Strengthening Families

Participants from 14 states and the District of Columbia convened in Richmond for the “Northeast Family Strengthening Conference” hosted by several Virginia state agencies.  The programs focused on strategies to build positive family relationships, increase financial assets, improve workforce development, and other best practices.  State officials believe a holistic approach could significantly decrease the number of poor and fragile families.

Using federal data, the speakers drew a correlation between higher poverty rates and fractured families … which they said increases dependence on the public sector.  “Virginia families that are headed by women have a 31% chance of experiencing poverty, while families that consist of married couples have only a 4% chance,  says Lietenant Governor Bill Bolling.

The cost for child support cases and many social services—is nearly $2.4 billion in Virginia per year.  “Children who are raised by single parents are at greater risk of dropping out of school.  They’re at greater risk for teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, living in poverty, and experiencing health, emotional, and behavioral problems,” says Bolling.

Children living with one parent with an unmarried partner had the highest rates of abuse.  A new state initiative is developing multi-prong strategies that include reducing non-marital births, connecting fathers with children, and increasing household income through innovative policies.

–Anne Marie Morgan

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