Culturally Specific Programs for Foster Care Youth: The Sample Case of an African American Rites of Passage Program
Gavazzi, Stephen M., Alford, Keith A., McKenry, Patrick C., Family Relations
In tandem with increased recognition that many social interventions have been limited by their failure to deal with issues related to ethnicity, program developers are increasingly utilizing culturally specific programming in the design and implementation of programs for youth and families. We describe a culturally specific rites of passage program designed for African American youth in foster care as an adjunct to an independent living program. In addition, we present some preliminary evaluative data of this Africentric rites-based initiative.
THE SAMPLE CASE OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN RITES OF PASSAGE PROGRAM*
Stephen id. Gavazzi, Keith A. Alford, and Patrick C. McKenry" he literature concerning the impact of family system characteristics on adolescent growth and development is burgeoning (cf. Anderson & Sabatelli, 1990; Bartle & Sabatelli, 1989; Brody, Moore, & Glei, 1994; Gavazzi, 1993; Henry, 1994; Sabatelli & Anderson, 1991), as is the literature on the development of prevention and intervention efforts targeting adolescents and their families (Blumenkrantz & Gavazzi, 1993; Dumka, Roosa, Michaels, & Suh, 1995; Gavazzi, 1995; Guerney, Guerney, & Cooney, 1985; L'Abate, 1990; Sporakowski, 1992). However, at the same time, little attention has been directed to the study of adolescents who are experiencing out-of-home placement, including those who are placed within a foster care environment. In particular, inadequate information is available about the impact of foster family characteristics on adolescent adjustment. Concurrently, little emphasis has been given to the development of prevention and intervention initiatives that target youth in foster care placement (Schuerman, Rzepnicki, & Littell, 1994). All youth who are experiencing foster care are placed in a dependency relationship outside their family of origin. Upon removal from their families, certain normative developmental pathways toward self-sufficiency are altered for these youth. In particular, youth who are moving from a dependent custody arrangement to independent living status are faced with a relatively abrupt transition into adulthood. Research suggests that youth who are dealing with this critical life transition are placed at high risk of continued dependency on the community well into their adult lives. This continued dependency is most evident in the use of welfare and Medicaid and/or periods of institutionalization. Also, because of the declining economic opportunities within most metropolitan environments, urban youth are at even greater risk of continued dependency, a situation compounded by ethnic status (Jackson & Westmoreland, 1992). One response to this problem has been to use life skills training programs within the context of traditional independent living programs that have been designed to directly facilitate the youth's movement toward adult self-sufficiency prior to emancipation. Self-sufficiency most often is equated with the youth's ability to accomplish any or all of the following: (a) graduation from high school, (b) maintenance of a stable job, (c) accessing appropriate health care services, (d) avoidance of young parenthood, (e) establishment of a social network, and (f) development and maintenance of a positive self-concept (cf. Daniel Memorial Institute, 1991). National studies of independent living programs (Westat, 1991) have reported significant relationships between the exposure to life skills training programs and the accomplishment of many of these self-sufficiency criteria. However, this report also has noted the lack of programmatic impact on (a) avoidance of early parenthood, (b) obtaining higher levels of educational achievement, and (c) establishment of a social network (Westat, 1991).
It has been hypothesized that life skills programs that do not focus on issues related to the cultural backgrounds of the program participants may achieve limited success. When youth are taken out of their family of origin's homes, often they are removed from their immediate social and/or cultural community as well (Gill & Jackson, 1983; Mullender & Miller, 1985). This situation is especially true of urban youth, given the shortage of substitute care homes within an urban environment. The impact of this social and cultural extraction is largely undocumented. According to the most recent national data, urban African American youth are disproportionately represented in foster care (Jenkins & Diamond, 1985; Shyne & Schroeder, 1978). Recent data from the Ohio Department of Human Services (ODHS, 1992) indicate that of the approximately 6,300 urban youth experiencing out-of-home placement in Children's Services' agencies, over 3,800 (approximately 60%) are African American, yet the African American population in these 13 counties is less than 20% of the total population. The purpose of this article is to describe a culturally specific intervention designed by the Ohio Department of Human Services to facilitate the African American foster care youth's successful transition to adulthood. In addition, preliminary evaluative data will be examined. Ethnicity continues to remain one of the most understudied and underutilized variables related to the successful transition into adulthood (McKenry, Everett, Ramseur, & Carter, 1989; Spencer & Dornbusch, 1990). The few studies that have incorporated some analysis of cultural issues have shown that the establishment of a sense of ethnic identity is a crucial factor in the adolescent's ability to develop other forms of identity related to occupation, ideology, and interpersonal relationships (Steinberg, 1993). Largely in response to the lack of focus on cultural issues in the ethnic youth's transition from foster care into adulthood, the Ohio Office of Child Care and Family Services (within ODHS) began to implement a culturally specific rites of passage program for ethnic male and female adolescents as part of their independent living skills program. One of the major goals of this rites-based program is to build an ethnic identity among youth in foster care through a variety of didactic and experiential activities. The facilitation of ethnic identity development, in turn, is thought to increase the self-sufficiency of these youth, especially in the target area of developing and maintaining a positive selfconcept. Further, the enhancement of these adolescents' ethnic identity and more general self-concept is thought to enhance the impact of the life skills training program on other self-suffciency skills. To date, the primary target audience of the rites program has been urban African American males between 15 and 18 years of age. Rites of passage, also known as rituals of initiation, historically have been used by the primary society to facilitate the transition of its offspring from childhood to adulthood status. The ambiguous developmental stage that we term adolescence in contemporary society was unknown in primary cultures. Instead, rites of passage were used to create a rapid and clearly defined transition from childhood into adulthood (Eliade, 1958).
