Missouri leaders discuss marriage, relationships

Monday, February 11, 2008 | 7:15 p.m. CST; updated 8:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Professionals from around the state gathered Monday at the MU Reynolds Alumni Center to find ways to keep families together within healthy marriages and other relationships.

It was the first meeting to organize a network of those who work with couples and families. About 50 people attended.

Participants want Missouri’s children to grow up in safe, healthy environments with parents in stable relationships, they said.

“The sole purpose is to provide a structure for coordinating the state’s relationship and marriage education work,” said David Schramm, MU assistant professor and MU Extension specialist.

“You can trace almost every social program down to the broken family unit,” Schramm said.

Participants came from government agencies, nonprofit organizations, faith communities and MU Cooperative Extension. All of them work with families and hope to pool their resources and services under the state’s Healthy Marriage Initiative.

The energy level was high, and agencies were excited to discuss their current education activities and find ways to expand.

The theme for the forum was “Healthy marriages. Stable children. Stronger Missouri.”

Surveys in Oklahoma and other states suggest that there is a public interest in having a statewide initiative for relationship education.

Bill Coffin, special assistant for marriage education with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, argued that Missouri would be similar.

Celebrating marriage is one way states raise awareness. Some give out awards for the longest marriages or couples who are in business together. In Alabama, there is a “Best Marriage I Know” essay contest for eighth graders in which the student, teacher and couple are all recognized.

One goal for the Missouri group is to have a state marriage Web site that provides information on healthy relationships and agencies listed by county in Missouri that have education programs already in place.

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