Strengthening the Implementation of Marriage and Relationship Programs


Project Overview


The SIMR team strives to understand implementation challenges that healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs face and test potential solutions to those challenges in 10 HMRE programs.

Project Motivation

While the knowledge base about the effectiveness of HMRE programs is growing, less is understood about effective implementation approaches. Findings suggest that HMRE programs face various implementation challenges, which in turn make evaluating program effectiveness more difficult.

Prepared For

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

What is the focus of this study?

Strong, supportive families are critical to the health and well-being of children. Since 2005, Congress has authorized federal funding for healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) programs to encourage the formation of healthy relationships and stable, two-parent families. Administered by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the grants support programs that offer HMRE programming to couples, adult individuals, and youth.

Research has shown that HMRE programs often face implementation challenges in areas such as recruitment, participation, and program completion. In 2019, ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) contracted with Mathematica and its subcontractor Public Strategies to conduct the SIMR project to develop and test promising implementation solutions to these challenges.

What activities will the study pursue?

SIMR will use rapid-cycle learning to pilot and refine promising solutions. Rapid-cycle learning involves testing and refining solutions in a series of short cycles to pilot the solution, collect and analyze data on the pilot, refine the solution, and try it again. By helping HMRE grantees address implementation challenges, SIMR will also build their readiness for evaluation of program effects. Specifically, the SIMR team will: 

  • Identify implementation challenges and solutions that are supported by evidence 
  • Identify and partner with HMRE programs to participate in rapid-cycle learning 
  • Work closely with program partners to pilot test and refine the solutions 
  • Recommend program partners for participation in a possible future evaluation
  • Obtain input from research and programmatic experts and stakeholders to ensure the study includes diverse perspectives

What will the study produce?

The SIMR team will share findings widely, including: 
  • A synthesis of common implementation challenges in HMRE programs and promising solutions 
  •  A description of program partners and plans for piloting solutions to common implementation challenges
  • Rapid-cycle learning findings about the feasibility of using specific solutions, and how well they worked 

How do I join the project mailing list?

Email our project inbox,, to receive newsletters and project updates.

Related Staff

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Principal Researcher

View Bio Page
Scott Baumgartner

Scott Baumgartner

Senior Researcher

View Bio Page
Angela  Valdovinos D'Angelo

Angela Valdovinos D'Angelo

Principal Researcher

View Bio Page
Robert Wood

Robert Wood

Senior Fellow; Director of Youth and Family Research

View Bio Page
Quinn  Moore

Quinn Moore

Principal Researcher

View Bio Page

See Clearly. Act Quickly.

From local to global challenges in health, human services, and international development, we’re here to improve public well-being and make progress together. Learn more about becoming a Mathematica client or partner.

Work With Us