More than 50 participants gathered to hear the latest on child participation at a continuing legal education program co-led by the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia and the International Institute for Child Rights and Development (IICRD). BC Hear the Child Society president Ron Smith co-chaired the session with Suzanne Williams (IICRD) while several other members of the Society contributed to the program.
Recent legal developments make it clear that children have a right to have their views heard when their best interests are determined in family law decisions. ”It’s no longer about whether to hear from children but rather, how to best hear from children” said David Dundee who together with Trudi Brown presented the law underpinning a child’s right to participate. Options to hear from children were highlighted on Day 1 of the program including “hear the child” interviews that are privately funded, “views of the child” reports that are completed by a family justice counsellor and paid for by the Province, expert s. 15 reports prepared by a psychologist, and a mediator listening to children’s views and bringing them into the mediation. Judge Gallagher from the BC Provincial Court noted how helpful it is for judges to have someone else listen to the child and bring forward their views for consideration when the court decides the best interests of the child.
Renowned expert, Dr. Joan Kelly, led Day 2 that focused on skills required to interview children. She outlined the recent research base and emphasized the importance of providing information to children about what is going on, “the more appropriate information you have in a crisis the better you cope with it”. Dr. Kelly led the group through the 6 stage interview process and a series of experiential activities.
Thank you to all who contributed time to present or participate! This was the third bi-annual CLEBC-IICRD Child Participation program and we look forward to the fourth in 2013.