Rites of passage have been discussed as containing three essential stages: separation, transformation, and reincorporation (Blumenkrantz & Gavazzi, 1993; Turner, 1987). Both symbolically and physically separated from childhood roles at the beginning of the initiation ritual, the offspring subsequently were put through a series of transformative experiences that signaled their willingness and preparedness to enter the adult realm of society (Campbell, 1949). The completion of the rite of passage was marked by the offspring's reintroduction to the entire community as a new adult member, with a new set of responsibilities and privileges shared commonly by other adult members of that society (Eliade, 1958). Many of the difficulties being witnessed in contemporary society, including the increase in substance abuse and violent behavior among its adolescent members, have been linked to society's underutilization of rites of passage (Blumenkrantz, 1992; Blumenkrantz & Gavazzi, 1993; Campbell & Moyers, 1988). The void created in the absence of socially proscribed transitional markers, in turn, is thought to be filled by adolescents in their use of informal indicators of adult-like behaviors, such as drinking, sexual activity, and so forth (Quinn, Newfield, & Protinsky, 1985). Gang involvement is perhaps the most insidious form of alternative rites of passage behavior that is cultivated in the current adolescent peer culture. Increasingly, professionals have become interested in utilizing the rites of passage concept in their work with adolescents and their families. Gavazzi and Blumenkrantz (1993) have reviewed a number of such efforts in the prevention literature, including its use in developmental guidance curriculums (Allan & Dyk, 1987) and in writing assignments (Larson,1988), as part of the enactment of a Native American "vision quest" (Foster & Little, 1987) and an Australian Aboriginal "walkabout" (Copen & Lebwohl, 1984), and as part of a community-based intervention (Blumenkrantz, 1992). Clinicians also have written about the use of rites of passage concepts as part of therapeutic work with adolescents and their families (Friedman, 1988; Imber-Black, Roberts, & Whiting, 1988; Kobak & Waters, 1984; Quinn et al., 1985). Much research has indicated that African American youth have identity and personality formation patterns that are the result of both cultural background and societal oppression (e.g., Hauser, 1971; Taylor, 1976, 1989). Identity development, and thus general psychological health and functioning, of Black youth is contingent on acceptance of their ethnic minority status (Jackson & Westmoreland, 1992). Cross (1985), Gibbs (1985), and Taylor (1989) emphasize the immediate Black social context for Black children and adolescents as their primary source of social comparisons and self-evaluation. African American youth in foster care not only may lack this social context, but they may feel rejected and abandoned by their parents and those other significant adults who traditionally have fulfilled this function. Without adequate African American role models, African American youth may begin to feel that their Blackness is responsible in large part for their rejection and may begin to feel that being Black is bad (Jackson & Westmoreland, 1992). In addition, advocates of the cultural differences model argue that programs for African American youth should be based on the premise of cultural variation, recognizing that Black students bring unique sociocultural experiences and psychological dispositions to the educational setting. These variations often are a mismatch with the dominant culture and are validated only if endorsed by the youth's family and significant others (Murray & Fairchild, 1989). Thus, African American adolescents' rite of passage into adulthood necessarily differs from that of other youth. Research that evaluates the outcomes of culturally specific rites of passage programs is as scarce as research that documents the types and models of such programs now operating in the United States (Warfield-Coppock,1992). Formal evaluations of rites of passage programs in general are very rare. Because rites programs are based on the idiosyncratic needs of indvidual communities, replication of programs often has not been a valued goal. Warfield-Coppock (1992) notes that traditionally oriinted rites of passage are a culturally revolutionary phenomenon that do not easily lend themselves to evaluation. In addition, Staples and Mirande (1980) note that the African American community has been resestant to traditional quantitative approaches because these methods have often been used against them. Thus, evaluation of the programs has not been a priority.
