NCFR Continuing to Expand Services to Practitioners
A few years ago, I was working on the “In the News” column for this newsletter. As you know, the column consists of short announcements that usually recognize CFLEs who have received awards or authored books or textbooks. The column also often recognizes universities and colleges that have received first-time approval or renewal as a CFLE-approved academic program. Of course, it is important to acknowledge CFLE-approved schools because they are the most common pathway to the CFLE credential. However, in reviewing the news items in the “In the News column,” I had an epiphany: Most of the accomplishments featured in the column were relevant to CFLEs working in academia. Most of the awards mentioned were NCFR awards, which focus largely on research and academic teaching accomplishments. Most articles focused on research relevant to Family Life Education (FLE) rather the practice of FLE. Researchers are eager to find opportunities to disseminate their research, but I have found it harder to recruit applied articles written by practitioners. This all makes sense given that the CFLE program has grown out of and lives within NCFR, a largely academic organization. But it made me more aware of how the academic nature of NCFR impacts the CFLE program. Given that the target audience for the CFLE credential is practitioners working in the field directly with or for families, it seems a different approach is in order.
Beth Morgan, former Network editor, introduced the “Voices From the Field” column as a format to encourage practitioners to contribute to the Network through relatively short articles focused on their practical experience in providing FLE. We intend to continue “Voices From the Field” as a regular feature, along with the similar, but longer, occasional column “Wisdom for Family Life Educators.” We encourage practitioners working in the field to submit articles for future issues of Network, especially for Winter 2023 given our theme: Leaning Into Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in FLE.
Another example of how the academic focus of NCFR influences the CFLE program is the makeup of the CFLE Advisory Board (AB). Historically, the AB has consisted of nine members: four academic, three practitioner, one student or new professional, and one employer representative. Perhaps there are more academic than practitioner positions because all board members are required to attend the AB meeting held in person at the NCFR conference. Most AB members involved in academia already attend the NCFR conference, so the on-site meeting isn’t a problem. But given the conference’s academic nature, along with the fact that practitioners do not always have the time or resources to attend onsite conferences, the in-person board meeting requirement is a challenge and likely has made it more difficult to attract practitioners to the board.
Recognizing that this requirement was impacting practitioner representation on the AB, we recently removed the onsite conference attendance requirement. All other AB meetings are held virtually, so it seemed unnecessary and problematic to require attendance at the onsite meeting. By removing this requirement, we think it will be easier to attract more practitioners, so we also adjusted the board makeup to include four practitioner representative positions and three academic representatives. Additionally, we revised and renamed the student new professional (SNP) representative position to new professional. As it turns out, most SNP representatives who have served on the AB have been graduate students, but the goal of a new professional representative is to have representation of the FLE practitioner who is working in the field. An important focus of the AB is to identify ways in which to strengthen the CFLE program, which includes determining ways to increase its value and visibility in the community. Ensuring that at least one position on the AB includes someone who can provide the perspective of someone new to the field is important.
A recent article in The Wiley Network, published by NCFR journal publisher Wiley, included insights from their annual survey of members of practitioner and professional societies. Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents either held or were working toward certification; slightly more than half said it was important for them to be able to access training and certification services via their society. Practitioner respondents also noted the opportunity to meet with other like-minded professionals as well as the opportunity to improve their careers through development resources. One-third of respondents joined their society to be involved in career-related diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
These survey results affirmed some of the steps NCFR has taken over the past few years to increase resources and professional development opportunities for CFLEs and FLE practitioners, most of whom work directly with families or in programs that serve families, rather than in academia. In 2021, we introduced two programs specifically designed to increase opportunities for Family Life Educators to learn from and share with one another: the FLE virtual summit and CFLE Conversations, an ongoing online series of 1-hour networking sessions on specific FLE topics or for CFLEs working in specific settings. We held a second virtual FLE summit this past June and have hosted 12 CFLE Conversations to date. These efforts will continue into 2023 with the third FLE virtual summit to be held on June 23 and at least six CFLE Conversations planned. We’ve restructured the pricing for NCFR webinars to enable CFLEs to attend webinars at the same rate as NCFR members. All these efforts mark our progress in increasing the relevance of NCFR and the CFLE credential to the Family Life Education practitioner.
Our most recent effort in expanding our service to CFLE practitioners is the hiring of Beth Maddock Magistad, Ph.D., as the editor for Network (see Beth’s introduction). I look forward to working with Beth to continue to explore ways to increase the relevance of the Network to the practitioner audience.
Certainly, having the CFLE program hosted by NCFR is a major strength of the credential. It is important that we embrace the relationship between research and practice. By taking a few minutes to step back and look closely at how the governance of the CFLE program is organized and how the resources and services provided by NCFR can best meet the needs of the practitioner audience, we all stand to gain.