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Navigating Relationships in the Modern Family

Communication, Identity, and Difference


Edited By Jordan Soliz and Colleen Warner Colaner

Despite growing recognition of the diversity of family forms and structures, discourses among family scholars and practitioners as well as in popular culture continue to operate from the assumption that families are fairly homogeneous in terms of the values and beliefs, social positions, and identities of individual family members. Navigating Relationships in the Modern Family provides a unique and important perspective on how communication within and about families related to issues of identity and difference can ameliorate negative processes and, at times, potentially amplify positive outcomes such as well-being and relational solidarity. Chapters in this edited volume focus on divergent social identities in the family (e.g., interfaith families, multiethnic-racial families, acculturation and immigration) as well as differences emerging from family formative processes (e.g., stepfamilies, in-law relationships, foster care). In addition to synthesizing the current state of the scholarship in these particular family contexts, each chapter discusses the interplay between families and the larger social and cultural context. For instance, how does grandparent-grandchild communication influence attitudes toward older adults and aging? Can we improve interfaith dialogue in larger societal interactions by understanding communication in interfaith families? How do ideologies of social class and social discourses about adoption and foster care influence family functioning? Chapters conclude with a discussion on implications for scholars and family practitioners. The edited volume would make an ideal primary or secondary required text for upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses on families as well as specialized family courses on understudied family relationships and forms. The volume also serves as an important resource for family scholars and practitioners.

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11. Communicating Family: Identity and Difference in the Context of Foster Care (Leslie R. Nelson and Lindsey J. Thomas)


11. Communicating Family: Identity and Difference in the Context of Foster Care

Leslie R. Nelson and Lindsey J. Thomas

Family, for many, is a taken-for-granted concept, with biological or legal connections carrying assumptions of care and love. However, family, and the social capital that familial relationships often provide, is not guaranteed. The present chapter illuminates communication and formative processes of one such complicated family form: the foster family. This chapter provides an overview of foster care and foster family dynamics, reviews extant foster-focused and communication-related literature, offers insights into the ways that communication in and about foster families might influence broader society and culture, and provides future considerations in regard to foster care-related communication research and practice.

In 2017, an estimated 2.7 million children resided in residential care, and more than 440,000 youth lived in the US foster care system alone (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, henceforth AFCARS, 2018; Petrowski, Cappa, & Gross, 2017). The structure and policy of foster care systems vary by state and country. In the US, the federal government publishes resources (e.g., policy guidelines, demographics, studies and suggestions) aimed toward increasing (former) fostered youths’ well-being. These resources are generally followed across state departments of Child Welfare Services (CWS), which are charged with monitoring the well-being of children and, if needed, placing them with caregivers outside the family of origin. Placements include residence in institutions/group home facilities; with relatives of the family of origin (i.e., kinship care); or...

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