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Introduction to the Stone Family

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Family and community systems are interrelated. The community provides the geographic context for the family as well as the opportunities and environmental stressors that impact family life. Individuals and families, through their actions, may also influence the larger functioning of the community.

While working with the Brickville Youth Leadership Group, you are introduced to a family. The immediate expressed need is around housing: new redevelopment is threatening to price them out of their current living situation. As you talk with them, you uncover long-term unresolved issues of grief related to past events and the changes in the Brickville community. As you work with the family, you must also attend, then, to the changes in the community and to the family’s potential to affect the systems around them. As a community-based social worker, in many ways both the family and the community are your "client."

Demographics of the family of Virginia Stone (see Stone Family Ecomap and Genogram)

  • Virginia Stone has two living children (David and, Cherie). Her daughter Stella died in a house fire in Brickville 20 years ago. Ms. Stone is currently single and has been through three divorces. Virginia has two siblings and lives in her grandmother’s home.
  • Virginia's sister, Estella Brantley, is married with children, works as a nurse, and lives in a middle-income suburb in the nearby metropolitan area. Her three children (Philip, Stuart, and Bianca) died in the house fire 20 years ago that also killed Virginia’s daughter Stella. Estella and Virginia talk frequently.
  • Virginia's brother, Raymond Harris, left for the military as a young man and has not lived in the area since. He is now retired from the military and is considering relocating back to his hometown, but he has had little contact with his family over the past two decades.
  • Stella Long, Virginia’s grandmother, died three months ago. She owned the home in which Virginia is currently living.
  • Winifred Harris is Virginia's mother. She is a frail older adult suffering from multiple physical health conditions and limitations. She is currently being cared for by her daughter, Virginia, in the home her mother owned.
  • David Whitley is Virginia's adolescent son. He currently lives in the home with his mother and grandmother.
  • Cherie Whitley is the daughter of Virginia and the mother of Tiffany and Suzanna. She is in jail on drug-related charges. Her two children, Tiffany and Suzanna, live with Virginia.
  • Tiffany Jones is Cherie’s daughter and is currently under Virginia’s physical (but not legal) custodial care. Tiffany’s father maintains legal custody, but has agreed to allow Tiffany to remain with her sister, Suzanna, while being cared for by Virginia.
  • Suzanna Whitley is also Cherie’s daughter and is under Virginia’s physical and legal care. She does not share the same father as Tiffany. Her father’s whereabouts are unknown. With her mother incarcerated, Suzanna’s living situation is tenuous. Virginia has temporary custody of Suzanna.

Current Issues for the Family

  • Virginia Stone is the mother of David Whitley, an adolescent in the youth leadership program of Brickville Community Development Corporation, a community-based social service agency. Virginia fears she is going to be displaced as part of the redevelopment process. She is distraught, and verbalizes that she is afraid that she is going to lose her home. The home belonged to her grandmother, who died three months ago without a will, and the title of the house is legally unclear. Although the developer has promised relocation assistance under the redevelopment plan, Virginia may be ineligible because she is unable to prove, without a legal title, that she owns the house. Virginia lives with and cares for her mother, who has lived in the house her entire life. Her mother is ill, and Virginia is afraid that moving will literally kill her mother.
  • In addition to caring for her own son, Virginia has the entire burden of caring for her mother. She does not believe she can enlist the help of other family members to help care for her mother, given her distance from her brother and her sister’s own grief and strains. . Due to her daughter’s incarceration, she also has physical custody of both her grandchildren, but legal custody for only one of them. Virginia recently divorced her third husband. She feels that, her life is a mess and worries about what a disruption in their housing situation would mean for the family.
  • A fire that occurred in the community about 20 years ago impacted this family. On a winter night, a fire broke out in the middle of the night at a neighborhood residence. The house was full of children, attending a birthday party sleepover. Five individuals died in the fire, including four members of Virginia’s family: . Virginia’s daughter Stella, a niece and two nephews. One neighborhood resident (adult) died when he went into the house to try to rescue the children. Although the family believes that the fire was set (arson) by someone who was angry at their family, the case was never solved. For the past two decades, Virginia and her family have continued to question the lackluster rigor of the arson investigation and the lack of any legal justice in the case. The family also believes that the fire department was too slow in responding to the fire and that the children’s lives could have been saved by a more effective response.

    In the months following the tragedy, The family and neighborhood raised funds, and convinced the city to dedicate an existing neighborhood playground in memory of the children who died in the fire. In recent years, the playground has fallen into disrepair through lack of upkeep and now serves as a further reminder to Virginia and her family of what they have lost and how their concerns are so often overlooked.

    The family continues to struggle with the emotional pain of the fire, and the perceived racism by the justice and emergency response system. Shortly after the fire and loss of three of Estella’s children, Estella and Raymond moved away from the neighborhood and both find it difficult to return. Although she and her sister remain emotionally close, Estella’s help with her mother is provided from a distance (through money or help with accessing the health care system for the older family members). Raymond’s visits are infrequent and, in the past, he has helped in times of financial crisis. He is now retired from the military and is considering relocation back to his hometown. While he has mixed feelings about returning to an area that evokes pain, he is feeling drawn to helping his family. Even as the strain of caregiving weighs on Virginia, both of her siblings have voiced strong concerns about Winifred being cared for outside the family.

There are ethical considerations that influence disaster response and recovery efforts and that may go unrecognized within the complex situations created by disasters.

Answer the Questions above here:

  • Summarize the main issues the family needs to resolve.

  • List three short-term goals in resolving issues of family grief.

  • In what ways does the community context support and stress the Stone family?

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Sociogram

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Critical Thinking Questions

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