Marriage is a public issue, and the federal government is heavily invested in strengthening existing marriages and creating policies that promote marriage. Out of healthy marriages come healthy children, larger incomes and greater homeownership. Social science links marriage to many positive public health outcomes, including longer life, better diets, fewer health problems and better mental health for couples and children. Between 2005 and 2010, the federal government invested $1.2 billion in funding for programs that raise awareness of the need for marriage as a social institution and teach skills that improve marriage. In addition, in 2010, the government set aside $500 million for marriage-related initiatives in the fiscal year 2011 budget.
TANF, Child Support and Other Federal Funding
The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), commonly known as welfare, provides cash to help poor families get by. Congress, however, also designed TANF to provide programs to needy and non-needy families. Three of the major tenets of TANF law explicitly proclaim the importance of healthy marriages and family, including that TANF funds programs "to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families." In addition, part of the funding for the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement provides grants for Special Improvement Projects, which include marriage education. Moreover, the Office of Community Services provides grants to community organizations to expand their capacity to provide marriage and family services through the Compassion Capital Fund.
TANF Healthy Marriage Initiatives
In 2005, Congress passed the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which reauthorized TANF and provided $150 million in grants each year to states, local governments, tribal governments, territories and community and faith-based groups to develop and run programs that support healthy marriage. These funds support eight activities, including public awareness campaigns, marriage education for couples and high school students, premarital education, marriage skills training, marriage mentoring, divorce reduction and research activities. The final year of competition for these grants was 2010, although states continue their own programs. The Administration on Children & Families provides abstracts summarizing federally funded grant activities.
Fatherhood, Marriage and Families Innovation Fund
The United States’ fiscal year 2011 budget includes $500 million to be spent on a line item called the “Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Innovation Fund.” These funds cover grants to states and multi-state collaborations involving community-based organizations to provide services, including marriage education, to parents and families. Unlike previous funding under TANF, the Innovation Fund is designed to give grantees more flexibility in determining the most pressing family and marriage issues and to use newer, more innovative approaches to their programs. Funded programs could include economic security assistance, workforce development and healthy relationships and fatherhood programs.
Private Support of Healthy Marriages
Private foundations, nonprofit organizations and groups of philanthropists have expressed interest in healthy marriage. Those that have publicly proclaimed commitments of funding or resources for healthy marriage programs include Stronger Families; the New Hope Foundation of Muscatine, Iowa; the Osborne Association; the Dibble Institute; the WinShape Foundation; the Vine and Branches Foundation; the Annie E. Casey Foundation; the William E. Simon Foundation; and the National Christian Foundation.
- National Healthy Marriage Resource Center: TANF Funds and Healthy Marriage Activities
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The Fatherhood, Marriage, and Families Innovation Fund
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Currently Funded ACF Healthy Marriage Projects
- Philanthropy Roundtable: Reviving Marriage in America: Strategies for Donors
- Center for Law and Social Policy: Marriage-Related Provisions in Welfare Reauthorization Proposals: A Summary
Angela Ogunjimi has been a prize-winning writer and editor since 1994. She was a general assignment reporter at two newspapers and a business writer at two magazines. She writes on nutrition, obesity, diabetes and weight control for a project of the National Institutes of Health. Ogunjimi holds a master's degree in sociology from George Washington University and a bachelor's in journalism from New York University.