What's in Store for the Family?

Times staff writers

Back in the days of Eisenhower, "Ozzie and Harriet" and Hula Hoops, sociologists described the family as "two members of the opposite sex who co-habitated and had children as a result of that cohabitation," says Roberta Berns, a professor of Human Development at Saddleback College.

Since then, the family has undergone a force-10 shock--splintering and regrouping in endless combinations of ages, sexes and relationships.

"The new definition of a family is two people or more living in the same household, and those two people could be mother and daughter, man and woman, mother and grandmother or any combination," according to Berns, author of the textbook "Child, Family, Community."

To find out what's in store for these families, View surveyed a variety of community leaders and experts, asking what they believe to be the most significant issue facing Orange County families in 1986.

Many responded with the problems that have captured headlines in recent years: child care, child abuse, stress, communication and chemical addictions. Others had more surprising observations. Here are some of their predictions:

Roberta Berns, professor and chairwoman of the human development department at Saddleback College and author of "Child, Family, Community" (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985): "There will be more pressure for employers to meet the needs of the changing family," said Berns, referring to dual-career families and single-parent families. Other estimates differ, but she said that only 7% of American families have the traditional structure with the male breadwinner and the woman staying home and raising the children. "But the interesting thing is that the figures are reversed for the top executives of top companies; 93% of them are traditional. They're the ones who have to be educated."

In addition to providing on-site child care, car pools or flexible work schedules, some employers, Berns said, have also offered child care in a benefits package and some have banded together to provide sick-child care. Others are considering letting promotable employees choose the timing of their promotions so that it is convenient for the entire family, she said. Berns also suggested that employers consider counseling services for parents under stress, parent education classes during the lunch hour and family recreation services and parties.

"The structure of the family is changing," she said. "Whether we like it or don't like it, that's the way it is. A lot of people say it should be the way it was, but you can't deal with shoulds. You have to deal with what is."

Martin Benson, artistic director of South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa: "The thing that comes immediately to mind is the disappearance of the neighborhood as an institution." The problem is significant for Orange County families, he said. "A major part of what we like to think of as the American Dream, the family-owned home, is getting to be a virtual impossibility. Certainly many people, particularly actors, can't afford to live in Orange County full time. They'd like to, but there's no way they can do it.

Benson said he lives with his son, who is 16. "I am fortunate to live in an old part of Huntington Beach where all my son's friends live within a block or so. There's a real sense of community. We all know each other."

Whenever he has to travel, Benson said, parents in the neighborhood are always willing to keep his son for a few days. "I wouldn't have that in any other community."

Alta Yetter Gale, Orange County labor market analyst for the California Employment Development Department: "I think about job security. People want to know they have income to take care of their families."

Next year, economic growth will continue at a moderate pace, notably in the service and trade industries, she said. But some layoffs of some middle-management and blue-collar workers in manufacturing might be expected, she said.

There are now 57,000 unemployed people in Orange County, Gale said. It is a low percentage, but "each one of those people is 100% unemployed. It's not a comfort to them to know lots of other people have jobs.

"For them, especially the newly arrived immigrants and those in the lower end of the job scale where there's a lot of turnover, it's really tough when they don't have savings to tide them over between jobs."

Tim Timmons, pastor of the 8,500-member, nondenominational Christian South Coast Community Church in Irvine and author of "Maximum Marriage" and "Hooked on Living": Substance abuse and the deterioration of the family "are critical issues right now. People haven't made a commitment to be a family. They've got the time; they're just not making it."

Timmons said many people are walking on the edge of the success dilemma--trying to decide whether to spend more time at work or more time with their families. Timmons added that "even though the woman may be working, the dad sees himself as (just) the paycheck" and still isn't doing his share as a father and husband.

Timmons views success as a three-tiered state. First you must "have a relationship with yourself before God," he said. Secondly, a person must develop a relationship "with intimates," and last is a person's mission or occupation in life, Timmons said. "When a person is successful, they are working on all three levels."

What he is seeing instead, he said, is people "mortgaging themselves so they can win on the third priority." He said people who concentrate only on their careers will eventually become unhappy and it may be too late to rebuild relationships.

Drug and alcohol abuse "goes hand in hand" with poor family relationships, Timmons said. "The chemical scene is the social ill," he said. "The family can prevent that social ill.

