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Three Keys to Sustainable Change: The Path toward Social Justice and Supporting the Well-being of Diverse Families

By Karen Shirer, PhD


  • The path of change towards social justice and supporting the well-being of diverse families may, at times, be difficult for professionals who serve families.
  • Research shows that using a social justice lens when working with families is critical for their well-being.
  • Key principles from the Transtheoretical Model of Change can help professionals move through any resistance to change and make sustainable changes in working with families using a social justice lens.

Change creates friction and friction creates change. As we welcome the new, we must surrender the old…life requires that we make room for it [change].

- Julie Cameron, (p. 78).


This quote captures my thoughts and emotions as I participated in the first course in the 2022 OneOp Military Family Readiness Academy (2022 Academy) on Family Well-Being: Navigating the Social Justice Landscape. I felt internal friction or discomfort regarding what I was reading about the history of racism and colonialism in the United States. Yet, at the same, this friction led to a renewed determination to learn and put into practice the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to create social justice change.

We all sense this friction in different ways, depending on our background and experiences. For me, I felt guilt and anger that coalesced around a desire to act and rectify the racial injustices. I even sensed I wanted to avoid the whole thing entirely. You may feel these or other emotions as you work through the 2022A’s courses and panels.

This blog post is an invitation to Extension educators and faculty to participate in the 2022 OneOp 2022 Academy, Family Well-Being: Navigating the Social Justice Landscape. Your participation may be like mine, creating discomfort as well as a greater commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Why Is Change Needed for Diverse Military Families?

Why is social justice important for family professionals to support? Dr. Jenny Rea wrote in a recent blog post about its importance. She provides a snapshot of how racially and ethnically diverse veterans experience great difficulty finding employment and transitioning to civilian life (Rea, 2022).

Another blog post by OneOp Caregiving Team reports that professionals play a critical role in ensuring that families have access to healthcare and other services. Professionals can take steps in their work with families that may lead to reduced rates of disease, injury, disability, and death linked to social and health inequities (OneOp, 2022).

Three Keys for Change

Here are three keys for making sustainable changes that you can use to begin to build a more just and inclusive environment with all families using a social justice lens. These principles come from the Transtheoretical Model of Change (Stages of Change) (TTM):

  1. Change is a process that occurs over time; it is not a one-time event. My participation in the 2022 Academy was not my first opportunity to learn about social justice. Earlier in my career, I coordinated and conducted diversity training on working with Latino audiences and those in poverty. I learned long ago that diversity, equity, and inclusion are complex topics and that I will never be done learning and changing. The process is ongoing. You likely have also participated in other professional development of this nature. You may be resistant due to these previous experiences. That’s okay. Consider how important social justice is for the families that you work with and then run a small experiment by participating in the first course. No one thing or person can change your mind and heart. Instead, an accumulation of experiences can. See the 2022 Academy as one step in a journey.
  2. You may not be ready to change. We often lack the intention to take action or may not be aware of how much things need to change. We may underestimate how important the change is (eg., the negative impacts of systemic racism on diverse families) and overestimate the difficulties of changing the social justice landscape for families (eg., the problem is bigger than me).  A key TTM premise is that typically people are not ready or open to changing their behaviors and attitudes when we begin a program like the 2022 Academy. Approach your experiences like the 2022 Academy with curiosity and openness. Ask yourself “What is this about? How does this relate to my professional and personal life?”
  3. Participate in experiences that increase awareness of the need for change. TTM describes several experiential processes that help people recognize the problem at hand, consider making changes, and obtain information about possible solutions and actions. These processes set the stage for planning and taking action, which will be addressed in the other two 2022A courses.

The 2022 Academy is rich with opportunities to participate in these processes as I’ve noted above. The 2022 Academy’s first course provides an in-depth examination of the nuances of social justice, intersectionality, and well-being. It carefully builds the case for why change is needed for us personally and in our social systems. Course activities raise awareness of our history regarding social injustices so that we become motivated to learn more about it and to reflect on our own feelings and thoughts concerning it.

Hopefully, these concepts about the change process encourage your participation in the 2022 Academy and help you overcome any friction that you may experience. Diverse families are depending on those who serve them to use a social justice lease to help build their well-being and resilience.

Call to Action

  • Participate in the courses and panel discussions of the Family Well-Being: Navigating the Social Justice Landscape.
  • Share this blog post with colleagues and encourage them to participate in the 2022 Academy.
  • Identify steps that you can take to better ensure the well-being of military families using a social justice lens.


Cameron, J. (1999). Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life. New York, New York: Penguin Putnam Publishing. ISBN 0-87477-995-2

LaMorte, W. W. (2019, September 19). The Transtheoretical Model of Change (Stages of Change) [Website]. Boston University School of Public Health.

OneOp. (2022). Family Well-Being: Navigating the Social Justice Landscape. 2022 Military Family Readiness Academy.

OneOp Caregiving. (2022, May 17). Social Justice, Health Disparities, & Caregiving [Blog Post].

Rea, J. (2023, May 22). Supporting the Well-Being of Diverse Military Families Through a Social Justice Lens [Blog Post]. OneOp Family Transitions.


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