Introduction to Family Systems Theory
The following Family Theory Paper includes an introduction to Family Systems Theory, with definitions of key concepts that are relevant to the Family Systems Theory. The second part is a Family Assessment of the Bendel family. A Family Assessment is the gathering of data about the emotional, behavioral, mental, and environmental make-up of a person, or group.
The Bendel family consists of Francis and Isabel and their two children, Gabriela (10), and Alexander (3). The Bendel’s have arrived at Children Home Society seeking a home study so they can move forward with the adoption of another child. Children Home Society (CHS) serve people of all faiths; they provide a wide range of services from housing, emergency services to adoption.
Francis (Husband) Bendel, age 40, Caucasian, and Isabel Bendel, age 38, Argentine; have been married for 11 years. Gabriela age 10, is their biologic daughter and Alexander age 3, African-American, is their adopted son. Alexander has been living in the Bendel household since he was 4-days-old and legally adopted by Francis and Isabel when he was 4-months-old.
Francis and Isabel went to Children Home Society to get a home study done of their family, as they feel they have love in their hearts for another infant. The Bendel family is excited to have potential of adopting a child. However Children Home society only has sibling groups, older, and special need children. Francis and Isabel decided to still get their home study with Children Home Society, but they would go to another agency to adopt an infant, as they felt that would be the best fit in their family.
Francis has brought to Isabel’s attention that he thinks they should consider an older or special needs child; he does not want to adopt a sibling group, as he does not feel the family could take on the financial responsibility of more than one child. Isabel is hesitant on the idea of adopting an older child, or a special needs child for a few reasons, and they are as follows:
- Adopting an older child could change the current sibling order of Gabriela being the oldest and Alexander being the youngest; Isabel is not sure how Gabriela and Alexander would react if that sequence were changed (Gray, 2012). For example, if Gabriela were to be put in the position of the middle child, after being the eldest for the past three years, or if a child were to go in between Gabriela and Alexander, how would that affect their relationship.
- Isabel is concerned because she and Francis do not have experience with children with special needs and does not know exactly what it would entail to adopt a child with special needs (Gray, 2012).
- Isabel is concerned that an older child would bring a lot of issues and this would harm the current equilibrium in the Bendel household (Gray, 2012). In addition, Isabel thinks the child could potentially be a negative influence on Gabriela and Alexander.
Francis, on the other hand, is much more interested in adopting an older or special needs child. He understands Isabel’s concerns, but feels that with adequate education the transition of an older or special needs child could be the right child to adopt. Francis knows, from their experience when adopting Alexander, just three years prior, how difficult it was to find a newborn available, while now he sees how many children desperately need homes; he feels that this may be their “calling” in life.
As Gabriela is old enough, she has caught on to the hushed conversations her parents have been having; she has made her parents aware that she doesn’t care how old the child is, but prefers a sister to another brother. Alexander, only being 3-years-old is too young to weigh any opinion on the matter at hand.
The current boundaries in the Bendel household fall under the realm of Gabriela being the oldest child and Alexander, the youngest. The children have certain boundaries as to how they interact with one another and their parents and that is dependent upon their age, sex and independent needs.
The Bendel family is one unit with two main subsystems, the parental subsystem and the sibling subsystem (Hazell, 2006).
Recently, a triangular relationship has formed, the parents debating one another, and Gabriela going back and forth between them, weighing in her opinions and thoughts on the idea of adopting another child, possibly that is older and with special needs.
The family roles are that Frank is the father and the breadwinner, while Isabel is a stay-at-home-mom. Gabriela is their oldest child and Alexander, their youngest.
The current decision as to adopt an older, or special needs child, or not has brought some environmental stresses to Frank and Isabel, and when they feel stresses, it does affect, to some degree, Gabriela and Alexander.
The diversity in the Bendel family is that they are a family with an adopted, African-American child. Also, Isabel is from Argentina and immigrated to the United States 10 years prior.
The Bendel’s function is extremely cohesive and they work well together. The difference of opinions between Frank and Isabel on the current issue of adoption is the first time they do not agree on a topic of such importance.
Development Stage and Internal of Family
Francis and Isabel met when Frank was stationed in the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires when he was in the U.S. Marine Corps. Isabel worked in the embassy as a switchboard operator. Francis and Isabel married exactly one year after meeting, on March 04, 1977. Francis completed his tour in Buenos Aires and then got out of the marines to live in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to find work so, they moved back to the United States in 1978. Isabel had never lived anywhere except Buenos Aires. All her family was there and she had never been to the Unites States prior to that. At the time of the Bendel family decide to move to the United States, Isabel was pregnant and because of that it was a tremendous change for her. Moreover, it was more of challenging, which give birth to Gabriela who was born in May of 1978.
The acculturation process for Isabel was intensified by the fact that she was moving into her parents-in-laws home that she would share with her brother and sister-in-law. In the beginning, even the climate was a drastic change for Isabel, as she had never seen snow before and the winter of 1978 in Connecticut was brutal with numerous blizzards. In addition, Isabell brother-in-law and sister-in-law were the rebellious teenagers making things much more difficult for her. Isabel’s father was born in Spain and very strict, of the “old country” so, it took Isabel some time to adjust to the attitudes of North American teenagers towards their parents. Francis dealt with emotions of guilt, as he felt he was the reason that Isabel was away from her family, country, and all that was familiar to her. Eventually, after Francis and Isabel moved into their own home, Isabel felt very comfortable in the U.S., even getting her citizenship in 1982.
