CFLE in Context: This Is It!
I remember the first time I read NCFR's story about the village on the edge of the river, I am sure it was also my first time reading about family life education and NCFR. Education and prevention were the two words that helped me see my place among the many helping professions, such as family therapy, case management, social work, etc. I remember saying to myself: "This is it!" The family life education approach made so much sense for a new case manager like me, who spent most of the day attempting to help clients in such crises as unemployment, homelessness, food insecurity, family conflict, domestic violence, or parenting challenges. I realized that there is a place for you and me next to other helping professionals. What we want, very much like the villagers from the story, is to build a fence to prevent people from falling into the river, and to teach them how to swim.
After completing a Master of Family Studies degree, and as I started to learn more about family life education and the 10 content areas, I shared ideas with my employer on ways that we could include prevention and education initiatives into our current programs. It takes time and effort to advocate for what you believe works, but it is necessary in order to advance the profession. One helpful approach is to find what I call "points of integration." These could be services or activities within a current program that share a common thread with any of the 10 content areas. For example, during a summer camp at my former place of employment, the Wilkinson Center, we offered a human sexuality class (content area #4) for parents and teens. The financial assistance program later evolved into a service that also offered financial education classes (content area #6). An ESL class integrated a conflict resolution and domestic violence prevention class (content area #2). Our computer students learned about human development (content area #3) while learning to create their own PowerPoint presentation. In fact, they all applied what they learned by creating beautiful presentations of the developmental stages of family members.
The next step, after finding these "points of integration" is marketing. No, I do not mean expensive marketing to the public, I mean marketing to my boss, peers, partners, etc. As I was developing the family life education program I made sure everybody called it family life education. As with anything new, some would call it a family program, or family literacy, or family education. It may seem unimportant but if what we do is prevention and education focusing on healthy family functioning then that's family life education. That's you and your profession!
What I love the most about family life education is the education part. Someone once told me, "Learning is beautiful." I couldn't agree more with that truth. Learning and education lifts up our spirit because it expands our possibilities and view of the world. The very essence of education is empowerment, from a 5-year-old boy who realizes he has learned to read to a surgeon who successfully frees a cancer patient from a brain tumor. The beauty of education is that it extends beyond the Kindergarten classroom or the surgeon's operating room. We can spend thousands of dollars and countless hours of study to become a doctor or excel in a career. Yet we assume that having a child will automatically teach us to parent or that love will guarantee a successful marriage, or that earning a paycheck will make us financial experts. These are skills that are as important as reading or performing brain surgery. These skills are what we, as family life educators, so passionately teach.
Becoming a CFLE has certainly given me a lot of great opportunities. After getting my Masters in Family Studies and becoming a CFLE, I was promoted and had the opportunity to develop a program that integrated family life education into our adult education programs. At the time I also had the opportunity to teach marriage and relationship education for adults and teenagers and most recently, court-ordered anger management and co-parenting classes. My involvement in co-parenting education with Between Two Homes, LLC® as their co-parenting educator for Spanish speaking families, came to fruition as a result of being a CFLE and member of NCFR. In addition, I proudly became the first family life educator to be trained under the leadership of Harville Hendrix as a Safe Conversations Facilitator. In the past only family therapists and social workers had been trained for their program. The founders had not been familiar with family life education or CFLE, but once I explained what the CFLE credential was all about, I was welcomed in.
The CFLE designation gives us many opportunities if we look for them. For those that already know about CFLE, it certainly is a plus and for those who do not know much about it, it is a great opportunity to start something new. That's what I have done and what you can do. Look for those points of integration, share your ideas and just talk about your profession.
Recently, I took a leap of faith and left the non-profit world to become a training specialist in the Human Resources Department at a growing supermarket chain based in Garland, TX. It definitely is a different world but, in a way, the same. I work with brave, hardworking and passionate workers who strive to care for their families. There are a lot of "points of integration" to find and a lot of advocacy for my profession to be done. The workplace is definitely a blank canvas for family life education. For millions of people, work is like their second home. For some it seems to be their home. As such, we understand the ever-present connection between the two. An NCFR-published article titled All in a Day's Work: Job Experiences, Self-Esteem, and Fathering in Working-Class Families by Karen Grimm-Thomas and Maureen Perry-Jenkins describes the relationship between work and home, and acknowledges that an employee's level of work satisfaction has important, real-life consequences for families, industries, and governments. This is it! If we want healthy families, we need a healthy workplace and that is my mission!
Miguel Brambila holds a Master of Family Studies degree and is a Certified Family Life Educator. Having worked for nonprofit agencies for 10 years he recently joined the for-profit world as a Training Specialist for El Rancho Supermarket and continues supporting workers, educating and training them for life and work. Miguel believes that a strong family is a strong workforce. Miguel lives in Forney, Texas, with his beautiful wife Lorena, and in his spare time loves to read and play classical guitar music.
Copyright © 2016 National Council on Family Relations (NCFR). Contact NCFR for permission to reprint, reproduce, disseminate, or distribute by any means.