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Children benefit from Family Court counselling

Media release
18 December 2006

Children benefit from Family Court counselling

A new study, funded by the Families Commission, shows clear benefits to including children in the counselling provided to parents who are separating and going through a Family Court mediation process.

At present, only parents are offered counselling and it is assumed children will benefit indirectly from this. For the purposes of this study 26 children of 17 couples were included in some of the counselling sessions with their parents, as part of the mediation process. The results showed it reduced parental conflict, improved the possibility of satisfactory agreements, and that being involved in the process helped children to adapt with less distress to the new situation.

The study Hello, I’m a Voice, Let Me Talk: - Child inclusive mediation in family separation was carried out by researcher Jill Goldson of the Centre of Child and Family Policy Research at Auckland University. The study was funded and published by the Families Commission’s Innovative Practice Fund.

“Most Family Court cases involving relationship and childcare issues are resolved during mediation and do not proceed to court. However, we know that a great many situations remain emotionally unresolved. This is particularly hard for children who need to relate to both parents but who are not given an opportunity to be part of the discussions about the new arrangements”, says Ms Goldson who has been a Family Court counsellor for over 20 years.

“Including children in the decisions that affect them is already enshrined in the Children, Young Person’s and their Families Act. This study demonstrates the importance of extending the child-inclusive approach into parental separation processes well before conflict becomes entrenched.” she said.

Comments from children involved in the study showed they found the counselling relieved their anxieties, helped them take part in the restructuring of relationships and improved communication within the family.

One seven-year-old boy said “I feel more comfortable inside and I feel more happy inside”. One 11-year-old girl said, “It’s made everything easier, mum and dad don’t fight so much. Now I can say what I want to say without being told I am wrong.”

The Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission, Rajen Prasad said “Innovative ideas among people working with families are sometimes not translated into practice and into policy. Our new Innovative Practice Fund has been set up to encourage practitioners to complete and publish work that will be useful to others.

“This study, the first to be supported by this new fund, shows the value of including children in the mediation counselling process when their parents separate. The findings have both practice and policy implications and the Commission will be referring the report to the Family Court and the Ministry of Justice,” he said.

ENDS

See... Hello, I’m a Voice, Let Me Talk: Child-Inclusive Mediation in Family Separation (PDF)

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