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Talk by Sue Whitcombe and Pat Barclay

FNF Scotland is holding an evening meeting on Thursday 22nd March about working with parents to overcome their children's resistance to contact.  It takes place at 10 Palmerston Place from 7-9 pm and tickets can be booked using this link.

This session is a chance to hear from two key people who have been undertaking a lot of work with separated families in recent years across Great Britain.  Following presentations about their current experience and what seems to be working, we will have a general discussion about the way forward for parents trying to deal with resistance to contact or outright rejection.

Dr SUE WHITCOMBE is a Counselling Psychologist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. She is a Chartered member and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Chair of the Training Committee for Counselling Psychology and sits on the BPS Expert Witness Advisory Group and Children and Young People Mental Health Group.
Sue has 20 years’ experience working with children and families and is Principal Psychologist at Family Psychology Solutions, a not-for-profit social enterprise, which she founded with the support of Teesside University.

PAT BARCLAY has considerable experience working with separated families to reduce and protect children from the adverse effects of their parent’s acrimony, with experience of both collaborative separation and litigation through court. Her social work qualifications, knowledge and experience of child development and child protection procedures allows her to provide a specialist service in Scotland of child focused work for family separation.
Her work aims are to protect children caught up in contact disputes and promote contact in the best interest of their welfare and developmental stage. She also has experience of relationship counselling and systemic family counselling to combine with specialist, evidence based knowledge of children’s development and the risk to this from parental conflict.


Shared parenting outcomes independent of family income or parental conflict

Dr Linda NielsenA roundup of 60 research studies published by Linda Nielsen shows that joint physical custody (shared parenting) is linked to better outcomes for children on all the measures of behavioural, emotional, physical and academic wellbeing, compare with sole physical custody.

This meta-analysis published in the Journal of Child Custody considers results from studies published in English which had statistically analysed quantitative data that considered outcomes for children in shared or sole parental care after considering both family income and parental conflict.  These factors are sometimes considered to affect the likelihood of successful shared care, but Nielsen's analysis showed that shared parenting is generally linked to better outcomes independent of either factor.

This does not mean that children do not benefit in any way from living in higher income households or experiencing low levels of conflict between their parents, but better outcomes can occur even in low income or conflicted situations.  Given this, it is suggested that the quality of the children's relationships with their parents, step-parents and grandparents are more important indicators of wellbeing.


Scottish Parliament agrees Cross Party Group on Shared Parenting 

Ivan McKee MSPThe Scottish Parliament Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee of the Scottish Parliament today approved the establishment of a cross party group on Shared Parenting.

The Group is the initiative of Ivan McKee, SNP MSP for Glasgow Provan, who will convene it along with Gillian Martin MSP and Adam Tomkins MSP.

Its most immediate task will be to work to inform the Scottish Government’s forthcoming review of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.

McKee said: “Where both parents are involved in their children’s upbringing, there is clear evidence this benefits those children’s educational and social development. So it follows, shared parenting is a key mechanism for closing the attainment gap and tackling inequalities”.

He added: “On the other hand, traditional gender assumptions about who is most appropriate to do what in child raising, influences children’s perceptions from their earliest years and impacts on their career choices and economic opportunities. This CPG on Shared Parenting will identify, examine and promote policy and practice that supports both parents in sharing parenting responsibilities and will tackle gender stereotypes head on, in the pursuit of a better understanding of what we need to do to ensure the best possible childhood and most promising adult life for Scotland's children. It will enable MSPs like myself to engage in debate with a wide range of organisations and stakeholders to inform policy developments and practice which impact on parents sharing responsibilities for the role." 

FNF Scotland will provide secretariat services to the new CPG.

Ian Maxwell, national manager of FNF Scotland, said, "2018 is going to be a big year for the development of family policy in Scotland, not least the promised review of the 1995 Children (Scotland) Act which will refresh our assumptions about what what we mean by making Scotland the best place for children to grow up. We are delighted to take on the administrative support tasks of the group. A wide range of organisations with an interest in parenting have already signed up. Any others who would like to share in the conversation should email us.


Time to end two 'classes' of parents

FNF Scotland's submission to the consultation on the Scottish Government's proposed Education Bill argues that it is time to overturn the custom and practice that gives 'non-resident' parents a reduced level of engagement with their child's school.

Most importantly, there has never been an educational argument to defend that secondary status of the 'non-resident' parent. To the contrary, research from around the world and the experience of those schools in Scotland that have been active in engaging with non-resident parents shows that children benefit on a range of measures from the involvement of both parents in their learning.

However, FNF Scotland argues the current system that allows schools to provide a lesser level of communication with 'non-resident' parents - mostly fathers - breaches their duties in terms of Equality law. 

FNF Scotland supports the Scottish Government's overarching commitment to challenging gender stereotyping wherever it limits the expectations and opportunities of our citizens. The insistence of most schools that they will choose one parent as the main parent is unfair to both mothers and fathers.

The FNF Scotland submission says that not only the law but the administrative substructure of data gathering by schools has to be addressed. In particular it should be required that a standard Scotlandwide pupil enrolment form is devised to include details of both parents (or kinship/institutional carers). Without a standard enrolment form and the subsequent 'annual data update' form that gives both parents equal recognition the two classes of parent are likely to continue.

FNF Scotland accepts that in a minority of cases it will not be in a child's interests for the 'non-resident' parent to be given the same information flow.  Such a decision should follow some form of due process and should not simply reflect the preference of the other parent. This will involve overhauling the ambiguous terms of the 2003 Educational Records regulations, removing the burden of 'taking sides' away from school staff to an independent procedure.


Shared parenting success in Arizona

Dr William Fabricius describes the success of Arizona's 2012 shared parenting legislation in a recent article which notes that:

The new statute was carefully worded to promote equal parenting time while still requiring judges to weigh the traditional children’s best interest factors, such as parental mental health, that might disqualify either parent. We removed the traditional factor that gave preference to the parent who had provided primary caretaking in the past, and added a new one stating that “absent evidence to the contrary, it is in a child’s best interest to have substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents.”

The statute states that “consistent with children’s best interests, the court shall adopt a parenting plan that maximizes the parents’ respective parenting time.”

By not giving any target numbers, the law puts the focus on providing the child with as close to equal parenting time with both parents as possible for that family.

His research showed support from judges, court staff, lawyers and mental health providers for the new measures.  His conclusion: "Arizonans have found that there doesn’t have to be a trade-off between equal parenting time and judicial discretion when courts are directed to try to maximize children’s time with both parents."