The OMIs current approach reflects both its initial mission and what has been learned during development and implementation. The overarching goal of the initiative is to strengthen families by reducing divorce and nonmarital childbearing, thereby enhancing the well-being of children. The OMI is based on the belief that improving relationship skills by providing free, accessible marriage services is the most effective way of achieving pervasive change. By providing people an opportunity to learn concrete relationship skills, OMI leadership believe that individual-level behaviors will be affected, eventually culminating in large-scale change across the state. The assumption of the initiative is that individuals, families, children, and the state will benefit from stronger relationships and families.
To achieve these goals, the initiative followed a framework (Figure 1) that unites its philosophy of change with a primary implementation strategy of building the supply of services. Capacity-building is the cornerstone of its overall approach and the activity to which it devotes the most effort. Building on its origins described above, the OMI continues to take a multi-modal strategy to building the states capacity for delivering marriage education. First, it identifies interested institutions and agencies and trains their staff to provide workshops to their clientele. These staff usually offer OMI services as part of their regular duties. In this sense, such agencies volunteer their staffs time. Second, the OMI recruits and trains individuals not necessarily affiliated with an institution or agency; and these individual volunteers typically offer workshops on their own time to members of their communities (in this report they are referred to as community volunteers). In Chapters III and IV we describe the OMI experience in building capacity within the general community, and within institutions and agencies.
The OMI currently focuses on both building capacity and building demand. Efforts to create greater public awareness of the OMI, its services, and the importance of healthy relationships and marriage have taken a secondary priority in the OMI approach. Initially, it was thought that stimulating too much demand before the capacity for services was available would only create frustration on the part of the public. As the OMI has developed, its leadership has observed that many service-delivery activities have the built-in effect of creating public awareness about and interest in relationship skills education. For example, recruitment activities for specific workshops involve distribution of flyers, newsletters, and sometimes media advertising. Nevertheless, the OMI plans to increase its efforts to enhance demand for services in the coming years, now that the supply of services has reached a substantial level.
Current Implementation of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative