Couples discuss and question the meaning of Torah during a Institute for Newly Married Couples weekend at Brandeis-Bardin. Photo courtesy Brandeis-Bardin Institute.
One of the primary reasons many groups give for the limited availability of premarital counseling programming is the lack of available funding.
However, millions of dollars are spent every year in divorce proceedings, legal fees and mediation and, with that in mind, the federal government offers grants through the Administration for Children and Families' Healthy Marriage Promotion and Responsible Fatherhood program, established under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.
The initiative provides $100 million in grants for faith-based groups and individuals to administer programs that fall under at least one of the following eight categories:
Public advertising campaigns on the value of marriage and the skills needed to increase marital stability and health.
Education in high schools on the value of marriage, relationship skills and budgeting.
Marriage education, marriage skills, and relationship skills programs -- which may include parenting skills, financial management, conflict resolution and job and career advancement -- for non-married pregnant women and non-married expectant fathers.
Premarital education and marriage skills for engaged couples and for couples or individuals interested in marriage.
Marriage enhancement and marriage skills programs for married couples.
Divorce-reduction programs that teach relationship skills.
Marriage mentoring programs that use married couples as role models and mentors in at-risk communities.
Programs to reduce the disincentives to marriage in means-tested aid programs, if offered in conjunction with any activity described above.
In addition to information about the type of training an agency or synagogue intends to provide and their target audience, applicants must describe how issues of domestic violence will be addressed, and show that program participation is voluntary. The funding is available through 2010.
Many Jewish groups have yet to tap into these resources, because "they see it as a 'Christian' project" and might not agree with the government guidelines toward marriage and family, psychologist and author Dr. Joel Crohn said.
Those who oppose the federal grants argue that government-sponsored marriage promotion could encourage women to stay in abusive relationships by discouraging leaving a spouse in cases of domestic violence.
Proponents, however, say the programs can improve relationships by getting to the root of problems and encouraging couples to communicate, thereby reducing the incidence of domestic violence.
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