"It's the kids who don't feel family (ties) who are lost out there," he said. "We have to make our kind understand how to say no (to drugs and alcohol)."

Sally Warrick, manager of the PAL (Peer Assistance League) program for substance-abuse prevention with the Orange County Department of Education: Poor communications and low self-esteem underlie most family problems, Warrick said. "Our department belongs to the Orange County Substance Abuse Prevention Network. There is a conference planned next spring and part of the workshops will be focusing on the family and communication issues. They (poor communications) are basic to a lot of the problems that seem to spring up and nobody knows why they are there."

Teen-age pregnancy, she observed, often involves parents who are unwilling to communicate with their children about sexuality. "You end up with kids who don't understand their own behaviors and feelings."

To prevent drug abuse, the PAL program brings parents into the classroom to participate in communication and self-esteem lessons, she said. Several studies have pointed up a connection between poor self-esteem and crime, Warrick said.

Thomas Prendergast, Orange County epidemiologist:

"Obviously from a public health standpoint, the impact of AIDS is going to hit a lot of people." The disease, he said, is doubling every year. If the trend continues, that means there will be 350 new cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome in Orange County next year, said Prendergast, who is the county's top public health official.

While there is no evidence that the disease can be transmitted casually, there will be continued concern and questions from the general population as well as educational programs for homosexuals and drug users, those most at risk, Prendergast predicted. As the disease becomes more common, he said, some families with children will worry whether their children should go to school with a child who has been exposed to the AIDS virus and workers will wonder about exposure from co-workers. "While there isn't anything to fear from (casual contact), there will be a lot of concerns," he said.

"If we're saying 'family' now includes two people living together, gay men are obviously concerned about the ongoing risk of acquiring this disease from their partner or partners. That's something that many men even in relatively stable relationships have to consider."

Margot Carlson, associate executive director of CSP (Community Service Programs) in Costa Mesa:

Shelter is the issue for the homeless adults and runaway or temporarily troubled youths, Carlson said. "The homeless we're dealing with now are the fallout from the system, which no longer provides a protective shelter in the form of an institution. . . .

"You've got to be an emotionally strong person, certainly in the high-pressure, intensive environment of Orange County. People can say what they want about Southern California, but in the Midwest at least it snows on them once in a while and they've got to stop. We never stop."

There is also a need for shelter homes such as the one CSP runs in Laguna Beach for runaway and abused youngsters. "There are more and more of these youngsters who have to have a temporary shelter situation. . . . They never stop coming."

Carl Karcher, chairman and chief executive of Carl Karcher Enterprises, the parent company of Carl's Jr. restaurants--and the father of 12 children: "I think the most serious and significant issue facing Orange County families in 1986 is the same one facing families all over America. It's the continuing breakup of the family. It's been said many times, 'as the family goes, so goes the nation,' and I think our nation is suffering greatly from this epidemic of family breakups.

"I understand the pressures that are on the family today, but sometimes I think too many people think families should behave like they do on TV instead of what we know is right in real life. There are too many successful families among the poor, the rich, all races and religions, two-wage-earner families and all the other situations for any of these conditions to be an automatic excuse for a family breakup. I think this (the breakup of the family) is a major reason why Orange County is one of the top counties in America in instances of child abuse. It's tragic.

"Somehow we have to realize how important our families are to all of us and then do all we can to preserve our own family. That's where the true riches and successes in life really are, in the family."

Ellen Severoni, director of California Health Decisions-Orange County Project, a countywide project seeking public opinion on ethical issues in health care: "I think the main issue facing families is the problem of quality child care. I think it's very difficult for people to find good child care. We're a two-parent family and it's even easier for us, but there are so many single-parent families and they don't have anyone to share the burden."

With both Severoni and her physician husband, Dr. Richard Moldawsky, working outside the home, one of their child-care problems has been trying to pick up their 5-year-old daughter, Jenna, from school on time.

"Being from the East Coast," Severoni noted, "we don't have any family here, so there isn't anyone to help us out."

But while speaking on California Health Decisions at a Laguna Beach church two months ago, Severoni came up with a creative solution to her own dilemma.

She noticed that most of the people in the audience were elderly women, and "I asked if one of them would be a grandmother," Severoni recalled.

After the meeting, a woman approached Severoni and said she'd take on the job.

"Her name is Doris, but we call her Grandma," Severoni said. "Doris picks up Jenna one or two days a week from school until Richard and I get home."

