Couples learn how to make
their 'Marriage for Keeps'
By RHONDA GOODLOE
Catholic Social Service
“Overall a wonderful class! Great [facilitators] and great information. Appreciate all the ‘tools’ provided. It has taken our marriage from ‘ending’ to workable again.”
This is what one person said about the Marriage for Keeps (MfK) program, which will soon be starting its fifth year.
In 2004 several entities partnered “with the goal of realizing a dream of promoting and supporting healthy marriage and family relationships throughout the state of Kansas.”
Research indicates that healthy marriages and family formation reduces poverty, child abuse, and neglect. It also prevents costly social service intervention and increases job stability. Some of the key organizations were Catholic Charities, Newman University, and Kansas Healthy Marriage Institute. In 2007 Catholic Social Services started offering the Marriage for Keeps program which provides marriage relationship education opportunities in an effort to strengthen marriages to couples in the Western Kansas area. MfK is currently funded by the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Support is also given by different agencies and organizations in communities including Catholic Social Service.
“This program has assisted couples in strengthening skills that research has shown to be critical to healthy relationship development. Goals for couples are to:
• learn emotional, physical, and commitment safety
• appreciate their partner and improve their friendship
• increase productive communication and reduce conflict
• more fully appreciate how their relationship impacts their children
• develop effective problem solving skills
• cope and support one another by developing healthy relations and stress management tools
• improve parenting skills
• develop goals and plans for the future”
-- Overview of Supporting Healthy Marriage
Since its start there have been 18 sets of classes and around 250 people have taken the classes.
Approximately 300 children are represented by these couples.
Of couples that have been in the MfK program, 39 percent report improvement in communication and 65 percent report improvement with relationship satisfaction.
MfK also offers other educational opportunities including parenting classes, money management, and stress management. Another service is Prepare/Enrich. This is an assessment that a couple can take on line that explores the strengths and growth areas in a couple’s relationship. The couple then meets with a MfK staff to review the findings and discover ways of strengthening the relationship.
Outside of the MfK program, services have been expanded to the men in the Finney county jail. To date, 11 sets of health relationship educational classes have been provided, with approximately 100 males participating. In 2008 the average number of children each incarcerated person was 3.5. Initial data collected from these classes indicate that the participants are learning the concepts that are presented at class at a statistically significant level.
MfK is grateful for the support that they receive from Catholic Social Services and the diocese. CSS is looking forward to even more and greater accomplishments as the program continues to grow and flourish by “providing quality services to people of all faiths, backgrounds, and ethnicities in a manner that best serves the needs.”