Targeted at low-income couples who volunteered to participate, the BSF sample includes unmarried couples who had a biologically-related child under the age of three months or who were expecting a child at intake. In addition, couples had to be either unmarried but romantically involved or married after the conception of the child that made them eligible for the program. Each member of the couple had to be at least 18 years old and speak a language in which BSF was offered, English or Spanish. Finally, only couples who were not involved in domestic violence were eligible.
The seven BSF sites are located in Georgia (Atlanta), Maryland (Baltimore), Louisiana (Baton Rouge), Florida (Broward and Orange Counties), Indiana (Allen, Lake, and Marion Counties), Oklahoma, and Texas (Houston and San Angelo). A total of 5,103 couples were randomly assigned to either BSF or a control group that could not receive BSF services.
Implementation analysis. Since the start of program operations, the research team has monitored BSF sites’ operations. An analysis of these findings appears in the report, Implementation of the Building Strong Families Program, prepared by the MPR team. This implementation analysis focuses on the programs’ design, development, and operations during the first six to 14 months of the evaluation. It also documents recruitment and enrollment practices, describes the characteristics of enrolled couples, provides data on program participation, and summarizes the experiences of participant couples in the program group. It is based on qualitative data from site visits to each location, information from ongoing monitoring efforts, and structured data recorded in each program’s management information system. The implementation report found that all sites successfully implemented the core marriage and relationship skills component, but achieving consistently high levels of ongoing participation by couples in group sessions proved challenging. Although not all couples attended group sessions, those who did got a substantial dose of relationship skills training.
Impact analysis. In each site, couples in the target population who were interested in the program were randomly assigned to the program or a control group. MPR is currently conducting a 15-month survey and is planning a second follow-up at about 36 months after random assignment. Based on the surveys, the research team (including both MPR and MDRC staff) will then estimate the BSF programs’ effects on parents’ earnings and use of public assistance; on mother-father relationships; on family structure and functioning; on fathers’ involvement in childrearing; on parent-child relationships and the home environment; and on children’s well-being and cognitive and social development.