Today I have joined several other well known women in the UK alongside many other women working in the field of families and family support across the world in Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
Leading Women for Shared Parenting (LW4SP) is an international child advocacy organization supporting the implementation of a presumption of shared parenting as a standard in child custody determinations. Founded in 2013, LW4SP is comprised of prominent female psychologists, attorneys, elected officials, domestic violence practitioners, social scientists, authors, child advocates and others who support shared parenting. We advocate for shared parenting as LW4SP is in contact with the most prominent social scientists in the world and is aware, except in cases involving abuse, neglect or abandonment, shared parenting produces the best outcome for children. LW4SP focuses its advocacy on educating politicians, judges, policy makers and the public about the value of shared parenting for children of divorce.
UK women in the group are
Erin Pizzey – International Founder of Refuge/Refuge Movement for Victims of Domestic Violence and Author
Dr. Nicola Graham-Kevan – Professor of Psychology, Domestic Violence Expert
Ruth Langford – Manager, Wikivorce Philippa Dolan, Esq – Partner,
Practicing Family Law Attorney Celia Conrad – Solicitor, Author
Alison Bushell – Co-Founder, Child & Family Solutions
Information about the other leading women from around the world can be found at the LW4SP site.
As many of my readers will know, my journey to supporting legislative presumption of shared parenting has run alongside my personal journey away from feminism and towards a whole family approach to work with separated families. It is almost as if, as I emerged from the orthodoxy of thinking inside the box, my ability to understand the importance of legislative change grew clearer. Whilst I continue to firmly believe that legislative change is only one part of the change we seek in terms of how we educate, inform and support separated parents to help their children, I also know that it is the bedrock upon which to build a different, more egalitarian future, in which our children’s rights to strong relationships with both sides of their families (and selves) is protected over the longer term.
I have joined LW4SP because I know that here in the UK, the Coalition government’s attempt to create change in the two arenas that affected separated families was eventually distilled into a meaningless sentence in the Children Act and a pointless waste of money by the DWP in what became ‘help and support for separated families.’ The latter being created by a group of people who appear in the latest news about Child Maintenance to have ditched everything that was originally planned in order to revert to the Gingerbread land terminology of ‘absent parents’ who must be ‘made to pay.’ This clear reversal of what was actually a progessive agenda, tells me that there is still a mountain to climb in terms of persuading people that change is due in this field. Having abandoned UK politics in favour of working with families directly again, it seems important to me to work on this issue internationally to fight the all pervasive women’s rights dominated agenda that drives this field here.
There is no lack of evidence to show that children do well when both of their parents are involved in their lives. International research can be found at LW4SP and other sites dedicated to raising the reality. However in the UK, just as international research around family violence is ignored by government, this research is too often quietly shelved in favour of that which is commissioned and paid for by women’s rights interest groups. With the reduction of the representation of the needs of fathers in government to feminist appeasing groups such as the Fatherhood Institute, it seems very clear to me that the road to legislative change in the UK is going to be long and hard indeed.
The issue of legislative change has been resisted massively in the UK. Even where organisations such as Relate and One Plus One have in public received millions for supposedly helping parents to co-parent, they have, behind the scenes, been campaigning to make sure that legislative change is stopped. These and other organisations were signatories to a campaign to effectively stop the changes to the Children Act which were originally proposed by Tim Loughton when he was Children’s Minister. What eventually emerged from this was a change so futile that it could in many circumstances make things worse, not better for children. UK family politics is dominated by feminists and it was clear to me, in my work with the Coalition Government, that it is women’s rights that come first in family policy with fathers and children a very long way behind. I believe that is wrong. I believe that in family policy and practice the rights and needs of children should come first by a long way.
I work with children of family separation every day of my life. I see the damage it does to them. I also see the damage that our current legislation does, making things worse not better, driving adversarial approaches to separation and failing on a daily basis to ensure that parents are helped to work together. In the UK, the rise in the focus upon the voice of the child is seen as the way forward as adults abdicate their responsibilities in favour of asking children what they think should happen. Even the Children’s Commissioner for England is in favour of allowing children to decide whether to see a parent after separation. Websites have sprung up which have children affected by separation assisting other children going through the experience. These wheezes even proclaim that children have raised the funding for these projects. Leaving me despairing at the absolute lack of understanding of what children really need when their parents separate, which is two parents working together to ensure that children can carry on being children, not pseudo agony aunts or decision makers about their relationship with the two people who brought them into the world. This is why we need legislative change. This is why I have joined LW4SP.
Joining LW4SP allows me to share my experience internationally as well as learn from some key women who share my own views and experience in the field. It also allows me to continue to push for the very best outcomes for children of family separation all over the world. I am delighted to join such a strong and visionary group of women for whom children’s needs and rights come first. One day, all support for separated families will be made this way.
More information on LW4SP, research, articles and public polling on shared parenting is available on our website: www.lw4sp.org.