Warfield-Coppock (1992) conducted a preliminary survey of 20 culturally specific rites of passage programs that targeted a variety of youth. The survey largely took the form of a process evaluation that focused on the operation or implementation of the programs. Most of the programs targeted adolescents, although four programs also offered programs for pre-adolescents and two agencies offered programs for youth over age 19. The programs studied by WarfieldCoppock (1992) were initiated in response to various problems that face African American youth, including violence and crime, drugs, teen pregnancy, low school achievement, and single-parent households. In fact, many of the programs reviewed by Warfield-Coppock (1992) were specifically targeted for problem groups (e.g., incarcerated youth and teen mothers). Although the agencies surveyed were not necessarily Africentric or nationalistic, they used some variation of an Africentric framework with the belief that such culturally specific training could provide participants with self-esteem and survival skills that would assist in their transition to adulthood in the context of an oppressive and hostile society. These agencies were asked about outcome evaluations, that is, how they evaluated the success of their programs. Few programs utilized formal evaluation methods, but they had very distinct ideas about what constituted success for their participants. Although success tended to be determined according to specific program goals and objectives, improved cultural awareness, self-esteem, academic performance, and better interpersonal relationships appeared to be commonly desired outcomes. Most programs used informal evaluation methods, including group assessments or interviews with the youth. Typically, a youth might be interviewed and observed at the beginning of the program and changes noted toward the end. In addition, the majority of the programs drew upon the observations of parents, sponsors, and staff in their assessments. A variety of methodological approaches have been used in evaluating culturally specific rites of passage programs. Merton (1975) argues for diversity of paradigmatic approaches to the study of such social phenomenon. He states that no one paradigm has even begun to demonstrate its unique cogency for investigating the entire range of socially interesting questions. Quantitative methods allow for systematic assessment of programmatic objectives/outcomes as predetermined by theory. Proponents of a qualitative-naturalistic research approach assert that these methods, with their intensive and in-depth descriptions, are preferable to quantitative methods for studying natural human groups (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Qualitative methods to facilitate credibility include snowball sampling procedures, peer debriefing, and reflexive journaling. In addition, given that quantitative methods are Eurocentric in approach, quantitative accounts may be less sensitive to cultural variations (Dilworth-Anderson, Burton, & Johnson, 1993; Myers, 1991; Staples & Mirande, 1980). Thus, evaluations of culturally specific programs might benefit from the use of both qualitative and quantitative approaches.
The Africentric theoretical Perspective undergirds of Passage African American Rites of Passage (AA-RITES) program. This theoretical frame of reference places Africa as the historical point of generation. The holistic premise of Africentricity is thought tobe functional in giving guidance and purpose to the thoughts and actions of African American people (Hill, 1992). Essentially, Afri- cintricity involves interpretation and analysis from the perspective of African people as respondents rather than as objects on the fringes of the Western experience (Kelsey, 1991). Thus, furthering the knowledge base of participants about their African and African American heritage is a cintral compenent of the AA-RITES experience. Contrary to the Western experience that focuses on competition, AA-RITES participants endeavor to support and assist each other in acquiring knowledge that is germane to their culture and ethnicity. In addition, the AA-RITES program emphasizes empowerment through the operationalization of African-centered principles and values. These aims are critical in the participants' validation of who they are as individuals of African descent (Harvey, 1994).
The African-centered principles and values attempt to promote ethnic pride and positive self-esteem. For instance, the principle of inclusiveness teaches AA-RITES participants that class, color, and economic status have been used to exclude and oppress groups of people. Likewise, mutual aid is a principle that members take care of each other's basic family and community needs (WarfieldCoppock, 1990). The latter principle helps AA-RITES participants to understand that they have a responsibility to give back to their community what they have been given (Kunjufu, 1988). Consistent with the African-centered approach, the application of Nguzo Saba, also known as the Seven Principles (Hill, 1992), is and integral part of the AA-RITES experience. The seven Swahili terms that define the Nguzo Saba, developed by Maulana Karenga (1988) in the mid-1960S, are at the heart of the Ohio AA-RITES initiative. They include Umoja (Unity)-striving and maintaining unity in the family, community, nation, and race; Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)-defining and molding one- self from a strength-oriented perspective, as opposed to being incorrectly defined or spoken for by others; Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)working collectively toward problem resolution and maintaining a community; Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)building and preserving the stores, shops, and businesses of a community in order to jointly profit; Nia (Purpose)making a concerted attempt to build, develop, and cultivate the community in order to reclaim the inherent greatness of its people; Kuumba (Creativity)thinking and executing ways that members can improve their community both intrinsically and aesthetically; and Imani (Faith)-having steadfast determination and belief in oneself, as well as parents, teachers, and leaders, all of whom have struggled for racial justice and equality (Warfield-Coppock, 1990). Hill (1992) contends that the Nguzo Saba is the minimum moral value system African Americans need in order to rescue and reconstruct their history, humanity, and daily lives in their own image and interest. For AA-RITES participants, the Nguza Saba is realized through team interaction, patronizing African American businesses, and steadfast perseverance of a self- and community-motivated service project.
