About Us

The Family Impact Institute provides policymakers and professionals with nonpartisan, solution-oriented research and a family and racial equity lens on many of the complex issues being debated in state legislatures across the country. The Institute was founded in 1999 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension and continues the family impact mission of the federal Family Impact Seminar, which operated from 1976 to 1998 in Washington DC. The Family Impact Seminars aim to:

  • Build greater use of and respect for evidence in policymaking,
  • Encourage policymakers to examine policies and programs through a family impact and a racial equity lens, and
  • Provide an opportunity for policymakers to build relationships across party lines

The Institute provides a number of resources for policymakers, practitioners, and others who work to use research to build better public policies for families.

  • To assist policymakers, the Institute disseminates research and policy reports that provide a family impact perspective on current policy issues.
  • To assist those who enact and implement policies and programs, the Institute has available procedures for conducting a family impact analysis and a number of checklists for examining how responsive policies, programs, and institutions are to family well-being.
  • To assist professionals who want to create better dialogue between researchers and policymakers, the Institute provides technical assistance on what it takes to connect with policymakers, and how to establish Family Impact Seminars in their own state.
  • To assist those who work with policymakers, the Institute conducts original research with policymakers on how they use research in their decisions and with professionals on what knowledge, skills, and attitudes are needed to communicate timely, high-quality information to policymakers in an accessible format.

The Institute promotes a family perspective in state policymaking several ways:

  • We provide technical assistance to professionals conducting Family Impact Seminars for state policymakers in their state capitols.
  • Our website serves as a clearinghouse of information about what a family perspective is, how to conduct a family impact analyses, and what tools and resources are available.
  • Our website facilitates resource exchange for instructors who teach about family policy and train the next generation of family policy professionals.

The Family Impact Institute is directed by Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth. We are currently funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Past supporters included the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, and David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Harvard Names the Family Impact Seminars as a Bright Idea

Bright Idea LogoThe Family Impact Seminars were named a Bright Idea on September 25, 2012 by the Harvard Innovations in American Government Awards Program. The Seminars are a proven, replicable, and cost-effective model that advances evidence-based policy and overcomes partisan paralysis. The selections were made by a panel of policy experts to recognize and promote creative government initiatives and partnerships. The Innovations in American Government Awards Program is housed at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Training and technical assistance to the Family Impact Seminars sites across the country is provided by the Policy Institute for Family Impact Seminars at the University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension currently funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the W. T. Grant Foundation.