The twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (2014) offers an opportunity to refocus on the role of families in development; take stock of recent trends in family policy development; share good practices in family policy making; review challenges faced by families worldwide and recommend solutions.
Owing to rapid socio-economic and demographic transformations, families find it more and more difficult to fulfil their numerous responsibilities. Many struggle to overcome poverty and adequately provide for the younger and older family members. It is also more and more difficult for them to reconcile work and family responsibilities and maintain the intergenerational bonds that sustained them in the past.
In response to these trends, the celebrations for this anniversary focus on exploring family-oriented policies and strategies aiming mainly at confronting family poverty; ensuring work-family balance and advancing social integration and intergenerational solidarity. The preparatory process has to accelerate progress in family policy development; demonstrate its relevance for overall development efforts and draw attention to the role of different stakeholders in achieving these goals.
As part of this process, the International Federation for Family Development, together with the United Nations Focal Point on the Family, organized a North American Expert Group Meeting in Mexico City (19-20 May 2014) in which experts, practitioners and observers from the three countries discussed about family-oriented policies and strategies aiming mainly at the topics suggested for this Anniversary.
Three main topics for the Anniversary
Confronting family poverty
Family-oriented and gender-and child-sensitive social protection policies addressing family poverty and reducing the vulnerability of younger and older generations have been increasingly mainstreamed in the overall development efforts. In particular, income transfer programmes sustaining the poorest families are indispensable to changing the structure of opportunities and are key to reducing the intergenerational transfer of poverty and inequality. Family benefits such as child allowances and social assistance play an important role in addressing short term experiences of poverty, and going some way to stopping families employing their savings or using debt. For longer term solutions to poverty risks, investments designed to equip families with the necessary skills and tools for good and sustainable employment are necessary. The vast majority of jobless families, in all of the developed countries, will live in poverty due to the low levels of welfare benefits in developed countries. Although increasing these benefits may create a new set of welfare dependency problems, and paying above poverty rates for any significant length of time might be undesirable (benefits could be reduced over a period to increase work incentives, whilst effectively combating poverty risks in short periods outside of the labour market), higher levels of cash benefits are undeniably one way to reduce poverty risk in the short term. To complement short term poverty reduction strategies through cash benefits, strategies such as employment support programs in high unemployment areas, or in-work training, or targeted minimum wage legislation, in areas with high levels of in-work poverty, are more likely to lower poverty rates in the medium term.
Ensuring work-family balance
Balancing work and family life is a critical challenge in countries around the world continuously shaped by various economic, demographic and social factors. Jobs are becoming more complex with longer working hours. The needs of employees with family obligations are often ignored and families find it more and more difficult to balance their family responsibilities with the requirements of their jobs. Comprehensive legal and policy frameworks balancing work and family life should be established to encourage shared responsibilities between family members, the State, the private sector and the society at large. Such policies may range from parental leave to child benefits and access to quality and affordable childcare. Flexibility of working hours and working place, professional support and advice and efforts to create a more family-friendly culture in the workplace are equally important. As the labour market participation of women has increased, governments and employers in many parts of the world, have ‘stepped forward’ to find ways to support work-family balance at key family transition points such as childbirth, having young children, or caring for sick and elderly kin. Similarly enlightened employers have become aware of the benefits of a flexible and human response when employees have family crises such as illness, stress or bereavement. Many of the basic provisions reviewed, such as maternity, paternity and parental leave and early childhood education and care have emerged in richer nations, but not exclusively so. In other countries very little progress has been made on work-family balance or family-friendly initiatives with negative consequences for employee health and wellbeing, gender equality and child well-being.
