Options to Hear Children
There is a difference between young people under the age of 19 being given an opportunity to provide input, and making the decision about their best interests. Their views can be heard and considered by the adults who make the decisions in different family justice forums such as:
- collaborative processes;
- case conferences;
- court hearings; and
- parenting coordination.
There are a variety of ways that families and decision-makers can create opportunities to hear from young people in these processes. For example, the young person can be invited to share his or her views and:
- speak to the mediator who brings the views into the mediation, or invites the young person to participate directly with the consent of the other parties;
- speak with the child specialist in collaborative law who brings the views forward and advocates for the young person’s best interests;
- speak informally with the judge who hears and can consider the young person’s views in determining their best interests;
- speak to a registered psychologist, psychiatrist or other expert who can bring forward the young person’s views and assess their best interests for the family and court;
- speak to a BC family justice counsellor who can listen to the young person’s views and provide them to the court;
- speak to a parenting coordinator who can consider the young person’s views when working with their parents in determining their best interests;
- speak to a neutral interviewer who can listen to the young person’s views and report them to the decision-maker such as the parents, mediator or judge; or
- testify directly in a court proceeding.
While these options exist, many children are still not given an opportunity to be heard in British Columbia. Some of the reasons for this are that it can be expensive, take too much time, or people lack the necessary training to properly listen to children’s views. The BC Hear the Child Society is working to bridge this gap and has established a roster of neutral professionals trained to listen to children and assist families and decision-makers.
The child may say what he or she wants to say, and nothing more. Absent any child protection concerns, which we are under a duty to disclose, our roster members report as objectively and exactly as possible – and only – what the child authorizes us to say.
BC Hear the Child Society Roster members do not replace assessors or mental health professionals. Rather, they provide a basic service to support every child’s right to have an opportunity to be heard [see Family Law Act ss.37(2)(b), 41(k)(ii) and 202].