Directions: First Virtual Family Life Education Summit a Success!

Dawn Cassidy, M.Ed., CFLE, Director of Family Life Education
/NCFR Report, Fall 2021
Dawn Cassidy

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On June 25, 2021, the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) held the first Virtual Family Life Education (FLE) Summit. While NCFR offers many services and resources for practitioners, the summit marked the first full-day event focused specifically on those who work directly in the field, with and for families.

Practitioners are always welcome to attend NCFR’s Annual Conference, but the reality is that most sessions at the conference are focused on research and designed for an academic audience. Additionally, while financial constraints can make travel to an on-site conference difficult for the academic audience, it is often not even an option for practitioners.

NCFR got a crash course in putting on a virtual conference during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an intense learning experience, but we all came through with a new set of skills. Before the pandemic I had talked about putting on a virtual conference for practitioners. Having a virtual conference at the scale of the NCFR conference under our belt made the reality of a virtual FLE conference much more attainable.

And so we set to work! The CFLE Advisory Board played a significant role in the planning and implementation of the Virtual FLE Summit, including conducting a needs assessment, creating a call for proposals (special shout-out to Jennifer Crosswhite and Cindy Winter for sharing their vast knowledge and expertise about the process), creating a rubric for evaluating proposals, evaluating the proposals, and selecting the presenters. In addition, several board members assisted in the facilitation of some of the sessions on the day of the summit. I would be remiss in not also acknowledging the NCFR staff, especially Emily Vang, NCFR education and certification coordinator. The summit was an education department project, but it required a coordinated team effort on the part of the full staff. Being able to work with such competent (and fun) coworkers is one of the reasons I have worked at NCFR as long as I have. It was a pleasure to be part of such a well-oiled machine.

We purposely kept the summit schedule small to keep this first event as manageable as possible, limiting the number of sessions to 13 plus the plenary. We received 33 submissions. The selection process was very difficult because there were so many excellent submissions. The blind-review selections were based on the interests identified in the needs assessment survey and the quality of the submission in meeting the rubric criteria, which included clarity of proposal content, theoretical base, application to the practice of FLE, audience engagement, contribution and innovation, implementation history, and presenter qualifications.

In the end we selected the 13 presentations that covered such topics as coping with grief, adverse childhood experiences and corporal punishment, trauma-informed FLE, decentering Whiteness, starting and growing an FLE business, using social media, helping parents find trustworthy information, and a number of sessions focused on developing and implementing FLE programing, moving FLE programs online, and outreach and community engagement. The CFLE Advisory Board chair, Dorothy Berglund, Ph.D., CFLE, provided opening remarks and board member Cynthia B. Wilson, Ph.D., CFLE, provided the perfect plenary presentation, “Collaboration as the Key to Unlocking Family Well-Being.”

In total, 168 people registered for the FLE Summit. All sessions were recorded and are available to those registered for the summit. Those who did not register for the live summit can purchase access to all recorded sessions. Of course, I plan to view all the recorded sessions!

The live sessions I attended were exactly what I had envisioned for this event. The information shared was solidly based in research and references and resources were provided. However, the focus of most sessions was on the application of the presenter’s work and experiences from the day-to-day practice of Family Life Education. Most of those submitting proposals for the summit worked in Extension or identified as practitioners, and about one-third were university or college professors (many of whom also worked in Extension).

The Virtual FLE Summit provided an excellent opportunity for NCFR to ensure that it is meeting its mission to “provide an educational forum for family researchers, educators, and practitioners to share in the development and dissemination of knowledge about families and family relationships, establish professional standards, and work to promote family well-being.” The summit also fulfills the goals of NCFR’s Global Ends Policies (see

There is a clear need for, and interest in, continued online professional development opportunities for Family Life Education practitioners. NCFR plans to host a second Virtual FLE Summit in the spring of 2022. Hopefully the FLE Summit will come to represent the focused effort of NCFR to meet the needs of Family Life Educator practitioners. I welcome any ideas you have for how we can continue to serve the practitioner audience.

Did you miss the FLE Summit? FLE session video recordings are available for purchase with the additional option to purchase attendance verification. Your purchase will provide access to content through June 2022. Learn more.