Over the past few years, social service agencies in Hamilton have seen an increase in the number of high conflict separating and divorcing families in need of service and programs. Many of these services are child welfare in nature as well as other prevention and treatment services within the children’s mental health sector. Specifically, families and children are often involved with school social workers, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL), children’s aid societies, physicians, family lawyers, police, therapists and other mental health professionals. There is recognition that conflict may flow from such issues as domestic violence, mental health issues, addiction, grief, chronic illness, financial and housing issues. Parents within these families have reached an impasse with respect to resolving their separation and divorce matters. They present particular challenges to practitioners and they are described as being entrenched in their own views and often focused on reprisal towards the other parent.
Children in these families are often caught in the acrimony between the parents and suffer from emotional harm and abuse. High conflict amongst family members is an indicator of poor success to the functioning of the family and well being of the children.
There is much concern by professionals about the efficacy of services and programs being provided. These families often take up a disproportionate amount of time and tend to dominate the workload of practitioners. In addition, there are a multitude of agencies providing services in an, often, uncoordinated manner.
The Purpose of the Forum:
Raise community awareness to issues related to high conflict families;
Provide multi-disciplinary training to professionals so that they can better identify and assess more effectively the families with which they work;
Identify best practice approaches in reducing the conflict while staying focused on the needs of children;
Promote the development of a network of professionals within the community who can be contacted for consultation;
Develop a collaborative service response to high conflict families along with resources that will benefit these families.