A Closer Examination of Family Group Decision Making in
raise a child when the biological parent is unavailable.137 Rather than
being an obligation, this duty is inherent in the community’s cultural
values and traditions.138 In these ethnic groups, where culture and
familial traditions play such a vital role in the care of each child,139
the extended family and community have an invested interest in
maintaining the care and custody of their children. Similarly, given
Ethiopia’s diverse ethnic groups, keeping each child within his or her
community allows ethnic minorities to pass their cultural heritage,
traditions, language, religious practices, and values to future
generations. By keeping their children with extended family
members, or at least within the community, the children maintain
some form of continuity and stability in their lives.140
Although permanency is a central aspect to the goals of the
child welfare system in the U.S., this important element is often
overlooked, with less emphasis on culture and more weight accorded
to available placement. Thus, incorporating a child welfare model
that focuses on a child’s culture and family values may assist in each
child’s positive development and sense of identity.
V. The Family Group Decision Making Model
In contrast to the Ethiopian, American Indian, and Alaska
Native extended family networks of care, emphasis on the larger
community is often overlooked in the U.S. child welfare system. In
an attempt to counter this de-emphasis on community identity, the
137 Horejsi et al., supra note 125, at 338.
138 See supra Part III (discussing the difference between a perception of imposed
obligation and an inherent sense of responsibility); see also Weaver & White,
supra note 125, at 77 (noting Native families “are seldom expected to make all
decisions about their children by themselves” and instead “can expect to get as
much help as they need with child care from community members”).
139 See Varnis, supra note 12, at 149 (noting the preference for extended family
placements that support traditional identities); Weaver & White, supra note 125, at
69 (describing the Native values deeply rooted in family ties).
140 In determining the best interests of the child, at least ten states factor in the
child’s continuity of care and caretakers. DETERMINING THE BEST INTERESTS OF
THE CHILD, supra note 8.