Social workers aim to strengthen adult relationships to improve child development

Although child welfare professionals are aware that children grow up to be healthy and safe when adults in their life have healthy relationships, a vast majority of social workers are not trained to counsel couples regarding strong relationships and marriages. An endeavor to strengthen individual and family relationships has led University of Missouri researchers to train child welfare professionals and future social workers.

Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education Training (HRMET), is a five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.

It is facilitated by MU Extension and David Schramm, assistant professor of human development and family studies and state extension specialist in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.

The project is aimed at creating training programs that aid social workers to promote positive relationships. The eventual outcome is to assist parents and caregivers to create and maintain healthy, strong marital relationships thereby improving the stability and well-being of children.

Schramm said, “Many parents face multiple stressors that can weaken their couple relationships and spill over into parent-child relationships. If social workers can teach parents to be more kind, understanding, and respectful in their couple relationships, the result will be safer, happier environments for children.”

HRMET has a bilateral curriculum comprising a one-day online training session for child welfare professionals and a graduate program for social work students at MU. Both courses are aimed at equipping current and future social workers with simple tools to aid parents choose the right partners, manage conflicts, and maintain relationship commitment
Schramm said, “Most social work graduate programs focus on helping children, so the subject of healthy relationships for parents tends to be left out. This project is exciting because the fields of human development and family studies and social work are merging for the first time to create better tools for child welfare professionals.”

An HRMET participant said, “I learned a great deal about communication within couples, different communication styles and how to teach partners to communicate positively. As a child welfare worker, I can now identify problems within clients’ relationships, explain to couples how their relationships affect their children, and offer them tools to help open the lines of communication.”

The project which commenced in 2008 is in the third year of research and curricula development comprising international faculty from universities around the US.

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