Ideas related to interconnectedness, collective consciousness, and oneness with nature are understood as primary concepts of the Africentric theoretical perspective (Warfield-Coppock, 1990). The concept of interconnectedness holds that all things are interdependent. Hence, harmony and positive relations are believed to be central components of all relational activity. Most simply put, it is taught that a relationship is not reciprocal or satisfying when one person is always giving and the other person is always receiving (Asanti, 1988). Collective consciousness refers to the sense of being related to the members of one's ethnic group; this sense of relationship to everyone is the cornerstone of interdependence (Warfield-Coppock, 1990). Oneness with nature espouses the premise that spiritual forces, human beings, and nature are invaluable and deserve ubiquitous respect (Warfield-Coppock, 1990).
Serving the same function as the Nguzo Saba, the principles of Ma at, also emphasized in the AA-RITES program, draw upon the teachings of Egyptian men and women. These individuals knew that they must practice the declarations of righteousness, truth, and justice in daily living if, at death, they hoped to be divinely judged and successfully enter into the afterlife. Other principles of Ma'at include reciprocity, balance, harmony, order, a sense of excellence, and a sense of appropriateness (Kelsey, 1991). Both the Nguzo Saba and the principles of Ma'at supply AA-RITES participants with a constructive outlook and serve as cultural strongholds in the context of an unpredictable societal milieu.
Role and Scope of Program and Its Leaders
The African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child" (Hill, 1992, p. 55), reflects the basic educational approach of the AA-RITES program. This community- and agency-based program has a target population of adolescent African American males. Hill (1992) purports that the successful execution of an AARITES program should include objectives that emphasize the youth's achievement in the following areas: (a) a sense of true identity and feeling of connectedness to the Black community; (b) a degree of social knowledge and understanding that will equip him to overcome racism and other debilitating circumstances; (c) a reverence for the inherent worth and dignity of one's parents, extended family, and community; (d) a masculine ideal that conforms to profamily and prosocial values; and (e) a life philosophy that honors and facilitates continued growth and development. In essence, program leaders help AA-RITES participants to understand who they are, where they came from, and what they should be about (Kelsey, 1991). The length of an AA-RITES program can range from 1 to 6 years, depending upon the length of time ascribed to certain skill level acquisitions and programmatic activities. The specific time frames are decided by the program leaders. Caseworkers and group home workers from participating county social service agencies provide the names of adolescent males whom they believe would benefit from participation in AA-RITES. These are often youth who either (a) show great potential and need the educational as well as the emotional inspiration that an AA-RITES experience provides or (b) for various reasons, exhibit low self-esteem and have made poor behavioral choices. The caseworker or group home worker also may refer a youth whose ethnic identity simply needs to be validated. The AA-RITES project director or site coordinator makes a conscious effort to accommodate all referrals. In some instances, the director and coordinator are separate and in others they are combined. Whether the jobs are combined or not depends upon the availability and skill level of the persons needed to fill these positions. The director/coordinator's function is mainly administrative in that he directs, coordinates, and sometimes facilitates ongoing AA-RITES training activities for group leaders and youth. He is required to have completed the Africentric Rites of Passage training course and received certification. Because the participating youth are in substitute care, their longevity in the Ohio AA-RITES program varies contingent upon their substitute care status. However, human service and AA-RITES personnel try to maintain participants in the program for at least a year (Kelsey, 1991), and many remain for longer periods. The additional time is thought to be helpful in that it affords the participant more opportunities for further acquisition of curriculum content.
Hill (1992) compares the AA-RITES approach to "big brother" mentoring and self-esteem and manhood development programs, whereby adult leaders become role models and mentors for adolescent males. African American male entrepreneurs, educators, human service professionals, health care providers, artists, and lawmakers have all served as leaders of AA-RITES groups. These leaders must successfully pass the Africentric Rites of Passage training course, which consists of skill and knowledge development in African and African American history, interpersonal relations, conflict resolution, organization planning, financial management, and physical fitness (Warfield-Coppock, 1992). Once they have demonstrated mastery in these areas through a series of tests, trainees are awarded the Africentric Rites of Passage certification and are issued their leadership assignments. Initiatives such as the Ohio Africentric Rites of Passage Collective, which grew out of the Ohio Rites of Passage network, were formed to ensure that minimum standards are set for the leaders of Africentric Rites of Passage groups throughout the state (African American Community Annual, 1995). Other states have formed collectives that meet annually at the national Africentric Rites of Passage Conference.
