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Finding her dad after 28 years

This short film shows how a child of teenage parents finally rediscovered her father.

Margaret was raised by her maternal grandparents and never knew her dad.

When her grandparents died, Margaret says she developed an eating disorder that soon "spiralled out of control".

Her dad, Jim, started messaging her and eventually, they met up.

"Because he was looking in from the outside, he could see I was really ill," Margaret said.

Jim helped her access treatment and counselling, and Margaret says without her dad, "I wouldn't still be here".


Great day on Glasgow Kiltwalk

Seven FNF Scotland staff and supporters took part in the first Kiltwalk of the year, the 6 mile "Wee Wander" last weekend.

Alastair Williamson said, "We started together and crossed the finish line together and talked a lot in between! It was a great day."

So far the walkers have raised close to £1,000 in sponsorship. Donations can still be made online at: https://glasgowkiltwalk2019.everydayhero.com/uk/fnf-scotland-both-parents-matter-glasgow-kiltwalk-2019

The magic of the Kiltwalk is that an additional contribution worth 40% of the donations is added by the organistation itself, the brainchild of Sir Tom Hunter. This is an extraordinarily generous piece of philanthropy on his part, benefitting hundreds of causes large and small.

Grear thanks is due to Sir Tom and the hundreds of volunteers who helped on the day.

The next Kiltwalk will be in Dundee on Sunday August 18th. It was a terrific event last year. If you would like to sign up for the FNF Scotland team please contact Alatair at a.williamson@fnfscotland.org.


International Parental Alienation Awareness Day

March 25th is now celebrated as International Parental Alienation Awareness day and the above poster shows how groups all over the world are standing together on this issue.

Although decisions on this topic in Scotland rest largely with the Scottish Government, we would suggest that people sign the current petition to the Westminster Parliament which is seeking action on this issue.  It currently on has a couple of thousand signatures to go before it reaches the 10,000 threshold that will trigger a Government statement.

Another signing task which will help raise awareness is in connection with the draft of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

When the draft of ICD-11 was published in June 2018, the words "parental alienation" and "parental estrangement" were included in the Index of the book.  That means that if a person searches the ICD-11 website for "parental alienation," they are automatically taken to an official diagnosis, "caregiver-child relationship problem."

The draft of ICD-11 is now being reviewed in preparation for a final version to be approved, perhaps in May 2019.  Suddenly, a number of individuals (about 30) have gone to the ICD-11 website and "voted" that they do not want "parental alienation" and "parental estrangement" to be anywhere in ICD-11.

You can easily go to the ICD-11 website and express your own opinion.  This is how:  (1) Go to the website and register yourself, which is easy to do; anyone can register and then comment.  (2) After registering, sign in and search for "parental alienation."  (3) You will see a Proposal List with a number of different proposals, including "Delete Entity Proposal."  (4) If you explore those different headings, you will find some comments that you agree with and others that you disagree with.  (5) You can write your own brief comment and express your opinion.  (6) Or, you can just vote AGREE or DISAGREE with the comments that have already been posted. (Thanks to William Bernet from the Parental Alienation Study Group PASG for this information.)


Making court orders work as intended for the child while saving money, time and stress

Felicity SheddenOnce an agreement has been reached between parents or a court order made, the arrangements for sharing parenting time with children in a separated family are settled.


If only that was the case. 

Sometimes it is only the start of a new saga when the two parents continue to wrangle over the day to day detail within the overall order or agreement.

At two events organised by Families Need Fathers Scotland in Edinburgh in January, Felicity Shedden from Family Law in Partnership gave a stark example of the limitations of what a family court can do when communication between parents remains poor or their concept of putting the child first still eludes them - hardly surprising when they may have spent many months and a great deal of money telling the judge of the other's parenting failings and character weaknesses.

In a 2014 court hearing in front of Sir James Munby, it had been agreed that the handover of the child should be at Clapham Junction but the parents couldn't agree which platform.  Sir James refused to decide, saying, "The courts cannot micro-manage the parenting relationship".

Felicity described how a new professional role, the Parenting Coordinator, has been developed to address this issue of making arrangements work and resolving disagreements about what is often in reality trivial detail. "Parenting Coordination" was originally developed in the USA and now also operates in Canada, South Africa and England.

Families Need Fathers Scotland arranged for Felicity to talk about Parenting Coordination at an afternoon briefing session for Scottish practitioners on January 15th followed by an evening presentation to the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Shared Parenting. 

