California Healthy Marriages Coalition and Yuba-Sutter Healthy Marriage Project honored Congressman Wally Herger for his support of Relationship Education and healthy families in a well-attended local event on Thursday, April 1, 2010.
In addressing Congressman Herger, California Healthy Marriages Coalition President, Dennis Stoica, noted that “When public servants like yourself do work, they spend so much time reading bills, meeting with people, trying to make the right decisions, and often times must wonder, ‘Did we make the right decisions? Did the bills that we passed have the impact that we expected? What we’re here tonight to share with you is – you got this one right!”
The Federal bill Stoica referred to was the $100,000,000 per year five-year appropriation of TANF funds sprearheaded by Congressman Herger that has provided funding for healthy marriage and relationship education programs throughout the country. Through this funding, more than 46,000 Californians have been served through Relationship Education classes provided by the statewide partners of the California Healthy Marriages Coalition (CHMC), including Yuba-Sutter Healthy Marriage Project (YSHMP). CHMC and YSHMP each serve youth, singles, dating, engaged, married, new parents, troubled couples and stepfamilies.
Stoica noted that Marriage and Relationship Education give people the skills they need to have what it is they want, a happy marriage and family, and explained how this is the best preventive measure against a range of social issues. Along with healthy and stable families comes a “dramatic reduction in child abuse, domestic violence, and gang involvement, ” said Stoica. Healthy marriages impact four different levels of society—couples and individuals, local, state, as well as federal impact. Besides its benefit to couples and individuals, Stoica noted that Relationship Education helps the state economically, as the average divorce costs taxpayers $30,000 in social services, and this currently amounts to a $12 billion annual price tag for California taxpayers.
“Unfortunately,” as Stoica told the Congressman and the large audience, “this funding is now in jeopardy.” The Obama Administration’s proposal is to focus on a Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Innovation approach directed through a small number of states which Stoica believes would severely weaken most of the Marriage and Relationship Education programs underway throughout the country. Stoica believes that even one additional year of the current funding would enable the currently-funded organizations to demonstrate the strong and cost-effective impact of their programs on families and society.
Families from the local community who had been personally affected by these programs gave testimony. David and Kristen Bird stood with their three sons and told the story of their blended family which dealt with the effects of a life of drugs, multiple failed marriages and previous relationships that were, “co-dependent, drug induced, and didn’t have any good impact on my life at all.” Kristen had her first son out of wedlock on her 18th birthday, and a second one four years later while in prison for drug- related charges. While both were attempting to clean up their lives, they took classes through the Yuba-Sutter Healthy Marriage Project, including every pre-marital class available. They are now married and consider themselves a happy, healthy, and functioning family.
David stated, “I learned that communication is the lifeblood of a relationship. These classes have been provided at little to no cost to us.” And speaking directly to Congressman Herger, he said “I thank you for providing this for us. We are truly lives that have been changed.”
Bills Jens, President of the Yuba-Sutter Healthy Marriage Project, talked about how his organization has been able to meet the needs of people of “all religious and cultural backgrounds.” Beale AFB Chaplain Christian Biscotti, USAF spoke on how his Relationship Education programs help military families deal with unique stresses on their relationships. Dr. Carolyn Rich Curtis of the Sacramento Healthy Marriage Project talked on how their organization works with impoverished and “at-risk” families.
After accepting the “Friend of the Family” award presented to him, Congressman Herger appeared moved and said:, “How does a politician become speechless?” He talked about his belief that couples need to learn from role models that help them stay together – and then become role models for other couples. Reflecting on Stoica’s comments that the healthy-marriage funding he worked so hard to pass several years ago was now in jeopardy, Herger remarked “The amount of money we spend on these types of preventive programs is such a tiny fraction of the entire TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) budget, so it is amazing to me that some people want to kill the funding for these types of projects – especially when you consider the tremendous impact these programs have on so many people’s lives and the amount of money that these types of programs can end up saving the government”.
Clearly impressed by the evening’s testimonies, Herger stated in his conclusion, “Now that I have seen first-hand that this program has had the type of impact I hoped it would have when I sponsored it, you have my assurance that I will do everything in my power to make sure that this funding gets renewed.”