Family Policies: Recommendations for Government

Activity Description:


This exercise is designed to have students consider, and recommend, sufficient resources that might be introduced in family leave legislation, and to do so in a manner that may sway opinions.


Students are presented with the following assignment:

You have been called as an “expert” on the family to address the Canadian Parliament (or the United States Congress, your choice) about the current state of the Canadian (or American) family.  You are to write a short, 8-10 page (double-spaced) briefing. This paper might focus upon a particular issue that you see as especially salient (e.g., reproductive technologies). With this approach, you might delve in-depth into the topic, illuminating for the government some of its various complexities.  Alternatively, you might cover a variety of issues such as childrearing, divorce and domestic violence, providing politicians with a broader overview. You should draw upon course materials to “brief” the government, but you should also do outside research to enrich your briefing. The bulk of this brief – 6-8 pages – should be devoted to summarizing the “social facts” and your interpretations of them for politicians.  In the remaining 1-2 pages, you should conclude with a few recommendations to the government as to what kinds of action(s) you believe it should take (or perhaps not take) in order to improve the contemporary circumstances of families in Canada (or the United States). Importantly, these are to be realistic recommendations. For instance, recommending that the United States government reallocate significant funds from its defense budget to provide families with a childcare allowance is, unfortunately, not a realistic recommendation.  However, you might suggest that the United States government legislate that employers pay workers a portion of their wages during leaves from work for the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Presently, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (of 1993) in the United States, employers must grant eligible employees up to twelve weeks of UNPAID leave for these reasons.  In Canada, the Universal Child Benefit, recently initiated, provides $100 per child (under age six) per month to Canadian families. You might, for example, recommend that this benefit be extended to children older than six years of age to assist with the costs of afterschool care.  In formulating your recommendations you should do a bit of background research on existing legislation (Note: The Internet should prove sufficient for this).

Importantly, this is meant to capture the attention of government officials, NOT put them to sleep!  So, you want to write an engaging, catchy and informative piece, not one that is boring or overly-academic (e.g., so bogged down with details that it confuses the audience).  Moreover, remember that you are the expert and they are not. Therefore, you need to explain your points rather than assuming that they know.

Activity Source:

Content contributed by Elaine Weiner as a Suggested Work and Family Class Activity