Relationship Education in Rural Communities

Speakers from Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma presented research regarding the impacts, challenges and solutions for successfully delivering relationship education in small towns and rural areas during Building the Foundation – Relationship Education in Rural Communities Fall Conference September 17-18, 2009 at Forest Institute.   The conference was sponsored by a federal grant awarded to Forest Institute from the Administration for Children and Families to serve persons living in 29 counties in southwest Missouri.This year’s featured speakers were Justin and Tonya Waite, founders of the VOW Healthy Marriage Program in Longview, Texas; and JoAnne Eason, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for Public Strategies, Inc. of Oklahoma City.A highlight of this year’s conference was a panel discussion with Presiding Judge of the 25th Judicial Circuit and circuit Judge for Division II, Mary Sheffield; Missouri State Representative of the 138th District, Sara Lampe; President of Sac River Counseling, Dr. Rebecca Roller; and President of the Board for Healthy Families/Healthy Homes of Polk County, Reverend Dr. David W. Loy of Zion Lutheran in Bolivar.   The discussion was about the impacts and challenges of family relationships in rural communities.The conference schedule included a pre-conference workshop, “Military Families & the Effects of Deployment,” with Dr. Deborah Nofziger, PsyD with the Center for Deployment at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.   There was also a road trip to Bolivar and Greenfield to learn first-hand how clergy, educators and mental health professionals are making a difference where they live by providing relationship education resources.    “Rural communities today face many challenges as the world around them changes,” stated Dr. Jennifer Baker, PsyD, Program Director of Operation Us.   “If we want to help our small towns and villages today, it’s critical that we also focus on strengthening the families that comprise them”