Oklahoma Marriage Initiative: An Overview of the Longest-Running Statewide Marriage Initiative in the U.S.: Research Brief. Summary and Future Briefs


The OMI is a blend of two models for supporting healthy marriage. One model, commonly called community saturation, seeks to blanket a community with messages about marriage and foster widespread interest in seeking ways to strengthen marriage. A second model focuses on targeting services to specific populations. The OMI is pursuing aspects of both. It aims to make tangible services accessible to people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds, across the range of relationship statuses, throughout the state. The OMI expects that as more and more people gain the skills needed to identify healthy potential partners and enter and sustain healthy marriages, the state will see fewer divorces and less unmarried childbearing. It expects to change Oklahomas culture, which is now marked by early marriage and high rates of divorce. The OMI aims to encourage people to prepare consciously for marriage through relationship skills education and, for those already married, to seek help before marital problems or thoughts of divorce become deep-seated. The effect of the OMI on these outcomes is not yet known, but much is being learned about designing and implementing large-scale statewide initiatives.

Since its inception in the late 90s, the OMI has enjoyed the support of two different gubernatorial administrations and agency leaders. While this brief provides an overview of the current structure of the OMI, future briefs will seek to answer such questions as: What has led to the OMIs success in sustaining itself so far? Which design and implementation strategies have been successful? Which did not work and why? Why were some choices made over others? To what extent has the OMI reached the public with its messages and services? What lessons has Oklahoma learned that initiatives in other states might benefit from? Future briefs will also address the obstacles the OMI faced in developing each component, the strategies used to address those obstacles, and the apparent success of those strategies.

The next research brief in this series will focus on the early years of the OMI. It will explain how and why supporting marriage became part of the states policy agenda, the principles that the OMIs early leadership established to guide its development, and how the OMI ultimately developed a foundation. Suggesting lessons for others interested in building statewide or community-wide initiatives, it will discuss the pragmatic approach the OMI took, how and why marriage education was selected as the primary intervention strategy, and the public-private partnership between PSI and DHS.

Evaluation Methodology for the OMI Process Study

Information reported in the OMI research brief series is based on an analysis of data gathered during an ongoing multiyear study of the initiatives design, development, and implementation. Study tasks include semi-structured interviews with individuals and groups, direct observation of program operations, focus groups with staff and participants, and secondary analysis of data from existing reports and surveys. The research team will meet directly with a total of approximately 280 individuals involved with the OMI in various ways, focusing on implementation in the Education, Social Services, Health, Military, and Community Volunteer sectors, and including a special emphasis on OMI services within the states Correctional System. Mathematicas research team includes: Robin Dion, Alan Hershey, Debra Strong, Heather Zaveri, Nikki Aikens, Shawn Marsh, and Tim Silman.

About this Research Brief
This ASPE Research Brief provides an overview of the origins and development of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, drawing on findings from an in-depth process evaluation being conducted by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. under contract to ASPE.  This brief was prepared by M. Robin Dion.  Future briefs will focus on specific aspects of the initiatives implementation, including the successes and challenges encountered by the OMI, and strategies that were used to address those challenges.

Jerry Regier
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE)

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