Typically, the AA-RITES leaders range in age from 20 to 50 years old. Adult men over the age of 50 who wish to assist in rites-based programs are encouraged to receive proper certification in program implementation. However, they are viewed as elders of the community rather than leaders of the program. Notwithstanding, these men must show evidence of maturity, wisdom, respect, knowledge of young people, and commitment to youth and the African American community (Warfield-Coppock, 1992). Often, there is more than one community elder who works with the AA-RITES group. Elders work in tandem with the leaders of the program and often give their input as to when they think a youth is ready to move forward to another content area. Program Activities
The Ohio AA-RITES program follows the Africentric Self Knowledge for Independent Living (A-SKIL) curriculum developed by Kelsey (1991). Like other rites-based programs, Ohio AA-RITES relies on the symbolic potentiality of rituals. For instance, a celebratory ritual culminates the mastery of various skills. Because the group concept is so vital to the AA-RITES experience, usually several participants are recognized in a joint ceremony. Such a joint celebration unifies and promotes greater connectedness between all parties inclusive of participants, leaders, and elders because everyone rejoices in the accomplishments of others. The public ceremonies that include extended family, friends, agency personnel, and community leaders provide additional recognition. Warfield-Coppock (1992) asserts that rituals bring stability into the lives of people and create groundedness, balance, and order. One of the first rituals in which AA-RITES participants take part involves the pouring of libation. From the tradition of ancient Africa, the libation generally requires the pouring of a liquid onto the ground while calling the names of various ancestors (WarfieldCoppock, 1992). This ritual symbolically recognizes persons who have departed from their earthly lives, but whose great works and contributions to society have not been forgotten. In essence, it is believed that this ritual provides participants with a way to honor the African and African American ancestors whose lives paved the way for the opportunities they have inherited.
A second ritual-also rooted in the offering of respect for one's hierarchical ancestry-is that of requesting the elders' permission in the initiation of activities. "This is an on-the-spot request for permission from an elder to begin proceedings or the event at hand. This ritual places the older person's knowledge and wisdom in the perspective of balance and respect for the proper order in the community" (Warfield-Coppock, 1992, p. 93). Such rituals are believed to solidify the seriousness of an act and provide invaluable opportunities for the evolution of camaraderie among the AARITES participants, while simultaneously providing ongoing respectful gestures to one's elders.
Program leaders and the elders attempt to promote ethnic pride and positive self-esteem through the teachings of African-centered principles and values. For instance, the AA-RITES program attempts to foster cooperativeness and mutual aid-two fundamental Africancentered tenets that build upon the strength of collectivity-through such community service projects as the performance of capacity assessments in one or more African American neighborhoods. The results of this effort help residents achieve a greater understanding of how to improve their respective situations, and concurrently help operationalize for AA-RITES participants the Nguza Saba principles of Ujima and Kuumba. Another AA-RITES program in Ohio sought to put into action the principle of Ujamaa, whereby participants and their families actively identified and patronized African American businesses. Some AA-RITES participants acquired jobs from these businesses, which facilitated a strong sense of Umoja. Yet another AA-RITES group engaged in a community-wide clean-up and restoration, an activity that advanced their appreciation of Nia and Umoja. Leaders and elders experientially build upon the affirming energy of the group modality in an AA-RITES program through discussions and exercises that center around African proverbs. The literal and figurative meanings of one or more proverbs may be explored during each session. Such proverbs as "I am because We are, and because We are, therefore I am" (Warfield-Coppock, 1990, p. 124) foster a greater understanding of inclusivity and interdependence, two values that are strongholds within the African American community. Likewise, the AA-RITES participant gains insight into the importance of excellence and responsibility through the teaching of the African proverb, "The day on which one sets out on a journey is not the time to begin preparation" (Warfield-Coppock, 1990, p. 124). Essentially, these proverbs provide a nexus from African culture to the cultural heritage of African Americans, which, in turn, facilitates a greater appreciation for the daily application of the wisdom of the proverbs. A variety of activities have been designed to facilitate AA-RITES program objectives. Educational content areas and activities include academic tutoring, financial management and budgeting, household management, home economics, political awareness, African American and African history, family and community history, sexuality, sex education, etiquette, personal hygiene, nutrition, and problem solving/decision making (Warfield-Coppock & Harvey, 1989).
Physical activities are offered as a means of building self-esteem (WarfieldCoppock, 1990). Physical development also affords the youth an opportunity to learn how to cooperate and work as a group member. Specific components include: martial arts training, dance, drumming, and sports (Warfield-Coppock & Harvey, 1989).
