Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Healthy Marriage Initiative

Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the president's Healthy Marriage Initiative:

Armed with compelling research that shows that children do best when reared in healthy, stable, two-parent households, three years ago President Bush launched his Healthy Marriage Initiative. The initiative's goal is to help couples who choose marriage for themselves gain greater access, on a voluntary basis, to services where they can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain a healthy marriage. The initiative is based on solid research indicating that what separates stable and healthy marriages from unstable and unhealthy ones is not the frequency of conflict, but how couples manage conflict. The good news is that through marriage education, healthy conflict-resolution skills can be taught.


Second, rather than an expansion of government, the president's Healthy Marriage Initiative is an exercise in limited government. Here's how: I run the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. My agency spends $46 billion per year operating 65 different social programs. If one goes down the list of these programs — from child welfare, to child-support enforcement, to anti-poverty assistance to runaway-youth initiatives — the need for each is either created or exacerbated by the breakup of families and marriages. It doesn't take a Ph.D. to understand that controlling the growth of these programs depends on preventing problems from happening in the first place. One way to accomplish that — not the only way, of course, but one way — is to help couples form and sustain healthy marriages.


Indeed, government is most intrusive into family life when marriages fail. If you don't believe it, try getting married, having kids and then getting a divorce. If you are a non-custodial parent, government will tell you when you can see your children; whether you can pick them up after school or not, and if so, on what days; whether you can authorize medical care for your children; and how much money you must spend on your kids. By preventing marital breakup in the first place — not by making divorce harder to get, but by increasing the odds of a stable marriage by increasing marital health and happiness — one obviates the need for such intrusive government.


Anonymous DL said...

Do we really need 65 social agencies? Without discussing the many private social instruments and replication of services, surely some efficiencies would provide a better help.

4:12 AM  

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