Advice for Teenagers

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     What about the children? (who’s looking out for them?)

by Kenn Griffiths Independent contact/access consultant

Divorce can be a very difficult time even when we know that it’s the best way forward. Trying to make positive decisions when you are surrounded by negative emotions can be a recipe for disaster. Yet there is an expectation that decisions will be made that will have a lasting effect not least on the children, especially if the parents can’t agree about what’s best for them.

The starting point has to be to make sure that the children don’t take on the adult issues and don’t feel that they are responsible for the ‘break up’.

All too often disputes involving the children go to Court. The very term ‘Court’ is daunting and can escalate the anxiety surrounding the adults and children. It is very important from the outset to make every one aware that the Court is not a criminal Court; it is a Family Court and does not have the same powers or ethos as a criminal Court.

At Court the Judge, or Magistrate in family proceedings, listens to everyone’s views and then has the task of deciding about important decisions. These are usually to do with where the child will live and what type of contact or access arrangements are best for them. On occasions children can attend at Court and make their views known but in most cases the child’s wishes and feelings are made known to the Court by way of a report compiled by a professional court advisor, a qualified social worker employed by the Government’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS), in some cases the Court will appoint an independent social worker or, where the family are known to the Local Authority, one of their social workers may be given the responsibility to prepare a report. No matter who is appointed the work they should carry out is the same. There is an expectation that the child’s wishes and feelings will be sought and this means spending time with the children and getting to know them. The reporter should also be available to help the child to understand what is happening. The child should be encouraged to talk openly about what they would like to happen and their views should then be properly reported to the Court. Not all children are able to give their views and so workers must ensure that they bring in other professionals to help with communication or to understand any special needs. The very process of doing this work can help the parents to understand that they have to put their child before themselves and competent reporters will spend time with all of the important people in the child’s life in an effort to get everyone working together in the child’s best interests.

The best outcome would be that everyone involved agree. But, where this is not achieved the Judge will decide what is best.

So, who ever has the responsibility for the report, will:

  • Listen to the child and record the child’s wishes and feelings
  • Interview everyone who is important in the child’s life and welfare, this can include teachers, extended family members and the family GP
  • Explain the Court and its purpose in easily understandable, age appropriate language
  • Prepare a report that reflects everyone’s positions and share that report before the Court hearing so that those involved have the chance to read the report, its conclusions and recommendations and seek legal advice especially if they do not agree with the outcome

The Child has a right to:

  • See a CAFCASS worker or another professional who will listen to the child and tell the Court what the child wants
  • Visit the Court in person and tell the Judge what they want
  • Know what has been said and reported
  • Be kept informed about the case and the progression
  • Know what the decisions of the Court are and why those decisions were made
  • Complain

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In the UK one in four children have parents who have divorced or separated

Many young people go through a family change and there are lots of reasons why relationships don’t work. It maybe that you think you are to blame but always remember that it is not your fault. It’s quite normal for adults to disagree and sometimes these disagreements can be so difficult that they do not feel that they can stay together.

It can be difficult to talk to parents during difficult times. It will help if you can talk to someone in the family maybe a grandparent, aunt or uncle. You may feel that you don’t want to talk because you are angry or sad. Being quiet is OK but you should not ‘bottle up’ your feelings. Try doing something that makes you feel happy, write a letter to yourself or better still a trusted friend or relative. If you don’t feel you can talk to your parents what about giving sending them a letter? Sometimes writing a letter to someone who you makes you feel bad and then destroying it before you send it can help you to get rid of your frustration.

There are many organisations that you could contact to help you through a difficult time.

We could help here at use our email or ring us free on 0800 0283163.

Or try…

Childline: 0800 1111

NSPCC: 0800 800 500

Samaritans: 08457 909090

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I have a family - what is a family?

All families are different, so there’s no such thing as an ‘average family’.

If you look around your friends and think, ‘wow, I’d love my family to be like this’ or ‘I wish I lived here’ you are probably having problems at home. Don’t be taken in by what you meet as a family outsider. All families have their problems, the good and the not so good come in all shapes and sizes. What does happen in all families is that the family gives a child its uniqueness. How the family is organised will have an effect on a child’s development. You may be feeling that your family doesn’t do things the way you want them to. That’s ok! It’s good that you have your own ideas but being in a family does mean that you have to adapt as the family changes.

Parent separation and divorce necessarily means that the family has changed. The moment a drastic change like this comes about the family is different but the back-ground and core family values are still there and can give you a good sense of comfort.  Keeping in touch with trusted family members such as grand-parents can help you to keep a sense of the family.

Going from a two parent, live-in family, to living with one parent and visiting the other takes some sorting. It’s not unusual to feel loss and grief as you would with a family death. Grieving is an individual process and no two people grieve in the same way. So don’t beat yourself up if you think you are not coping with a recent family change. Feelings of guilt or a belief that you have some part to play in the divorce or separation is quite normal but you should remember that it is the adults that have the power and they make the decisions.

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ASBO's - Whats the new answer?

Click above to hear Independent SocialWorker & Child Protection expert Kenn Griffiths discussing anti social behaviour orders in a live debate on Radio 5 live.

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