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Highlights

Strengthening marriages and relationships in low-income families has emerged as a national strategy for enhancing the well-being of children. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) appropriated $150 million in discretionary grants each year from 2006 through 2010 to implement the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Initiative. To provide insight into how these programs are being implemented and monitored, GAO is reporting on (1) how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded grants and the types of organizations that received funding; (2) what activities and services grantees are providing, including those for domestic violence victims; (3) how HHS monitors and assesses program implementation and use of funds; and (4) how program impact is measured. GAO surveyed grantees, interviewed HHS staff, reviewed HHS records and policy, and visited several programs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services 1. In order to improve monitoring and oversight of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grantees, the Secretary of HHS should employ a risk-based approach to monitoring grantees and conducting grantee site visits, using its planned management information system and information from both progress reports and uniform performance indicators to help identify those grantees at risk of not meeting performance goals or not in compliance with grant requirements.
Closed - Implemented
HHS agreed with our recommendation to employ a risk-based approach to monitoring, using its planned management information system (MIS) and performance indicators to help identify grantees for monitoring and noted that these tools would further enhance oversight and monitoring efforts currently underway. HHS officials reported in September 2010 that its web-based management system was fully operational. The MIS includes a Document Management System and a Risk Management Module. According to officials, both components are designed to enhance monitoring and oversight capabilities, including risk-assessment, of the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood programs. Officials reported that they have developed a customized approach to prioritizing site visits and technical assistance and will periodically revise their policies and practices as appropriate.
Department of Health and Human Services 2. In order to improve monitoring and oversight of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grantees, the Secretary of HHS should create clear, consistent guidance and policy for monitoring Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood grantees.
Closed - Implemented
According to HHS officials, upon further review, they agreed with this recommendation and revised their site visit protocol. Additionally, they have provided additional training to staff on an ongoing basis.

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