Jefferson County Healthy Marriage Initiative
Over the past 20 years, the prison population, both in Kentucky and in the nation, has increased dramatically. Mandatory sentencing for drug convictions has increased the number of men and women sent to prison for possession, trafficking and other drug related offenses. Long incarcerations in prison can place stress and tension on marriages and families. Upon release, the reentering ex-offender is often faced with building a drug-free and responsible life, reconnecting with family and spouse, finding employment that is financially and personally rewarding, and resuming the role of parent. Reconnecting and healing can be a daunting challenge. Rebuilding a marriage after a partner has received substance abuse treatment is also a difficult challenge for both partners in a marriage. After treatment, married partners may also need to repair and rebuild intimacy, relationship, and parenthood.
Building on our experience of over thirty years of providing families with the skills they need to bond more closely together, to develop greater intimacy within their marital partnerships, to enhance families and to communicate with clarity, compassion and sincerity, COPES is helping families in reentry and recovery. Through its nationally recognized model program Creating Lasting Family Connections, COPES has developed the Jefferson County Healthy Marriage Initiative for families in recovery from substance abuse and with reentry when one of the partners in the marriage has been recently released from prison.
In 2006, COPES received a 1.3 million dollar grant from the United State
Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children
and Families to explore approaches to helping reentry and recovering married
couples enrich their marriages, create a safe and loving environment to raise
children, deepen intimacy, and communicate with each other and their families
with love, compassion, clarity and sincerity. COPES has developed a community
coalition with other local agencies who are interested in promoting positive
reentry from prison and recovery from substance abuse. These agencies include
the Kentucky Department of Corrections, the Volunteers of America of Kentucky,
Dismas Charities, The University of Louisville WINGS Clinic, The Louisville
Metro Department of Health and Wellness, The Center for Women and Families
and Seven Counties Services. Using Creating Lasting Family Connections as
a foundation and interweaving skills for marriage enrichment, partners are
offered skill-building that allows them to deeply engage with each other and
to build loving relationships based on true feelings, accurate observations
of each other, loving feedback and honest communication.
Couples commit to participate for 20 sessions (2 hours each) of the program.
Prior to each session, a light meal is served. During the meal, couples can
informally build relationships with staff and other couples. Sessions are
lively, deeply felt, and penetrating in their explorations of relationships,
child rearing and proven approaches to difficult issues in family life and
marriage. Participants listen to short lectures and participate in learning
games and role plays that help them practice skills they need to use in real
life. Specific modules are tailored to address family issues when families
have experienced the incarceration and/or substance abuse of a father or mother.
“Raising Resilient Youth” is designed to help parents foster resilience
in their children by: listening to them when they have concerns; holding Family
Feelings Meetings to illicit feelings; developing a rich feelings vocabulary;
using “I-messages” to avoid shaming and blaming; and allowing
children to participate in developing expectations and consequences when facing
decisions concerning important life choices such as driving, dating, education,
and using alcohol or other drugs. “Getting Real” fosters the growth
of clear and sincere communication between spouses and within families. It
also teaches important refusal skills, encouraging both parents and children
to say “No” when it is their best interest to do so. “Developing
Positive Parental Influences” give parents a clear knowledge of how
substances can affect family life. The curriculum examines the differences
between “drinking,” “getting drunk” and “chemical
dependency,” and how one might seek help and intervene if substance
abuse becomes a problem. Participants are shown patterns of use and abuse
and a process for designing a substance abuse prevention plan that is based
on the specific genetic, environmental and personal lifestyle of their family.
The program also examines effective intervention and referral techniques.
Participants can also receive case management services to help them overcome
any obstacles or address any significant issues they face in their recovery,
in their reentry or in their relationships with their spouse or family. In
the past year, COPES case managers have helped clients address medical, familial,
marital, financial and emotional issues or have referred participants to agencies
for more intensive treatment in these areas.
Our work with married couples is extremely rewarding, helping committed couples
to enrich their marriage, deepen their intimacy, raise healthy, responsible
children and develop lifelong, loving relationships. We anticipate gaining
similar or even greater results serving couples as we have in our regular
CLFC program or as we have seen in our Fatherhood program. (Please see “Jefferson
County Fatherhood Initiative” for an idea of these results.)
Developing Positive Parental Influences | Raising Resilient Youth | Getting Real | Developing Independence & Responsibility | Developing Positive Response | National Replication Sites | CLFC Creates a Platform for Environmental Strategies | CLFC Logic Model | Implementation Options for CLFC | CLFC Options in Treatment Settings | | CLFC National Training System