Family Opportunity Forum: A Leadership Forum for State Legislators 2016


The National Conference of State Legislatures assists legislators who want to create economic opportunity for America’s families. Since 2003, 337 legislators from 38 states have attended the Family Opportunity Forum, where in concert with their peers, they develop action plans which have resulted in more than 100 legislative actions on policies to boost economic stability. Specific actions target multiple policy areas including workforce development, education, financial services, economic development, human services and tax credits. NCSL’s work on family opportunity is made possible by the generous support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The objectives of this meeting were: 

  • Raise awareness about the economic circumstances and challenges facing America’s families.
  • Increase knowledge of strategies and policy options to boost family economic security.
  • Develop an action plan that can provide economic opportunities for families in your state.


View the agenda | View the participant list | Visit the Family Opportunity Project webpage


Time Sessions

5:30-7 p.m.

Registration and Reception
JW Marriott Cherry Creek, Denver 
7-8 a.m.


8-8:25 a.m.

Welcome, Introductions and Program Overview

Speaker: Mary Fairchild, NCSL, Colorado

8:25-8:45 a.m.

An Opportunity Agenda

This session will highlight the status of America’s children, ways to develop pathways for parents to become financially secure and strategies to support children’s healthy development and academic success.

Speaker: Lisa Hamilton, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Maryland


8:45-10 a.m.

Opportunity, Responsibility and Security

A number of factors contribute to families not only attaining but maintaining financial security in today’s world. Hear about how shared values of opportunity, responsibility and security guided the efforts of liberal and conservative experts to reach consensus on policies to further economic security for families. 

Moderator: Rochelle Finzel, NCSL, Colorado

Speakers: Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution, Washington D.C.

Harry Holzer, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.


10-10:15 a.m.
State Team Time: What to Expect
Get ready! Legislators who have attended previous meetings discuss the value of state action planning for working families in their states. Participants then break into state teams to discuss what economic opportunity for families looks like in their state and identify issues to work on during the meeting.
Speaker: Senator Sue Crawford, Nebraska 
10:15-11:30 a.m.

State Team Time

Get acquainted and begin to discuss the big issues facing families in your state and the state of economic security for these families. Assistance provided by NCSL staff.

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.


1-2 p.m.

State Workforce Innovations

States can play a crucial role in providing workforce development opportunities that lead to prosperous careers. Learn about an array of policies—including efforts to fill the skills gap, expand access to credentials and provide training specific to employers’ needs—that states are adopting to shape the workforce of tomorrow. 

Moderator: Senator Kathy Klausmeier, Maryland

Speaker: Brooke DeRenzis, National Skills Coalition, Washington D.C.


2-2:45 p.m.

A Conversation with Dr. Nancy McCallin

In the world of higher education, community colleges are becoming a sort of “renaissance man.”  They not only offer degrees and certificates that lead to good jobs, they work with employers to develop relevant coursework serving diverse and non-traditional students and provide services to help students succeed. This session will start a conversation about what the modern day community college system looks like—and propel us to think about where these institutions are headed.

Moderator: Julie Bell, NCSL, Colorado

Speaker: Dr. Nancy McCallin, Colorado Community College System, Colorado

2:45-3:15 p.m.

Books Before Babies

Why would the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy be interested in working with community colleges? It’s a good question that has gotten legislators in Arkansas and Mississippi thinking and creating legislation, too. This session will explore legislative efforts and the campaign’s work to reduce unplanned births and support parents, through an avenue that might not seem like an apparent fit: the community college system.

Moderator: Kate Blackman, NCSL, Colorado

Speaker: Katherine Suellentrop, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Washington, D.C.


3:30-5 p.m.

State Team Time

Discuss strategies, identify priority issues to focus on and develop an action plan.

tuesday, june 14
7:30-8:30 a.m. Breakfast

8:45-9 a.m.

Toolkit for Working Families

Demonstration of NCSL’s web-based tool on working families created specifically for participants at the Family Opportunity Forum.

Speaker: Jessica Hathaway, NCSL, Colorado

9-10 a.m.
A 21st Century Look at Economic Opportunity  
Economists refer to the Great Recession as the “balance sheet recession.”  What did we learn about the economic reality for families during the recession, what do our finances look like today and how can policy support families in the future? 
Moderator: Senator Joe Bolkcom, Iowa
Speaker: Bill Emmons, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Missouri
10-11 a.m.
State Policies to Support Financial Wellbeing
Financial wellbeing—the ability to pay your bills, weather unexpected financial emergencies, save money and know how to navigate financial systems—is a critical goal to support working families. But we also know this can be complicated to achieve. Hear about innovative and promising programs and practices that are shifting financial wellbeing efforts in today’s world.
Moderator: Representative Mary Jane Wallner, New Hampshire
Speakers: Mary Dupont, $tand By Me, Delaware
Jessica Hathaway, NCSL, Colorado 
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Legislating for Results
Policy that achieves its aims to solve today’s problems is the ultimate goal. How do we balance this with innovative and emerging policy solutions? Learn about how state legislatures identify effective policies and programs as part of the appropriations process and discuss how to balance innovation and evidence.
Moderator: Mary Fairchild, NCSL, Colorado 
Speakers: Charles Sallee, Legislative Finance Committee, New Mexico
12:15-1:15 p.m. Lunch  
1:15-2:30 p.m.
Final State Team Work
State teams finalize their action plan. A team member presents a two-minute report to the group.
2:30-3:15 p.m. State Team Reports
Learn from the other state teams as they report on their action plans. Reports are timed to make sure that all teams get to participate.
3:15-3:30 p.m. Closing Remarks
3:30 p.m. Meeting Adjourns