What's Blood Got to Do with It?
Family is no longer your typical mom, dad, and two children who all share the same blood, living in one house together, as the traditional family. The time has come to accept blended families because they are quickly becoming more common than any other type. They are the family of the future, and traditional families are now the minority. To illustrate, research shows that by the year 2010 the "blended family" will be the most common form of family unit in our nation. More than one hundred and thirty million people either will be in or have been in a blended family of some form. Traditional families are now the minority because so many families fall under the blended family label. For example, some families referred to as blended families are gay parenting, cohabitating couples, single parent, adoption, fostering, and second marriages due to a death or divorce. One would think that the shift in these statistics would force our thinking to be more understanding and accepting towards the change in family, but that is not the case. Both the United States government and society need to recognize and accept that blood does not make a family more functional, safe, or stronger.
Many people argue that because blended families are not tied together by blood, these families are in some way dysfunctional. However, all families struggle with similar if not the same challenges as traditional families. The most popular challenges are finances, discipline, and splitting time equally between each family member. Blended families are no exception to financial difficulties because they have been affected by the economic situation just like everyone else in addition to staying current with their child support payments and/or depending on child support from an ex spouse who is also facing financial difficulties. Discipline is another area that every family struggles with when children are involved. This is made apparent when one parent has more strict expectations than the other does. The greatest challenge that all families face in today's hectic environment is splitting your time equally between each family member. For instance, Jon and Kate Gosselin were a perfect example of a traditional family whose children are tied to them through DNA, and even they struggled with spending equitable time with each child. Obviously, they struggled with finding this balance along with other issues as they are now going through a divorce. Of course, when one of them remarries they will be adding to the increasing statistics of blended families. To illustrate further the challenge of splitting time equally between each child is Nadya Suleman, otherwise known as Octomom, she represents the single parent family and is torn with not having enough time in a day to split equally between her fourteen children. Even though the last two examples are on the extreme side, the point remains the same: families of all kind are bound to have financial problems, jealousy, disagreements, and resentments. Yet families work through them, not because they are dysfunctional but because they are family.
The government is supposed to protect all children and have their best interest in mind, but it insists on continuing to define family by their DNA. The laws that were written and enforced to protect families in the past are now out of date and ignore the reality of the modern family. Because of its bias, our government is taking opportunities away from children that are not in a traditional family, affecting these children's financial stability, and even worse returning some children home to die. The government is taking opportunities, such as college scholarships, away from children because they are not in a traditional family. What sense can be made out of a child being denied the opportunity to apply for a college scholarship offered by her stepfather's social organization when he has been the only father figure she has ever known? "'I married her mother when she was in diapers. How does a father tell his child of seventeen years that the VSCA (Virginia State Claims Association) does not consider him her father?' an irate dad shouted during our telephone conversation. 'It's terrible to divide a family like this! I am still somewhat shell-shocked.'" (01) The government continuing to ignore the change in today's family dynamics is also affecting children's future financial stability. A case in point is the Berge case from the Minnesota Supreme Court. Mr. Berge raised his stepdaughters from the ages of seven and eight then continued to do so even after the death of their mother. He referred to them as his own provided them with both financial and educational support. When he died without a will, the Minnesota Supreme Court prohibited the girls from inheriting anything. (02) The United States government cannot protect the children as long as it continues to only recognize biological parents as family. This is seen when child protective services are ordered by the courts to return a child back to their biological parents knowing that an abusive history exists.
In other words, the government often returns an abused child home to die. An unfortunate example of this is the murder of two-year-old Ariana Swinson by her biological parents in January 2000. She was removed from her foster family of eighteen months and returned to her biological parents, only to be beaten and drowned by them eight months later. To illustrate further is the most recent murder of three-year-old Prhaze Rosemary Galvan on January 15, 2010 by her biological father. The girl had continually been moved back and forth between her biological father and mother by children protective services nearly two-thirds of her life. The last time she was taken from her father was because of the death of her three-month-old brother. The death was "investigated" and the courts ordered her to be returned to her father after he completed a parenting class. The only way for the United States government to protect our children emotionally, financially, and physically will be for them to recognize that family is made up of much more than blood. Biological family is not always in the best interest of a child.
Parents of traditional families should teach their children about all the different variations that can make up a family. Doing this will have a huge impact on the acceptance of blended families in the future, as the children of today will be our leaders of tomorrow. Any adult with the responsibility of raising or influencing a child should teach him or her that there is so much more that makes a family than sharing a genealogy tree. These include communication, commitment, and love. Good communication is not something that just happens between members of strong families; they make it happen. For instance, good family communication involves being both an active listener and a thoughtful speaker. In this way, children can see how to communicate well and how to have more control of their lives. Another quality that defines families of all dynamics is commitment. A strong sense of commitment is the foundation for a strong, fully functional family. Children feel more safe and secure when they see a commitment between their parents. Lastly, love is what families with and without blood ties should be built on. Love is much more important than blood or the same last name. As illustrated in a song by Garth Brooks "[o]ur family never shared the same last name but our family was a family the same, blood is thicker than water but love is thicker than blood" (3). Granted one must have realistic expectations when being a part of a blended family. For example, love does not happen over night nor does love conquer all. Nevertheless, with commitment, communication, values, appreciation, patience, and time love will prevail.
Blended families are quickly becoming more common than any other type; they are the family of the future, and traditional families are now the minority. However, many people argue that because blended families are not tied together by blood that in some way these families are dysfunctional. The government is supposed to protect all children and have their best interest in mind but they insist on continuing to define family with DNA. Parents of traditional families should teach their children about family diversity in today's society and start advocating on the family values and strong bonds that make a family. It is imperative that both the United States government and society recognize and accept that blood does not make a family more functional, safe, or stronger.
- Stepfather in Powhatan, VA (1997), regarding a VSCA (Virginia State Claims Association) scholarship which states under the Rules and Eligibility Requirements, Item 2, "The individual scholarships will be awarded to a son or daughter of an active or life member of the Virginia State Claims Association." Scholarship Fund chair advised that the application package could not be accepted because "only blood and adopted children can be included." (Notes in author's possession.)
- In re Berge's Estate, 47 n.W.2d 428 (Minn. 1951).
- Thicker than blood by Garth Brooks