Unfortunately, so many external issues can conspire to disable family decision-making and close down family change capacity.
The study promotes forming family empowerment associations because, “Currently, the informal lives of families are becoming increasingly impoverished because the families’ lack of organizing abilities has caused them to become increasingly disempowered.” Policymakers are encouraged in this way: “Giving families the tools, funds, and legal powers to incorporate family empowerment associations would merely begin to level the playing field on which families have been losing round after round.”
I agree with groups being able to organize around common interests and goals, including groups of families that wish to see change occur in their community. However, I am struck by the effort to improve families’ informal lives, which are “impoverished” according to the study, by creating formal associations.
I am intensely interested, as a father, husband, and professional, in the “family” part of family empowerment.
Here is an example of outside systems that act on some families. Some represent voluntary involvement, some perhaps are required by other entities (drug treatment could be either voluntary or compulsory). Some make a huge impact on family capacity and life quality, others may be a drain on the family or even restrict family decision-making capacity.
As a man with a family who also works with families, there are 2 important principles that I hang my hat on: the right to self-determination, and the principle that every individual, family, and community has strengths. When a family knows the options and has the ability (self-determination and external liberty) to choose, then there is real empowerment.
For those outside forces that are thrust upon families through legal or civil mandate or statute, a truly empowered family is one that recognizes its responsibility in the matter and works to the fullest to fulfill its obligation. Not all such restrictions are just. But the root of change will come from within the family, not outside the family. In the next post we will look at some internal factors that make this possible.
In short, the power to say “no” and make use of its own resources is true family empowerment.
The family unit is primary and precious in society. Where do you want to see change happen? In the home, policy arena, or organizational realm? What influences would you add to or take away from in your situation to make your family more empowered?