What would your child say about your separation? Here is the safe and smart way to find out?
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN HEARING THE VOICE OF THE CHILD
It is not uncommon during a separation for parents to disagree about a child’s needs and preferences. Occasionally some older children or teenagers request to speak to their parent’s mediator or lawyer so the teen can have input into the plans that will shape their life. A Voice of the Child (VOC) practitioner is a neutral professional who uses a structured process to identify and then share the child’s experience of separation, what is going well for the child and what is not, and any preferences the child has for their post separation life.
A Voice of the Child report is not an assessment of either parent’s strengths or shortcomings. Parents do learn about their child’s primary concerns, their secretly held worries or their dislike for a particular parenting practice. Parents must be open to hearing the honest and genuine perceptions of their child, whether that perspective is or is not flattering.
Preparing a Voice of the Child Report required each parent to speak privately with the practitioner. This helps the practitioner know what topics to canvas with the child, to understand the child's temperament and to prepare to make the child comfortable during the discussion. Both parents must consent to the VOC service.
Children over the age of 12 are required to sign a consent form confirming they agree to meet with the practitioner. The consent form explains in clear language what the youth can expect, how the youth can end the process and what information can and cannot be kept confidential. Each child is interviewed twice. It is preferred that each parent bring the child to one appointment, however some appointments may happen in a neutral location such as a school, if required. Each child will confirm with the practitioner which information may be shared with their parents and which they want kept private. *
Parents receive a verbal or written report of their child’s separation experiences, preferences, and concerns as obtained through the child interviews. For parents participating in Mediation or a Collaborative Law process the children’s views will typically be shared during a mediation session or in the presence of the Collaborative team. The main goal is to refocus parental attention on the child’s experience, encouraging parents to make child sensitive decisions.
*When meeting with children the practitioner carefully explains the limits of confidentiality. The practitioner is required by law (The Child, Youth and Family Service Act section 125) to report suspicions that a child may be in need of protection to the child protection authorities. Any risk of a child harming themselves or others will not be kept confidential. Beyond these requirements, each child will determine which information is shared with their parents.