Wednesday, September 3, 2003




The changing face of the American family



A story published today by the El Paso Times reports that according to U.S. Census Bureau and other data, about one-third of children younger than 18 live in single-parent households.

"It's fun and lonely at times. You have no one to help you out," said Erica De La O, a West El Paso single parent with five children ranging from 3 to 11 years old.

De La O, 29, is typical of the trend: more and more single-parent households; same-sex couples raising kids; and kinship care, in which grandparents step in and assume parental roles, said Bonnie Hatchett, head of the Social Work Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

"There are different family forms, not just one model family," Hatchett said. "Fewer women are marrying and re-marrying and are not as dependent on a man for financial benefits."

Tracie Gaines, 37, a Northeast El Paso divorcee, sees her role as mother and also the "father, friend, taxi driver and counselor" for her stepson, Randell Frazier, 16, and her daughter, Makeeda Gaines, 8.

"I try to be a strong person so that when they grow up, they will be strong," Gaines said.

The increasing diversity in families is also being fueled by court rulings across America that are making possible international adoptions and adoptions by same-sex couples. It is legal in certain states for unmarried couples to adopt children.

Same-sex partners in various states are fighting for causes including adoption rights and benefits. In Texas, legislators struck down a proposal in April that would have prohibited placing children in homes with same-sex foster parents.

In Hartford, Mich., Kurt Amundson and his partner, Bob Shafer, are foster parents to two boys, 9 and 18 years old.

"For 10 years, I was a mentor for a kids program like Big Brother," Amundson said. "It was helpful, but I wanted to carry (the relationship) beyond that."

Shafer said that parenting "has its challenging times, but it is rewarding to see them improve and grow."





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