Empowering Families to Navigate Their Children’s Early & Middle Years

Family Science Impact: Q&A with NCFR Member Jenell Kelly, Ph.D., CFLE, LCCE
/ NCFR Report, Summer 2021

Family Science Impact
highlights how NCFR members are making a difference through their Family Science work, and showcases their career journeys.

Jenell Kelly, Ph.D., CFLE, LCCE
Jenell Kelly, Ph.D., CFLE, LCCE

Jenell Kelly, Ph.D., CFLE, LCCE

Current Job Titles:
–Owner, Blossom Family Life Practice
–Adjunct Instructor, Wilmington University

Tell us a bit about your current work and why it’s important.

I am the proud owner and creator of Blossom Family Life Practice. I provide pregnancy and childbirth classes as a Lamaze certified childbirth educator. I offer postpartum doula support to families with newborns. The birth work I do is extremely important for reducing adverse maternal and infant health outcomes. I coach individuals and families with children prenatal to preteen.

At the center of my work is social justice. I make targeted efforts to reach African American families and communities of color and with low income, because racial, ethnic, and income disparities within the United States are evident for several indicators of well-being. My goal is to empower individuals and families to make informed decisions. My vision is for everyone to develop optimally and reach their fullest potential.

I also teach, occasionally, as an adjunct instructor. For me, university teaching is one of the highest forms of service to others. I do it to prepare the next generation of scholars and compassionate practitioners to have a positive impact on families.

What was your professional path to your current role? What shaped or influenced that path?

My career path has not been typical or linear. I experienced changes as a person and a professional over the past 10 years. But one thing remained consistent and led me to my current role: my commitment to doing work that supports families and breaks down barriers of all kinds. I earned my bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees consecutively. After graduate school, I landed a job as a family life and human development extension specialist. After three years I transitioned into an assistant professor role for a short time before deciding to change paths again. Before pursuing my current role, I spent a good amount of time writing and reflecting on what I wanted to do with my career—an important step that I missed when I started my journey!

When I attempted to re-enter the workforce I found that my experiences and level of education did not fit neatly within the job descriptions, so I decided to think outside the box. I thought about how many professionals with advanced degrees have private practices. My education, training, and background in human development, Family Science, and Family Life Education, coupled with my passion for helping families, provided the perfect backdrop for working with families in private practice. To make my practice more coherent and truly reflective of my passions, I retooled by becoming a Lamaze certified childbirth educator. I also participated in postpartum doula and family life coaching training. With these experiences and after learning from others who started their own Family Life Education businesses, I established a limited liability corporation and launched Blossom Family Life Practice.

How do you use Family Science / Family Life Education knowledge or skills in your current work?

All 10 Family Life Education content areas apply to my current work in some way. Most often I draw on human growth and development across the life span, parent education and guidance, interpersonal relationships, and internal dynamics of families. I translate Family Science research and theory into relatable educational series and coaching conversations. Recently, I started a blog to share research-based and evidence-informed information individuals and families can use as they make decisions about their lives.

What is most rewarding or makes you proudest about the impact of your work?

Witnessing families have “aha” moments is most rewarding. Also, it’s priceless when I receive email or texts from people I work with that share great things that are happening in their lives because they were able to use something I shared with them. Families reaching their goals is a source of pride because I am on a mission to help them thrive!

What do you wish you would have known sooner along your education or career path?

If I could do it over, I would spend less time on academics and more time daydreaming and designing my life early on. In fact, I wish I would have taken a year off after completing my bachelor’s degree to work while doing in-depth self-exploration, career exploration, and life visioning. I think this would have made me purposeful in seeking out educational and career opportunities that aligned with a vision I had for my life in total (work, family, leisure, legacy).

What do you want the world to know about your work or about Family Science / Family Life Education?

Right now, my work with families is about changing lives for the better. But changing life for African American families and communities of color also requires changing oppressive social structures and systems. In the future, I want my practice to expand to address and work collaboratively with other groups to dismantle systemic injustice that limits human potential so families and children who have been marginalized can thrive.

I want the world to know that Family Science and Family Life Education have the power to be transformative at multiple levels—leaders in all sectors of society should get to know who we are and invite us to be on their teams! In the meantime, I do not want Family Science and Family Life Education to wait for those invitations, but to take up space in academic debates and social movements (worldwide) to spur changes that improve families’ lives and positively impact their well-being.