LOCAL AGENCY GETS $1 MILLION TO PROMOTE MARRIAGE by Roxanne Escobales

10/09/06

In 2004 the Bush administration pledged 1.5 billion dollars over five years to promote marriage as a means to help the poor out of poverty. The Healthy Marriage Initiative is funded by welfare money, and ten Florida programs have received pieces of that pie to educate people on how to be good spouses. As WMNF’s Roxanne Escobales reports, the message is not without its detractors, including the Bay area organization that received the funding.

Counselling agency Family Resources in Pinellas Park found out last week that the federal government awarded it with the over one million dollars it had applied for as part of the Healthy Marriage Initiative. The money will be used over five years. But while the 36-year-old agency will certainly offer the marriage education courses it got approval and money for, C-O-O Pat Gerard says Family Resources may widen its scope about who they receive as clients.

ACT: “… that certainly wouldn’t be the reason that we would be doing it.�

It seems Family Resources views marriage a bit more liberally than the federal government.

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Right now Family Resources helps between 700 and 800 people a year. It hopes to reach an additional 7 thousand with its marriage education and divorce reduction services. But not everyone thinks promoting marriage is always the best option.

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Linda Osmundson is the executive director of domestic violence shelter CASA in St Petersburg.

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Chris Warwick of The Haven women’s refuge in Clearwater says the shelter harbors between 500 and 600 women a year and helps more than 5 thousand others as they deal with abuse. And The Haven believes that those numbers represent less than five percent of the domestic violence victims in North Pinellas alone.

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After being lobbied by those in the domestic violence field, the government added that those offering marriage services under its banner would have to involve partner abuse agencies. But CASA’s Linda Osmundson still advises to proceed with caution.

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Part of the Healthy Marriage Initiative stipulates that it funds education and not marriage counseling. So rather than one on one sessions, couples and would-be couples should attend workshops and seminars. And once again, Pat Gerard says Family Resources will work around that requirement, especially when it comes to couples thinking about splitting up.

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Family Resources in Pinellas Park and Manatee County traditionally offered adolescent-centred family counseling. Now it will hire 16 new staff to undertake the marriage education and relationship enhancement workshops at the two sites along with its partner agency the Marriage and Family Center. Part of the program requires a public awareness campaign, whose message will be formed by a community advisory group. And courses will be offered to unmarried people thinking about getting married. Or even those who would like to get married but legally can’t.

ACT: gay guy who wrote grant – ironic

Family Resources hopes to have healthy marriage classes up and running by the end of the year.

For WMNF News. I’m Roxanne Escobales.

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