Spirituality is universal and is addressed in the AA-RITES curriculum because the Africentric perspective views the person as a spiritual and physical being. This approach is in keeping with the holistic nature of the AA-RITES experience. The message conveyed to AARITES participants is that the nonmaterial and nonphysical essence of a person is his or her spirituality (Warfield-Coppock, 1992). The topic of spirituality may be discussed in one or more sessions, and may be related to various points in the life cycle (e.g., birth, puberty, marriage, death) as they are experienced by both participants and members of their community. Negative and other frightening associations-such as ghosts or evil spirits that are sometimes associated with the concept of spirituality-are dealt with through frank discussion concerning the validity of these claims. This discussion, in turn, opens the door for revelations that lead to that which is positive about one's spirituality.
Warfield-Coppock (1990) posits that the ontological principles of African-centered thought recognize the person as present within a spiritual life cycle; therefore, the acknowledgment of spirituality reflects the process of being aware of one's spiritual existence. The inclusion of spiritualism in the AA-RITES curriculum is not to be equated with an endorsement of a particular formal religion. Rather, the spiritual components of the AA-RITES program are simply understood as furthering the emergent adult's ability to clarify values and to comprehend spirituality, organized religion, interpersonal relationships, morality, and the use of rituals. On the whole, AA-RITES is designed to enhance African American youths' commitment to family, race, community, and nation and to bring about self-responsibility and self-mastery (African American Community Annual, 1995). This process is facilitated by such activities as: bonding trips, survival experiences, wilderness training, ritual practice, retreats and tour experiences, sharing and instructional meetings, arts and crafts sessions, socials, festivals, and other experiential trips. Further, visiting cultural sites in the community serves the essential purpose of putting participants in touch with people, artifacts, pictures, and books, all in an effort to educate and fully expose them to their ethnic heritage (Kelsey, 1991).
The remainder of this article provides preliminary evaluative data concerning the culturally specific rites of passage program described above. These data provide initial evidence of the ability of the program to facilitate the African American male foster care youth's sense of cultural identity and a feeling of belonging to his ethnic community. Naturalistic research methods were used in this study because they were believed to be the most effective way to discover the subjective meanings and multiple realities of the African American youths' experiences in the Rites of Passage program. The aim of naturalistic inquiry is the creation of ideographic knowledge, usually expressed as working hypotheses (Lincoln, 1990). The purpose of the study was to determine how knowledge from the program was constructed by the participants; thus, we focused on the participant's perspective, with little attempt to deconstruct the findings. Consistent with naturalistic inquiry, we present emergent themes from the data analysis (Greenlee & Lantz, 1993). The stages of inquiry used in this study included: gaining access to the participants in their natural environment, working towards credible questioning based on program goals, and discovering consistent and reemergent data themes (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Parameters
The sample for the pilot study consisted of 37 African American males who ranged in age from 12 to 21 years of age (M = 16.2 years). All of the participants were from families of origin that resided in one of four urban counties in Ohio (Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lucas, and Summit), so designated because they contained at least one standard metropolitan statistical area (SMSA). All study participants had some level of experience in the AA-RITES program. The level of experience in this rites of passage program ranged from 1 month to 3 years (M = 11.2 months). All participants were living in a substitute care environment at the time of the data collection. The amount of time in foster placement ranged from 5 to 85 months (M = 25.9 months). The interviews lasted from ll/2 hours to 4 hours, depending on how much a particular youth chose to share with the interviewer. The interviews were taped and later transcribed. Because of the culturally specific nature of this project, the race and gender of the respondent and the interviewer were matched. The interviewers were graduate research associates attached to the research project throughout its duration and had a thorough understanding of the rites of passage experience.
Various focus questions, also known as probe questions, were developed based on the major points covered in the AA-RITES curriculum. Further, the face and content validity of this series of qualitative questions (see Appendix) was established through utilization of a national panel of African American scholars and practitioners. Data Analysis
A qualitative research methodology was used to analyze the interview data. Content analysis was used to identify and subsequently organize themes that emerged from the transcribed text. Transcripts were reviewed separately by two of the authors in a systematic search for patterns of answers to each of the interview questions. Coding schemes were developed throughout the data collection process (Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Each answer to an individual question across all participants was written on an individual index card and then placed into stacks of intuitively derived categories. After all of the answers to an individual question were sorted, the constant comparison method of data analysis was utilized to compare each example in a category to the previous examples in that category. This methodology allowed for the rules and properties of the category to be written.
The interviewers then met to discuss their categories to further clarify and extend the final categories of answers. During this process, new categories emerged, some categories were redefined or combined, rules for categories were refined, and answers were moved into and out of categories. This process was repeated for each interview question.
