Oral Testimony of John Crouch on Marriage Education, as delivered April 11, 2002


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Testimony of John Crouch on Marriage Education in TANF Reauthorization
U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means
Human Resources Subcommittee
April 11, 2002

[Written testimony is on a separate page]
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. My name is John Crouch, and I'm a divorce lawyer from Arlington, Virginia. It is that experience which motivates me to be involved in the marriage movement. I am the Director of Americans for Divorce Reform, a small all-volunteer organization that supports a variety of measures to reduce divorce and improve marriage. We work with people around the country who get in touch with us because they want to do something about divorce.

As a divorce lawyer I have witnessed, and participated in, many of my profession's attempts to improve the divorce process. I have found that our ideal of "the good divorce" faces many obstacles that are deeply rooted in our culture, our legal system, and in human nature. For most families, easy divorce is a seductive and disastrous myth. Once they begin the process they learn that there is not enough money, not enough of the children's time, to go around, but by then it is too late to go back. The same thing happens with unwed parents when they split up.

I have come to believe that the most fruitful way to minimize the damage of divorce is not to improve it, but to reduce it. We must keep doing what we can to improve it, but new possibilities for marriage education and divorce law reform provide a new and better hope for sustaining marriages.

Marriage Education is a proven success. It is no untried experiment. The leading programs have been around for decades, like the Maryland-based Relationship Enhancement curriculum, or the Florida-based PAIRS program, which has been adapted by the American Bar Association for use in the public schools. The PREP program, from the University of Denver, has been used in the public sector for years. It is taught in the Army. It's also been taught since 1994 by Chesterfield County, Virginia's public mental health center. These programs, and their results, are described in my written materials. There is abundant evidence of exactly how marriage education programs strengthen marriages and reduce divorce.

Marriage education does not come from think tanks or politicians. It comes from psychologists, social workers, educators, chaplains, pastors and lay volunteers who are out there working with couples. They have joined the marriage movement in response to experience, not theory. Some, like me, come to it from our work with families and children of divorce in the court system. We have resolved to "go upstream" and try to prevent the incurable suffering we deal with every day.

Marriage education is a poverty prevention program, so it should be open to all, without means-testing. All children are put at risk by divorce and illegitimacy. Statistics on specific risk factors can be found on Americans for Divorce Reform's web site, www.divorcereform.org.

Marriage education is not "marriage promotion", but we support that, too, for people who have already assumed the burdens of marriage by having a child together. It's generally very wise to delay marriage until you are prepared for all the responsibilities of parenthood, but it is tragically frivolous to continue that policy when you already have a child to raise with another person.

Publicly-funded marriage education is fiscally responsible and does not unduly increase government's role in society. (1) It can be provided very simply and inexpensively, as the Chesterfield County program shows. (2) Curriculum development and instructor accreditation are already provided, so government doesn't need to replicate that work, or politicize it. (3) Divorce and illegitimacy cause a lot of government spending and major government involvement in families' lives. (4) Governments already provide parenting classes, divorce classes, sex education, Family Life Education. The only thing missing is marriage.

Conclusion

Divorce and illegitimacy are not sustainable choices for most families, nor for our society. Of all the things the federal government might do about these compelling national problems, providing marriage education through time-tested, proven programs is one of the most judicious, effective, non-divisive, fiscally responsible steps it could take.

Thank you for having me here to speak to you. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have. For more information you can also go to Americans for Divorce Reform's web site, www.divorcereform.org.
[Written testimony]

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Originally posted and maintained by Americans for Divorce Reform; now maintained by John Crouch. You can call me at (703) 528-6700 or e-mail me through my law office's web site.