Intergenerational solidarity is critical for families and societies. Families are units where values are learned, culture is transmitted, and children learn relationship skills. As such, they are the foundation of our global society. Intergenerational solidarity has been defined as bonding between and among individuals in multigenerational family networks and among different age cohorts in the larger community. In recent times where the organization of our social and institutional structures has been increasingly along age-specific divisions which segregate one generation from another (e.g. schools are for the young, adults concentrate in work places, and seniors congregate in retirement communities), family is noted as probably the only ‘truly age integrated’ institution. While intergenerational relationships within the family are key, they are also fundamental to the well-being of the larger community and societies at large. Policies and programmes promoting sound intergenerational relations and intergenerational solidarity play an important role in contributing to effective public policy by promoting social cohesion, national unity and shared responsibility. Intergenerational programmes also play a key role in supporting positive relations between generations. They provide a platform for developing positive relationships across age groups and have been shown to strengthen the quality of ties between family members. Unfortunately the structure of many policies, programmes and services is often agebased. This age-graded approach is not always conducive to intergenerational harmony and generational integration. Such policy approaches are also reflected in the training of professional groups which is normally age segmented rather than life-course based, which creates further dislocation between the planning and delivery of services for people of different ages.
Mihaela Robila - Family and Work Balance Policies in North America: A Focus on Parental Leave
Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). Her main scholarship areas are family policies, family relations in different cultures and international migration. She recently edited the “Handbook on Family Policies across the Globe” (Springer, 2013) which provides a comprehensive review of family policies development, implementation and evaluation in 28 countries. She also Guest Edited a Special Issue for the Journal of Child and Family Studies on “Family Policies in International Perspectives” (2012). In addition, Dr. Robila wrote a book on “Eastern European Immigrant Families” (2010; Routledge), edited a book on “Families in Eastern Europe” (2004; Elsevier), wrote several book chapters and numerous articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, and presented to over 70 national and international conferences. Her work has been supported by grants and contracts from the American Councils for International Education/ U.S. Dept. of State, Fulbright, Spencer Foundation, United Nations, Fahs-Beck Fund, Jacobs Foundation, and CUNY Research Foundation, among others. She is a National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) representative at the United Nations and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association Divisions 52 (International Psychology), 43 (Family Psychology), and 37 (Child and Family Policy).
Linda M. Burton - Social Exclusion, Social Capital, and Socioeconomic Mobility: How Micro-Level Processes Obfuscate Reductions in Poverty
She is the James B. Duke Professor of Sociology at Duke University. She currently serves on the Editorial Board of the American Sociological Review and the Journal of Marriage and Family and was recently a member of the Committee on the Science of Research on Families for the Institute of Medicine, the Advisory Board of the National Center for Marriage and Family Research, the Board of Directors for the Family Process Institute, and the Board of Directors for the Council on Contemporary Families. In 2013 she was inducted into the Sociological Research Association (National Honor Society for Sociological Researchers) and is also a recipient of the Family Research Consortium IV Legacy Award and the American Family Therapy Academy Award for Innovative Contributions to Family Research. Dr. Burton directed the ethnographic component of Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study and is principal investigator of a multi-site team ethnographic study (Family Life Project) of poverty, family processes, and child development in six rural communities. Her research integrates ethnographic and demographic approaches and examines the roles that poverty and intergenerational family dynamics play in the intimate unions of low-income mothers and the accelerated life course transitions of children, adolescents, and adults in urban and rural families.
Bahira Sherif Trask - Work, Family, & Gender Issues in the United States: Current Perspectives and Challenges
PhD., and a full Professor and Associate Chair of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Delaware and a Policy Scientist in the Center for Community Research and Service. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the intersection of globalization, gender, work and family in Western and non-Western contexts. Primarily she concentrates on economic changes, work and gender roles, and policies that can assist and strengthen low income families. She has authored and edited a number of books in this area including Women, Work, and Globalization: Challenges and Opportunities (Routledge, 2014), Globalization and Families: Accelerated Systemic Social Change, (Springer, 2010), Personal Relationships (Cognella, 2011), Cultural Diversity and Families: Expanding Perspectives (Sage, 2007), and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women’s Issues Worldwide, (Greenwood, 2003). She has also served as the guest editor of various special edition journals on these issues. Dr. Trask has published over fifty peer-reviewed articles, chapters and review articles in significant journals, handbooks and edited works. Much of Dr. Trask’s scholarship has been informed through participation with a number of international, national and community based research projects that focus on diversity, gender and work, and strengthening low-income families. Her work has been funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Marguirite Casey Foundation, and various local community initiatives. Currently, she is involved with the Blueprints Initiative Delaware, a program funded through the Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh. Blueprints is a revitalization program that is supporting 8 low-income Delaware communities. Dr. Trask’s involvement on these projects reflects her belief that academics need to apply their knowledge towards bettering social conditions. She has published and spoken extensively on these topics in the United States, South America, and Europe, and has served as an expert witness and national commentator on challenges facing American families.