The final categories were then given to two members of the research team who each reviewed the transcripts and sorted the answers in the given categories. This process permitted the frequency of occurrence of certain categories to be reliably assessed, thus allowing for the reporting of the magnitude of particular categories in each of the responses. The themes outlined in Table 1 were each descriptive of over half of the sample. Conclusions
As indicated in Table 1, many of the themes that emerged from the narratives were consistent with the program goals. A major theme evidenced by many of the participants was related to self-esteem. Many statements indicating both individual and racial/cultural pride were noted. In fact, they typically were interrelated, as previous research suggests (e.g., Cross, 1985). A major goal of the Rites program was to instill a positive sense of race, and hence self, in order to overcome the negative images society has often associated with African Americans and African American males in particular.
Other themes that were identified (e.g., importance of learning and education, self-responsibility, and inner power) spoke to the emphasis on self-direction, individual responsibility, and hard work. The latter are related to the program goals of providing self-empowerment and self-sufficiency as survival skills in the context of an often nonbenevolent, if not hostile, wider society. Another related theme that was present in the conversations with the participants was that of an Eastern world view, as the participants spoke of collective action, harmony, intrinsic values, inner peace. and learning from mistakes. These clearly are related to an Eastern world view as expressed in the Nguzo Saba and Ma'at principles. This world view was often contrasted by the participants with Western notions of avarice, conflict, competition, and acquisition of material goods as indicators of success. The history of African Americans was the context of much of the learning and experiences of the Rites participants, as was evident in their responses. Several participants noted that one could learn from past mistakes and successes, and that their individual self-esteem seemed to have been improved by their new view of their cultural heritage. Yet, they also obtained through history a greater appreciation for the broader context of their racial group, realizing more of an affinity and an obligation to a cultural group that had many strengths but required additional support and commitment to overcome the effects of past and present injustices.
A final theme that emerged from these analyses related to the participants' relationships with women. The Rites participants carried over the notion of respect and racial pride to their ideas about relationships with women. They also noted that men play an important role with women apart from the provision of material goods; that is, men act in more capacities than the traditional good provider role, which racism and discrimination make very difficult for African American men to carry out.
Although these data provide some support for the impact of the Rites program on these participants, caution must be exercised in drawing causal inferences. Naturalistic inquiry focuses on individual interpretation as opposed to the positivist goal of generalizing to a larger population by explicitly testing a given theory or hypothesis on a representative group of subjects. Thus, no experimental design was employed that would allow inferential analysis and generalizability. Instead, the data were analyzed inductively, and these findings can be discussed only in terms of how they might be transferable to other individuals with similar experiences and backgrounds. The consistency with which the themes emerged suggests that the Rites philosophy influenced the world view of the participants and that many of the Rites goals can be seen in these themes. However, consistent with naturalistic inquiry, many questions arise for future inquiry. For example, why were some participants more affected by the program than others? How lasting will the impact be, given that many participants had only recently completed the program? Would a comparison group of nonparticipants have gained some of this knowledge through the life skills programs they are required to take as foster care youth prior to emancipation? Also, consistent with naturalistic inquiry, there is an interest in the impact of the interview itself on the participants. Interestingly, many of the interviews were cathartic and seemed to provide an opportunity for the participants to process the experience and integrate their learning. The present study has generated some initial support for the utilization of culturally specific programming for urban African American males in substitute care. The data indicate that one of the primary goals of the AA-RITES program-the establishment and maintenance of a sense of positive ethnic identity-seems to be an outcome of these youths' participation in the culturally specific initiative. Further, this outcome seems to be connected to these adolescents' development of a belief system that supports a positive vision of self, given that the majority of comments related to positive self-concept were tinged with positive racial images. In addition, this study has made a contribution to an area of program evaluation that historically has received scant attention. Hopefully, the present effort will provide an incentive for other rites-based program developers and facilitators to expand their utilization of evaluation strategies. Concurrently, it is hoped that future efforts will be directed toward the development of a variety of prevention and intervention initiatives designed specifically for adolescent foster care populations.
There are implications for family researchers as well, who may note the similarity between two of the major objectives of this culturally specific rites of passage program-the development of the foster care youth's sense of cultural identity and the feeling of belonging to an ethnic community-and variables related to adolescent separateness and connectedness experiences (Allison & Sabatelli, 1988; Sabatelli & Mazor, 1985) found in the mainstream adolescent and family literature. It has been asserted in this literature that families create optimal environments for adolescent growth and development by promoting both individuality and belongingness (Carter & McGoldrick, 1989; Gavazzi, Anderson, & Sabatelli, 1993; Grotevant & Cooper, 1985; 1986; Hauser et al., 1984; Kerr & Bowen, 1988). Hence, it is believed that research on culturally specific ritesbased programming might be further refined through the adoption of evaluation instruments that specifically target adolescent experiences of separateness and connectedness. Family researchers seem ideally suited to facilitate such empirical work within this program evaluation arena. In turn, present family research efforts could be enhanced by greater attention to cultural variation in those family system characteristics that have been associated with adolescent adjustment. Such a research agenda would be greatly facilitated by collaborative efforts that would grant immediate access to ethnic adolescents and families, including those faced with out-of-home placement. Further, the data may provide family practitioners with an incentive to investigate the utility of other efforts that incorporate ethnic identity as a component of their prevention and intervention programming. In clinical work with youth who may be at immediate risk of foster care placement, for instance, family therapists might direct sustained attention to cultural issues in the service of reducing the negative impact of that out-of-home placement. In related fashion, these same family therapists might emphasize the importance of creating and maintaining connections between foster care youth and the elders of the communities from which these youth hail. Attention to the development of such intervention strategies would seem to be imperative in light of recent reports that document the continued increase in the number of children who have been put in out-of-home placement over the last 15 years (Schuerman et al., 1994).
