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Family Life Panel Redefines the Ties That Bind

May 18, 1986|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

When Christopher McCauley talks about the American family, he does not limit himself to the traditional grouping of a healthy mother, father and a couple of kids.

McCauley's "families" include unmarried couples, single-parent households, two homosexual men or lesbians living together in committed relationships, members of several families living under one roof and households that include disabled people who have special concerns.

McCauley, 34, a former educator who has shared his life with another homosexual for eight years, made the observations as co-chairman of the newly established Task Force on Family Diversity that has been established by Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo.

Woo set up the task force to help him develop public policy addressing problems faced by nontraditional families.

'Basic Irony' Described

"The basic irony is that the traditional family unit of couples with kids makes up no more than a third of the households in the country," McCauley said. "In California, the percentage of couples with children, 28%, is even less than the figures nationwide.

"So the issue we want to look into is expanding the concept of family to include what really is happening in the community, rather than perpetuating the myth of what used to exist--the fantasy of Ozzie and Harriet--and failing to solve problems associated with new types of families."

McCauley took his figures from a new state study, "Socio-Economic Trends in California, 1940-1980," commissioned by the state's Employment Development Department. The report noted that traditional families had constituted 54% of California's households in 1950, compared to 28% in 1980.

McCauley said that politicians are reluctant to recognize new family groups, such as gay and lesbian relationships, because they are afraid their constituents will look upon them as failing to support the traditional family.

But failing to recognize the new types of families, McCauley said, means that serious problems go unattended, such as the lack of good day-care facilities for working, single parents.

Child-Care Facilities

"You know there is a problem in Los Angeles when we allow the construction of huge office buildings without child-care facilities," McCauley said. "Yet, single mothers most likely will be the largest single group of people to work in the new offices."

Homosexual families, he said, must confront numerous legal obstacles, such as being denied access to loved ones in many hospitals, and families with a disabled member requiring round-the-clock care get little help from the government, McCauley said.

"These are just a few of the problems we will attempt to study over the next year," McCauley said. "We will make our report to Councilman Woo in June, 1987."

McCauley stressed that the task force will not proselytize for any one life style or family type. "That is not our function or the desire of the task force members," he said. "We merely want to face the reality of life here, as it is lived."

The task force is composed of 31 members, under the leadership of McCauley and Nora J. Baladerian, a psychologist specializing in the problems of poverty-level families, people with disabilities and members of the Latino community.

The group is varied in background and includes a rabbi, a minister, an American Indian, a black union official, lawyers, educators, gay men and lesbians.

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