Bradford Wilcox - The Family in Transition: Should We Be Concerned About Declines in Fertility and Marriage?
Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, and a member of the James Madison Society at Princeton University. Brad Wilcox earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. at Princeton University. Prior to coming to the University of Virginia, he held research fellowships at Princeton University, Yale University and the Brookings Institution. His research focuses on marriage, parenthood, and cohabitation, especially on the ways that marriage, gender, and culture influence the quality and stability of family life in the United States and around the globe. He is the coauthor of Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives (Columbia, 2013, with Kathleen Kovner Kline), Whither the Child? Causes and Consequences of Low Fertility (Paradigm, 2013, with Eric Kaufmann), and the author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands (Chicago, 2004). Wilcox has published articles on marriage, cohabitation, parenting, and fatherhood in The American Sociological Review, Social Forces, The Journal of Marriage and Family and The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Wilcox is now writing a book with Nicholas Wolfinger titled, Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Children, & Marriage among African Americans and Latinos (Oxford 2013).
Donna Lero - Intergenerational Relations and Social Cohesion
Professor in Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph and is the Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work. She co-founded the University’s Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being, where she leads a program of research on public policies, workplace practices and community supports. She has authored or co-authored over 30 major reports and book chapters on a range of topics related to work and caregiving across the life course including parental leave, child care quality, parents of children with disabilities, and flexible work arrangements. Her recent research focuses on understanding Caregiving and Work from the perspectives of employees, employers and managers. Dr. Lero provides consultation and support through her role on task forces and advisory committees at the federal and provincial levels, and is well known as a speaker at national and international conferences, as well as regional employer roundtables. She co-edited the 2008 Handbook of Work-Family Integration: Research, Theory, and Best Practices and is currently working on a new book on Caregiving and Work.
Denise L. Spitzer - Familiar Strangers: Migrant Family Reunification in Canada
Canada Research Chair in Gender, Migration and Health at the University of Ottawa where she is an Associate Professor affiliated with the Institute of Women’s Studies and a Principal Scientist in the Institute of Population Health. In addition to undergraduate studies in Biology, Chinese Language, and Music, she holds a Master’s degree and doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Alberta, Canada. Dr. Spitzer is inter-ested in examining how global processes—intersecting with gender, racialization, migration status and other social identifiers—are implicated in health and wellbeing. Her current pro-gram of research focuses on the impact of the global economy on immigrants, migrants and refugees in different parts of the globe and engages with critical perspectives of the body, transnationalism and constructions of identity; the impact of policy on health; community-based research and intersectional analysis. Professor Spitzer has published in journals such as Gender & Society, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, and the Canadian Journal of Public Health. Her edited collection, Engendering Migrant Health: Canadian Perspectives, was pub-lished by the University of Toronto Press in 2011 and was recognized by the Women’s and Gender Studies Association in 2013 with a WGSRF Outstanding Scholarship citation.
