Initiatives/Small group meetings/Marriage?/Divorce-4/04

Smart Marriages ® cmfce at
Mon May 3 12:09:23 EDT 2004

subject: Initiatives/Small group meetings/Marriage?/Divorce-4/04

from: Smart Marriages®



Dr. Phil begins a special month-long look at the issues troubling six
couples whose marriages are on the rocks today Monday, May 3rd.


This is a good overview article on the Marriage Initiative front - the
senate hearings, the new $3.7 million in awards to states last week, the
CLASP report.  

****I want to remind you to reserve a spot in advance for the DALLAS ACF
small group consultations where you can meet w/ Administration for children
and Family (ACF) staff to ask questions about how to establish and fund
healthy marriage initiatives in your community.  Each meeting is limited to
20 people.  Fri 7:30-8:30am, Fri 5:30-6:30pm, Sat 7:30-8:30am, Sun
4:30-5:30pm.  To reserve a spot, email Bill Coffin at bcoffin at

Also, I've been asked and, YES, you do have to register in advance for the
Grant Writing/Funding full-day training institute #116 July 8. There is no
limit to how many people from one agency/CHMI can attend.  This training is
FREE to conference registrants.

Institute #908 Changing a Culture First Things First (July 12 & 13) is not
free.  It's a two-day step-by-step training on how to establish a thriving
community healthy marriage initiative.  Includes manuals, templates, and
guidelines from experts and will have two tracks - beginner and advanced.
- diane 

By Cheryl Wetzstein
May 3, 2004 
One way to save some of the billions of dollars spent each year on broken
and struggling families is to promote healthy marriages, a Bush
administration official said last week at a congressional hearing on the
importance of marriage.

    "As assistant secretary [of Health and Human Services] for children and
families, I oversee 65 different social programs at a cost of nearly $47
billion each year," Wade F. Horn said Wednesday at the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions subcommittee on children and families.

    "Go down the list of these programs — child welfare, child-support
enforcement, programs for runaway youth, antipoverty programs — the need for
each of these programs is either created or exacerbated by the breakup of
families and marriages."

    Roland C. Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, said
research shows married fathers who live at home are most likely to support
and protect children from infancy through adolescence.

    Stan Weed, president of the Institute for Research and Evaluation in
Salt Lake City, told the panel that "community marriage policies" — in which
a city's clergy agree not to marry couples unless they have received
counseling — help drive down divorce rates.

    "At the policy level," Mr. Weed said, "we would do well to invest in and
further investigate this and similar approaches" to see whether divorce
rates could be affected on a larger scale.

    Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and author Barbara Dafoe Whitehead
testified about how marriage benefits men, women, children and society,
including state economies.

    The Bush administration has called for $360 million a year to be spent
on pro-marriage research and activities as part of welfare reform, but the
legislation is tied up in the Senate.

    "If we are ever going to prevent the need for these services, we must
begin preventing these problems from happening in the first place," Mr. Horn

    That is why the Bush administration has begun funding "healthy marriage"
approaches in federal child-support, child-welfare and adoption programs, he

    Last week, Mr. Horn's agency announced that it had awarded $3.7 million
for "healthy marriage and parental relationships" projects in Illinois,
Louisiana, Massachusetts and Michigan. This makes seven such projects funded
by HHS, said Tommy G. Thompson, the agency's secretary.

    At least two more Senate marriage hearings are planned this month, said
aides to Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Sam Brownback of

    Separately, the Center for Law and Social Policy released a
state-by-state roundup of about 200 government-funded pro-marriage efforts
under way.

    The wealth of activities confirm that "promotion of healthy marriages is
now on the policy agenda," said Theodora Ooms, lead author of the center's


> Previously, marriage was a way to ensure children were raised by both parents,
> Popenoe said, which is why governments began issuing licenses.
> "It was in society's best interest to keep the guy around," he said. "(But)
> once you take children out of the equation, the whole issue of marriage
> becomes really different."
> Popenoe said people no longer look for potential parents in marriage partners;
> instead, they want soul mates, best friends and sex partners.
> The result, Popenoe predicts, will be a weakened institution with less need
> for governmental validation.

The push by gays for the right to wed is prompting some to reassess the
oldest institution known to man

Sunday, May 2, 2004
Courier-Post Staff 


It encompasses culture and religion and civics all at once. It is the way we
structure our society, raise our children and bury our dead.

Founded by the earliest hunter-gatherer societies, marriage is, according to
experts, the oldest human institution.

But now, in America's courtrooms and bedrooms, the traditional concept of
marriage is being questioned, changed and ignored.

