I. THE FAMILY UNIT
The family unit is a natural society, in existence long before the State or any other body, which has certain inalienable rights. For this reason, the family is the basic unit of society and the bedrock of social development.
The foundation of the family unit is marriage, the union of a man and a woman, a formal and stable link, freely entered into, publicly celebrated, and providing the environment for the creation of new life.
The family unit, as the synthesis of the deepest human impulses (social, affective, etc.), is not the creation of one particular human era, but rather is the patrimony of every era and civilisation.
The family is much more than a legal, social or economic entity, since to talk of the family is to talk of life, the passing on of values, education, support, stability, the future, and, ultimately, love. In effect:
FAMILY MEANS LIFE
The family unit is the natural environment in which human life is created, cared for and valued. Within this environment the irreplaceable nature of each person is abundantly clear, since each member has a name, not a number.
FAMILY MEANS THE PASSING ON OF VALUES
It is within the family that each individual learns how to put their existence in context, at the same time learning moral standards and acting upon them, for the family unit is the best place for the individual to develop. Within the family sphere we learn standards, values and respect for others, essential for the development and well-being of the individuals within the family and for forming society as a whole: freedom, respect, consideration of others, generosity, and support.
FAMILY MEANS EDUCATION
The family is where education begins. Within the family, we learn the culture and ways of our people. Without families, our education system has no foundations.
The family unit is vital for children. It is their first point of reference and therefore their first educational environment. Children need references to live by, it is within the family that their personality is formed: by the example of their parents. It is a stable point of reference built on the exchange of love.
FAMILY MEANS SOLIDARITY BETWEEN GENERATIONS
The family is made up of different generations, and is the place where its members help each other to grow in terms of giving support and commitment, and where we learn to balance individual rights against the other demands of social living. It is within the family circle that we experience most intensely the selfless support given freely to those from whom we least expect reward, given their situation: the elderly and the children. Such complete support for the weakest is, furthermore, an element of civilisation and cohesion that is essential for being part of society.
FAMILY MEANS STABILITY
Today, the family has become the nucleus providing stability for members who are dealing with unemployment, illness, being marginalised, or addiction. The family cushions against the dramatic effects caused by these problems. Today, the family constitutes the main nucleus of support within society.
FAMILY MEANS FUTURE
The family is what guarantees the future, it is a community which is stable but at the same time dynamic, which adopts and transmits the values of a given society. Within the family circle each individual begins their integration into the wider national community, thus ensuring the survival of the nation to which that individual belongs. The family is where history is learned, through talking with parents and grandparents, the cross-generational communication that is so vitally important.
To sum up, then, the family unit is the primary human society, the community unit which goes beyond all other social institutions. It is irreplaceable, because it is the seedbed for values and is life’s safe haven.
FAMILY MEANS, OVERALL, LOVE
Because the family represents, above all, a community built on love and support, irreplaceable for the teaching and passing on of the values (cultural, ethical, social, spiritual) which are essential for the development and well-being of family members and for society as a whole.
II. FAMILY-ORIENTED POLICY MAKING
Today, more than ever, the family unit needs to be focused on. Focusing on the family means combating the individualism and chronic loneliness that human beings face today. Focusing on the family means creating the best possible space for meeting and communication. Focusing on the family means, in short, believing that life is about love and happiness above all.
Firm commitment to the family needs to come from every level (individual, associations, government, political, etc). So the family policies developed by different governments need to be reoriented to take into account the family as a social group, in order that these policies may fulfil their stated aims.
Family policy aimed only at sectors or individual members of a family will always turn out to be lacking.
The most effective help for the family is assistance for the family as an institution. This requires family policy which focuses on the family as social entity, not as individual members.
Family policy that deliberately focuses on what concerns the family group in terms of educational, affective, economic and social environment means that such legislation is not solely focused on the individual, but rather on the individual as part of a family group, and therefore becomes ‘family-oriented legislation’.
The family unit cannot be designated as the ultimate body responsible for and with specific duties to its offspring, the infirm, youth, the elderly or the disabled if it is not then given the dignity, rights and public recognition that such a position brings with it. Family policy must confer the status of family as favoured institution.Family-oriented policy making must, therefore:
- Be universal in nature (be directed at every family with no exclusions or restrictions, since the State recognises and promotes the family as a common good and, therefore, supports all families) and not exclusively welfare-based (aimed at disadvantaged families and designed to combat inequality).
- Promote the family as institution.
- Promote the actual concept of family, creating a culture and environment which favours it.
- Help the family to manage its day-to-day existence.
- Help parents to have the children they want.
- Include, in a genuinely human and constructive fashion, the different areas of professional, family and personal development
- Provide help in family crises.
- Recognise the right of parents to educate their children.
- Promote the active participation of parents and associations.
- And, through specific measures, take account of families with particular needs.