I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Chapter 82 ~ An outline of the Family Group Decision Making Program

The following is an outline of the program as described in the brochure. As confidentiality is a basic bottom line and principle I won't go into any specifics about it. I publish it to give an idea of its purpose, its membership and the potential outcome if all participate. It is a little scary in that others, outside of the immediate family, can be involved but they might offer a clearer perspective as well. I have sent in my consent and I wait to see if the ex and Peigi, who is 12, and can accept or decline due to her age will participate.

As mentioned previously, in Chapter 79, it is based on the traditional aboriginal Circle Meeting format and got started in New Zealand. Kudo's to the local CAS for mentoring this program. I have republished my narrative below to save you going back to the above location.

I met with an interesting person on Monday who runs a program initiated by the Algoma Children's Aid Society called Family Group Decision Making. It is patterned on a program arising out of New Zealand and has roots in their aboriginal method of circle meetings. I am familiar with these as North American aboriginal society has used this method for group meetings for as long as their oral history goes back. In my past career as a National Park Superintendent and Parks Canada manager I became familiar with it. Some of my postings were to very isolated parts of the country and my closest neighbours were First Nations. One of the duties in my various jobs in the past was to get involved with these communities and assist with employment and economic opportunities where possible.

At Pukaskwa National Park, in North Western Ontario, along the coast of Lake Superior, we had a mixed population of First Nation and white employees. The human resources management was a constant challenge given the creation of the park gave preference to First Nations in the Robinson Superior Treaty Group. This was not perceived well by everyone and it had to be dealt with. We eventually evolved a circle meeting method for staff get-togethers where everyone was equal and each had a chance to speak without fear of retribution. I found it to be interesting, challenging to manage, but extremely worthwhile.

The premise behind the local program is excellent and the Facilitator manages it on behalf of the CAS. She describes the local CAS as leading edge in this respect. That is good to hear. It sure sounds like it has those qualities and has the appearance of being groundbreaking. I don't know who mentored it but they need a pat on the back and perhaps something more tangible if it works out for the benefit of the family. I will post some of the information on how it works in the next several days. I won't mention any names as it is the type of program that requires trust and what goes on with participants must stay within the group. (no Vegas analogies please!!:>) If one goes into it then confidentiality is compulsory. I will sign up in the next couple of days. It has been just hectic this week so far and that is not all bad. The store has generated better revenue two days in a row and my graphics skills are being put to good use.

What is Family Group Decision Making?

It is a meeting that involves you, your relatives and friends to establish plans to help your child and your family.

Who is The Family?

Your relatives, friends, and anyone who feels like family to you.

Why Use Family Group Decision Making?

A plan to help your child is made by the larger family. It is a good way of discussing the safety of everyone in the family. You know your children and other family member's best. It's an opportunity to look at resources, both within the family and outside, and how these can best be used to everyone's benefit. You hear what the professionals have to say. You hear the concerns of the other family members.

How is the Family Meeting Arranged?

Once you consent to being involved with Family Group Decision Making, the facilitator will work with you and your family. The Facilitator will explain what FGDM is about. She will ask you who is in your family and how they can be contacted. She will also check with you whether there are other individuals who should actively take part. The Facilitator will approach these people and will invite them to the meeting. The Facilitator will prepare each person for the meeting. The Facilitator will also ask you which service providers could attend the meeting. Childcare and a meal is provided on the day of the meeting. Travel arrangements can be made.

How Long Does it Take?

It takes few weeks to set up the meeting and make sure everyone is prepared and included. The meeting will go on for as long as necessary until a plan is agreed upon - so set aside the whole day! A good meal will be provided. What Happens in a Family Meeting?

Part 1- Welcome and Information Giving

The Facilitator greets and welcomes all people present. There is an opening that fits with your Family's tradition. The Facilitator outlines the purpose of the meeting.

People introduce themselves and share a hope for the day. Guidelines for a respectful discussion are brainstormed. If needed, a safety plan is outlined. The service providers share information about the family.

The family asks the service providers questions

Part 2 - Family Private Time

The family group has time to meet alone to consider new ways of helping the child and the child's family.

Part 3 - Review of Plan

The plan is presented to the CPW and their Supervisor.

The details of implementing the new plan are discussed.

A copy of the plan will be sent to every person within 10 days of the meeting.

Your role as a family member:

To share with the family how you see the situation,

To share how you feel the situation could best be dealt with.

To agree on the best plan, together with the family, which ensures that everyone in the family is safe and cared for.

If you have been invited to be a support person, you will help that family member express their opinions and help them feel safe.

The role of the CPW:

To share with the family, in clear language, your definition of the concerns in the family. To note the strengths in the family. To be clear about any bottom lines you may have.

To note any resources which may be useful to the family.

The role of a resource person/speaker:

To use clear language to describe how the problem can affect a family and its members.

To outline what other families with this type of problem have used and the resources that might be available to this family in the community.