"I think in a broader sense," Severoni added, "if we think of the number of elderly people who love being around children, it seems to me we could facilitate getting these two groups together because it has certainly worked for us."

Greg Bodenhamer, author of "Back in Control: How to Get Your Children to Behave" (Prentice-Hall, 1983) and director of the Back in Control Training Center in Fullerton: "Finding ways to spend time with each other.

"The more time parents and children can spend together, the stronger the family is. In the majority of families we work with in our program, the parents and children have come apart from one another; the family starts to be divided emotionally as well as physically.

"A lot of the kids we work with tend to isolate themselves from the family in their own rooms, in front of their own TVs and their own phones. All of us need some privacy, but when it becomes obvious that the child has withdrawn from the family, it has gone too far and they need to be brought back into the heart of the family."

Suzanne Long, director of professional services for Family Services Assn., a 30-year-old private, nonprofit United Way agency that provides counseling to all those who live and work in Orange County: "One of the increasingly significant issues we've been dealing with this past year has been separation, divorce and single-parenting stresses on the parent and the child. And from that comes many (other problems). For example, the single parent has the sole responsibility for dealing with the now almost universal problem of child care, and this includes the latch-key issue.

"The single parent also is dealing with out-of-control teen-agers. A parent, for example, comes home from work too tired, drained and stressed to set clear expectations for children and then to follow through consistently. The single parent really doesn't have another person to share in all the responsibilities of providing (for) and guiding children. And then frequently . . . (with everyone looking) for respite and relief, we see more chemical abuse by adults, teen-agers and children."

Long said she doesn't see "just one answer, one solution" that would ease the stresses and strains of single parenting.

Among her suggestions are shared housing--single parents living together to share housing costs and child-care responsibilities; industry participation in child care; a support group for single parents to deal with the pressures of parenting; children's groups dealing with divorce and life with a single parent, and short-term counseling for parents "to get over the shock and adjustment of divorce and to move into a realistic plan for single parenting."

Carl Lindquist, president of Consumer Credit Counselors of Orange County, a nonprofit organization that helps people solve debt problems: "The main thing that is undermining the fabric of family life is the excessive distribution of credit cards by banks, the irresponsible use of these credit cards by people and the resulting mountain of consumer debt.

"A year ago, the average person who came to us for counseling had $8,000 in consumer debt. Today, that figure is $15,000. With debt like this, we can help only half those who come through our door. The other half is beyond help; they have to seek bankruptcy.

"We're twice as busy as we were last year; we're booked up with appointments though the third week in January."

(For those people not beyond help, Lindquist said, Consumer Credit Counselors confiscates their credit cards and places them on a reduced repayment plan agreeable to their creditors.)

"The other day we had this guy come in who had 74 credit cards--and owed $371,000 on 'em. That guy's case was a bit unusual, but we have professional people come in all the time with 30 or 40 credit cards. It disturbs me that supposedly educated, intelligent people would even have that many credit cards, let alone use them."

Dick Hill, coach of the Santa Ana High School football team, winner of the 1985 CIF Southern Conference section: "I've thought about it a lot and I'd say it's their (the family's) relationship with God. The spiritual life is, I think, the most important and significant thing we have to include (in family life) and correct (if it's not). And the reason for it is it controls the rest of it: We have moral problems, educational problems and physical problems, and I find all those are controlled by the direct relationship that man has with God."

Gene Bedley, principal of El Camino Real Elementary School in Irvine, who was named Educator of the Year by the National Parent-Teachers Assn: "The family more than ever needs to have a clear focus on the concept of responsibility and what that really means in a practical day-to-day application. . . . Too often relationships center on 'what I need from you' and not on how responsibility will enable you to meet life's challenges.

"A good example of that is that often I find youngsters come to school and parents have not given them chores in the early years and that is how their whole identity is formed. When they're given chores to do and they do them, there's a real sense of pride and accomplishment."

Beverly Glen, executive director of the YWCA of North Orange County: "Many of our clients are not in traditional family units. They are either single-parent families or families in which both parents work. We also are seeing increasing numbers of homeless families. The effects on our youth are particularly alarming.

"We must recognize and meet the challenges imposed by the devastating impact of these life-style changes on our young people. We must see beyond adolescent substance abuse, pregnancy, suicide and rebellion in all forms to the causes of the feelings of abandonment, alienation and hopelessness that are manifest in these symptoms."

