Arizona: State marriage plan may be U.S. model -4/17/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Wed Apr 17 14:23:01 EDT 2002
subject: Arizona: State marriage plan may be U.S. model -4/17/02
from: Smart Marriages
> On evaluation forms, couples rave about the workshops.
> Mostly, they say it has made their marriage stronger. Two couples, after
> completing the course, decided not to get married.
> "This is preventative medicine," Gruenberger said.
State marriage plan may be U.S. model
By Karina Bland
The Arizona Republic
April 17, 2002
The state has more than $1 million set aside to counsel married couples such
as Jack and Gloria Oppenhuizen of Phoenix.
The program is meant to help keep couples together, and off welfare, but
anyone can sign up.
Though state-funded marriage counseling has been controversial in Arizona,
it could become a model for the rest of the country. President Bush has
asked Congress for $300 million a year for states such as Arizona that run
programs promoting stable families and marriage.
Arizona is one of three states that do that now, and state officials have
been bombarded with calls about the program.
"Anytime you make a marriage stronger, you make a family stronger," said
Rep. Mark Anderson, who wrote the legislation that created the program.
Arizona's program was the first in the nation, aimed at preventing divorces,
keeping women off welfare and giving kids a mom and a dad in the same
"Our marriage provides a security and a foundation for our children to go
from," said Gloria Oppenhuizen, a kindergarten teacher who has been married
for 11 years and has three children, ages 8, 6 and 3.
The program is controversial because it uses money that would have been
spent on child care and job training for people on welfare. But few oppose
it too vociferously, lest their criticism be construed as opposition to
Still, they question whether the government should pay for counseling for
affluent couples as well as the poor. They also doubt that marriage is a
sure cure for poverty and contend that some parents do a fine job of raising
a child alone. Plus, there are no statistics to say whether the program is
working: The state tracks only how many people participate in counseling,
not whether they stay married.
Still, the research is strong that married families and children with two
loving, involved parents fare better, said Elizabeth Hudgins of the
non-profit Children's Action Alliance.
But she questions using taxpayer money to influence people's intimate
decisions when there are other dire needs.
Welfare caseloads are rising, about 18 percent between December 2000 and
December 2001, after years of decline. About 90 percent of welfare
recipients are single mothers.
"We know that parents need child care subsidies to work, and if they get
child care subsidies, they work," Hudgins said. "We don't know that people
who get marriage counseling stay married."
Janet Andress of the Phoenix/Scottsdale chapter of the National Organization
for Women said job training and education would keep women off welfare rolls
more surely than keeping them married.
They need health benefits, good child care, safe places to live - things a
husband does not always guarantee.
Gov. Jane Hull, too, was reluctant to divert money from welfare programs to
marriage counseling, said Jodi Beckley, her adviser for human services. But
Anderson had originally asked for $10 million, so the $1 million program
seemed like a good compromise.
At least Bush's proposal would provide new money for programs like this.
That sits better with the governor.
"You're not taking bread-and-butter money and spending it on a social
experiment," Beckley said.
'Improve your chances'
In all, $1,075,000 was set aside for marriage counseling and an additional
$75,000 to create a 27-page pamphlet that's given to couples along with
their marriage licenses.
The pamphlet includes information about counseling, domestic violence,
budgeting, child care and divorce.
"The goal is for people to realize that marriage is not just a crap shoot,"
Anderson said. "There are things you can do to improve your chances."
Michigan has spent $500,000 on mandatory parenting classes for unwed mothers
of infants on welfare. Oklahoma uses $10 million in welfare money to promote
marriage, including counseling.
The money for Arizona's program was a one-time deal, taken from a state
welfare fund called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. There is no
Anderson hopes to continue it if Bush's proposal is approved, hopefully with
enough money to follow couples and see how they fare in their marriages.
Congress is expected to vote this summer.
So far about 300 couples in Arizona have completed marriage counseling, said
Ben Laveen, who oversees the program for the state Department of Economic
The state contracts with 11 private groups statewide to do the counseling. A
listing is available at www.de.state. az.us.
Anyone, regardless of income, can attend. Typically, couples pay for 85
percent of the workshops, which cost $100 to $200, and the state pays the
rest. Or, couples can apply for a voucher that covers the entire cost.
Traci Gruenberger, who teaches a 15-hour marriage workshop for Lutheran
Social Ministry along with the Rev. Dick Staats, said couples that come are
in serious relationships, either living together or considering marriage.
Often, they have children.
Staats said couples' biggest problem is communication - how to talk about a
problem without blaming the other person, stating a compelling case,
listening well. Gloria Oppenhuizen said that training has helped her and her
On evaluation forms, couples rave about the workshops.
Mostly, they say it has made their marriage stronger. Two couples, after
completing the course, decided not to get married.
"This is preventative medicine," Gruenberger said.
To SUBSCRIBE or UNSUBSCRIBE, or change your address,
visit http://www.smartmarriages.com Click Newsletter. Enter your
address in the appropriate box and proceed.
This is a moderated list. Replies are read by Diane Sollee. Please
indicate if your response is NOT to be shared with the list.
This newslist shares information on marriage, divorce and educational
approaches. Opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by members of the
Newsletter archive - to read ALL past posts to the newsletter:
6th annual Smart Marriages conference/Washington, DC
July 9 - 16, 2002 http://www.smartmarriages.com/conferencedetails.html
List your program in the Directory of Classes at www.smartmarriages.com
Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, LLC (CMFCE)
Diane Sollee, Director
5310 Belt Rd NW, Washington, DC 20015-1961
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
FAIR USE NOTICE: This e-newsletter contains copyrighted material the use of
which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We
make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of
marriage, family, couples, divorce, legislation, family breakdown, etc. We
understand this constitutes a 'fair use' of such material as provided
for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit
to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included
information for research and educational purposes. For more information go
to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use
copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond
'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
More information about the SmartMarriages