Auburn’s College of Human Sciences receives $7.5 million grant to continue Alabama Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Initiative

AUBURN – Auburn University’s Center for Children, Youth and Families has been awarded a three-year, $7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance to continue the Alabama Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education Initiative.

The initiative is an applied research project to build and sustain healthy relationships and stable marriages throughout Alabama. It is implemented through a partnership between Auburn University, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Department of Children’s Affairs and family resource centers around the state.

“Our goal remains strengthening relationships within families and supporting marital and family stability by promoting access to educational resources on healthy relationships for youth and adults in Alabama,” said Francesca Adler-Baeder, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in Auburn’s College of Human Sciences, an Extension specialist and the principal investigator for the initiative.

Adler-Baeder says Alabama’s persistent history of marital and family instability was the impetus for creating the initiative in 2002. Since then, it has grown from state-funded pilot projects to the current large-scale coordinated effort, one of the largest in the country.

The outreach efforts of the initiative were enhanced in 2006 when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance awarded Auburn University a five-year grant totaling $9.2 million. Another nearly $1 million grant was awarded the previous year to support a research study focused on the examination of program effects for adolescents in the state who participate in relationship education in high school health classes and family and consumer science classes.

Since its inception, the initiative has had much success in reaching historically underserved populations in the state, particularly minority families, low-income families and adults without a high school diploma.

“Over the past five years, the Alabama Healthy Marriage and Relationship Initiative has proven to be one of the nations’ most innovative and successful projects for promoting and strengthening stable relationships and positive family functioning,” said June Henton, dean of Auburn’s College of Human Sciences. “It is a tribute to Dr. Francesca Adler-Baeder and her team at Auburn, as well as a group of dynamic partners at the state and local levels, that the Department of Health and Human Services strongly supports this initiative as a best practices model that has and will continue to benefit citizens and communities in Alabama and across the country.”

The current project will implement relationship and marriage education programs and feature access to complementary programs and services, with an emphasis on economic self-sufficiency. Programs will be available in Lee County as well as in a large number of counties around the state. More details are available at www.alabamamarriage.org.

“Most importantly, we have the capacity and the track record for carefully documenting our implementation procedures, refining our program design and demonstrating important individual and interpersonal benefits for participants in local programs,” said Adler-Baeder. “In addition, we were the first to show preliminary evidence of enhanced social competence for low-resource preschool children following their parents’ participation in relationship skills training.”

Results, as well as descriptions of program design elements, have been published in academic journals, technical reports and as a book chapter, and have been presented at more than 100 local, state and national meetings and conferences, including a White House Roundtable on innovative university-community partnerships. The initiative was named a “Promising Practices” site by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2009.

(Written by Amy Weaver)

Contact: Francesca Adler-Baeder, (334) 844-3234 (francesca@auburn.edu), or

Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)