Reflections on Two Years Like No Others

Leigh A. Leslie, Ph.D., NCFR President
/ NCFR Report, Fall 2021
Leigh A. Leslie

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As I sit down to write my final president’s column for NCFR Report, I am, of course, drawn to reflect on where we have been the past 2 years and where we are going. Certainly, when I wrote my first column in June 2019, I had no idea what awaited our nation and the world in the months to come. The pandemic and the burgeoning consciousness of systemic racism have altered all of our lives dramatically since the writing of that first column.

When I began my tenure I had goals I wanted to accomplish. While some goals have been derailed, and some slowed by the pandemic, others, ironically, have been facilitated by the changes wrought by both the pandemic and our heightened attention to racial justice. Additionally, new goals have emerged as we adjust to our new, and still evolving, normal.

In terms of goals derailed along the way, I had stated in my platform that I thought it was time for NCFR to do some strategic planning and revisiting of the Carver model for organizational operation, in order to assess where we were as an organization and who we wanted to be. However, as members, as well as the population at large, faced the effects of COVID-19, economic upheaval, and cries for racial justice, focusing on the operational strategies of the organization paled in comparison. I do still believe the questions of “Who do we want NCFR to be in the world, and what global ends should guide us?” are worth our focused attention, but I will have to leave it to future leaders to address them.

In the category of delayed projects is the effort to consolidate and revise NCFR’s three codes of ethics and to develop an actionable, reparative procedure to address violations of the ethics code, which I wrote about in a column last year. A member committee is currently drafting the Ethics Principles and Standards. While the principles section clearly articulates the values that guide our professional expectations, the standards spell out the resulting behavioral criteria for ethical professional practice. In addition, a subcommittee of the Board of Directors is drafting the procedures for addressing complaints. While we had hoped to have a draft of the code to members for review this fall, it seems it will now be available in the beginning of next year, under the guidance of the next president, Norma Burgess.

The two areas in which I believe we have made solid progress over the past 2 years are in the area of member engagement in the organization and increasing our presence nationally as a research-informed source of information on promoting the needs of families, particularly vulnerable families. Ironically, the virtual medium of communication necessitated by the pandemic has both opened doors to participation for members who were less active previously and increased opportunities for member interaction. In last year’s virtual conference we had more international attendees than ever before, and registration for this year’s conference is again showing high international participation. And there were more attendees at last year’s virtual business meeting than in recent memory. Additionally, activities by sections and focus groups such as book discussions, writing support groups, and social hours are on the rise. Finally, the Board of Directors’ two virtual listening sessions and virtual town hall were very well attended. While I know we all long for the time when we can meet together in person, I think the past 2 years have taught us that in-person meetings can be supplemented beautifully by virtual technology that allows for more consistent interaction by a broader array of members.

I also believe we have made progress toward being a research-based voice on policies and social issues that have an impact on families. NCFR’s policy briefs, the NCFR Report, the Board of Directors’ statements—in all these in the past 2 years have seen NCFR marshal our professional expertise to address issues such as child welfare, inequities in COVID legislation, immigration policies, and legislation restricting parenting options for parents of transgender children. However, no issue has activated NCFR more in the past year than that of racial justice. In the Board of Directors’ Racial Justice Initiative, sections and focus groups on self-reflection and strategies for promoting racial justice in their work, and a host of webinars to help members become more anti-racist in their research and practice, NCFR has begun to grapple with the racism in our field and in our organization. This work must continue in the years ahead! I am particularly looking forward to reading this issue of the NCFR Report on dismantling racism and the collaboration of our three journals to promote anti-racist scholarship through the special issues “Transforming Family Scholarship: Theory, Practice, and Research at the Intersection of Families, Race, and Social Justice.”

So, as I reflect on the two years of my presidency, I can certainly say that in many ways it was not what I expected. And yet I do think as we faced difficult times on many fronts, we have come together, and we have worked for the betterment of families and of Family Science. I am confident that this work will continue as we move forward as an organization. To make sure this happens, I strongly encourage you all to let your voices be heard and communicate with the Board of Directors and the leadership of the organization at all levels. Thank you for your support, your involvement, and your energy in the past 2 years.