This course focuses on the connections between public policies and families and the values that enter into policy debates and family choices. It provides conceptual frameworks that can be used to identify and understand some of the influences underlying policy choices affecting families and also frameworks for evaluating the consequences of these choices for families of diverse structures, socio-economic statuses, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. We will apply this framework to topics such as maternity leave, child care, income assistance, and marriage promotion. We will compare U.S. policies to those of other industrialized countries, especially those in Italy. You will end the semester by conducting research on a social policy topic that we have not covered during the semester – from understanding the initial social problem all the way through to making a policy recommendation – to help you learn to explore independently a new topic. Central to the course are the intersections between families and governments via policy outputs, and the roles that citizens and family professionals can play in improving them.


Using UNICEF resources, located in Florence, Italy, we will delve into evidence-based approaches for ameliorating suffering in young families across the globe. Using Florence as a classroom, we will explore differences in family life between the U.S. and Italy as a means to understand the ways in which the state must respond to differing cultures and needs. At the Innocenti Museum, in the same building as UNICEF’s research offices, we will see an orphanage that began operations in 1445 and functioned as an orphanage and hospital until 1875, making it the oldest public institution in Italy. The building has been dedicated to the protection of children’s rights and education since that time, and provides a backdrop for an early understanding of ways to think about family policy.

Application Process for Short-Term/Faculty-Led Study Abroad

  • Schedule a meeting with the program faculty director, Professor Karie Feldman, to better understand the course, finances and expectations
  • Apply to study abroad through CWRU by selecting “Apply Now” on the program page. Deadlines are:
  • Submit a non-refundable deposit of $300 with your application
  • Register for the corresponding course in SIS during course registration
  • Attend pre-departure meetings (usually one to three) with faculty and other students to go over:
    • In-country accommodations, meals and orientation
    • The date and place to arrive by (if not traveling as a group)
    • Visa instructions and timeline for completion (if relevant)
    • Course registration, grading, expectations and more
  • Attend a Health and Safety Orientation before going abroad as required by the Office of Education Abroad and CWRU

For more information on Education Abroad; from Health and Safety to Preparation to Parent and Faculty Resources, please visit the Center for International Affairs Education Abroad website.

Click here to view a copy of the course syllabus.