By Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s newest public policy research group will center its research and analysis on family issues.
Bolstering his case for a public policy “think tank” focused on family, founder and executive director Timothy Tardibono for the Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma reflected, “Oklahoma is known as a family-friendly, conservative, faith-based state. Oklahoma’s families and children are really in distress, yet there is no statewide organization focused on family well-being.”
Tardibono told The City Sentinel the institute hopes “to fill that gap as well as work on related issues like religious liberty protection, and many other issues impacting children and their parents.”
The group’s initial paper (http://www.okfamily.org/research-papers/policy-memo-1-14-why-strong-families-still-matter) begins with a premise that Tardibono says is no longer well-settled in modern culture, that is, that strong families still matter when it comes to a thriving civil society and giving children the best chance to succeed.
The white paper Taribono has circulated at the state Capitol and to reporters draws upon social science data showing that children in families with married biological parents have the lowest rates of maltreatment, lower poverty rates, higher educational achievement, and lower teen sexual activity than children growing up in other family structures.
Tardibono also said the lowest prevalence of alcohol or marijuana use, as well as use of other illicit drugs, is found for children in such family structures.
Tardibono is a veteran of public policy work. Among other professional stops, he worked for the late Paul M. Weyrich at the Free Congress Foundation.
Tardibono aims to bring to bear in the Sooner State the kind of professional social research that has characterized the work of Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C. (http://Marri.us/). Fagan spoke to a bipartisan group of state legislators at one of the fall 2013 “interim studies” for the state Legislature (ttp://watchdog.org/110695/ok-interim-study-family-structure-key-factor-in-economic-growth/).
One of the new institute’s allies, state Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, participated in the formal launch for the group.
In an interview, he said, “For a conservative, the most difficult challenge is finding the proper role of the state. I firmly believe that the state does have a role, but we must also get the other stakeholders to fulfill their roles.”
Newell said pro-active legislation in the family policy arena has to seek areas of common ground, but that some policy conflict is inevitable.
“A second challenge is even more daunting. Once we have determined the proper role of the state, we must convince a majority of the legislators and the governor of the need for the specific policy proposal. In this area, we have attorney legislators that do not want any change to current law and many legislators, who because of their own backgrounds, do not want to vote on marriage or family bills,” Newell concluded.
Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, said the institute’s first policy paper “educates all of us on the damage that broken families cause.”
Along with state Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, Standridge is co-sponsor of Senate Bill 961, a measure that has been pending in the Legislature since last year’s session ended in May.
The measure could require 30 minutes of “divorce education” before petitions to end a marriage would be granted. Standridge made his case this way: “There is a similar requirement for education before someone can file for bankruptcy, an event that as lasting negative consequences but certainly not more so than divorce.”
Standridge said research in Minnesota hints “this education could make a dramatic positive impact on at least 10 percent of potential divorces.”
Tardibono said he is encouraging state policy makers to look at ways to “slow down the fast pace of unilateral divorce.” This can come through pre-marital education, policies encouraging long-term marriage, and support for reconciliation.
Joining Tardibono for last week’s launch of the state Family Policy Institute were Clarence Hill, executive director of Eye of Eye, a marriage enrichment community development organization in Oklahoma City, and founder/director Melisa Zimmerman of Bridge Builder Marriage Ministries. Both have spent many years working with married couples in support of reconciliation and family formation.
Also supporting the lift-off for Tardibono’s group were state Reps. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, and Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa.