Promoting Extension, FCS and Family Science

Thank you Dr. Rachel Arocho for the invitation to speak with Utah Valley University Students. If you have any questions, please email Patrice Powers-Barker

Today’s session was an example of County Extension Educator with Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS). I hope you will continue to consider:

  • ways to utilize Extension as a community partner, possible employer, and/or personal resource
  • the role of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) within Extension and our local communities
  • how to best use your professional organizations and resources

Cooperative Extension Services (National Institute of Food and Agriculture)

A few links and resources we talked about:

Q&A and links:

Question: Some of the work and topics of Family Life Education sound similar to Social work but there’s definitely an emphasis on education, how do they work together?

Answer: One of my favorite articles to help understand the value and role of different fields of family study and different careers is Reconceptualizing the Domain and Boundaries of Family Life Education. They do not specifically list Social Work, but they compare and contrast FLE (Family Life Education), FT (Family Therapy), and FCM (Family Case Management). Depending on your line of work and your local partners, this article and their concepts could be used to help discuss roles that different organizations and professionals can provide in the community.

It is not unusual for Extension to partner with community sites that are offering additional services and resources to participants. While we focus on education, some families have immediate needs  (like food or transportation, etc.). It makes sense to partner with organizations that can also help with those immediate needs and those sites might have Social Works on staff.

Even for partners who do not have emergency needs, partners are often offering something different than Extension Education. Some typical community partners might include parks, libraries, places of worship, schools, community centers, senior centers, etc. These sites have additional resources and programs for participants that are complemented by Extension Education.

Question: Does Extension do it’s own research, use established research by others, or both?

Answer: Yes, both. There are many opportunities for Extension professionals to do research. This will look different in different program areas and for different job roles. The example I gave in class was about Agriculture and Natural Resources where county Educators are working with local farmers who are all part of a larger research project in partnership with state specialists. In Family and Consumer Sciences I might be working with state and/or field specialists and the research is based on behavior changes. This most often is self-reported by class participants. I might also be evaluating the educational methods. Those are some examples for County Educators. At the regional or state level, especially for roles like field specialist or state specialist, there are often more examples and opportunities for research.

There are often opportunities to partner with others. This might be other state Extension programs, or multi-state teams. Some of my colleagues are part of Dining with Diabetes.  Other times, when educational programming is needed in the community and we don’t have a specific program or curriculum in Ohio Extension, we will look at what other state Extension’s use and other educational resources that are available. The example I shared in class was PAX Tools. They have done the research and offer training to professionals in different fields of work. It is not our Extension research but it is a recognized and valued program.

It was great to hear examples of relatives who currently work with Extension or had in the past!

The emphasis of our education is preventative and therefore future facing, but the history of Family and Consumer Sciences (previously Home Economics) is intriguing. Although sewing and cooking are important skills to have, that isn’t necessarily the entire history or goal of Home Economics. Here’s a short highlight about the science contributions from one of the founders of the field, Ellen Swallow Richards.

This 2021 book is very detailed but has given me a much better understanding and appreciation for the dedication and work of the women who came before me in this field, The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live, by Danielle Dreilinger and lists examples of great work by many, many individuals over many decades in the US.