Gays throughout the country are suing their states to get married. The
president wants a constitutional amendment defining the term "marriage."
Hollywood has made marriage a primary plot-line for game show-style reality

Meanwhile, the divorce rate is at 50 percent, the marriage rate is shrinking
and a third of America's children grow up in homes without two parents.

"We are in this state right now of a worldwide revolution," said Helen
Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropologist. "We are experiencing a dramatic
redefinition of what marriage is, and who gets to do it, and how long it

What, exactly, is marriage?

The Courier-Post sought to find out, asking those in the community to share
their personal stories - from a couple in Blackwood who still echo each
other's words after 60 years to a man divorced for 15 years.

Taken as a whole, these vignettes provide a snapshot of where marriage is in

"The last 40 years has been probably the greatest change in family life of
any time period of comparable length in recent history," said David Popenoe,
a sociology professor and co-director of Rutgers University's National
Marriage Project.

Popenoe sees the institution of marriage as breaking down. In the past four
decades, the divorce rate has more than doubled to about 50 percent, he
said. The marriage rate has steadily decreased by almost 40 percent. As a
result, the number of children born out of wedlock has skyrocketed from 5 to
34 percent.

"How's that for a picture?" Popenoe asked.

Marriage has become less necessary to modern life, and therefore more
commonly postponed or bypassed, he said.

Major cultural changes have led to this. He points to civil rights, the
sexual revolution, women in the workplace and a decrease in poverty levels.

These changes set the stage for a society more hospitable to unwed couples
living together and wedded couples deciding not to have children. Meanwhile,
the courts made divorce easier.

Previously, marriage was a way to ensure children were raised by both
parents, Popenoe said, which is why governments began issuing licenses.

"It was in society's best interest to keep the guy around," he said. "(But)
once you take children out of the equation, the whole issue of marriage
becomes really different."

Popenoe said people no longer look for potential parents in marriage
partners; instead, they want soul mates, best friends and sex partners.

The result, Popenoe predicts, will be a weakened institution with less need
for governmental validation. He said America may follow in the footsteps of
some European countries and get rid of joint income taxes and marriage tax
benefits. "The institution that the gays and lesbians are so eager to get
into is, on its own, weakening," he said.

Conservatives fear such a dismantling of the institution.

Peter Sprigg, director of the Center of Marriage and Family Studies for the
Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said the changes to marriage in
the past 40 years have been uniformly negative.

"It used to be that sexual relations, child bearing, child rearing and
life-long commitment all were things accompanied by marriage," Sprigg said.

But no longer. As a result, there has been an increase in sexually
transmitted diseases, unwed pregnancies, single-parent homes and divorce, he

"Virtually all of those trends have had significant consequences for the
mental and physical health and stability of our country," he said.

Now, Sprigg said, the movement for same-sex marriage will continue to
destroy marriage. He said homosexuals are less likely to be sexually
faithful and will set poor examples as married couples. "Other people,
including heterosexuals, will begin to imitate the unstable, unfaithful
relationships that characterize homosexuals," he said.

But liberal America disagrees. Many see marriage as a flawed, exclusionary
institution that has a declining relevance in today's world.

Dorian Solot, a Collingswood native, founded the Alternatives to Marriage
Project with her boyfriend, Marshall Miller. The group has 7,000 members
representing unmarried households of gays, unmarried couples and singles.
"I'm hearing a growing movement of people saying we should take government
out of the whole business of marriage altogether," Solot said.

Solot scoffs at arguments about "traditional marriage" and "preserving the
institution of marriage."

She sees marriage as an evolving entity. "It used to be that men could marry
multiple wives," she said. "The same-sex marriage debate is one continuing
step in the changing definition of marriage."

Solot says the country needs to update its policies so they are more in line
with the "diversity of families that actually exist."

"Our legal system is still based on an outdated imagination of family
structure," she said.

Different family and marital structures are clear in the following
vignettes. Some are stories of modern marriage, others are tales of
traditional marriages. In all the stories, there are common themes: love,
commitment, society, legality, religion. In a sense, how we view marriage is
a window into how we see our lives in America today. ON THE WEB

*    Find out what more than 100 other Americans have to say about marriage
and the presidential election in an interactive gallery of voices and
photos. Look for special reports on the newspaper's election Web site: election



The April 30th, Family Almanac column in the Washington Post recommended the
book, Becoming Parents by Pam Jordan, Scott Stanley and Howard Markman.  I
want to highly recommend the 3-day training institute training on the
Becoming Parents Program.  It is consistently one of the most highly rated
training institutes at Smart Marriages - those that take it are so excited
about going home and teaching the program.  Dr Jordan will be releasing
exciting new research on the programs effectiveness this summer. Also, see
article below.  Just what this couple needed.  - diane

