Skip to content

Managing High Conflict Separated Parents in Child Protection Agencies

June 22, 2016

Child protection agencies are seeing increasing numbers of child abuse referrals in the context of high conflict separated parents.

In a high conflict separation, separated parents are seen to have poor communication and are in dispute over aspects of the children’s care between them. There is often wrangling over the residential schedule as well as decision making authority. It is common that parents in these situations are involved with family court. Many of these situations have been going on for years with the children caught in the middle.

As for the allegations of abuse, it is typically the case that while the allegations are unfounded or at least unproven, parental conflict is reportedly a concern for the emotional and psychological well being of the child.

It is the hope of some of these parents that their reporting of abuse and subsequent child protection investigations will support their case at court. In other cases, a parent just wants help to maintain their relationship and time with the children. At times a parent may firmly believe in the appropriateness of their report. Notwithstanding, these are usually not child protection issues in the traditional sense and these increasing number of cases are tying up agency resources.

Insidiously though, the child protection agencies are drawn into the parental dispute and the child protection worker is turned into a referee while trying desperately to not be perceived as taking sides.Refereeing between warring parents is not what child protection workers are trained for and this is beyond the mandate of these agencies. However, the worker and agency often feels stuck and does not know how to best serve these families or close these cases.

I just finished a second year as consultant in these matters to our local child protection agency. On a monthly basis a worker can propose a case for consultation. The consultation is attended by the worker and supervisor as well as a higher level agency administrative representative. The consultation is open for other agency protection staff and supervisors to attend to serve an educative function. The structure of the consultation process includes:

  1. Introductions;
  2. Case history;
  3. Discussion of what is going well;
  4. Discussion of concerns;
  5. Objective of the consultation;
  6. Consultation and discussion;
  7. Debriefing – discussion on the helpfulness of the consultation and process.

Invariably workers have reported feeling greater confidence in managing the case the result of the consultations. Consultations frequently provide alternative points of view for case management as well as validation for management to date. Workers report the opportunity to be of value.

If you or your agency could benefit from consultation services, it would be my pleasure to be of service.

If you are a parent in this kind of situation and believe the child protection agency to need support in the management of your case, then you too can suggest they seek a consultation from someone knowledgeable in this area of practice. These are challenging situations where the input of an experienced consultant may be helpful.

The broader goal: facilitate more peaceful outcomes through appropriate case management, triage or worker intervention.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out my services and then call me if you need help with child behavior or relationship issue.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Linked In

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: