In order to stress the fact that the movie accurately reflects most of the story, we have used the names from the Reader’s Digest article.
ALCOHOL & DRUG ABUSE
1. What was the effect on Amy’s family when her grandmother took Jan (Amy’s mother) back again and again, despite the fact that Jan was still using drugs? Did any good come from it?
No, the grandmother’s actions were not good for any member of the family. Allowing Jan to find a refuge in her home and therefore avoid many of the unpleasant consequences of living an intoxicated lifestyle, simply allowed Jam to continue to be a drug addict. It would have been better for Jan if the grandmother had kicked her out any time she was intoxicated and required that she be in rehab and clean before allowing Jan back into the home. Allowing Jan back into the house was also bad for Amy and her brothers and sisters because they needed a stable home without the disruption caused by an addicted person. When the social service agencies said that they would put the children into foster care if Jan was allowed back into the grandmother’s home, for the sake of the children, the grandmother should have kept Amy’s mother out of the house. It was also bad for the grandmother to have Jan in the house because Jan destabilized the family and caused the grandmother stress.
2 Amy’s grandmother was suffering from a psychological condition. What was it? Justify your answer.
Amy’s grandmother suffered from codependence. The justification is in the answer to question #1.
3. Make a list of the people who were enabling Amy’s mother, Jan, in her drug addiction.
Jan’s own mother (the grandmother) and Jan’s various boyfriends.
PARENTING; FAMILIES IN CRISIS
4. What, if anything, is wrong with placing children in foster care?
A well-administered foster care system is a good thing and good for most kids placed in foster care. Most foster care parents are loving, committed people who provide a stable, temporary home for the children placed with them. (For an example of a wise and caring foster care parent, see Angels in the Outfield.) However, Gracie and her siblings wanted to stay together and maintain their family unit. Foster care would have required at least some of the siblings to be separated.
5. What binds a family together?
Love makes a family. Bloodlines are helpful in binding families together but they are not necessary. Adopted children are loved as fully as biological children.
6. How do you define heroic actions? Were Amy’s actions heroic?
A good definition of heroic actions are those which require “courage and daring” or which are “supremely noble or self-sacrificing”. Merriam Webster Dictionary Definition of “heroic” To help her brothers, Amy sacrificed her own interests, including her scholarship to college; her relationship with her boyfriend; and the possibility of living a normal life taking care of her son in a family with a husband. She undertook a daring task, taking care of her family herself and asking a court to take the unusual step of terminating her mother’s parental rights and allowing Amy, an 18-year-old girl, to adopt her three younger brothers. Undertaking these responsibilities took courage. Heroism is not limited to acts taken on the battlefield or in saving people in dangerous situations by people such as soldiers, police officers, and firefighters. In the Reader’s Digest article, the real-life judge is quoted as saying to Amy, “You saved three kids.” While Amy may not have been as publicly heroic as a firefighter, she kept her family together, despite everything working against her.
7. Was Amy’s boyfriend right to ask Amy to allow her brothers to go into foster care and live with him and their son as a family?
There is no one correct answer to this question. The boyfriend had no obligation to take care of the brothers. Taking them into his family would have required a totally different life from what he had the right to expect. However, an argument could be made that if he loved Amy, he would have agreed to take on the task of caring for the brothers.
8. Did Amy have a responsibility to take care of her family to the extent of foregoing a scholarship to a university or losing her relationship with the father of her child?
There is no one correct answer to this question. Here is how TWM would answer it. Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that Amy’s siblings were her family and there was no one else to take care of them. As a member of the family, she had a responsibility to care for them. No, because the role Amy took on as the caretaker for her brothers should have been filled by a parent, grandparent, or another adult. Amy was a young person. She didn’t decide to give birth to her brothers. In order to take care of her siblings, Amy had to give up dreams and opportunities that young people should have, such as a scholarship to a prestigious university and marriage to the father of her child. Many people, perhaps most people, would have pursued their own lives, taken advantage of the opportunities that they had earned, and allowed the brothers to go into foster care. No one could say that this was the wrong decision. Taking care of her brothers was, in that sense, not her responsibility.
9. Do you know of anyone who has overcome difficulties like Amy? Can you tell us their story?
There is no one right answer to this question.
10. Do you know of anyone who, like Amy, has looked at the bad role models of the adults in their lives and rejected them by living a good, nurturing, and productive life?
There is no one correct answer to this question but there are millions of the people who have done this, especially in neighborhoods ravaged by drugs and alcohol. For an example in public life, see the description of the early life of Chris Gardner in the Learning Guide to “The Pursuit of Happyness”.
11. Amy accidentally became pregnant at age 19 even though she was using birth control. Does this change your opinion of her? Do you still consider her a hero?
There is no one correct answer to this question. Some people will consider Amy immoral to have had sex with her boyfriend before they were married. Many will take the position that accidents happen and that even the most celebrated hero can experience mishaps. Still, others will take the position that having sex before marriage at age 19 is not wrong and that Amy was being responsible by using birth control.
12. Describe the relationship between Gracie and her mother as shown in the movie.
A strong answer will include the concept that the mother abandoned her responsibilities and her daughter had to take them on or the family would disintegrate.