Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars

The Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars have a new home. As of September 2016, the seminars are now being sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Office and the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hilary Shager is the Director of the Wisconsin Family Seminars and Associate Director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs. Heidi Normandin is the Associate Director, of the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars.

Seminar Date Topic
FIS36 January 2018 Opportunities for Strengthening Wisconsin’s Workforce
FIS35 January 2017 A Place to Call Home:  Evidence-Based Strategies for Addressing Homelessness across Wisconsin
FIS 34 November 2015 Training Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s Jobs
FIS 33 February 2015 Helping Foster Kids Succeed:  State Strategies for Saving Lives, Saving Money
FIS 32 January 2014 The Science of Early Brain Development: A Foundation for the Success of Our Children and the State Economy
FIS 31 February 2013 Preparing Wisconsin’s Youth for Success in the Workforce
FIS 30 October 2011 Positioning Wisconsin for the Jobs of the Future
FIS 29 January 2011 Evidence-Based Budgeting: Making Decisions to Move Wisconsin Forward
FIS 28 February 2010 Workforce Development Policy: New Directions for States
FIS 27 February 2009 Growing the State Economy: Evidence-Based Policy Options
FIS 26 January 2008 Looking Beyond the Prison Gate: New Directions in Prisoner Reentry
FIS 25 October 2007 Cost-Effective Approaches in Juvenile and Adult Corrections: What Works? What Doesn’t?
FIS 24 January 2007 Affordable Strategies to Cover the Uninsured: Policy Approaches from Other States
FIS 23 February 2006 Long-Term Care Reform: Wisconsin’s Experience Compared to Other States
FIS 22 October 2005 Medicaid: Who Benefits, How Expensive is It, and What are States Doing to Control Costs?
FIS 21 February 2005 Improving Health Care Quality While Curbing Costs
FIS 20 February 2004 A Policymaker’s Guide to School Finance: Approaches to Use and Questions to Ask
FIS 19 October 2003 Corrections Policy: Can States Cut Costs and Still Curb Crime?
FIS 18 January 2003 Rising Health Care Costs: Employer Purchasing Pools and Other Policy Options
FIS 17 January 2002 Early Childhood Care and Education: What Are States Doing?
FIS 16 March 2001 Designing a State Prescription Drug Benefit: Strategies to Control Costs
FIS 15 January 2001 Rising Prescription Drug Costs: Reasons, Needs and Policy Responses
FIS 14 January 2000 Helping Poor Kids Succeed: Welfare, Tax and Early Intervention Policies
FIS 13 October 1999 Raising the Next Generation: Public and Private Parenting Initiatives
FIS 12 February 1999 Long-Term Care: State Policy Perspectives
FIS 11 March 1998 Enhancing Educational Performance: Three Policy Alternatives
FIS 10 January 1998 Building Resiliency and Reducing Risk: What Youth Need from Families and Communities to Succeed
FIS 9 May 1997 Moving Families Out of Poverty: Employment, Tax and Investment Strategies
FIS 8 February 1997 Programs and Policies to Prevent Youth Crime, Smoking and Substance Use: What Works?
FIS 7 March 1996 Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: Programs that Work
FIS 6 November 1995 Child Support: The Effects of the Current System on Families
FIS 5 January 1995 Welfare Reform: Can Government Promote Parental Self-sufficiency While Ensuring the Well-being of Children?
FIS 4 May 1994 Promising Approaches for Addressing Juvenile Crime
FIS 3 January 1994 Can Government Promote Competent Parenting?
FIS 2 October 1993 Single Parenthood and Children’s Well-being
FIS 1 March 1993 Building Policies That Put Families First: A Wisconsin Perspective

Contact Information

  • Hilary Shager
  • Director, Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars; Associate Director, La Follette School of Public Affairs
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 1225 Observatory Drive
  • Madison, WI 53706
  • (608) 262-4070
  • hshager@lafollette.wisc.edu
  • Heidi Normandin
  • Associate Director, Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 1300 Linden Drive, Room 4128
  • Madison, WI 53706
  • hjnorman@wisc.edu
  • info@familyimpactseminars.org

Wisconsin Family Impact Seminar Funders

The Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars are an initiative of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor’s Office and the School of Human Ecology. Past support has been received from the College of Letters and Science, the Division of Continuing Studies, and the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cooperative Extension at the University of Wisconsin-Extension, the A.L. Mailman Foundation, the Brittingham Foundation, the Harry and Lynde Bradley Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation, the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, the Joyce Foundation, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association, the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, the Sonderegger Research Center, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Private Philathropists include Jean Manchester Biddick, Elizabeth C. Davies, and Phyllis M. Northway.

