FAMILY IMPACT CHECKLIST
Using Evidence to Strengthen Families
Policymakers from across the political spectrum endorse families as a sure-fire, vote-winning strategy. Researchers have demonstrated
the valuable role families play in promoting academic success, economic productivity, social competence, and so forth. Professionals
who educate or deliver services to families recognize the viability of family-centered approaches for achieving program goals.
Yet family considerations are rarely addressed in the normal routines of policy and practice. Pro-family rhetoric is not enough. The
Family Impact Checklist is one evidence-based strategy to help ensure that policies and programs are designed and evaluated in
ways that strengthen and support families in all their diversity across the lifespan. This checklist can also be used for conducting
a family impact analysis that examines the intended and unintended consequences of policies, programs, agencies, and
organizations on family responsibility, family stability, and family relationships. Which types of families are affected? How are they
helped or hurt? What steps can be taken to strengthen families’ capacity to support their members and the contributions they
make to society?
This brief guide provides a four-step overview of how to use a family impact checklist to conduct a family impact analysis. More
detailed guidelines and procedures for conducting a family impact analysis are available in a handbook published by the Family
Impact Institute at
USING THE CHECKLIST TO CONDUCT A FAMILY IMPACT ANALYSIS
1. Select the rule, legislation, law, program, agency, or organization and decide what components will be
Family impact analysis can be used to review rules, legislation, laws, or programs for their impact on families,
and to evaluate the family focus and operating procedures of agencies and organizations. Court decisions, regulations,
administrative practices, and implementation procedures can also be analyzed for their impact on family well-being. Family
impact analysis can be a preliminary process conducted at an early stage when a policy or program is being designed, at an
interim stage when a policy or program is being implemented, or at a later stage when being evaluated or reauthorized.
2. Determine which family types might be affected.
Families come in many forms and configurations. In beginning the
process, it is important to identify which types of families may be impacted by the policy, program, or practice.
Which types of families does or will the policy, program, or practice affect? __________________________________
q particular family structures?
q families in a particular stage of the life cycle?
q families from particular incomes or educational levels?
q families from particular cultural, geographic, racial/ethnic, or religious backgrounds?
q families who have members with special needs (e.g., cognitive, emotional, physical)?
q those who function as a family even if they are not legally recognized as such?
3. Select a family impact checklist and conduct the analysis.
Family impact analysis is most incisive and
comprehensive when it includes expertise on (a) families, (b) family impact analysis, and (c) the specifics of the policy,
program, agency, or organization. Five basic principles form the core of a family impact checklist. Each principle is
accompanied by a series of evidence-based questions that delve deeply into the ways in which families contribute to
issues, how they are affected by them, and whether involving families would result in better solutions. Not all principles and
questions will apply to every topic, so it is important to select those most relevant to the issue at hand.
These questions sound simple, but they can be difficult to answer. The principles are not rank-ordered and sometimes they
conflict with each other. Depending on the issue, one principle may be more highly valued than another, requiring trade-
offs. Cost effectiveness and political feasibility also must be taken into account. Despite these complexities, family impact
analysis has proven useful across the political spectrum and has the potential to build broad, bipartisan consensus.
4. Disseminate and apply the results.
A family impact analysis seldom results in overwhelming support for or opposition
to a policy or program. Instead, implications are drawn regarding how the policy or program affects specific types of families
and particular family functions. Disseminating the results to policymakers and the public may generate interest in and the
momentum for developing policies, programs, and practices that are more responsive to and supportive of family well-being.