The 9th UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre Biennial conference focuses on the changing nature and meaning of family and its implications for policy and practice. The conference, entitled ‘Changing Families, Changing Policy, Changing Practice: Family Support Now and in the Future’, takes place in the Institute for Lifecourse and Society at NUI Galway today and tomorrow.
In the context of major global social, economic and technological change, the nature and meaning of family is in flux. In Ireland, recent constitutional changes in children’s rights, same-sex marriage, and divorce, for example, have implications for the experience of family life, and what it means to be a family member as a parent, child, sibling, or grandparent. Many of the repercussions of these changes for children’s and young people’s expectations of family life, as well as for agencies delivering services to address emerging needs and responses, have yet to be explored.
According to UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre (UCFRC) co-founder Dr John Canavan:
“It is now time for a new Commission on the Family, 21 years after the original Commission report was published resulting in a range of significant policy and service developments. The intervening years have seen massive changes in families and affecting family life. While there has been many individual and sectoral policy and service responses, Irish society has not had the opportunity to reflect on what these changes mean and what their implications are now and into the future. A new Commission would be an opportunity to reassess the meaning and significance of family in Ireland, and to plan accordingly for the next 20 years”.
Over the course of two-days, international speakers including academics and practitioners from Ireland, the UK, US and Australia will engage in debate on the changing forms of family life and the meaning of family and family relationships in particular contexts. The programme will feature a number of issues that are critical in current policy and practice including impact of technology on family dynamics; integration and migration, and family separation. In the context of austerity and social inclusion, a core focus will be on supports for families with particular needs and adversities including homelessness, addiction, and domestic violence.
The conference also provides a forum for young people to present research conducted as part of the UCFRC Youth as Researchers Programme. Included are presentations on the use of social media, as well as research highlighting the benefits of an exercise and mindfulness programme, delivered by a Garda Youth Diversion Project in Galway city.
Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, who will be in attendance commented:
“This conference is a valuable opportunity to explore the changing face of families in Ireland and, very importantly, to hear directly from children about issues affecting them. I look forward to a robust and engaged conversation about change and how it affects children and their families. Some changes such as an increased focus on equality and diversity are very positive, and while they often require adjustments from the adults, for children they are less likely to cause a problem. Other changes such as homelessness or addiction are completely out of young people’s control and have the potential to cause serious and long-lasting damage.
For more information, visit http://conference.ie/Conferences/index.asp?Conference=588