Clint Carney - The Family Justice Center Model: Empowering Women & Families in One Location
Secretary and Board Member of the National Family Justice Center Alliance in San Diego, CA. The FJC Alliance provides technical assistance and training to more than 100 existing and planned Family Justice Centers around the world in locations such as the United States, Mexico, Canada, Africa, Jordan, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Poland, Belarus and Amsterdam. The first Family Justice Center opened in San Diego in 2002 under the leadership of San Diego City Attorney Casey Gwinn and Police Chief David Bejarano. The San Diego Family Justice Center model is based on the co-location of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals who work together, under one roof, to provide coordinated services to victims of family violence. While a Family Justice Center may house many services, the basic partners include police offi-cers, attorneys, counselors and community-based advocates. The core concept is to provide one single location where victims can go to talk to an advocate, plan for their safety, interview with a police officer, meet with an attorney, receive medical assistance, receive information on housing, and get help with transportation. He provides training, government relations and media outreach services for the Alliance. He holds a B.A. degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia, and a J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
Mario Armella - LAR, seven years later: Family Enrichment Courses in Mexico
Architect from the University Nacional Autónoma from Mexico. Married to Viviana Gutiérrez and father of 6 children. He has worked is different architectural firms before the creation of his own company. Vicepresident of Motefalco School until 2011. This school was created for rural girls in the state of Morelos. It is a founding member of LAR, institution affiliated to IFFD (International Federation for Family Development), founded in 2006. Started with 8 Parenting Courses Centers and currently there are 16 Centers. He has taken courses on Family and Marriage with Dr. Pedro Juan Villadrich (1997) and Dr. Thomas Melendo. (2004) and has participated as an assistant to various LAR courses, such as First Steps and Matrimonial Love, and has taught courses of Training Moderators (PIMOF) in Chihuahua, Culiacan, San Luis Potosi, Mexico City, Mexicali, Querétaro and Puerto Rico. He has participated in international conferences on Family organized by IFFD in Rome (2007), Madrid (2009) and Valencia (2010). Currently is an active member of LAR and is on the organizing Committee of the IFFD International Congress to be held in 2015, in Mexico City.
Luz Aspe - Colegio Meyalli: Dealing with Poverty through Integral Education
Born in Mexico City, on Junes 11th 1954. She studied in Mexico in the Institute Asunción from Mexico. Them she went two years to England, to Cobham Hall in Kent and returned to Mexico in order to finish her studies in Edron Academy. She speaks divish, English, Italian, French and German. Mother of 4 kids and in 1990 she was invited to be a member of a Board expected to start a school in the suburbs of Mexico City for poor people. She worked actively as a fundraiser inside this Board and making the necessary action to include this school into the Secretariat of Public Education in the State of Mexico. She also was involved in the construction of the school and took a Fund Raising course in Mexico but awarded by the University of Nevada. From that moment she has been collaborating with the civil association called ‘Educar’ which is composed by two schools: Acuautla (for boys) and Meyali (for girls). Today, she is president of Meyali School and President of ‘Educar’.
Nora Spinks - Families in Canada: Eradicating Poverty and Facilitating Social Inclusion
CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family. For more than 25 years, she has been working with progressive organizations, and business, labour, government and community leaders to create effective, productive and supportive work environments; strengthen families; and build healthy communities. A renowned speaker, author and recognized thought leader, Nora provides leadership across Canada and around the world. Building on her experience while staying abreast of the trends and providing critical analysis and strategic thinking, Nora has added tremendous value to workplace, community, committees, executive teams, human resource professionals and practitioners, boards of directors, research organizations and public policy forums.
Andrea Fernández Cueto - Instituto de Enlaces Educativos, Forefront Online Education
Director of Communication of Instituto de Enlaces Educativos.
She has served as the Focal Point on the Family in the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs since 2009. In this capacity, she has acted as a spokesperson on family issues for the United Nations Secretariat. She has been actively engaged in the preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, 2014 at international, regional and national levels. She has organized international expert group meetings and has written reports on family policy, social integration and well-being. She has presented at numerous conferences, workshops and briefings organized by regional entities and civil society such as African Union, European Union Commission of the Regions, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Doha International Family Institute, International Federation for Family Development, National Council on Family Relations, Voice of the Family in Africa and many others. She actively liaises with Governments, United Nations Regional Commissions, United Nations Agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and researchers on family policy, in particular in the areas of family poverty, work-family balance and intergenerational issues. She also facilitates the exchange of good practices in the areas above.