> 901 Three Days - Mon, Tues & Wed - July 12, 13, 14
> The Becoming Parents Program
> Pam Jordan, PhD, RN
> Learn to teach expectant couples specific knowledge and skills - including the
> PREP skills -  for taking care of their couple relationship, taking care of
> themselves, relating to their baby, and dealing with the many ways becoming
> parents impacts their lives.  Each component of BPP is based on research on
> what facilitates individual and couple adaptation to parenthood.  Qualifies
> participants to teach the course. $150 spouse discount. For more info:

Indianapolis Star 
James Patterson
May 1, 2004

> (Read this and be inspired to work harder.  These parents clearly both love
> their child and are willing to put endless time, energy and money into the
> custody battle - they aren't lazy, they're dedicated, determined.  Think of
> what they might have done for their child if they'd known how to work on their
> marriage - to "fight for their marriage" instead of fighting over custody.  We
> need to reach couples like this - equip them with knowledge and skills before
> it's too late. What makes it even harder to read is that we know that couples
> face increased disagreements and risk around the birth of their first baby and
> we have exciting programs to
> intervene - like the Pam Jordan "Becoming Parents Program" and we're just not
getting them to people fast enough. - auuugh.
> - diane) 
Brandon Kouvakas must feel like the baby in the biblical dispute between two
women who claimed to be mother of the same child.

King Solomon ordered the infant to be cut in half so each could receive an
equal share. Before it was done, one of the women pleading for the child's
life withdrew her claim. The king wisely reasoned that the real mother
wouldn't want her child to die, even if it meant having to give him up, and
awarded custody to her.

Nine-year-old Brandon has been caught in the middle of a messy divorce since
shortly after his birth in Lake County. The feud has pitted one side of a
disintegrated family against the other. Worse, it's left Brandon searching
for where his loyalties should lie.

Should he favor the mother who's nurtured and raised him since age 3? Or
must he shift allegiance to his father, who recently won custody after a
court battle.

Brandon isn't alone. Single parents headed 9.1 percent of Indiana's
households in 2002. Last year, single mothers led 30 percent of Marion
County homes and 22 percent of households in the eight-county metropolitan

Single-parent homes headed by women have increased 30 percent since 1990,
according to "Still on Shaky Ground," a study of the problems facing women
and girls in Central Indiana released in November by the Women's Fund of
Central Indiana.

The fight for Brandon has taken a toll on a child who has yet to reach
fourth grade. He's been shuttled between his mother's home in Edgewood, Ky.,
near Cincinnati, and his father's place in Chesterton.

The circumstances of the case haven't changed much since I first wrote about
the family's plight in 1999. The marriage of Renee Stenger and John Kouvakas
began falling apart shortly after the birth of Brandon in July 1994, a few
months after they were married. Both parents claimed the other was unfit.

The divorce filings "ignited an intense custody battle for the couple's only
child, created dissension within the Lake County Office of the state
Division of Family and Children and has pitted a Lake County juvenile judge
against the U.S. Bankruptcy Court," I wrote in '99.

John gained temporary custody of Brandon in August 1994. But the courts and
welfare workers eventually turned on him for failing to pay his bills, and
his father, Spiro Kouvakas, for refusing to turn over audiotapes of phone
conversations between the Kouvakases and caseworkers.

Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura awarded custody of
Brandon to Renee in November 1997. Less than a year later, Bonaventura found
the Kouvakases in contempt. The charges were eventually dismissed.

Two weeks ago, Brandon was forced to pack his bags yet again. Judge Jeff
Dywan of Lake Superior Court gave custody back to John, who had convinced
the court that Renee's epilepsy prevented her from caring for their son, and
that she had kept the boy too busy in social activities to talk when his
father telephoned. She says medications control the disease and she had no
medical emergencies during the seven years she had custody of her son.

"Brandon loved school here and he had a lot of good friends here that he
 played with almost every day," Renee wrote Gov. Joe Kernan on Wednesday.
"He is very smart and got very good grades in his school here. I put him in
several activities such as: Cub Scouts, basketball, piano lessons, swimming
lessons and karate lessons."

None of it matters now because Brandon, like many children caught in the
aftermath of divorce, is on the move again.

It's good that Brandon is wanted by both parents, unlike many of the more
than 10,800 children who were wards of the state last year. They must wonder
whether anyone truly cares for them.

Still, Brandon and other children caught in the middle of divorce fights
can't feel good about the emotional wringer they must endure through no
fault of their own.

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