March 12, 1999

International meeting set to focus on family resource center issues

International meeting set to focus on family resource center issues

Representatives of about 80 family resource centers in pediatric health care settings will gather in Nashville March 12-14 for the first-ever conference on issues facing such facilities designed to support families of ill and injured children.

The conference at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel is organized by the Junior League Family Resource Center at VCH, recognized as one of the leading family resource centers in the country.

"Our goal is to put family resource centers on the map," said Barbara K. Ramsey, Ph.D., coordinator of the Junior League Family Resource Center. "This will bring together an interesting combination of people and will touch on a wide range of issues, including library services, information technology, family-centered care, patient and family needs."

The Family Resource Center has evolved over the past five years to meet the needs of parents, siblings, grandparents and other family members. The center is a place to find information about children's conditions, growth and development and other concerns; about services in families' communities; and about support and advocacy groups on the local, state and national levels. The Family Resource Center also provides materials to health care professionals at VCH and in the community.

About 150 participants are expected at the conference, representing family resource centers in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Families and volunteers at these centers' home institutions have also been invited to the conference. About 20 percent of the centers represented are still in the planning and development stages.

This is the first time the group has gathered to discuss common issues and learn from one another. Ultimately, organizers hope the conference leads to a more organized collaboration on future projects and concerns, Ramsey said.

The timing of the conference – at the end of the 20th Century and in the midst of a revolution in information technology – is ideal, said Carol Kirshner, program assistant in VCH's center. The subtitle of the conference is "Creating a Neighborhood Virtual and Real."

"All of us are on the verge of dealing with the information technology tidal wave that's coming," Kirshner said. "We need help managing the information that's out there and helping our families access the information they need. Families with a sick child don't have the time to cope with all that, even if they have the means at their disposal.

"And as managed care has squeezed the time that patients can spend with their health care providers and in the hospital, families must assume a more participatory role in their health care. Resource centers assist by supplementing information provided by the health care team."

Among the highlights of the conference:

oAuthor Carol Orsborn, who holds a degree from Vanderbilt University's Divinity School, will deliver the keynote address at 9 a.m., Friday, March 12. Her topic will be "Managing by Heart: Nurturing Resilience in Our Families and Ourselves." She will discuss the issues that touch family resource center personnel everyday, including the pressures of working with families in distress while coping with constraints of time and resources. Orsborn is the author of six books on resilience, spirituality and work-related issues. They include The Art of Resilience: One Hundred Paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World, Solved by Sunset: How to Resolve Whatever's Bothering You in One Day or Less, How Would Confucius Ask for a Raise: One Hundred Enlightened Solutions for Tough Business Problems. Her latest book is based on her own personal experience being diagnosed with and treated for cancer, How to Have Cancer Without Going to War.

oMary E. Longe, author of Consumer Health Resource Centers: A Guide to Successful Planning and Implementation, will deliver the keynote address at 4 p.m., Saturday, March 13. Her topic will be "Family Resource Centers: Current Realities and Visions for the Future." Author of three other books on health promotion, Longe has spent the past 12 years working with health care and other organizations to develop and operate consumer-oriented resource centers. In her presentation, Longe will share her views on the strengths of family resource centers, recent changes in their operation as well as in the delivery of health information and her vision for the centers' potential in the coming century.

oFred E. Talbott, M.A., J.D., professor of the Practice of Management Communications in the Owen Graduate School of Management, will facilitate a 9 a.m. breakfast roundtable discussion to conclude the conference on Sunday, March 14. The discussion is entitled "Creating a Neighborhood Š Where Do We Go From Here?"

More information is available on the Junior League Family Resource Center's conference web page at