Humberto Soto de la Rosa
Social Affairs Officer at the Social Development Unit of ECLAC´s Subregional Headquarters in Mexico. Expert on social issues for México and Central America, with focus on poverty and inequality measurement, employment and social protection with emphasis on demographic subpopulations (child, youth, gender, migration). Courses given on social survey analysis, impact evaluation analysis of social policy, construction of social and sustainable development statistics and indicators. Bachelor in Actuarial Science from ITAM. Masters and PHD in Science from UNAM. International Officer of the United Nations since 2008, with previous experience as national officer at the Monitoring Unit of the Human Development Program Oportunidades, and as professor and researcher from various universities (UIA, ITAM and FLACSO).
He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Interna-tional Relations from the Jesuit University of Guadalajara (ITESO). During his studies, he served as Secretary-General for his university’s Model United Nations as well as participating in Model UN nationally and abroad. In addition, he was involved in political science research and co-published a summary report focused on freedom of speech violations in Mexico. He has also participated in various conferences including the Jesuit University System’s IX Human Rights Forum. Prior to joining WYA as Staff Member in January of 2014, Manuel interned for the Latin American Regional Office and worked for several NGOs. Now he is Director of WYA for Latin America.
She was born in Costa Rica and holds a degree in International Relations at the Univer-sidad Nacional. She has also studied Sociology at the University of Costa Rica. Before joining the World Youth Alliance, Kateri participated actively in various activities and conferences at the Costa Rican Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship. In 2009, Kateri completed an internship at the Brazilian Embassy in Costa Rica. She was a member of the local World Youth Alliance Costa Rican committee before joining as staff in 2011.
She is an official of the State of Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and currently serves as Third Secretary to the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations. Since her arrival in New York, she has assumed several principal roles including Elections Officer and managing Third Committee Expert. Her work chiefly entails representing Qatar in various U.N. bodies and platforms as lead negotiator for matters involving human rights, humanitarian, cultural and social affairs. Some of her most memorable contributions at the United Nations include facilitating several General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions on the International Year of the Family and, more recently, her active role in crafting and securing language on the contributive role that the family plays in development efforts in the Agreed Conclusions of the 58th Session of the Commission the Status of Women. Ms. Al-Mulla is passionate about her work and continues to challenge her understanding for public policy both in-andoutside of the workplace. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University where she majored in international politics and is currently complementing her work at the United Nations by continuing her studies part-time. She is expected to complete her Masters in Public Administration at Columbia University in 2015 and has recently declared her concentration in international economic policy and development.
She has been Partner and Director for Environmental Affairs at the Law Firm Gómez Arnaiz Abogados S.C. based in the city of Guadalajara. She has a major role in promoting environmental strategies for enterprises in the region. Throughout the past few years, she has been invited in numerous occasions by different organizations and interests to present conferences and lectures on environmental topics, particularly on water and waste. Her interests have focused on creating awareness of environmental issues and a culture among businesses of protection of natural resources used in industrial processes. Also, she has developed leading activities at the Ecology Committee in different Chambers of Commerce and the Mexican Bar Association, where she is currently president of the Commission of Environmental Law. Her current professional practice includes not only legal advice but academia, publications and environmental networking. She is a Lawyer by the Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City and holds a Masters at Law (LLM) degree from KingÂ´s College, University of London as well as postgraduate studies at the National University (UNAM). She recently acquiered a new additional job as the happy mother of a baby girl.
Fernando Rodríguez Doval
Born in 1980 in Mexico City, he studied a Bachelor in Political Sciences in the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México. Then he did Master’s Degree in the Universidad Autónoma de Mexico and Universidad de Salamanca. He has very intensive job experience and now he is working as a Federal Deputy in Mexico City. As of 2013 he served as Deputy of the 52th Legislature of the Mexican Congress representing the Federal District.