What exactly is a Collaborative Divorce Child Specialist?
A Child Specialist in Divorce is essentially the professional that brings forth children's voices; their concerns, hopes, wishes, fears, and their unique view of what is happening for them as well as their perspective on what is happening in their family. Their expeience is shared with the Child Specialist in a safe and comfortable manner as the sessions are provided in the home of the child rather than in an office. The Child Specialist is also very careful in asking only information that is useful and relevamt to the divorce process and children are asked permission for the Child Specialist to share the information with the parents with the puroose of helping their parents make good, sound decisions regarding their family as they progress through the challenges involved in the separation or divorce transition. In this way the children's voices are heard, yet they are not placed in inapproriate decision making roles and parents are able to benefit from a neutral assessment of their children's needs and coping in a supportive manner.
How is it different from a Parent Evaluator?
It is essential to know that a Child Specialist is not evaluating parents or their homes and infomation gathered is not admittable in court. I do not interview wittnesses or do psychological testing. Instead a CS's focus is on helping children communicate their emotional experience, their questions and their practical concerns to parents who are committed to working through dissagreements or emotional pain to meet the needs of their children. In the Collaborative perspective parents are the leaders in making decisions regarding how to care for their children and professionals are guides and supports to help them find solutions. As a Child Specialist I do not make recommendations to the courts or attorneys. I may release information but only with a signed release from both parents to professionals that both parents agree will help them in their divorce process.
Do you only work with Collaborative Divorce?
No, I actually will work with parents in any process as long as they respect my role as a neutral and are aware of the limitations of the information that I am able to share. If you are in a Collaborative Divorce I will sign the collaborative participation agreement along with the other professionals which allows me to share information with your team in a transparent manner. If you are not in a collaborative divorce process I will ask that you sign my contract that specifies that the information cannot be used in court. However we can discuss what inforamtion you would like me to share (if any) with the attorneys or other professionals in your divorce process. The general rule is a Child Specialist goal is to help support parents and reduce and avoid creating additional anxiety or conflict that can interfere with healthy coping for all family members.
What if we aren't in any process but are just considering separation or divorce?
Many times I am the first professional parents contact as the concern for their children is their greatest anxiety. I consider my initial work with famiies very important in helping them to get realistic and sound suggestions that put them on the path to helping their family cope and begin to build a framework for health co-parenting decisions. I can offer a consultation for how to tell your children, what to expect, how to manage initial separation decisions, reduce parental conflict and increase confidence in your ability to parent well in this challenging time.
What does the process entail-What kind of sessions with who and where?
My services are tailored to your process and your need. It can be as simple as one or two sessions to give you guidance for your initial steps into your process such as how to tell your children, children's common reactions and how to support them and what might be your next steps in the process. Generally however I have a basic three-step model: The first meeting is with both parents in the office to gather inforamtion and answer any general questions you might have. The second session is scheduled with chiidren to gather information on their coping, questions and needs, the third session is again with both parents in office and your divorce coach if you are working with one in your process to "pass on" the information to you as parents along with suggestions that I may have to offer. After that time my involvement is discretionary based upon your desire to have me present at any meetings with other professionals or if there is some additional child information needed I can schedule additional sessions. Generally however I prefer to keep the child visits to a minimum in order to maintain children's sense of comfort, to not create a sense that your child is "in therapy" or is innapropriately involved in the decision making process in divorce (my motto is for kids to "get back to being kids").
How much does Child Specialist Services cost?
I charge for face-to-face sessions whether in the office or in-home, I may charge for travel if needed. Additionally I charge for significant communication to professionals if you are requesting me to do so. Examples include if you are in the Collaborative process (or you request me to communicate to your non-colloaborative attorneys or other professionas) I may charge for professional team meetings in person or by telephone. I do not charge for short emails or telephone calls (under 15 minutes) to you or to involved professionals. My rate is $180 dollars an hour. A good general estimate for my services (parent session, home-visit and travel a pro-team communication and debreif with both parents and/or a divorce coach) would be $750-$1000. I make every effort be be efficient and fiscally responsible in my work with families and welcome your questions and input regarding needed services.