TOGETHER Program Receives $5M to Continue Relationship and Financial Counseling for Local Couples
The TOGETHER Program, which offers services that help local families develop healthy relationships and achieve financial stability, will continue its work for another five years with a $5 million grant renewal from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
The program, led by the University of Maryland, provides three services: free education workshops, case management and connections to employment and job placement.
Mariana Falconier, an associate professor of family science in the School of Public Health and TOGETHER’s project director, said she and the program’s staff were happy to see that ACF saw the value of the work being done to integrate relationship and financial education, as well as stress management.
With the grant, the program has secured funding for “at least five more years to serve low-income families in the Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties during these challenging times,” Falconier said.
“We will be trying to reach especially Black and Latinx families that have been disproportionately affected by the direct and indirect effects of Covid-19. We believe that our program can offer tools and resources to help with their challenges.”
For the next five years, TOGETHER seeks to enroll 1,350 couples. The hope is that at least 900 couples will complete the program during that time frame. Since its launch in 2016, hundreds of couples have benefitted from the program that has been offered in 10 locations throughout Maryland and Northern Virginia.
Roughly 180 14-hour workshops featuring conflict and stress management skills, cash and credit management, and budgeting are being planned to be offered.
Services for couples are expected to begin next April and will be offered in both English and Spanish.
The program utilizes case managers, couple therapists and financial counselors. Additionally, it employs graduate students and offers over 10 internship positions for undergraduates each year.
The combination of relationship and financial education is what makes TOGETHER’s curriculum distinctive, Falconier said.
“There is no psychoeducation program that is comparable in a group format,” she said. “It is unique to have a couple therapist and a financial counselor working together in this psychoeducational program with groups of couples.”
Falconier and Jinhee Kim, TOGETHER’s co-project director and a UMD Extension professor studying financial management and family well-being, launched the program with a partnership with Virginia Tech in 2015 with ACF funding for $6.5 million for the five-year period.
“In addition to providing valuable services, having been able to conduct research by testing the effectiveness of the program through a randomized control trial in the previous grant and learn what to improve has been a great opportunity,” Falconier added.
The previous five-year grant ended this past September. Over 800 couples enrolled in the program, and over 99% of participants reported that the program had helped some or a lot, according to Falconier.
The program is planning the workshops and case management to remain online for now due to Covid-19. The virtual format, however, isn’t new to the program. For the last grant, 128 couples enrolled in TOGETHER’s online services.
Amid the circumstances of the pandemic, Falconier is grateful for TOGETHER.
“For me, it has been a privilege to serve the community through a program that makes a difference in their lives,” Falconier said.