Carol Hatch, executive director of the Orange County Commission on the Status of Women: "Child care for young families with children is a major problem. These families find child care expensive because they're just starting their professional careers.

"The situation's even worse for single heads of households, especially women who are trying to support their families and go to school at the same time.

"It costs about $80 to $85 a week for infant day care, and $55 a week for day care after school. Expenses like this put a lot of psychological and financial pressures on families that also have to pay for food, rent, clothing and medicine for their children.

"I think inadequate, expensive child care is the single largest factor that is holding back the economic and educational progress of young families in the county."

Dr. Robert Pfeffer, associate professor of neurology at UC Irvine Medical School: "Every day I see how Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke and other chronic illnesses affect both the victim and the loved one. For both, there is a feeling of loss and grief.

"There is a loss of independence. The victim must depend almost totally on the loved one for his or her needs. . . . The physical and emotional burden on the caretaker ultimately becomes so great that the victim must be placed in a nursing home, costing $2,900 to $3,000 a month. Most families are unable to meet this financial demand for any sustained period of time.

"We are now at that stage in the history of medical care where we must make painful decisions about who gets the limited resources of a society. Will we spend more resources on medical care, or will we ration medical care? Or is there some other alternative?

"We are talking about matters of life and death. You would think the decision would be made only after informed, public debate. But that is not happening. The decision is being made for us by default.

"In the last six months I have seen medical care for the aged undergo profound change because of two economic factors: The patient and his or her family have fewer resources to pay for sophisticated medical care; society, through Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurers, has embarked on a campaign of cost containment. It is a battle which has been launched without understanding that you do not get much more than what you pay for for very long.

"Unless we face the music, the patient--that's you and me--will find in the years to come that we will not be getting the kind of medical care that we need or have been led to expect. We will have to settle for what the system deems suitable to dole out to us."

Bill Busse, Orange County coordinator for Beyond War, a nonprofit educational foundation aimed at eliminating war: "I think when you talk about families, you have to talk about values. The challenge we're faced with is a redirection of values as a family. That redirection (should be) away from materialism to more of a concern for the whole. When you see the world and the problems it's facing . . . those of us who have the ability to do (something) have the obligation to solve the world's problems. For me the most important and immediate problem is the nuclear issue."

Busse characterized the nuclear issue by saying it was as if the world had bought an old house that needed remodeling, but on top of that, the house is on fire. "First you need to put out the fire," he said. "The challenge in 1986 is to work toward a solution to the nuclear problem, because it is a life-threatening problem that society faces."

Tracy DeLeo, executive director of VNA (Visiting Nurses Assn.) Hospice Corp. in Orange: More people should be doing something "to secure the future for their elderly parents and grandparents. The buying power of Social Security is eroded. Medicare has been eroded."

In the 1970s, "there was, I think, a false sense of security as to what Medicare might do for people. Medicare has been overtouted by the government as secure."

For a person confined to a bed, Medicare isn't enough, DeLeo said. "What it doesn't pay for is any kind of custodial help. A lot of these people (elderly) don't have someone living in the household. Besides the care that Medicare provides, an ill person may need someone to run errands, to do the shopping, "someone to be there at 2 in the morning," she said.

"I'm not sure what the answer is," she said, adding that she does not favor further government subsidizing. "Perhaps we have to look at catastrophic medical insurance," DeLeo said. People should investigate their own health insurance when they are still healthy, she said.

"I'm planning right now in terms of savings and investments," said DeLeo, adding that her generation, the post World War II baby boomers, generally are not planning for the possibility of catastrophic or terminal illness. "I think a lot of people of my generation don't want to think about it. They want to live for today."

Peggy Bassett, senior minister of the Church of Religious Science in Huntington Beach: "The most significant thing we will all be working with this year is the issue of peace. We have declared for our church to be in alignment with the United Nations, which has declared 1986 the International Year of Peace."

The church--which draws 2,000 people to Sunday services--has invited Robert Muller, assistant secretary to the United Nations, to speak in January, she said. She quoted Muller, the author of "Most of All, They Taught Me Love," as saying: "I cannot expect the world to change until I change myself."

"Individually," Bassett said, "we have to find our own peace so that we can make a contribution to the issues of peace in the outside world."

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