The Bendel family has numerous strengths. Financially, they do well as Francis has steady work and income working for the U.S. Government. They are healthy and there is homeostasis in the household.
The main medical concern that the Bendel family has is that at the age of 12-months, Alexander began having seizures. After a lot of medical testing, he was diagnosed with petit mal epilepsy. Alexander experienced seizures for 13 months. He has not had a seizure in 14 months. However, Francis and Isabel still worry greatly that the seizures will return.
Another stressor is that the Bendel family does not live near any relatives. All of Francis’s Emily is in Connecticut and Isabel’s in Argentina.
The Bendel family is Catholic; Francis and Isabel receive their spiritual strength from attending Mass every Sunday and participating in activities at St. John’s Catholic Church in Rio Rancho. Francis and Isabel hope by the family attending Mass and Catholic activities that Gabriela and Alexander are also enriched.
Francis and Isabel believe their purpose in life is to be loving parents and to raise their children to be good citizens.
Francis is extremely intelligent, though very humble and spends his free time reading and listening to classical music. Francis loves taking the family to museums, plays and cultural events.
Isabel is extremely creative and artistic. She enjoys nothing more than doing art projects with her children. Also, Isabel is a wonderful storyteller. She has even taken storytelling classes at the University of New Mexico.
Gabriela and Alexander are both happy, intelligent, well behaved, children that love their parents and each other very much.
The Bendel family could fit into a few diversity groups (Searight, 2014). One diversity group is that Isabel is Hispanic. Another is that Alexander is African-American while another is that they are an interracial family, and another is that they are a family with an adopted child. The families diversity background make them a good, potential, family to adopt an older child, or a special needs child because belonging to these groups shows that they can accommodate to many different situations and scenarios.
Overall, this family is very connected and in a good place. Francis and Isabel are just in need of structured direction. Frank is willing to adopt an older or special needs child, while Isabel is more hesitant and wants more education on the process. The children, Gabriela and Alexander are excited to have a new sibling. Gabriela’s easy adjustment when Alexander entered the household three years previously is a good indicator that she is very adaptive to more siblings. However, it will be different now that she is older, and even more so if the child is not an infant.
Goal of family
The primary goal for the Bendel family is for Francis and Isabel to come to an agreement upon the decision of adopting an older, or special needs child, or to adopt an infant. The objectives to obtain that specific goal would be the following:
- Francis and Isabel to attend child welfare classes given by the state of New Mexico with an emphasis on special needs children.
- Francis and Isabel to attend individual and marital counseling for a three-month period.
- Francis, Isabel, Gabriela and Alexander to attend family counseling for a three-month period.
The evaluation plan with the Bendel’s would occur in an interview format by interviewing the family in three parts, Francis and Isabel as a couple, individually, and the entire family. The Bendel family has been extremely open about the decision they have to make and Isabel with her specific concerns. The social worker feels the best way to measure their progress would be by the answers they give to the interview questions. In the interview process, the social worker would administer various surveys’ to assist in the evaluation process.
Strengths/ Problems List
Subsystem Strength Problem
Marital Parental Subsystem -Bendel’s family has raised their children in the right manner. None of them has dropped out of school.
-There is freedom of expression to each and every member within the family.
-The members hold regular discussions of key issues affecting their union. -The fact that Alexander are not the biological children to the Bendel family adding another might acts a major threat in destabilizing the family Specially to Alexander and Gabriela
Parent- Child Subsystem -The Bendel Parent values their children on equal platform basis
-Both children are considered important and that could be the reason they are supportive both of them.
Sibling Subsystem -Francis love Gabriela and Alexander helps to unify the children. -Gabriela and alexander get alone to each other.
-Individual System -Both Francis and Isabel are doing well in their Career and are providing their children with their basic needs. -Alexander and Gabriela is not social at all and prefers staying alone most of the time
Relevance to Social Work Practice
The experience dealing with the Bendel family has immensely broadened the social worker’s perspective on adoption. The personal experience is invaluable and cannot be taught in a classroom. However, the social worker may be unconsciously biased to families in similar scenarios. A hindering factor that may occur as a result of the experience with the Bendel’s is that the social worker, at times, felt that the biological child, Gabriela, was ignored and most of the attention was given to the adopted children. So, she may overdo her obligations to another biological child in a similar situation. The social worker could attend therapy sessions to work out her personal issues of feeling that the attention was heavily one-sided in favor of the adopted children.
The social worker believes that the most useful part of the paper is the ‘Relevance to Social Work Practice’ section because it is not stated anywhere else that one of the family members may be feeling slighted in the adoption process. The reason it is not recorded anywhere else is because the client, Gabriela, is not old enough to verbalize her feelings, and her family is unaware of them. It is through the social worker’s investigation that she uncovered this problem area, which would be important to address.
A challenge for the social worker is that in the late 1980’s, it is not commonplace for Caucasian parents to adopt children of different races. Therefore, there may be people that would try to stop the adoption process for that reason alone. The most creative and effective way for a social worker to deal with this challenge is through educating (through statistics) the opposer on how beneficial a loving family would be for a child, regardless, of their race or ethnicity.