Which family would you choose?

In Thursday’s post, I outlined a girl, "Jane," who was waiting for adoption and gave 4 family scenarios. Typically, I would receive a variety of home studies for all these types of families. Interestingly, most people think the Anderson family would have been their choice and some even commented that this decision was "too easy."

I was surprised that the following questions were not asked:

  • What race is the foster family?
  • How long has she lived in the foster family’s home (thus, in the school and community)?
  • What about the mentor, Tammy?
  • What is Jane’s feelings about the church she attends? Is it that she attends because of the foster family or for her own reasons? In other words, is it the choir or the doctrine Jane is committed to?
  • Has Jane expressed interest in her Native American tribal heritage?
  • What are Jane’s feelings about having adoptive siblings?
  • Are any of these families willing to continue having continued relationships with Jane’s siblings? In the previous post, I did not indicate that any of the families were open to continued contact; I only mentioned the Anderson family lived close by and that does not necessarily mean they will continue contact.

Some good questions were posed. Including:

  • What is Jane’s preference? Great question. Even though at 10, Jane can not legally say no to being placed in an adoptive home, obviously you would want to get her input since her acceptance will be a big part of how well Jane adjusts to her adoptive family.
  • The suggestion that the Connor family might be amenable to keeping Jane in her current school is a good call
  • Is age a factor? (and yes, it might be!!)

So let me add a few more things about each family and see if you still feel the same way.

The Anderson Family

Nobody mentioned what "the city" meant. It means, inner-city. Clues that the neighborhood is 50% African American and that they live in "the city" should have been a hint that they live in an area that many social workers will have an inherent bias against. Also this means the school district is likely a neighborhood school. So, some of the reasons workers might pick the Anderson family: two-parent
home, diversity, close proximity to Jane’s siblings. Reasons workers
would not pick the Anderson family: their ages, their neighborhood,
their school.

The Brown Family

One of the comments mentioned that home schooling could be good or bad for Jane’s learning needs, and it is true. Sometimes kids who don’t fit in to a traditionally structured school do much better with home schooling. This may not be an issue for Jane as I cited that she did well with supports despite her dyslexia. Some of the reasons workers might pick the Brown family: two parent
home, at-home parent (often very valued by social workers), home school (some feel home school parents
actually do better because they customize curriculum for all different
needs). Reasons workers might not pick Brown family: location, lack of
diversity in area, home schooling (some feel the home school education
might not be specific enough for learning disabilities). What if the Brown family lived a few communities away from a tribal reservation? Or, if they were willing to drive to the city once a month for visits and/or have Jane’s siblings visit her for weekends/vacations/holidays?

The Connor Family

I didn’t mention who the Connor family was friends with, I only said the community they lived in was about 10% diverse, and didn’t specify what kind of diversity that was. Given that the daughter in the family has the same ethnic make-up as Jane would want to make me ask if Ms. Connor has ties to the African American community. The Connor family is also the only family that lives in the community where Jane lives. If they would be willing to allow Jane to continue with her same school, that would be two areas that Jane would not have to make new changes. Also, it is easily possible that the Connor family could participate in Jane’s current church if desired; also could continue mentorship with Tammy. The Connor family is a single parent family, however there is a large extended family. Some reasons workers might pick Connor family: same community, daughter
has same ethnic make-up as Jane, has diverse network of family and
friends, close enough to continue sibling visits, and continued
mentorship with Tammy. Reasons workers might not pick Connor family:
single parent, does not attend church, wants to switch schools, is
Native American-focused.

The Davis Family

The Davis family lives in a suburb, but I did not specify how diverse it was. They have the same religious affiliation so maybe they would be willing to change the church they attend for Jane’s continued relationships she’s made there and for them to develop relationships to the African American community. They could also reasonably continue the mentorship with Tammy. Reasons workers might pick Davis family: two-parent home,
professional status of parents, attend same church denomination,
private lessons,possibility for continued visits with siblings, might be willing to keep mentor.
Reasons that workers might not pick Davis family: heavy work schedule,
lack of experience in parenting, no current connections to African American or
Native American communities.

So the "catch" of this exercise is merely this question – considering MEPA and IEPA prohibit the consideration of race and culture in public adoption, how do you justify which of these parents would be the best choice for Jane? With some modifications, are there multiple families that would work? What about a worker’s unacknowledged bias?

What I’ve found in my experiences is that workers tend to bias towards the two-parent families, even though with some simple modifications the Connor family would be only family that would keep Jane in her community. In addition, having a sibling with very similar racial and ethnic make-up was not cited in any of the previous comments. And although the Connor family wanted to place Jane in a school without much diversity, their family and friendship network was very diverse.

Spirituality issues were a factor in many of the previous post’s comments, but in my experience, the child’s preference or experiences with a specific church are rarely given much weight. Church affiliation is a really important part of many families lies and there have been very few families I’ve interviewed who are open to changing churches. Most express not just the desire but the "right" to raise an adopted child in their faith. Yet they don’t necessarily consider it important for the child.

There is no right or wrong here; with some modifications all of these families probably would work. So the problem of the social worker is, who to pick — and how to justify not choosing the other families.

My assessment:

Anderson Family can meet Jane’s

  • educational needs
  • cultural needs (remember, you can’t consider racial needs) and possibly religious needs
  • close proximity to siblings
  • relationship to siblings and mentor possible
  • interests and talents

Brown family can meet Jane’s

  • educational needs
  • interests and talents

Connor family can meet Jane’s

  • educational needs
  • cultural needs (Native American) and possibly African American
  • relationship to community
  • continued relationship to current caretakers (lives in same town) possible
  • continued relationship with siblings
  • continued relationship with mentor are possible

Davis family can meet Jane’s:

  • educational needs
  • spiritual needs
  • interests and talents
  • relationship to siblings and mentor possible

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

6 thoughts

  1. Fascinating!
    By the way, how region-dependent is this scenario? The clue that the Anderson’s location was 50% African-American immediately suggested to me that they DIDN’T live in an inner-city environment.

  2. This whole exercise is fascinating. It makes me glad I don’t have your job. One thing that isn’t mentioned is whether there are any attachment concerns. Personally, I think older children with moderately severe attachment disorders do better with single parents–less adults to triangulate. I also think it is important for the parents of attachment-disordered children to have outside jobs that they like–it allows them space apart from the child and a place where they can feel reasonably competent.

  3. Great question atlasien. Yes, it is region-dependent. I was basing it on Minnesota. In an area that had a bigger African American population, you make an astute observation that 50% African American might not be inner city. But also, I didn’t specify what the rest of the city population was in terms of race and ethnicity, so it wouldn’t necessarily follow that 50% was White.

  4. I’m really sad to hear that kids may end up in families that aren’t willing to keep up ties to siblings. How common is that? It seems like a basic need for any kids – contact (if safe, and the child wants it) with aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins).

  5. How does the social worker prioritize the list of “needs met” for each family? Are their specific issues that take precedents over others? Is there a point/value system given or is this entirely subjective?
    I would have chosen Anderson family in beginning, but now it looks like the Connor family is the choice for Jane?

  6. I chose the Anderson’s with Connor a close second and now I’m wavering with them neck in neck. Not sure what the possiblities are, but can Jane learn a little about each and offer her own opinion?

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