Past Conferences:

9th Biennial International Conference: Changing Families, Changing Policy, Changing Practice: Family Support Now and in the Future

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Conference Theme: 

 In the context of major global social, economic and technological change, the nature and meaning of family is in flux. Among western States, Ireland is particularly notable for late and rapid changes in the nature of family and the experience of family life. Most evident is recent significant constitutional changes in children’s rights, same-sex marriage and abortion, it is also reflected in established demographic trends of ever later marriage and reducing fertility. What family means, what it means to be a family member parent, child, sibling, grandparent has and continues to change. New risks and challenges emerge and so too do new possibilities and capabilities. Just as family changes, policies and the work of those who support families must continually change too. Taking Ireland as an international case study, the aim of the 9th Biennial conference is to reflect on the nature of family and family change and its implications for policy and practice. As well as focusing on current issues, we aim to anticipate future challenges and possibilities for families, and frame future responses.

Keynote Presentations: 

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Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh: Opening Address

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Professor Bahira Trask: Global Transformations in Families: Implications for Policies and Programming

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Dr John Canavan: Change & Continuity in Family Life: an Irish Case Study

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Presentation by Youth as Researchers

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Ms. Cliona Curley: How Technology has Changed the Dynamic of Irish families: Implications for Parents, Practitioners and Society as a Whole

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Dr Shane Butler: Promoting the Welfare of Children of Problem Drinkers

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Professor Paul Bywater & Dr. Will Mason: Who Pays for Austerity? Child Welfare, Inequality and Family Support

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Professor Jenny Phillimore: Integration and Access to Welfare in an Era of Superdiversity

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Professor Tim Moore: From Listening to Acting: Collaborating with Children and Young People to Foster

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Presentation by Youth as Researchers

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Press coverage: 

8th Biennial International Conference: Rediscovering Empathy; Values, Relationships and Practice in a Changing World (2017)

Video: Watch the highlights from the conference here!

Conference Theme: 

Across the globe, the perceived decline in empathy, care and social solidarity is a cause for concern.  Empathy is the ability and/or inclination to understand and experience another’s state or condition and, where appropriate, to respond through supportive actions.  Research has shown that empathy in individuals is essential to healthy social and emotional functioning and contributes to the enrichment of civic society. Conversely, where levels of empathy are compromised, studies have found an increased propensity to engage in anti-social behavior, such as bullying, aggression and offending behaviour.  For practitioners, empathy in direct relationship-based working is increasingly recognised as a cornerstone of good practice in work with children, young people and their families, while for society, there is an urgent need for empathy informed policy and action to address structural inequalities and disparities. The biennial UCFRC conference drew on national and international expertise to explore the concepts of empathy and relationship based working as they relate to policy and practice with children, youth and families.


Biennial 2017 key note & youth researchers


Keynote Presentations: 

Please click on the title of the presentation to download, or view the video recordings in full below.

Professor David Howe: Empathy, Emotional Intelligence and Relationship-based Practice
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Professor Kathleen Lynch: Why Love,Care and Solidarity are Political Matters: Equality and Social Justice
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Professor Pat Dolan and Youth Researchers Ms Ashling Dunphy & Ms Ciara Beth Ní Ghríofa: Activating Social Empathy: Learning with and from Youth Researchers
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Ms. Mary Gordon: Roots of Empathy, Changing the World Child by Child
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Professor Anantha Kumar Duraiappah: Firing Gandhi Neurons
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Dr Jean Clinton: The Teenage Brain Under Construction
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Fr. Peter McVerry SJ: Special Guest Speaker
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Parallel Sessions Topics:

Abstracts were presented from the practice, policy, research and academic communities in relation to the conference themes, which are as follows:

• Policies, programmes and practices that promote or develop empathy;
• Building a culture of empathy in organisations and/or in the realm of interdisciplinary, interagency or collaborative working;
• Empathy in relationship-based working;
• Theorising or understanding empathy and relationship based practice;
• Exploring links between empathy, inequality and social justice;
• Research findings related to empathy and social values.

Press coverage:!rii=b9_21186260_0__

7th Biennial International Conference: Building Family Support Systems (2015)

Conference Theme:

Although highly valued in policy and academic discourse, Family Support often operates on the periphery of child and family serving systems, for example, in Child Protection and Welfare, Education and Mental Health systems. Because of this, the full potential of Family Support actions to achieve positive change in the lives of families may not always be realised. Taking its inspiration from the experience of Ireland’s Child and Family Agency, Tusla which is beginning a process of embedding Family Support and Prevention within its service delivery model, the aim of this conference is to explore what happens when Family Support becomes a key strategic and action component in a service system.

 bi-annual conf 2015Following on from the success of the parallel sessions at our previous biennial Conference, once again there will be contributions from the practice, policy, research and academic communities in relation to the conference theme, with parallel sessions reflecting some of the following areas:

