One area in which the HDFS department has enhanced its teaching and research in recent years is the application of basic research on families and individuals across the life span to the formulation of laws and public policies. We offer a graduate course (which is also open to advanced undergraduates) called Family Law and Public Policy (FLAPP). We also offer an undergraduate course called The Family in the Community. Among others, Drs. Alan Reifman, Jacki Fitzpatrick, and Shera Jackson, and doctoral students Janis Henderson and Brandon Logan, have been involved in these endeavors.
Another element of our family policy work is our involvement with the national Family Impact Seminars network (hosted for many years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but now moving to Purdue University). As seen in this network map, roughly half of all states in the U.S. are involved. Within a participating state, university researchers, legislators and other policymakers, and experts from policy organizations collaborate to put on an annual or biennial seminar, each seminar focusing on a single topic of mutual interest. Texas’s liaisons to the Family Impact Seminar network include Texas Tech’s Dr. Reifman (replacing Jeff Wherry) and the University of Texas-Austin’s Dr. Cynthia Osborne.
Last Friday, November 14, the Child & Family Research Partnership at UT-Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and the organization TexProtects teamed up to present a half-day seminar at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, entitled “Toxic Stress and Early Childhood: What Policy Makers and Funders Need to Know.” The featured speaker was Dr. Andrew Garner of Case-Western Reserve University, a practicing pediatrician and Ph.D. in neuroscience, who spoke about toxic stress and early brain development.
Additional speakers included Dr. Osborne (below left), Sarah Abrahams (below right), and others on nurse home-visiting programs as a policy to mitigate toxic stress and improve parents’ and children’s outcomes. (You may click on all photos to enlarge them.)
Though the event was not an official Family Impact Seminar, it functioned very much like one. Importantly, the organizers of the Toxic Stress seminar kindly agreed to let Dr. Reifman administer the standard Family Impact Seminar evaluation questionnaire to members of the audience. We will thus have systematic feedback on the event, alongside the feedback received from Family Impact Seminars in other states. A further summary of the Toxic Stress seminar (with links to the PowerPoint slideshows from the talks) is available here. In conclusion, we have a shot of our graduate student Janis Henderson chatting with Dr. Garner following his talk.