A Closer Examination of Family Group Decision Making in
assume it is the most practical, common, and healthy family form.119
From this viewpoint, extended kinship family care may seem chaotic
because it does not imitate the idealized family structure.120 In
reality, however, the extended family structure provides children with
attachment and stability, which offers a greater degree of flexibility
and adaptability.121 In this way, the extended family serves as a
strong foundation amid any chaos or disruption in the immediate
family.122 In the U.S., preference for kinship care emerged not as a
cultural norm, but as a way to relieve congestion in an overcrowded
child welfare system.123 The complex issues surrounding kinship care
imply an obligation on kin to take in extended family members’
children when their parents are unable to provide for them. Such an
obligation denotes an imposed duty, whether morally or legally
bound, to care for an orphaned child.
This notion functions in stark contrast to the voluntary sense
of communal responsibility manifest in the family and clan systems
of Ethiopia. Similar to the situation in Ethiopia, one ethnic group in
the United States that has continued to rely on their traditional tribal
family structures in the care of orphaned children is the American
Indian and Alaska Native population. As a result, community
cohesion serves an important role in tribal identity and ethnicity.
IV. American Indian and Alaska Native Experiences in the U.S.
Child Welfare System
Akin to Ethiopian culture,124 tribal community-based care is a
central aspect of American Indian and Alaska Native culture.125
119 Brown et al., supra note 20, at 57.
123 See McGowan, supra note 84, at 13 (describing the “large number of children”
living in poorhouses, leading to the rise of the institutionalization of orphans).
124 The term “Ethiopian culture” will be used as a blanket term to describe
generally the cultural traditions found among the many tribes in Ethiopia, rather
than to represent a singular culture in Ethiopia.