A number of important issues remain unaddressed by this study. For instance, the degree to which a focus on cultural issues may impact factors related to the minority youth's transition from foster care into independent adulthood cannot be discerned from this study. Hence, future research might evaluate how independent living skills are impacted by culturally specific programming. From a program evaluation standpoint, this type of study might be best facilitated through the use of a longitudinal and/or experimental design. Also, because the facilitation of ethnic identity development is thought to increase the self-sufficiency of ethnic minority youth in ways related to the development of a positive self-concept, future research might incorporate quantitative measures of factors related to positive self image to augment what can be known through qualitative means. Little has been said here that can make a contribution to the sparse literature concerned with the characteristics of foster care families themselves and their impact on youth experiencing foster care. Clearly, much more research is needed about youth and families who experience out-of-home placement. Future research should aim to gather more comprehensive descriptions of participant characteristics. The culturally specific program examined in this study included the utilization of an innovative external family arrangement-the use of the African American community and its elders-that is consistent with the cultural tradition of the village being responsible for the raising of a single child. Yet this arrangement runs counter to the more mainstream notion that the nuclear family remains the all-important component in the raising of children. Further, this rites of passage program is being implemented with youth already experiencing outof-home placement, another non-familyof-origin arrangement, that is viewed typically as a less-than-ideal living situation. Family practitioners and scientists are cautioned here to attend to intervention and research strategies that may be biased against the recognition of any and all beneficial effects of such nontraditional family arrangements.
There are limitations that are specific to the AA-RITES program as well. First, by definition, this initiative contains a rather heavy emphasis on the rites of passage concept. Yet key concepts related to rites of passage-such as the experiences of separation, transformation, and reincorporation phases (Turner, 1987)-are underaddressed in various curricula material and are not made manifest in program implementation. Attention to concepts such as these would help clarify this initiative's connection to and utilization of the existing knowledge base concerning the use of rites of passage in work with adolescents and their families.
Also, more effort is needed in the area of AA-RITES program standardization. It has been noted that many rites of passage programs were developed based on the needs of individual communities (Warfield-Coppock, 1992). Hence, the great variability in these programs often contributes to problems related to their replication and evaluation. We were able to access only limited information about the variability of programs experienced by the participants of this study. Additionally, curriculum development and evaluative efforts of rites-based programming should be extended to include the impact of such initiatives on female adolescents, as well as with other ethnic minority populations. Finally, substitute care populations who receive culturally specific programming might be compared with matched samples of non-foster care adolescents at baseline and post-participation points in time. This last direction for future research is important not only from a program evaluation standpoint, but is a much-needed step in the direction of generating basic research data on the lives of adolescents in substitute care, a population of at-risk youth that has been greatly underresearched in the past.
*Salaries and support were provided, in part, by the Ohio Board of Regents Committee on Urban Affairs (OSI RF #72??dA). The authors would like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of Fran Frazier, Ava Johnson, and Dora Sterling, Office of Child Care and Family Services, Ohio Department of Human Services, and of Patrick Forrester, Research Assistant, throughout this project.
"Stephen M. Gavazzi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Relations and Human Development, The Ohio State University, 171 Campbell lall, 1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210 Keith A. Afford is an Instructor in the School of Social Work at Syracuse University and a doctoral candidate in the College of Social Work, The Ohio State University. Patrick C. McKenry is a Professor in the De partment of Family Relations and Human Development, the Department of Black Studies, and the Ohio Agricultural Re search and Development Center, The Ohio State University. Key Words: African American adolescents, foster care, pre vention programs, rites of passage.
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Publication information: Article title: Culturally Specific Programs for Foster Care Youth: The Sample Case of an African American Rites of Passage Program. Contributors: Gavazzi, Stephen M. - Author, Alford, Keith A. - Author, McKenry, Patrick C. - Author. Journal title: Family Relations. Volume: 45. Issue: 2 Publication date: April 1996. Page number: 166+. © 2002 Family Relations. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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