Healthy marriage and relationship education is not about forcing couples to marry or to stay in unhealthy relationships. It is about building and strengthening relationship skills in ways that help families cope with stress safely; discuss parenting and financial issues in healthy ways; and model positive, non-violent communication for children. We believe that collaboration between healthy relationship education practitioners and domestic violence and child welfare services is an important part of helping families build safe and stable homes.
Healthy relationship education teaches families how to:
- communicate in healthy ways,
- use non-violent conflict management techniques,
- enhance parenting skills, and
- navigate stresses related to finances.
Family Violence Prevention: A Toolkit for Stakeholders (PDF, 4.45 MB) can assist agencies who are interested in incorporating domestic violence and child maltreatment awareness into service provision. This free Resource Center toolkit includes information that will increase your understanding of these issues and help you identify other beneficial resources or referrals in the community on domestic violence and child maltreatment.
Remember, though healthy marriage and relationship education can prevent and reduce household stress levels, it is not an appropriate approach for families experiencing physical abuse, intimate partner violence, or chronic neglect. These cases require the intervention of trained domestic violence or family safety experts. All Federally-funded healthy marriage and relationship programs must consult with domestic violence experts and ensure that participation is voluntary.
Domestic violence providers frequently work in an environment focused on crisis intervention and advocacy for victims and their families. Other service providers, including healthy marriage practitioners, generally do not have the expertise to address domestic violence concerns. Cross-collaboration and service integration between domestic violence and other safety-net service providers can help bridge these knowledge and service gaps. Learn more about the tools and strategies we have to support partnerships.
The following free resources will be helpful for service providers looking for resources on integrating domestic violence awareness into their service delivery system:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers lots of free domestic violence resources (link is external), including fact sheets, podcasts, training opportunities, and assessment tools.
- Domestic Violence Facts (link is external) statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence on how domestic violence impacts our families and communities.
- Violence in the Home (link is external) is a free brochure from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) that is available in fourteen languages and can be shared directly with families.
Integrating healthy marriage and relationship education into child welfare services can help service providers move beyond incident-based interventions to a more holistic mode of service delivery. Healthy relationship skills offer families the practical knowledge and tools they need to build safe, stable, and permanent home environments for children, especially in times of crisis or stress.
The following free resources will be helpful for service providers looking for resources on integrating child welfare and relationship education services:
- Merging Marriage and Relationship Education Into Child Welfare Services (PDF, 420 KB) is a Resource Center tip sheet that focuses on ways to merge healthy marriage and relationship education into child welfare services, focusing primarily on family preservation services, rather than unsafe situations where a child is removed.
- Child Welfare and Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (PDF, 403 KB) is a Resource Center research brief that provides a summary of key research findings related to the child welfare field; describes how strengthening couple and co-parenting relationships encourages family stability and consequently child safety, permanence, and well-being; and explains how integrating healthy marriage and relationship education strategies into child welfare services can contribute to this effort.
- The Child Welfare Information Gateway (link is external) (a service of the Children’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) connects child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the general public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more.
- If you are interested in learning more about the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare, the Accountability and Connection with Abusive Men: A New Child Protection Response to Increasing Family Safety (link is external) (PDF, 603 KB) is a report from the Massachusetts Department of Social Services that provides a comprehensive, research-based guide on strategies for intervening with and engaging male abusers in the context of child protection.
Early childhood home visiting programs typically target pregnant women and mothers of young children, but increasing attention is being given to the practice of engaging fathers as well. An Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) study aimed to understand how home visiting programs engage fathers, what fathers’ experiences are in those programs, and the perceived benefits of fathers’ participation. Qualitative interviews were conducted with home visiting program administrators, staff members, and participating fathers and mothers in five programs implementing strategies to engage fathers in home visiting services. The findings have implications both for home visiting programs that are interested in working with fathers, and for responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage programs that serve low-income fathers.
- The final report, Approaches to Father Engagement and Fathers’ Experiences in Home Visiting Programs (PDF, 1.88 MB), discusses approaches that home visiting programs use to engage fathers, the challenges they face, the strategies they use to overcome these challenges, and benefits of participating from the perspective of fathers and program staff. There is also an accompanying brief, Engaging Low-Income Fathers in Home Visiting: Approaches, Challenges, and Strategies (PDF, 594 KB), that summarizes key findings from the final report.
- The brief, Serving Young Fathers in Home Visiting Programs: Highlights from a Research Study (PDF, 575 KB), describes the unique set of challenges and the strategies staff use to serve young fathers, and is based primarily on staff interviews in home visiting programs that serve a high number of teen fathers.