Utah One of Several States to Offer Initiatives to Strengthen Marriages

by Norris Law Group on April 23, 2014

6291376_sUtah and Oklahoma created the first statewide initiatives and dedicate federal welfare funds to relationship classes and healthy marriage programs. Sara Israelsen-Hartley writes about these programs in the Deseret News.

Started by Gov. Mike Leavitt and his wife, Jackie in 1998, Utah’s StrongerMarriage initiative now offers classes in eight counties through the Utah State University Extension Services. This initiative is funded through a federal welfare program designed to assist needy families. TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, provides funding which facilitates children being cared for in their own homes, job preparation for needy parents, prevention of out-of-wedlock pregnancies the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

Chris Gersten is a former official in the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services and founder of the Coalition for Divorce Reform, a non-partisan group working to lower the divorce rate through legislation and education. After leaving Washington, D.C. in 2005, Gersten encouraged states to devote 1 percent of their TANF funding to strengthening relationships and marriages to reduce the need for government intervention.

Gersten believes that too few states have committed to allocated TANF dollars for marriage promotion or education. About 10 states—including Utah—accepted Gersten’s challenge. But as state budgets shrunk during the recession, many states chose to drop the emphasis on marriage. Utah chose to keep the allocated 1 percent, and even used the funds to further promote the initiative recently. Melanie Reese, coordinator for StrongerMarriage.org, says, “Rather than throwing more and more money towards the effects of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbirth,” said “we try to prevent the problems up-front.”

In addition to Utah and Oklahoma, non-profits in California and Tennessee have used federal money and private donations to educate and mentor individuals, couples and families. Churches across the nation are also helping couples prepare for married life.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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