The Evolution of African American Family Structure
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Research for this project consisted of interviewing four grandmothers and one grandfather who are primary caregivers of their grandchildren. I also interviewed one adult male who was raised predominately by his grandparents. I interviewed each informant twice, except Carol. The length of those interviews ranged from 45 minutes to one hour and 45 minutes, for an average of one hour and 16 minutes per interview. I met Carol during a support group meeting for grandparents who raise their grandchildren. I consider that group meeting our first interview. I took notes during the session which lasted about 2 hours. I then asked Carol if she would participate in the study. Although she agreed enthusiastically, I believed she had given me enough background information in the group session to warrant only one more interview. The second interview lasted about one hour and 40 minutes. Rapport was excellent. All informants shared very personal and potentially shameful information. I can attribute some of this wonderful rapport to the personal closeness I had previous to the interviews with three of my informants. I worked with two informants, Lance and Dee, for several months before our professional association began. I also had a relationship with my informant Carol. We both participated in a small support group for grandparents who are primary guardians of their grandchildren. The emotionally intense group meeting quickly produced feelings of trust among the participants. The intimacy which existed between Lance, Dee, Carol, and I prior to the interviews hindered the gender, racial, and age barriers which could have easily developed. I greatly attribute the exceptional rapport I experienced with Chris, Tim, and Jill to the respect my informants had for my work supervisor. Joanne Hyames was the supervisor of the Foster Care System at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home during my internship there this summer and fall. Chris and Tim have been foster parents for years and have associated with Mrs. Hyames both on personal and professional levels. Mrs. Hyames actually approached Tim and Chris before I did; explaining who I was and a little about my project. In addition, Jill also knew Mrs. Hyames before I contacted her. The Juvenile Home conducts seminars on ways to improve parental ability. Jill met Mrs. Hyames during one of the meetings. I believe the assurance Xrs. Hyames conveyed to the informants regarding my integrity gave me a head start establishing intimacy. Eventually, all my informants revealed very painful facts about their children or in Lances case, his mother. Drugs, prostitution, neglect, physical and sexual abuse of their grandchildren were revealed by my informants. Considering many parents feel responsible for the outcome of their children, revealing such "failures" so openly represents strong evidence of good rapport. Intimate rapport with Lance can further be illustrated by his expression after our second interview. He was surprised at his candidness. I believe this was one of the first times he has explored his feelings about his absent biological parents. Intimacy with Dee can be illustrated not by what was said during the interview but before. Dee and another co worker discussed some potentially very damaging information about her superiors at work in my presence. I believe a high degree of trust had to exist for Dee to comfortably discuss such sensitive information in my attendance.