In the late 1990s the State of Oklahoma, recognizing the economic and social consequences of its high rates of divorce and non-marital childbearing, undertook an innovative strategy to strengthen families. At the direction of the Governor, the state initiated an effort to reduce divorce and decrease non-marital childbearing. This pioneering effort became the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI), now the nations longest running and most comprehensive set of programs to strengthen marriage. Although many communities and a few states have begun activities to support marriage, Oklahoma remains the only state committed to making marriage and relationship education services accessible in every county in the state and to citizens from all walks of life.
In 2005, ASPE contracted with Mathematica Policy Research (MPR) to conduct a process evaluation of the OMI, focusing on three primary goals:
- To document and chronicle the conception, development, and implementation of the initiative
- To analyze the OMIs program strategy and understand as well as possible the consequences of the implementation approaches taken
- To identify lessons and implications for both the continuation of the OMI and the development of marriage initiatives in other states.
The OMI evaluation relied on multiple methods for collecting both qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data were collected in the field through five site visits, each conducted by two people and lasting up to a week. Quantitative data recorded in the OMI management information system were also analyzed to assess the extent of participation in OMI activities.
Findings are reported in a series of research briefs and a comprehensive final report. Publications available are:
- The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative: An Overview of the Longest-Running Statewide Marriage Initiative in the U.S., Research Brief, December 2006. This Brief provides an overview of the project.
- Starting Early: How the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative Helps Schools Prepare Young People for Healthy Marriages, Research Brief, June 2008 This Brief describes how the OMI implemented relationship and marriage education classes in high schools across the state and analyzes the key factors that made this implementation approach work.
- Putting Marriage on the Agenda: How Oklahoma Laid the Foundation for Its Marriage Initiative, Research Brief, July 2008. This Brief describes how Oklahoma leaders developed an intervention strategy of offering marriage education, identified a stable source of funding, and established a public-private management structure.
- Using Research to Guide the Development of an Evolving Statewide Initiative, Research Brief, July 2008. This Brief discusses the OMIs use of research to guide the development and improvement of program services, assess progress, and disseminate information to the community about marriage. The brief draws on findings from an in-depth process evaluation.
- The Promise and Challenge of Using Volunteers to Provide Community-Based Marriage Education, Research Brief, December 2008. While other briefs in this series focus on implementation of the OMI in public agencies, this Brief focuses on one smaller piece of the overall initiative: how the OMI has recruited and mobilized a volunteer workforce in the broader public and in the faith community to provide marriage education services in local communities. It also highlights the role of large, regional one-day community events in introducing and stimulating interest in OMI workshops.
- A Process Evaluation, Final Report, December 2008. This report presents the findings from an in-depth, multimethod process evaluation of the OMI, the nations longest running and most comprehensive set of programs to strengthen marriage and families. The report documents the development and evolution of the initiative and its implementation in the public and private sectors, and analyzes available program data to describe the extent of implementation statewide. It also includes a Research Brief that summarizes the full report.
- Marriage and Relationship Skills Education as a Way to Prepare Prisoners for Reintegration, Research Brief, January 2009. This Brief describes what led to the implementation of a program in marriage and relationship skills in the prisons throughout the state, how it was implemented, how participants have responded, and the potential implications for replication.
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