Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: October 20, 2003

Seal of the Unified Court System
www.nycourts.gov
Parents Go Back to School to Ease Divorce Trauma for Children

NEW YORK - In New York State, parents who divorce, separate or are involved in custody or visitation disputes will be directed to participate in education programs designed to provide information and practical tools on how to reduce the stress of their break-up on their children and protect them from the negative effects of parental conflict. Following guidelines released in a report this week by the Parent Education Advisory Board, the court system will begin certifying and monitoring local providers of such services to ensure the quality and efficacy of these programs, including special protocols to screen out families affected by domestic violence.

Programs specifically designed for divorcing or separating parents are used in 49 states today. In New York State, approximately 50 such programs exist, having developed at a grassroots level. But until now, while some judges in New York have referred litigants to these programs, no systematic examination had been undertaken of their curriculum, safety and accountability, nor had any monitoring structure been put in place.

In her 2001 State of the Judiciary address, Chief Judge Judith Kaye announced the Parent Education and Awareness Program to inform judges and others about the benefits of parent education and to foster increased utilization of this resource. At the same time, she appointed the Parent Education Advisory Board, chaired by Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Frazee of Rochester, New York, to develop uniform standards for parent education programs to which courts make referrals and to oversee their implementation. The 19-member panel is composed of professionals from a spectrum of relevant fields including pediatric medicine, child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology, social work, domestic violence awareness, family law and the judiciary. The Board’s report is the culmination of two years of study that included reviewing literature on parent education, domestic violence and child development; interviewing leading experts in the field; drawing on the experiences of other states; and considering comments on a draft report circulated among the community of experts. As detailed in its report, the Board has established a statewide system of certification and monitoring and set forth standards that parent education programs will be required to meet in order to receive court referrals.

Chief Judge Kaye said, “The benefits of parent education programs, where divorcing parents learn about the impact of ongoing conflict on their children and are informed about how to reduce the stress of this time for them, are well established, and in many parts of the state, judges are already referring litigants to these programs. However, in New York to date we have had no system to monitor providers of these services nor uniform standards from which to assess them, not only to ensure the safety of the programs but also their effectiveness. I appointed the Parent Education Advisory Board, headed by the dynamic Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Frazee, to shoulder the vital undertaking of implementing a statewide system of court-annexed parent education programs and am delighted with the work they have accomplished. Their proposals, contained in this insightful report, are well thought out, based on up-to-date research, and address the concerns of all affected interest groups, incorporating the wisdom of experts in the field. Most importantly, they are child-centered—promoting children’s healthy adjustment and development by educating parents about what they can do to help their children through this transitional time. I am extremely grateful to Judge Frazee and all the advisory board members for their dedication and fine work on behalf of the children and families of New York.”

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman added, “A great number of children—about 40 percent in this country—will experience the divorce of their parents during childhood. In these cases, as well as those involving separation, custody and visitation disputes, parent education programs have been shown to be invaluable, helping litigants understand how parental conflict affects children and giving them tools to ameliorate the negative impact on their youngsters. The work the Parent Education Advisory Board has accomplished in this area is tremendous and will help to ensure that the programs to which matrimonial and family court judges in New York refer families will meet the highest standards of quality and excellence.”

The chair of the advisory board, Hon. Evelyn Frazee, said “Through my work with a parent education program, I have seen firsthand the tremendous benefit that parent education can have for children as they adjust to their parents’ divorce or separation. Parents consistently express appreciation for the information and assistance that these programs provide to them and their children. For the sake of our children’s well-being, I am delighted to see parent education become available to more parents with greater uniformity and consistency.”

Copies of the New York State Parent Education Advisory Board report can be obtained through the court system’s web site at www.nycourts.gov/reports or by calling 212-428-2500.

 
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