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Healthy Marriage Funds Improperly Used to Promote Abstinence

A report issued on October 27 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that some recipients of grants from the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiative–run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)–have used the funds impermissibly for abstinence-only education.

“HHS officials told us that abstinence education was not allowable under the Healthy Marriage program,” reads the report, “but we observed during our site visits and review of grantee data several Healthy Marriage grantees operating programs that focused on abstinence education.”

The study, which was requested by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), also found that HHS–operating under a shortened deadline process–“did not fully examine grantee’s programs as described in their applications.”

Both programs are designed to serve low-income and minority groups. The Healthy Marriage programs, targeting teenaged youth primarily, are supposed to promote marriage and relationship activities; the Responsible Fatherhood programs, targeted at incarcerated parents, are designed to provide parenting skills. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 appropriated $150 million in grants each year from 2006 through 2010 to implement the Initiative. But it diverted funds from programs designed to support those living in poverty, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), to programs promoting marriage.

Sources:

CQ Today 10/29/08; GAO report 08-1002; Feminist Wire 1/31/05

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