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MU Extension program aims to strengthen Missouri families


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Published: Friday, Oct. 16, 2015

Story source:

David G Schramm, 573-884-1995

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Family trees branch wide and deep these days.

Ask 10 people to define “family” in 2015 and you may get 10 answers, says University of Missouri Extension family specialist David Schramm.

Schramm heads a new relationship and marriage education program that combines technology and community resources. Schramm hopes the Show Me Healthy Families and Relationships project will strengthen families of 2,000 low-income Missouri residents in 21 counties over the next five years.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families awarded $9.6 million for MU Extension specialists across the state and four graduate students to work with partner agencies.

The grant is the largest ever awarded to the Department of Human Development and Family Science at MU.

Participants will receive individually tailored services aimed at improving family function and finances, adult and child well-being, and reducing poverty. Participants will learn how to identify the key components of healthy relationships with other adults and with their children.

The classes will be two-hour sessions held over four to five weeks. Participants may receive small stipends to cover the cost of transportation and babysitting.

Part of the program centers on sending text message boosters to participants, Schramm says. Participants will receive messages to reinforce principles learned in class, after the classes have ended.

Schramm said these include parenting principles such as “Make time for nine” meaningful minutes per day at key times: There should be three peaceful minutes per day after a child wakes. There should be three minutes per day dedicated to each child when he or she arrives home from school. Finally, there should be three minutes of meaningful touch such as hugs or cuddling before bedtime.

Participants also will receive positive text messages to make time for themselves and connect with other adults in their family unit.

“Families have evolved and so has technology,” Schramm says.

According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis, less than half of U.S. children live in households with two parents who are in their first marriage. There are stepfamilies, same-sex parents, single parents, households headed by grandparents and parents who aren’t legally parents but assume the role.

Cohabitation rates have increased 500 percent in the last 50 years. That changes family dynamics greatly, Schramm says.

Project partners are Central Missouri Community Action of Columbia, Douglass Community Services of Hannibal, Cornerstones of Care’s Healthy Families Programs of Kansas City, Learfield Communications, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and Missouri Department of Health.

For more information from MU Extension on families and relationships, go to and