The greatest untapped resources for strengthening families may be the knowledge, wisdom, and lived experiences of families and their communities. An article published in the latest issue of Family Relations reviews the evidence of a growing phenomenon among many families: that of the overscheduled child and underconnected family. Specifically, children have become far busier during the last two decades of the twentieth century and these changes have increasingly led to time-intensive, hyper-competitive activities, less unstructured play time for children, and less family time including meals.
In order to meet this growing cultural challenge, the authors outline a new model of community engagement where citizens (both lay and family professionals) work together to create community-wide changes. In this model, called the Families and Democracy Model, "professionals serve as resources whose knowledge and expertise is 'on tap,' not 'on top,'" the authors explain. It is an alternative to the traditional provider/consumer role where professionals are seen as the experts that come armed with solutions. In this model, every person brings something different to learn and contribute and citizens are engaged at every stage of the project.
The authors use case examples of their own work in the community to outline grounding principles and a process for action that can be adopted by family professionals working in their own communities. The authors experience suggests that the model can be used in a variety of settings for a number of potential community problems or issues, having used the model to organize over ten communities over the past five years. The authors explain that in this model, "…family professionals and citizens come together to tackle problems of mutual interest where every person brings a different kind of expertise."
Source: Eurekalert & others
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