Role of the Child Specialist
The child specialist is trained in the collaborative family law model and acts as a neutral advocate for the interests of the children. The role of the child specialist in this process differs from the role of the traditional child therapist, and is not that of a custody and access assessor for litigation. The child specialist can enter into the process at any time; their inclusion is not dependent on any special circumstances, but can be initiated at the beginning of the collaborative process if only to provide the children the welcome relief of being able to talk about their concerns.
The child specialist:
- Advocates for the best interests of the child. This involves assessing the characteristics and needs of the child, and keeping the child’s needs in focus.
- Provides a safe place for the child to share their story and discuss their concerns and interests, without worry of being seen as taking sides or disappointing either parent.
- Provides the parents with information and guidance to help their children through the process. This involves sharing knowledge concerning developmental stages, attachment issues, and family dynamics which impact the children.
- Gives an oral report to the parents and their collaborative team to help develop an effective parenting plan.
- Signs on to the Collaborative Participation Agreement, abiding by the understanding that the child specialist, along with the other professionals on the collaborative team, will not be involved in litigation in the event that the parties leave the collaborative process.
- Does not provide therapy for children, unless essential (e.g., a crisis), and then only with the consent of the parents. However a child specialist can continue to act as a resource for the family post-separation.
- Recommends therapy when needed.
Qualifications of the Child Specialist
- Expertise in Child Development (which may be restricted by age of children – e.g. infancy, preschool, adolescent).
- Clinical experience with a specialty focus on children, with at least two years therapeutic, assessment, and/or educational experience dealing with children.
- An understanding of children’s unique issues in divorce, with at least two years therapeutic experience with children who have experienced separation or divorce.
- Accreditation in good standing in British Columbia as one or more of the following:
- Registered psychologist (Reg.Psych.)
- Psychiatrist (MD, specializing in psychiatry)
- Registered Clinical Social Worker (RCSW)
- Registered Social Worker (RSW)
- Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC)
- Counsellor accredited with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA)
- A background with education and expertise in family systems theory, individual and family life cycle and development, with the ability to assess individual and family strengths, challenges of family dynamics in separation and divorce, and challenges of restructuring families after separation.
- Member in good standing with the Collaborative Family Separation Professionals of Victoria.
- Meets the membership qualifications of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).