Join Us at the 2019 Annual Conference

Katia Paz Goldfarb, Ph.D., Chair, Conference Program Committee
/ Fall 2019 NCFR Report

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Family Sustainability: Contextualizing Relationships Within Evolving Systems


When in 1994 I coined the concept of family sustainability for my dissertation work, I would have never thought we would be reclaiming it and using it to frame our upcoming conference. As professionals in the discipline of Family Science, we are constantly strengthening the knowledge and practice needed to sustain families in these complex times.

Our theme for this fall’s NCFR Annual Conference focuses on understanding the ever-complex reality of family relationships. The conference theme emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and working with supports that already exist within and outside of diverse families. We were most interested in proposals on the importance of looking at the what, the how, and the why of family relationships within their specific context and evolving systems.

Family sustainability is defined as the relationships among family members that maintain the well-being and resilience of the family unit across generations. Family sustainability is developed and strengthened by the continuous and various relationships in which the family engages and the impact of the family’s social and physical environments. Family sustainability is a process, not a static goal.

The goal of this year’s annual conference is to embrace and extend the theme of family sustainability to all families, with a particular focus on relationships. Our 2019 program will highlight strength-based research on diverse families and their relationships within their context; innovative evidence-based best practices, programs, and pedagogies that promote family resiliency and well-being for diverse families in a variety of contexts; and critical analysis of policies that strengthen or are of detriment to relationships for all types of families.

To those ends, we are thrilled to have extraordinary plenary presenters whom we have asked to address aspects of family sustainability on areas of increasing relevancy and urgency to today’s families. They include the following:

Stephanie Coontz, M.A., is the director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, and professor emerita at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She has authored seven books on marriage and family life, including Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, which was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the right to marriage. Ms. Coontz is a frequent guest columnist for the New York Times and is widely interviewed in the press about her research. The title of her plenary is “Shifting Terrain: The Changing Context of Family Sustainability and Healthy Relationships.” Ms. Coontz will also lead a special preconference workshop titled “Taking Your Family Science Research Public: Media Training Workshop.”

Valerie Maholmes, Ph.D., CAS, is the chief of the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. In this role, she sets the vision and priorities for research that addresses the continuum of psychosocial, behavioral, biological, and physiological influences that affect child health outcomes in trauma, injury, and acute care. Dr. Maholmes’s plenary address is titled “Supporting and Sustaining Research on Children and Families: Research Priorities and Future Directions.” It will focus on the institute’s long history of supporting child development and family research, as well as contemporary efforts to advance science that promotes child health and well-being. She will discuss advances in research on pediatric trauma as well as relevant funding opportunities for researchers at all career stages.

Cynthia García Coll, Ph.D., is a professor of clinical psychology; associate director of the Institutional Center for Scientific Research at Carlos Albizu University in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and editor in chief of Child Development. She has authored more than a hundred publications, including several books. Dr. García Coll has published extensively on sociocultural influences and the development of children with emphasis on populations under risk conditions and minorities. Her plenary address is titled “Children of Immigrant Backgrounds: Contribution or Burden?” In this presentation, Dr. García Coll will use various theoretical frameworks to present studies that will elucidate the necessary conditions for children of immigrant backgrounds to succeed in their receiving communities.

Rubén Parra-Cardona, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work (SHSSW) at the University of Texas at Austin. At the SHSSW, he serves as coordinator for initiatives in Mexico and Latin America, as well as codirector of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. His primary research focus is on the cultural adaptation of prevention parenting interventions for underserved low-income immigrant Latino communities. Dr. Parra-Cardona’s plenary address is titled “Closing the Gap Between Two Countries: 10 Years of Implementation of a U.S.-Mexico Program of Parenting Prevention Research With Underserved Populations.” Specifically, parallel programs of research will be described focused on the cultural adaptation of the evidence-based parenting intervention known as GenerationPMTO.

Beyond the excellent research and practice-based presentations, fully embracing the theme of family sustainability impels us to think about our own organization. We recognize NCFR as a family and its sustainability should be our priority. To this end, I proposed to the Conference Program Planning Committee the idea of sustainability in relation to our annual conferences. The committee embraced the idea and took it far beyond the scope of my original proposal. For almost a week during the conference we enter into a community together. Recognizing this, the committee imagined what footprint we could leave and what types of relationships we could create and sustain. The Local Programming Committee, a wonderful and committed group of colleagues, with the constant support of NCFR staff, is developing a sustainable local program leading up to, during, and after the conference. I hope to see you when we sit around the table at our family reunion in November.