Design, Sites, and Data Sources
Targeted at low-income couples who volunteered to participate, the BSF sample included unmarried couples who had a biologically related child under the age of three months or who were expecting a child when they joined the study. 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 were 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. The research team monitored program operations at BSF sites from the start. 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 6 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 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 participation by couples in group sessions proved challenging. Although not all couples attended group sessions, those who did attend got a substantial dose of relationship skills training.
Impact analysis. At each site, couples in the target population who were interested in the program were randomly assigned to the program or to a control group. MPR conducted a 15-month survey and a second follow-up at 36 months after random assignment. Based on the surveys, the research team (including both MPR and MDRC staff) estimated 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 child rearing; on parent-child relationships and the home environment; and on children’s well-being and cognitive and social development. The resulting findings are presented in the report The Long-Term Effects of Building Strong Families.