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Special Circumstances

All families are unique in their individual experiences, complexities, and circumstances. Safety-net service providers must take their clients’ differing perspectives and experiences into consideration to build a trusting and supportive environment.

The following free Resource Center resources will be helpful for service providers seeking to increase and develop their capacity to work with couples and families in a variety of circumstances.

Family Group Decision Making: Building and Reinvigorating Relationships (PDF, 391 KB) is a fact sheet that introduces the idea of positioning the extended family to lead key decisions about their children when they have come to the attention of a public institution. This strategy allows family groups and agency representatives to forge common understandings and solutions to difficult situations and has been used with success by child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and TANF service providers.

Providing Healthy Marriage Education to Clients With Lower Literacy Skills (PDF, 227 KB) is a tip sheet for safety-net service providers who are delivering or considering teaching marriage and relationship skills to individuals with lower literacy abilities.

Expand an item below to view resources that will be helpful for service providers seeking to increase and develop their capacity to work with foster and adoptive families, justice/reentry, military families, and/or refugee and immigrant families.

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Parenting children with a history of trauma in their lives can be challenging; parents often feel isolated and hesitant to share their challenges with other family members and friends. Integrating healthy marriage and relationship education into services for foster and adoptive families is critical to helping families stay together so they can provide a stable foundation for their children. These free resources will be helpful for service providers seeking to increase and develop their capacity to work with foster and adoptive families.

  • How Relationship Education Leads to Stronger Foster and Adoptive Families (PDF, 1 MB) is a Resource Center fact sheet that examines how integrating healthy marriage and relationship education into services for foster and adoptive families is critical to helping families stay together so they can provide a strong base for their children’s well-being.
  • Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education: What’s the Point? is a Resource Center podcast that explores the impact of integrating healthy marriage and relationship education skills on families served by safety-net services. This podcast includes a conversation with Colleen Ellingson, Chief Executive Officer at the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families, about healthy marriage and education programming for foster and adoptive families.
  • Promoting Child Health and Safety: Why Healthy Couple, Co-Parenting, and Marital Relationships Matter to Caregivers and Children is a Resource Center webinar that featured Colleen Ellingson, Chief Executive Officer at the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families, and provided information about how healthy couple and marital relationships impact children directly and indirectly through parenting quality, what relationship education looks like in this domain, and how it can be integrated into services to better promote family stability and child health and safety.
  • A Home Within: Supporting Youth Through Relationship-Based Practices describes A Home Within, a free relationship-based therapy program that is provided to young people who are or were in foster care and may be coping with complex trauma and multiple losses. Components of relationship based therapy are described.

Reintegration into society after imprisonment is a difficult process that affects families and children across the country. There is ample evidence that healthy relationship programming provides critical support to returning individuals in forming and maintaining healthy relationships, as well as with responsible parenting. The resulting relationship skills and a strengthened family support system can also help with employment and earnings outcomes for jobseekers, preventing poverty and recidivism. These free resources will be helpful for service providers seeking to increase and develop their capacity to work with individuals, couples, and families dealing with incarceration and reentry.

  • Healthy Relationships, Employment, and Reentry (PDF, 771 KB) is a Resource Center research brief that provides an overview of the evidence supporting the interrelatedness of employment, healthy relationships, family well-being, and recidivism. It also gives the perspectives of expert program practitioners who are successfully integrating programming related to employment, prison reentry, healthy relationships, and responsible fatherhood.
  • Strengthening Incarcerated Families through Healthy Relationship Education is a Resource Center webinar that explores the importance of supporting clients during reentry using an approach that incorporates healthy relationship and family strengthening, economic self-sufficiency, and responsible parenting components.
  • Breaking the Cycle of Youth Involvement in the Justice System (PDF, 1.15 MB) is a Resource Center research brief that outlines how understanding the community and family challenges that create conditions that disproportionately subject some youth to the juvenile justice system is critical to developing community-based interventions that offer a holistic approach to both preventing youth justice system involvement and setting justice-system-involved youth on a more positive path.
  • For Caregivers: Helping Children of Incarcerated Parents (PDF, 840 KB) is a Resource Center tip sheet aims to support caregivers as they help children whose parents are incarcerated.
  • The Resource Center’s Meet the Author podcast features an interview with Megan Sullivan, associate dean for faculty development at Boston University and author of “For Caregivers: Helping Children of Incarcerated Individuals.” Megan discusses communication tips, helpful resources, and the latest research behind supporting children of incarcerated parents.
  • Children's Contact With Incarcerated Parents (PDF, 61 KB) This brief summarizes recent research showing how the link between parental incarceration and trauma symptoms can be mediated through the quality of parental-visitation experiences.
  • Strategies for Building Healthy Relationship Skills Among Couples Affected by Incarceration is a research brief from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation that examines different approaches to teaching relationship skills among incarcerated and reentering fathers and their families, through a multi-year implementation and impact evaluation of grant-funded programs.

Life in the armed forces poses unique challenges to military couples. Stressors such as multiple deployments, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health problems that occur in the service, may be contributing factors to high divorce rates in the military. Relationship education can play a critical role in improving the relationships of military personnel and their spouses. These free resources will be helpful for service providers seeking to increase and develop their capacity to work with military individuals, couples, and families.

  • A Support and Resource Guide for Working with Military Families (PDF, 7 MB) is a Resource Center guide that will help service providers better understand military structure and culture, existing resources for military service members and their families, and the role that core marriage and relationship skills play in work, school, family, and military environments. You can also take a free tutorial of the guide in our Virtual Training Center.
  • Tips for Understanding Military Couple Relationships After Deployment (PDF 362 KB) is a Resource Center tip sheet that summarizes what is known about the couple relationships of service members after deployment and recommends ways in which safety-net service providers can offer support to them in maintaining successful couple relationships.
  • Military OneSource: Family and Relationships is a section of the Military OneSource website that offers extensive resources related to married life in the military, parenting, child care, and youth programs.

Marriage and relationship education, when specially tailored for specific refugee and immigrant populations, fosters the process of cultural adjustment and integration by providing refugees and immigrants with the skills, support, and practical tools for communicating effectively, managing change, and adjusting to and solving problems as a healthy couple or family. These free resources will be helpful for service providers seeking to increase and develop their capacity to work with refugee and immigrant individuals, couples, and families.