Recruiting Couples, illustrates why recruitment strategies are critical to the effective implementation of a program such as BSF. Sites must identify a steady flow of potential participants, which can be difficult given the very specific segment of the population that is eligible for BSF. In addition, sites have had to confront the challenge of recruiting two people for every eligible case, as the couple -- not the individual -- is the unit of interest. The chapter describes recruitment issues and tradeoffs, and reports on the number and characteristics of couples that enrolled during the pilot period. In Chapter IV, Program Participation, we discuss the challenges involved in engaging clients in a BSF program and maintaining participation. Given the length and intensity of BSF, there are numerous opportunities for participants to withdraw. Other obstacles to retention include the often chaotic lives of low-income couples, and the stresses and responsibilities of new or expecting parents. These factors, among others, mean that high levels of ongoing attendance may be more difficult to achieve, compared with other programs. Chapter V, Participant Reactions, documents how BSF participants themselves perceive the program. Through focus groups with participants and discussions with staff, we collected information on couples' satisfaction with the program, whether they feel connected to and invested in BSF, and how actively they participate in group sessions. It is important to remember that there may be selection bias in this analysis; that is, the couples who are most satisfied with BSF are more likely to remain engaged in the program. However, BSF can be successful only if it appeals to the targeted couples. This chapter begins the examination of whether or not, from the couples' perspectives, the intervention is helping their families. (Author abstract)
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