Download the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars brochure. (pdf)

About the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars

This program is rooted in the belief that good government ought to be based on hard evidence drawn from rigorous research and analysis. Recently policymakers have begun to ask more frequently for evidence-based information to guide their decisions. Yet policymakers do not have the staff or time to gather all the relevant data on the many complex issues that confront them. The information that policymakers receive is often fragmented, biased, and less focused on family issues. In response, the Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars provide high-quality, objective information to policymakers and examine policies through a family impact lens.

Family Impact Seminars are a series of presentations, briefing reports, and discussion sessions for state policymakers including legislators, legislative aides, Governor’s office staff, legislative service agency analysts, and state agency officials. Seminars targeted to local policymakers are also being conducted by county Family Living Educators on topics such as aging, health care, housing, and mental health policy.

The Family Impact Seminars provide research on timely issues that policymakers are debating such as corrections, evidence-based budgeting, growing the state economy, long-term care, prisoner re-entry, school funding, and workforce development. Rather than bringing in speakers to lobby for particular policies, the Seminars feature premier researchers and policy analysts presenting objective information on a range of policy options. The discussion sessions that follow provide a neutral, nonpartisan setting for policymakers to discuss issues and seek common ground.

Each seminar is accompanied by a briefing report that summarizes state-of-the-art research on the topic and draws implications for families and for state policy.

Our Track Record

Since 1993, the 30 seminars held for Wisconsin policymakers have attracted legislators from both sides of the aisle. Slightly more Republican legislators (N = 254) have attended than Democratic legislators (N = 211), during a time frame when slightly more Republicans held office than Democrats. Of the 132 legislators currently in office, 72 have attended at least one seminar and another 16 offices have sent an aide, so the Seminars have reached over two thirds of the legislature.

In evaluations, participants rate the seminars as highly objective, relevant, and useful. For example, on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), the average objectivity rating for the last 29 seminars was 4.3. These high marks on objectivity were not at the expense of seminar ratings on relevance (4.4) or usefulness (4.2). In policymaker’s own words:

“…[the Seminar’s] ability to prepare and present unbiased research based on objective analysis and without political taint is truly refreshing.” — State legislator

“Because of the Family impact Seminars, we are able to engage in discussions on a policy as opposed to an ideological level, and I think that we have been able to discuss the issues in a more responsible way and actually come to more responsible conclusions as a result.” — State legislator

“…this is the only time such a broad group gets together to really discuss family-related issues in an atmosphere that encourages good public policymaking over politics.” — State agency official


In evaluations, policymakers report that the Seminars have increased their knowledge of research and changed their attitudes about the practicality of research and the value of a family impact lens in policymaking.

In February 2006, a seminar was held on long-term care reform including one speaker who conducted an independent evaluation of Wisconsin’s Family Care Program. In follow-up phone interviews four months after the seminar, 15 legislators (88% response rate) reported applying Seminar research and analysis in the following ways:

  • 73% incorporated it into speeches or presentations,
  • 60% shared the information with colleagues,
  • 53% identified others interested in the issue,
  • 27% evaluated pending legislation, and
  • 13% drafted new legislation.

In May of 2006, the Governor signed legislation to expand the Family Care program, which one Senator attributed, in part, to the research evidence presented at the seminar. Legislators have reported using Family Impact Seminar information to develop positions on legislation, such as welfare reform and a cigarette tax. Following two seminars on prescription drugs, legislators reported using seminar information to draft new legislation, critique and modify proposals, and discuss the issue with advocacy groups. Later, several features of other state’s prescription drug programs discussed at the seminar were incorporated into Wisconsin’s Senior Care law.