Parenting educators will be getting research and scientific-based information at WSU Extensions’ 13th Annual Northwest Parenting and Education Conference, March 12-14 at WSU Vancouver.
The conference, which provides three days of professional development for parenting and family educators such as counselors, social workers and juvenile justice officers, began in 1995 as an extension initiative.
Its original purpose was to provide a research-based link to practitioners in the field, said Jane Lanigan, conference manager and program co-chairperson.
“There wasn’t any annual conference that directly addressed the issue of parenting education in the state,” said Drew Betz, an extension educator who founded the conference and is co-chair this year.
“We wanted to make sure parenting educators were getting some quality research-based education to bring with them to the job.”
Other conferences existed at the time, but did not have the scientific focus that WSU Extensions’ conference provides.
“WSU has really been a leader in basic research related to parenting, and there needs to be a mechanism to reach the practitioners and provide the information in an applied form,” Lanigan said.
The conference, which was created by WSU Extension, now collaborates with other university extension branches as well.
“It’s a collaborative event between the four land-grand institutions in the Northwest,” Betz said. “Extension offices from those institutions contribute as well.”
Although other institutions are now involved in the conference, WSU is still the driving force behind the event. The conference presents workshops ranging from communication and relationship skills to brain development, and offers people who work with families a plethora of science-based information, Betz said.
The conference also provides insights for students into parenting professions.  Roughly 30 to 40 students at WSU Vancouver volunteer every year to keep the conference running smoothly while attending sessions.
“We’re benefitting not just professionals, but future professionals as well,” Betz said.
The conference has developed a consistent attendance of around 300 people over the years, with people traveling from the Pacific Northwest and Canada to attend.
Next year, the conference could be held in Vancouver, B.C., due to the large interest of the British Collaborative Council of Families.
“We’re trying to reach out across the border,” Betz said.