The family unit is of utmost importance to the Hmong people. From a traditional point of view, the nuclear family comes first, followed by relatives as distinguished by clan, which are then followed by race. In comparison, everything else is unimportant. In their homeland, all members are equal. All labor is commenced to ensure the health of one's family and clan. Everyone completes the same work, on the same schedule. It is a communal effort and no one person is more (or less) important than another. The Hmong have religious rites with regard to birth and death that signify the importance of linking ancestors to living family members. The dead are buried with honor and their souls are believed to travel. Anthropologists have often noted that the Hmong family unit is stronger than any other. They place great significance on child rearing. Being a parent is an honor and each child is a blessing to be cherished. The mother stays at home with her children, of which there are often ten or more. Among her many tasks are cooking, sewing, and embroidering their clothes.
In addition to the Lee family (the Hmong family discussed in this book) several of the other characters' family lives are revealed. Neil and Peggy have two children. Not only do they have fewer children than the Lees, but their lifestyle is different. Neil and Peggy both lead fulfilling full time careers. Neither of them are considered stay at home parents, but they do balance their schedules. One parent is always at home in the afternoon to greet their children when they return home from school. The Korda family, where Lia is sent for her time in foster care, have their own children, but are also open to helping others. They open their hearts and home to various children in need. To some, including Lia, they become and remain close, essentially creating a large and impromptu extended family. Another character, Jeanine Hilt, has a life partner, but they share no children together. This may provide some insight as to why she became so passionate about Lia's case. The feeling was reciprocated by the Lees, and Foua was upset by Jeanine's death. Foua was quoted as saying that she felt like she had "lost her American daughter". Each of the book's characters value the importance of family.