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Nonprofits team up for California marriages

CHMC President Dennis Stoica

With California facing a continued fiscal emergency and budget cuts reducing vital services to children, immigrants, prisoners, schools and others, two of the nation’s leading marriage education proponents are teaming up in an innovative approach to strengthen families and neighborhoods.

Like Florida, home to the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, a leading relationship skills training program, California is among those hardest hit by the housing crisis and unemployment. In 2006, PAIRS Foundation received a multi-year, multi-million dollar federal grant to deliver marriage education to diverse communities in South Florida and study the program’s impact. The same year, the nonprofit California Healthy Marriage Coalition (CHMC), was awarded the largest Healthy Marriage Demonstration Grant ever given by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Through the $11.9 million dollar five-year grant, CHMC partners with a network of California faith- and community-based organizations to deliver marriage education and relationship skills classes throughout the state. PAIRS and CHMC have collectively served tens of thousands of couples and individuals since being awarded federal grants.

Dennis Stoica, President of CHMC, said the decision to partner with PAIRS was based on strong evidence of the program’s impact. “PAIRS offers a proven, research-driven approach to helping couples create and sustain happy, healthy relationships and strong marriages,” Stoica said.”Our collaboration with PAIRS Foundation will allow our partner organizations to deliver the nine-hour PAIRS Essentials curriculum as our primary launch program for marriage education.”

Seth Eisenberg, President of PAIRS Foundation, said the partnership with CHMC will meaningfully contribute to thousands of couples and families. “CHMC is the largest healthy marriage coalition in the nation,” Eisenberg said. “We’re pleased to work with Dennis Stoica and his team to advance our shared commitment to children and families. Our partnership will contribute to reducing the rate of marital and family breakdown and improving the lives of children.”

A recent Florida study found that as many as seven in ten couples are considering separation or divorce. Research shows PAIRS helps 75 percent of those at high risk for divorce improve their marriages.

“Relationship skills training provides lasting benefits to couples, families and children at a fraction of the cost of traditional counseling or therapy,” Eisenberg said. “With family and government budgets under increasing pressure, we’re delighted to be able to bring a cost-effective approach to California that has been highly effective among diverse populations.”

In addition to preparing CHMC’s instructors to deliver PAIRS Essentials classes through faith-based and community organizations, PAIRS is training chaplains, counselors and other behavioral health specialists at the Veterans Administration’s San Diego Healthcare System to help couples impacted by combat deployment, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other visible and invisible wounds.

Last year, PAIRS collaboration with the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center was recognized by the VA as “Best Practice in Marriage Enrichment.” Eisenberg said expanding services to California’s veteran community will help reduce the rate of marital and family breakdown among families affected by military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Skills-based, educational programs that help couples reconnect, deepen empathy, emotional understanding, attachment, bonding, and learn constructive conflict resolution skills are vital to restoring and sustaining love and intimacy. For families facing increased stress, especially those impacted by combat deployment, the benefits are significant,” he said.

During a past visit to California, Eisenberg was a guest on a Bill Maher show that focused on the issue of government funding for marriage education.  “I’m grateful to return with extensive research that shows the lasting impact PAIRS is having on families, children and communities,” he said.

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May 2010
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