• Helping Parents and Children Access Family Support through Public Education
• Preventative Family Support Structures, Processes and Practices
• Connecting Child Protection and Family Support systems
• Participation of Children and Parents in Family Support
• Creating Quality Family Support through Evidence-Informed Commissioning
• Systems Approaches to Developing Family Support
• Supporting Parents through Programmes and Practices
• Building Family Support Information SystemsConference Brochure

Keynote addresses provided by:

Opening Address: Dr. Fergal Lynch
Ms. Jasmina Byrne: ‘Family & Parenting Support, UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti;’
Dr. John Canavan & Patricia O’ Connor: ‘Power, Practice and Values in Family Support’
Dr. Deborah Daro, Chapin Hall, University of Chicago;’ Successful systems to support successful programs: Critical Partnerships & Shared Programs’
Professor Nick Frost, Family Support & Child Protection: Tensions and possibilities. Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University;
Professor Nóirín Hayes:’ Blurring Boundaries, Strengthening Foundations’, 


6th Biennial International Conference (2013)

bi-annual conf 2013

Family Support requires the involvement of us all – children, parents, volunteers, professionals and politicians – as citizens. The aim of this conference was to view trends, challenges and options relating to citizen’s engagement and participation in the field of Family Support. The conference considered the relevance of citizenship to Family Support, exploring the potential and limitations of community and volunteer led provision, the challenges facing professional worker-citizens in embattled systems, the possibility of participatory structures within service delivery systems, the role of advocacy and protest in Family Support and the overall meaning and value of participation by children and young people for Family Support.

For the first time at its biennial conference, the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre invited submissions for presentations in parallel sessions. Abstracts were invited from the policy and practice community, as well as the academic community, in relation to the conference themes, which were as follows:

  1. Citizenship and Family Support
  2. The Contribution of Volunteers and Communities
  3. Challenges Facing Professional Worker-Citizens in Embattled Systems
  4. Participatory Structures
  5. The Role of Advocacy and Protest
  6. Participation by Children and Young People

Keynote adresses provided by:

Dr. James Browne (Opening Remarks from the President of NUI Galway),
Prof. Pat Dolan (Engagment and Participation in Family Support: Untapped Potential)
Prof. Constance Flanagan (Theories of Adolescents: Why they Matter for Democracy)
Prof. Anne Power (Learning from the Horse's Mouth: What Families Bringing Up Children in Difficult Urban Areas Say about their Role and Influence)
Mr. Andy Lloyd (Defending and Developing Family Support in an Age of Austerity)
Dr. Bernadine Brady & Dr. Carmel Devaney (Changing the Odds: The Challenges and Benifits of Volunteer-Led Service Provision)
Prof. Mark Brennan (Citizenship as a Mechanism for Individuality, Family and Community Support)
Ms. Gerison Lansdown (Addressing the Challenges in Building a Culture of Respect for Children's Voices)
Ms. Norah Gibbons (The Role of Advocacy in Family Support), Mr. Kenneth Egan (Special Adress)
Dr. John Canavan (Closing Remarks). 


5th Biennial International Conference: Protecting Children through Family Support (2011)

 bi-annual conf 2011The 5th biennial conference of the Child and Family Research Centre NUI, Galway addressed the challenges and opportunities in effectively realising children’s rights to be cared for safely within their families.
The Conference was devised intentionally in order to offer practitioners and other key stakeholders the space to listen, reflect and discuss these current challenges facing services for children. The central theme of the conference was how to develop family support interventions that are mindful of the child’s right to be protected and child protection (and related) interventions which are mindful of the child’s right to be supported within their family. The theme was explored through keynote presentations and practice workshops addressing Family Support in universal and preventative settings, through to ‘early in the problem’ targeted support services, and child protection and alternative care provision.

Keynote Speakers include:

Dr. Susan Bissell, UNICEF HQ, New York: "Child Protection and Violence in a Globalizing Wold - Reconciling Norms with Real-Lives".
Prof. Mary Daly, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland: "Supporting Families through Universal Provision".
Ms. Carmel Devaney, NUI, Galway, Ireland: "A Family Support Approach to Protecting Children:  Current Issues and Perspectives".
Prof. Brid Featherstone, NUI, Galway, Ireland: "Child Protection and Family Support: Moving beyond a Tired and Problematic Binary?". 
Prof. Harry Ferguson, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom:  "Intimate Practice in Child and Family Work".
Prof.Bob Lonne, Queensland University of Technology, Australia: "Supporting Children's Rights to Protection: People, Promgrams Realities and Reform".
Ms. Helen Meintjes, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Prof. John Pinkerton, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland: "Home Truths: HIV, Residential Care and Family Support for Children in South Africa".