Stepfamilies Need Better Advice and More Support, Advocates Say

The Florida Times Union, February 24, 2001 | Go to article overview

Stepfamilies Need Better Advice and More Support, Advocates Say


NEW ORLEANS -- Burdened with the legacy of wicked fairy-tale stepmothers and the too-cute-to-be-true Brady Bunch, America's stepfamilies are in need of wiser advice and stronger support from clergy, therapists, lawyers and financial planners.

That was the core message yesterday at a national conference -- billed as the first of its kind -- drawing together experts from a wide range of professions to consider the complexities of stepfamily life.

"Most of our laws and policies are based on first families," Margorie Engel, president of the Stepfamily Association of America, said. "It creates pretty bizarre results when you apply these to all the stepfamilies around the country."

Engel's association, chief sponsor of the two-day National Conference on Stepfamilies, estimates that half of all Americans will be involved in a stepfamily relationship of some sort.

Yet three decades after no-fault divorce began softening the stigma of broken marriages, Engel said, many stepfamilies feel misunderstood and often are frustrated by the advice they get from professionals.

"A lot of these people don't have a clue how to deal with stepfamilies," said Engel, citing problems with therapists, lawyers and financial advisers.

The conference was designed to promote attitudes and public policies that better reflect stepfamilies' needs. Speakers from a variety of fields suggested steps to accomplish this.

The Rev. Ron Deal discussed a stepfamily ministry that he has developed at the Southwest Church of Christ in Jonesboro, Ark. …

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