CFP: The Role of Anthropology in Improving Services for Children and Families

Annals of Anthropological Practice
The Role of Anthropology in Improving Services for Children and Families

Cecilia Vindrola-Padros, Department of Applied Health Research, University College London, London, UK
Anne E. Pfister, Department of Applied Anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA
Ginger A. Johnson, Anthrologica, Oxford, UK

“The richness in family studies over the next decade, we believe, will come from considering the diversity of family forms -different ethnic groups and cultures, different stages of family life, different historical cohorts- as men and women attempt to raise their sons and daughters.” -Cowan et al. 2014:xi

Over the past few decades, there have been important theoretical and methodological transformations in the ways we look at family dynamics; changes that have informed family policy and practice. The provision of family services has shifted to a more holistic, integrative, and complex view of the family (Bogenschneider and Corbett 2010). A wide diversity of family models have been integrated into policy designs and differences created by gender, class and ethnicity are considered in the adaptation of service delivery programs (Ostner 2010). Multi-agency approaches are implemented to provide families with simultaneous access to different types of services such as health, education, disability, and social services in order to guarantee integral support (Maattaa and Uusiautti 2012). Multiple family members are engaged in interventions to recognize internal power differentials and ensure issues are addressed from multiple viewpoints. Family needs are understood to be fluid as family members move across different contexts, locations and stages of life (Maattaa and Uusiautti 2012).

Anthropologists are engaged as practitioners and applied researchers in a wide range of settings where services are provided to children and families. The skills of anthropologists have resulted in the beneficial reconfiguration of services as well as the design, implementation and evaluation of current programs within agencies tasked with providing services to families. These services include medical attention, psychological support and counselling, social, financial, and educational services. Different models of applied anthropology are utilized by researchers to tailor services to users’ needs, reduce expenses, improve outcomes, and implement a holistic approach to service delivery.

Even though policy and practice are becoming more responsive to the everyday realities of families, applied work destined to improve services for children and families continues to face challenges (Bogenschneider 2014). The fluid and changing nature of our idea of “the family”, the wide diversity of family arrangements, and families’ movement across space (e.g., migration) and time (e.g., life-course) demand constant reconfigurations of services (Bomar 2004; Cowan et al. 2014). Work with families is dependent on the capacity to be able to deliver the same quality of services and support to all family members, thus programs must be flexible enough to adapt to the needs of individuals of different ages, gender, and occupations. Furthermore, anthropologists who work to improve service delivery to families encounter a primary challenge commonly found in applied work: how to translate the findings of research into changes in policy and practice.

This special issue will focus on the application of anthropology in the context of service delivery for children and families. The articles we aim to publish will touch on the contributions and perils of anthropological practice, the ways in which anthropologists grapple with applied work in agencies, and future areas our discipline is well-suited to address. Reflexivity will be an underlying theme throughout the issue to engage authors to reflect on their positionality in the specific contexts where they work and the more comprehensive role they allow anthropology to play as an agent of change. The authors will provide vivid examples of the application of anthropological perspectives and ethnographic methods for a wide range of purposes (ranging from program design to evaluation), in a myriad of contexts (hospitals, schools, public service agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the wider community), and with a variety of outcomes (informing policy, facilitating changes in practice, improving the quality of life of participants).

The main topics of discussion will include:

* Critical review of different models of applied work (i.e. external consultant, embedded researcher, researcher/practitioner/service provider)
* Application of ethnographic research in the design, implementation, and evaluation of service delivery programs
* Elaboration on methodological challenges of carrying out applied research with children and families
* Translation of research findings into changes in policy and practice
* Application of holistic approaches to transform services provided to children and families
* Adaptation of anthropological research methods for efficiency in short timeframes

We welcome submissions from applied researchers using anthropological theories/perspectives/methods with children and families in a wide range of settings.

Submission requirements
An abstract should be submitted to Cecilia Vindrola-Padros via email (<>). The abstract should be no more than 250 words and should include the authors’ contact information and affiliation. The deadlines are:
November 7, 2014 Submission of abstracts
November 14, 2014 Decision on abstract communicated to authors
January 16, 2015 Submission of full manuscripts

Please send all inquiries to Cecilia Vindrola-Padros at

Bogenschneider, Karen (2014). Family Policy Matters: How Policymaking Affects Families and What Can Professionals Do. Routledge: New York, NY.

Bogenschneider, Karen, Little, Olivia, Ooms, Theodora, Benning, Sara, Cadigan, Karen, and Corbett, Thomas (2012). The Family Impact Lens: A Family-Focused, Evidence-Informed Approach to Policy and Practice. Family Relations 61: 514-531.

Bogenschneider, Karen and Corbett, Thomas (2010). Family Policy: Becoming a Field of Inquiry and Subfield of Social Policy. Journal of Marriage and Family 72(3): 783-803.

Bomar, Perri (2004). Promoting Health in Families: Applying Family Research and Theory to Nursing Practice. Saunders: Philadelphia, PA.

Cowan, P., Field, D., Hansen, D., Skolmich, A., and Swanson, G. (2014). Family, Self, and Society: Toward a New Agenda for Family Research. Routledge: London.

Määttä, Kaarina and Uusiautti, Satu (2012). How do the Finnish family policy and early education system support the well-being, happiness, and success of families and children? Early Child Development and Care 182(3-4):, 291-298.

Ostner, Ilona (2010). Farewell to the Family as We Know It: Family Policy Change in Germany. German Policy Studies 6(1): 211-244.