Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI): A Process Evaluation: Research Brief. What is the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative?


The OMI is a statewide, publicly-funded effort that seeks to strengthen families and enhance the well-being of children by reducing divorce and nonmarital childbearing through a range of approaches, most prominently marriage education. The OMI began operations in 2001 after an initial planning period. Since then, its approach has featured six consistent hallmarks, even while its specific strategies have continued to evolve:

Public-private partnership.  The OMI is funded by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) and managed through a contract with Public Strategies, Inc. (PSI), a local private-sector firm. The combination of public and private resources is also found in the implementation of OMI services, which are provided by public agencies and institutions, nonprofit community-based organizations, and individual community volunteers.

Focus on an intervention to improve marriage and relationship skills.  OMI leaders believe that the key to achieving the initiatives goals is instruction in skills that research has shown are associated with healthy and stable marriage. The initiative adopted as its core curriculum the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP®), which focuses on skills for effective communication, conflict management, and enhancement of commitment, fun, and friendship. The curriculum, in various forms, is provided in workshops for groups of couples or individuals and in a variety of formats and venues.

Dynamic effort to achieve statewide saturation.  The OMI is an ever-growing initiative that aims to blanket the state with its message and services. To achieve saturation, it works to make services accessible in every area of the state and to individuals from diverse backgrounds and in various relationship circumstances, including both single and married individuals.

System to build statewide capacity for delivering relationship skills training.  The OMIs primary strategy is to build capacity for providing instruction in the PREP® curriculum and various adaptations of it. It supports and facilitates free training of workshop leaders by the curriculum authors, and provides curriculum materials and assistance to community volunteers and staff at public and private agencies and institutions. In exchange, these workshop leaders are asked to commit to providing several free workshops during the year after their training.

Network of individual and institutional volunteers.  Individuals in the general community volunteer their time to offer OMI workshops. Agencies or organizations that decide that relationship skills training should be a priority for their clients encourage their staff to offer OMI services as part of their regular duties, and thus volunteer their staffs time (although some agencies have also entered into contracts to offer services).

Awareness-raising about the importance of healthy relationships and marriage and the availability of services.  As the states supply of providers has grown, the initiative has increasingly focused on building public awareness of the free workshops, primarily through large-scale community events that garner publicity and media attention and provide a taste of the curriculum in a one-day format. These events occur in communities throughout the state, in a statewide marriage education tour.

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