“Promote Those Measures”: Answering the Call to Strengthen Families

The Proclamation on the Family encourages and calls upon Latter-day Saints, along with “responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere,” to “promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family.” Set your calendars. On March 19, 2002, the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University will co-host a one-day conference designed specifically to help individuals learn about ideas and resources to help them support and strengthen family life. While this conference may very well help individuals in their own families, its foremost and express purpose is to bring together all interested persons and explore the multitude of ways that they can strengthen not only their families, but their communities and the world through family outreach and education. In answering the call to strengthen families, this first annual Family Outreach Conference will provide many practical examples and ideas.

Although the conference will be of much interest and value to professionals who work with children and families, it is also meant to reach other persons of varying backgrounds and interests who share an interest in strengthening families. Alan Hawkins, professor of marriage, family and human development at BYU and the conference chair, notes, “For some time, I’ve been concerned about helping our students, graduates, and other concerned citizens realize ways they can be involved in their communities to strengthen marriages and families. We do a pretty good job of teaching people important principles for building and maintaining strong marriages and families. I don’t think we do as good a job teaching people how they can be involved, especially if their involvement needs to be worked around family and other responsibilities.” Realizing that the call of the Proclamation on the Family applies to all persons but that many people lack information and resources on this topic, the conference will focus on exposing attendees to a wide variety of ideas, resources, and programs for strengthening family life.

Topics on the conference agenda range from working with communities to using the Internet to strengthen families to understanding the nation’s premier marriage strengthening initiative in Oklahoma and working to support families through international policy. A conference organizer, Tamara Gilliland, says, “This conference is all about options and opportunities to forward the family cause at any level, lay or professional. Information, materials, and networking will provide participants with innovative ideas, encouraging examples, and resources they can use to get involved.” Gilliland is a good example of involvement. After serving a mission and graduating from BYU, she co-founded and now directs the conference’s co-host organization, the Family Life Education Institute, which provides resources and support to family life educators around the country.

Efforts to strengthen family life can range from a few hours of volunteer work in a family literacy program each week by a homemaker to a family professional’s full-time work in doing parent education programs. These widely varying efforts and contexts are grouped under the term “family life education,” and such efforts will be the focus of the conference. Gilliland comments, “Many people who work with families, or would like to, recognize the need to prevent family breakdown early on and to support the institutions of marriage and family as a community. Family life education encompasses efforts aimed at prevention and policy.” The conference will essentially provide a smorgasbord of examples of family strengthening efforts that will hopefully meet the tastes and needs of many different individuals.

Hawkins says, “I want individuals to see how they can use their education and passions to reach out in their neighborhoods and communities, even if they only have a few hours a week. They can do more than they think.” Helping them to find the ideas and opportunities to do more is the main objective of the conference, which has been in the planning stages for the last year and is hoped will occur on an annual basis.

A unique aspect of the conference will be to facilitate sharing of ideas and resources, discussion time on topics of mutual interest such as grandparenting or marriage preparation, and networking opportunities for attendees. There will be “learning circles” in which experienced educators will explain the “hows” of being involved in a variety of settings. Topics will cover collaboration practices, marketing tips, successful grant writing, balancing your family with service to others, and a variety of specific family life education programs. In addition, there will be a wide variety of sessions that highlight various existing family strengthening efforts. For example, an LDS homemaker from Missouri launched a “family week” initiative that has now continued successfully in her area for over five years. A graduate student in the Midwest developed a series of resource books for mothers and fathers parenting “at a distance” that are now used across the nation. A team of university professors is working on a project to strengthen families through film. These and many other examples will be part of this exciting conference opportunity.

The keynote presentation for the conference will be given by Jerry Regier, secretary of health and human services for the state of Oklahoma and the head of that state’s ambitious marriage strengthening initiative. Hawkins emphasizes, “We have invited a lot of presenters to the conference who have contributed to strengthening families in their communities in many creative ways, and I’m confident that conference attendees will leave with many new ideas for how they as responsible citizens can maintain and strengthen the family.” Other presenters will include Terrance Olson, professor of marriage, family and human development at BYU; H. Wallace Goddard, extension family life specialist at the University of Arkansas; Roberta Stapley, family therapist and advocate from Arizona; Pete Petersen, early intervention specialist in the state of Idaho; Stephen Duncan, associate professor of marriage, family and human development at BYU; and many others.

“Promote Those Measures: Answering the Call to Strengthen Families” will be held on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah on March 19, 2002. The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. and continue until 6:00 p.m., with on-site registration beginning at 7:30 a.m. Interested persons may register now on the Internet at www.familylifeeducation.org or by calling 1-800-452-5662. Registration is $35, or $5 for current students. Attendees who are doing something to strengthen families that they would like to share should come prepared with information to discuss and/or materials to display. We invite you to come and learn, share ideas and resources, network with other individuals, receive motivation, and return to strengthen families in your homes and communities!

 

 


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