Parenting Coordination is defined as:

‘A child-focused alternative dispute resolution process in which a mental health or legal professional with mediation training and experience assists high conflict parents to implement their parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of their disputes in a timely manner, educating parents about children’s needs, and with prior approval of the parties and/or the court, making decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract’

All models of Parenting Cordination are based on the same three  principles : education, mediation and arbitration/determination. In all cases the process starts after the court order or parenting plan has been settled. It is primarily useful in high conflict cases. The Parenting Coordinator is usually appointed for a period of two years with the aim being to work themselves out of a job by the time the two years is up.

In some countries the Parenting Coordinator is appointed by court and reports back if a court order is not being complied with, whereas in others the appointment is agreed by the parents. The Parenting Coordinator doesn't re-examine the issues between the parents but starts at the point where those issues have been decided by court order or by binding agreement.

The Parenting Coordinator can help with:
(a) conflicts in the arrangements for the children’s day to day care;
(b) difficulties related to the children’s transitions between the parents, including codes of conduct and transportation;
(c) developing any necessary clarifying provisions that were not anticipated when the parenting plan was developed;
(d) assisting the parents to communicate more effectively where appropriate;
(e) assisting the parents to develop effective means of disengagement in their parenting and communication where appropriate;
(f) assisting the parents with the exchange of information about the children (i.e., health, welfare, education, religion, routines, day-to-day matters, etc.)

Family lawyers, mediators, child welfare reporters, curators and any of the other professionals involved in family support could become parenting coordinators if they undertake suitable training. Family Law in Partnership is holding this training in England.

It is a tricky task to build up working relationships with parents who can't bring themselves to agree with each other about anything much. 

This is the area of micro-management that Sir James referred to - and we hear from sheriffs up and down Scotland - where there is no real role for judicial input and expensive court time. An example given during the briefing session was an order based on allowing a separated parent to take his child to football training on a Tuesday.  A year later the training was shifted to a Wednesday.  One parent states, "the order says Tuesday", the other says "but it was about football training".

A Parenting Coordinator could attempt to persuade the parents to work it out, or mediate between them urging them to think about what works best for the child. But in the end, the Coordinator can make the decision for them. 

The advantage is that the issue can be resolved within a day or two and without returning to court (or exchanging correspondence between solicitors) with the concomitant costs and prolonging the standoff for weeks or months.

Comprehensive guidelines and strategies have been drawn up by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts based on experience over the past 25 years of operation.

Research on parenting coordination conducted in Alberta in Canada showed: 

42% of parents improved parenting cooperation in areas such as willingness to accommodate changes in visiting arrangements and improved day to day decision making about the children;

52% of parents noted improved cooperation on major decisions about the children;
in 22% of cases parents increased their involvement with the children;
57% of children showed less ‘acting out’ behaviours;

54% of children showed fewer symptoms of stress such as headaches, stomach-aches and difficulty in sleeping;
33% of the children showed more interest in seeing the non-custodial parent.

A Social Return on Investment (SROI) on this study found that a $7.40 return on every dollar of investment over the first three years of operation and the actual value of this programme was probably higher than this conservative estimate. 

FNF Scotland's response to the recent Government consultation on family law modernisation proposed that Scotland should establish Parenting Coordination on a trial basis in one part of the country and evaluate whether it is effective in reducing court appearances as well as helping parents to make parenting decisions on their own.

If Parenting Coordination is tried out in Scotland we would expect that this type of SROI analysis should be undertaken, and would hope that it would show significant advantages over the conventional court-based model, not least in savings on court time.


Research the impact of family breakdown on wellbeing

Dr. John Barry of University College London is working in association with Families Need Fathers to find out about the impact of family breakdown on wellbeing.

It is totally confidential and ethically approved, and the study will help to improve knowledge of what aspects of the breakdown cause the most stress e.g. family court hearings, child access etc. Whether you are a father or a mother, if you are still going through family separation and/or making arrangements for your children in family courts, through mediation or privately, then your participation would be welcome. The more people that take part the more persuasive the results will be.

The study will involve an online survey taking about 2 minutes to complete. It will be done several times over a year, so in total will take about one hour of your time over a 12 month period.

If you want to take part, please email Dr. Barry for further information,  who will provide you with a code to activate https://tinyurl.com/yagzh8ca.

FNF is not only supporting this research but sponsoring it financially. The results of this study will be published and form part of a programme of work we will be doing to help policymakers make informed decisions when reforming family justice and other related policies, so please support it and share this with friends to whom it may be relevant.

Families Need Fathers Scotland would encourage Scottish fathers to take part so that there is a sufficient number of responses to allow for production of Scottish results.  We are already very aware of the impact of stress on people who contact us, and are running stress management courses, training people as peer supporters and linking people to support each other online and in person.  The next stress management course in Edinburgh is on 31st January - further details and bookings here.