The adventure begins

by Jennifer Crosswhite, Ph.D., CFLE, NCFR Director of Public Affairs

For those of you who don't know me yet, I've been NCFR's Director of Public Affairs since January. During this time many new exciting activities have begun at NCFR that I'd like to share with you through this new, regular column, "Family Science Report." My hope is to convey to you how NCFR is advancing policy, career resources, research, the discipline of Family Science including Family Life Education, and more—one topic at a time.

First, I want to share a little about my professional background and current responsibilities at NCFR. In 2005, I earned my Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Auburn University. From Auburn, I went to the University of Nebraska - Kearney (UNK) for 8.5 years, where I became a tenured Associate Professor. While at UNK, I conducted scholarly research on the impacts parents have on child and adolescent delinquency and taught multiple courses (e.g., Family Policy, Parent and Family Life Education, Marriage and Family Relations). I also was engaged in service and advised the UNK Council on Family Relation's student organization, facilitated a marriage and relationship education evidence-based program, and developed internships for Family Science students. My new position at NCFR provides me an opportunity to pursue my passion for family policy and the Family Science discipline as well as to return home to Minnesota.

As the Director of Public Affairs, I have the pleasure of advancing NCFR's policy initiatives, professional development and career resources, and the Family Science discipline, including Family Life Education. I'm also the Family Focus Managing Editor for NCFR Report, NCFR's member news magazine. While these are some of my major responsibilities, my experience and education are put to use in multiple ways working with my wonderful new colleagues at NCFR. As our efforts progress, I look forward to getting to know you. Please don't hesitate to introduce yourself at the 2014 NCFR Annual Conference in Baltimore, or send me an email. As I continually told my students, "My door is always open." Let me now extend that philosophy to you.

Advancing NCFR's policy initiatives

For the first installment of Family Science Report, I'd like to share updates regarding NCFR's policy initiatives. We've created a Policy Advisory Committee to help advance NCFR's Global Ends regarding policy.* The committee will comprise myself, as Chair of the committee, NCFR Executive Director Diane Cushman, a member of the NCFR Board Inclusion and Diversity Committee (currently Katherine Kuvalanka), a member of the Affiliate Councils' Board (currently Rose Allen), the Chair of the Family Policy Section (currently Bethany Letiecq), and two to three NCFR members who have a deep interest and expertise in policy as it pertains to families (currently Hilary Rose, Elaine Anderson, and one additional member whom we have yet to identify). It's also likely we'll ask others to be a part of the committee on an as-needed basis based on their area of expertise and research knowledge. The committee will advise NCFR staff on the development of policy initiatives, effective methods to gather member input, processes to attain NCFR's Global Ends, potential research and policy brief topics, and who should author and review the briefs. The committee will have additional responsibilities yet to be determined.

The intention is to have a Policy Advisory Committee that is inclusive and representative of the diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and families of the NCFR membership. The committee's work will be transparent to NCFR's members, grounded in research, and non-partisan. I'll share information from the committee with you and promote member engagement through the NCFR Sections, Focus Groups, and Affiliates. I wholeheartedly encourage you to be involved to ensure that your voices and ideas are being represented in the policy initiatives.

The Policy Advisory Committee, with NCFR Board approval, has thus far decided that NCFR will start publishing research and policy briefs in 2015. Research briefs are for topics where research has yet to determine a conclusive set of policy implications, while policy briefs will be for topics where the preponderance of research points to clear and conclusive policy implications. The committee will convene to discuss and decide timely topics, authors, and reviewers for each brief and whether a topic is best represented as a policy or research brief. It's possible that briefs will have multiple authors and reviewers to ensure objectivity and non-partisanship. Authors of briefs will be invited; however, the briefs will undergo a double-blind peer review process beginning and ending with the committee. The committee must approve all briefs before publication and will review the briefs within three years of publication to determine whether content needs updating. The goal of the briefs is to educate--to provide research as it pertains to families to federal and state policymakers.

Member engagement is important throughout this process. The committee wants to hear members' thoughts on topics, authors, reviewers, and whether topics are best written as policy or research briefs. As such, we'll send out a survey this fall asking for your input. Members also may submit a research or policy brief (or idea), which will go through the same review process as invited briefs. Additional methods of member engagement are under discussion.

Finally, by the time you read this article, a professional layout and design team will be developing the visual format for the briefs. We also should be close to distributing the survey I just mentioned. Remember, your voices — NCFR members' voices — are important! We want you to be engaged, so please complete the survey. Until then, let me know if you have any thoughts regarding brief topics, authors, or reviewers, as well as how to engage members in this process. Remember, my door is always open.

*NCFR Global Ends: "NCFR will provide information about the policy-making process and the impact of public policies on families" (Global End 1d) and "NCFR will raise the visibility of family research, theory, and practice to policy makers and the general public" (Global End 2c).