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Focus on the family

New seminar series connects timely research with state policymakers


It’s one of nature’s most symbiotic relationships – that of parent and child. Common sense dictates that what is good for one is good for the other.

And that includes such things as education, employment and parenting skills, key components of a two-generation approach to poverty, the theme of the first Oregon Family Impact Seminar sponsored by the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families and OSU Extension Service Family and Community Health.

Faculty from these two organizations, housed in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences (CPHHS), first met with a few legislators to get their thoughts to identify current policy issues that could benefit from such a seminar. They then brought the seminar to three different groups in February, which included legislators, agency leaders, and academicians and students.

The seminars are nonpartisan and solution-oriented, providing attendees not with a recommendation but rather the latest science regarding policies to reduce poverty and their effects on families, as well as a forum for discussion. The model for the seminar series comes from the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars, a national network based at land grant universities.

Just what is the two-generation approach to poverty?

“In short, it’s an approach that considers policies and programs that simultaneously focus on helping parents in low-income families increase their wage-earning capacity and parenting skills while also promoting their young child’s early development,” says Hallie Ford Endowed Director Rick Settersten, a series organizer.

Two nationally recognized speakers with expertise on the two-generation approach presented and led the discussion: C. Cybele Raver, PhD, vice provost for research and professor of applied psychology at New York University; and Greg Duncan, PhD, distinguished professor of education, economics, psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine.

“These two exceptional scholars work together so well in bringing both parts of the two-generation approach together,” Rick says. “Cybele’s expertise in early learning is a perfect complement to Greg’s expertise in economics and the labor market.”

The goal isn’t to influence legislators or other policy leaders to act one way or another, but to provide them with the latest research so they can make informed decisions that make sense in their own environments.

The topic is particularly relevant given legislative commitments to the state’s early learning system as well as its 40/40/20 goal in higher education, which is that 40 percent of adult Oregonians will have a bachelor’s degree or higher, another 40 percent will have an associate’s degree and the remaining 20 percent will obtain a high school diploma.

“One in four Oregon children live in poverty,” says team member Bobbie Weber, research associate at the Hallie Ford Center. “More than half of children whose parents don’t have a high school degree live in poor families, and more than a quarter of children in these families don’t have an employed parent. These challenges are bundled together. Changing outcomes for children is best addressed when we target interventions at both child and parent.”

“The goal isn’t to influence legislators or other policy leaders to act one way or another, but to provide them with the latest research so they can make informed decisions that make sense in their own environments,” says Sally Bowman, another series organizer and professor in Extension Family and Community Health.

After the sessions concluded, Gloria Krahn, Barbara Emily Knudson Chair of Family Policy and another series organizer, said, “The Oregon Family Impact Seminar accomplished what we had hoped for. Legislators from both parties used it as a time to talk ‘across the aisle’ on an issue that is important to their agendas, and agency leaders remarked on the value of seeing how different agencies’ missions are all part of this bigger picture – getting to healthier children and families, healthier communities and a healthier economy for Oregon.”

Planners expect that the Family Impact Seminar will be held every other year to coincide with the legislature’s full session.

In addition to the faculty mentioned, the team also included Stephanie Bernell, associate professor of public health; Human Development and Family Studies doctoral students Rob Duncan and Tasha Galardi; MPH student Kelly Scholl; and assistant Pamela Bielenberg.

For more information on the series, visit Family Impact Seminar Series or call 541-737-FORD.