Presentation on theme: "Seldom seen and rarely heard: Children’s voices in post-divorce decision-making. Symposium presented by: Lisbeth T PIKE, Paul T MURPHY, & Alan D CAMPBELL."— Presentation transcript:
Seldom seen and rarely heard: Children’s voices in post-divorce decision-making. Symposium presented by: Lisbeth T PIKE, Paul T MURPHY, & Alan D CAMPBELL (Edith Cowan University, Perth WA) & Alison Hay (Monash, Vic)
Paper No. 1 Children and decision-making: an impossible dream? Alan CAMPBELL Edith Cowan University
Paper No 2. Speaking Out: Children’s experiences of residency and contact disputes in the Family Court of Western Australia when child abuse is alleged Paper No 2. Speaking Out: Children’s experiences of residency and contact disputes in the Family Court of Western Australia when child abuse is alleged Alison HAY, Monash University
Paper No 3 “You never know, they might be right”. Children’s voices in the Family Court of Western Australia Lisbeth T Pike & Paul T Murphy Edith Cowan University
Children’s voices Children’s place in the court: What should they get? What do they get? 1.United Nations Convention, Article 12 2.Family Law Act, 1975; ‘best interest of the child’
Children’s voices What research says children want? Data sources include: talking to chn (Smart & Neal; Smith & Tapp) talking to older adolescents/young adults - retrospective data Results are: most chn want to be involved in the decision making process eg NOT ALL chn want to be involved but most do when it comes to residency and contact decisions it is a very individual position; can’t make statements for ALL chn
Children’s voices Children’s voices Context FCWA; contact & residency disputes (3,500 per annum approx) Columbus Pilot; high conflict cases (250 per annum) The place of children in Family Court disputes
Children’s voices Columbus Pilot in FCWA, July 2001- Dec 2002 Columbus was designed to intensively manage cases where allegations of abuse Three year evaluation (2002-2005) Qualitative and quantitative data including semi-structured interviews with children
Children’s voices Columbus Pilot (n= 93) Domestic Violence 42 Child Abuse 19 Family violence 32 ‘Control’ Group (n= 62) Domestic Violence 22 Child Abuse 20 Family violence 20 Average age of children, 4.9 years Total sample of children available approx 25 Sample interviewed 7 Columbus pilot & 6 control group (approx 50% )
Children’s voices Interview Topics: Understanding their family’s involvement Understanding their own involvement Age of involvement Weight of the child’s voice Experience of court professionals: Child representative, court experts Experience of outcomes
Children’s voices: Out of the mouths of babes Understanding their family’s involvement “ I think it was because whenever Dad got home Mum and him would argue and stuff.” “Because my Mum wouldn’t do it the proper way…because she was the one who took us away from Dad.”
Children’s voices Who should be involved? (Columbus children) “ME! [emphasis in original] Because I know what I want.” “I think the child and the mother as well. Like, adults should listen to what children have to say because even though they may not be mature enough to make the decision, they still need to hear what they want and maybe to compromise.” “It should be Mum and Dad, and me because I know what is best for me.”
Children’s voices Who should be involved? (Control children) “I reckon it should have been my decision because I was old enough.” “Well Mum and Dad were just fighting over it, so probably the judge, or someone who knew about children.” “No, I didn't get a chance to say anything”
Children’s voices Age of involvement? “I think anyone over 6 should be old enough to speak up.” “Well I think if they’re over the age of 10 they are responsible for their own actions.” “It depends how old the child is and maturity. I don’t think an 8 year old has this but maybe you can listen to what she’s saying and pay attention but maybe give it consideration but very definitely to listen to her.”
Children’s voices Weight of the child’s voice? “I told people in the court but I never seemed to get anywhere”. “Sometimes it might not be a good idea to follow what the child wants…it depends on where they are going”.
Children’s voices Experience of Court professionals: Child Reps “I talked ‘til I was blue in the face about wanting to stay with Dad, but no one listened to me. Like they could have done something, maybe stood up in court and said something.” “I knew that her job was to help me out, so if I told her it would help me out. She really listened to me but what I don’t know is how, like what she was going to do with that information.”
Children’s voices Experience of Court professionals: Child Reps “ I didn’t want the lawyer to tell anybody else, but I wanted someone to know, and telling the lawyer was a good thing. She was a good person to tell but I didn’t know how. I thought she might have written it down after I said it and given it to the judge. I don’t know what the judge would do with it – maybe just keep it to himself. I just wanted the judge to know. I wanted somebody to know, okay.” “I only saw her once. I was a little bit worried, because I don’t want people to know about what I said because I didn’t want to make my family sad.”
Children’s voices Experience of Court professionals: Court Expert “To tell the court how I felt, to hear it straight from me, sort of like what I said would be proof because other people could just say their own version. I worked it out for myself, and it seemed this would be the only way the court could hear the truth, my version, the proof.”
Children’s voices Experience of Court professionals: Court Expert “I actually thought she was a proper counsellor and that she would come back and keep talking to me about it. I think it would have helped a bit if she had helped me through it. Someone else to talk to. Like my Mum is an alright person but it’s nice to talk to someone else other than your friends or family.”
Children’s voices Experience of Outcomes “I actually wanted to live with mum and I didn’t want to see my Dad and that’s what happened. So yeah, they got it right.” “I think the second week I started going with my Dad, because I love my Dad, so I didn’t care what other people said, I just changed things to suit me.” “I felt quite cross with my Dad because he had no respect about how I felt about the whole situation and I thought that was a bit selfish.”
Children’s voices Informing FCWA initiatives Case Assessment Conferences (CAC) Children’s Cases Programme (CCP) Child Inclusive Family Reports (CIFR) The new integrated Family Law system?
Children’s voices Conclusions : Children have views/opinions; not merely wishes Sensitive to nuances of adult situation & sensitivities around loyalty to parents Children’s insights based on different models that are working for their peers (strengths based) Don’t want responsibility of decision making but they DO WANT TO BE HEARD!
Children’s voices The final comment is left to a 12-year-old girl: “Well, no offence, but I don’t really think adults listen to us and they just want to think what they think, especially if the kid is younger. And I think the kids should be mostly listened to as well as the adults. I think they should be treated the way an adult is treated and be allowed to have their say.”