Family Preservation: Making It Work for Asians

By Fong, Rowena | Child Welfare, July 1994 | Go to article overview
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Family Preservation: Making It Work for Asians

Fong, Rowena, Child Welfare

Asian families face stressful problems, such as poverty, unemployment, and immigration status. A report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights [1992: 21] mentions "preimmigration trauma" as a problem for some recent Asian immigrants and refugees, particularly for the Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian refugees, who may carry the scars of psychological trauma. Families of American-born Asians also have difficulties. Despite the misleading stereotype that Asian Americans are the "model minority" [Gould 1988], Asians continue to be victims of prejudice and discrimination [Sue and Morishima 1982; Lum 1986; Uba and Sue 1991].

In their efforts to cope with such barriers and stressors, Asians consider the family and extended family as the primary sources of support [Shon and Ja 1982; Ho 1992]. Under extreme stress situations and as last-resort measures, however, Asians reluctantly do seek help outside the family [Sue and Morishima 1982; Lum 1986; Ho 1987]. Among the services Asian Americans may seek are family preservation services.

Providers of family preservation services are forthright about the importance of cultural diversity and cultural competence, which call for careful attention to the specific ethnic minority backgrounds of their clients and the cultural considerations that have to be taken into account in providing services. Although research and other sources of information are available on family preservation and African American, Hispanic, and Native American families [Gray and Nybell 1990; Hodges 1991; Sandau-Beckler and Salcido 1992; Mannes 1993]; information about Asian American families is rather sparse. This article seeks to fill the gap in information on Asian families and provide guidelines for culturally competent family preservation practice. It provides an understanding of how empowerment and shared partnership may take place in ways appropriate to an Asian cultural perspective, outlines Asian family values and analyzes areas of potential ill fit with family preservation values, and describes three kinds of information that practitioners ought to know if Asian American clients are to be served effectively.


Social work practice in general and the child welfare field in particular have come to emphasize a family-centered approach. Family-based services have emerged, representing renewed efforts to achieve the goal of a "secure and loving family" for every child [Maluccio 1990: 18]. Family preservation services are the most recent in a series of programs for high-risk children and families: home-based services, family-centered services, and currently family preservation services.

The Child Welfare League of America [1989] describes two levels of family preservation services. Family resource, support, and education services are "community-based services that assist and support adults in their roles as parents"; family-centered services are "services for supporting families who are experiencing problems that may threaten family stability." Intensive family preservation services are intensive, home-based services for families when the danger of removal of a child is imminent. They are placement prevention services [Cole and Duva 1990].

Lastly, evidence is growing that child placement agencies are beginning to use some of the features of family preservation services in their family reunification practices for children already in out-of-home care.


Not all Asian families are the same. They vary by origin --the part of Asia the family roots come from; by social class; by generational status--immigrant, second generation, and so on; by place of birth--U.S. or abroad; and by their experiences as immigrants or refugees.

Unlike other minority ethnic groups, such as African Americans and Native Americans, more than two-thirds of the Asian population (which is the fastest-growing minority group in America) are immigrants and refugees [United States Bureau of the Census 1991].

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