What’s a Parent Advocate?

The following is a repost from 12-31-11

When I decided to open my mediation business, I was trying yo think of all the ways that I could be of assistance to people.  I went through my own 8 year battle that stole much of my energy and learned  a great deal about the Family Court System. 

Mediation is a great thing.  It really fit what I wanted to do to help people stay out of court, but there was more. My main goal is to keep people out of court and out of the clutches of an overbearing parenting consultant or other case manager of your family.  They are supposed to manage your case, but the scope of their authority is very broad.  If you get a Parenting Consultant who thinks they are qualified to fix your family and mold it into what they want it to be, you will go insane!  My hope is that maybe I can find people before that happens in their case.  I don’t know if all Parenting consultants are bad, but I have never heard anyone who found their court authority to help ease tensions.  On the contrary, they are VERY GOOD at exacerbating all of the problems.

What I found when planning my business, was that my passions really lie in helping people through this difficult time.  I hear more and more how people get stuck in the court system for years and how they get court ordered to Anger Management, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and things like that.  More and more case managers end up appointed to your case.  You may have a Guardian ad Litem for the kids, or a parenting consultant for you and your ex (Oh, joy-blech!) and I have even heard of a recent case where the person appointed to ‘manage” the case used the title Marital Master.  WTH?  Does that mean you’re his slave?  You could end up with several of these people in your business.  I am very passionate about helping people in areas where the only help is to call your lawyer and pay a rather large bill for minimal if any results.  You can do something different and have a parent advocate to help you through.

One of the areas that can trip people up is in the school system.  School.  It should really be your child’s safe haven, where divorce isn’t always on their mind.  Unfortunately that isn’t always how it is.

I’m going to pick on Parenting Consultants a little here, but they are not the only ones who can turn your entire life upside down and inside out.  There are horror stories out there about Guardian ad Litems and court appointed psychologists and custody evaluators, too.  For now I will just pick on the PCs.  They can decide all kinds of things about your children if you and the other parent can not easily come into agreements.  They can decide where your kids go to school, what doctor they go to, how parent teacher conferences should work.  Historically,  they have reported  anything and everything about you to the court.  I recently attended formal parenting consultant training, even though as a mediator, I am qualified to work as a pc, I thought it would be helpful to take the formal pc training.  I learned there that they no longer communicate to the court, or at least in training they recommend that pcs not communicate to the court.  Are those who have worked as parenting consultants aware of that recommendation?  How can you know?  When a pc does report things to the court, they can be selective in what they choose to report.  Even if they do not communicate with the court, what you say or do can be used against you.  The parenting consultant process if not confidential and they can testify in court about either or both parents.  This will definitely cause problems.  Do not be fooled.  If a lawyer tells you that a Parenting Consultant will help your situation, run like hell for a new lawyer!

What happens when you have a court authority on your case is that you lose all of your power.  Sometimes both you and your ex lose all power.  Neither parent can say much, even though you have every right to be heard over and above the PC.  Unfortunately, the schools don’t seem very knowledgeable about family court matters.  They seem to think that if a parent has lost custody, they are only obligated to talk to, listen to and work with the custodial parent and they can blow the noncustodial off.  When they just see conflict and chaos, they welcome an authority figure.  In the schools eyes, this person is the savior!  What this usually means is that the schools will focus on whatever the parenting consultant tells them.  Why?  Because they see an authority figure and that authority figure is who they are going to listen to.  If both parents are saying two different things and the authority figure says something all together different, the school sees the authority figure as the one to listen to.  This will also happen in the doctor’s office.  Now, the truth is that a Parenting Consultant should be making a decision when the parents don’t agree.  It should go like this:

Mom wants A, Dad wants B.  Parenting consultant chooses A or B as their decision.

Guess what?  It doesn’t often go that way!  It can go like this:

Mom wants A, Dad wants B.  Parenting Consultant chooses C, D, E, F and G or all of the above!  Now within your parental rights, C, D, E, F and G shouldn’t even be on the table.  Only A or B.  Unfortunately, the courts generally allow these PCs to do whatever they want.  No one holds them accountable.  There is no one outside the court system to hold them accountable.  You as the parent have to, but don’t expect to succeed with e
xposing them in your child’s school or at their physician’s office.  Once they ingratiate themselves into the children’s school or medical or even counseling areas, they become the one that school officials, doctors and therapist listen to and follow the direction of.  It is truly a nightmare!

This is where I come in.  Yes, I am not afraid to walk into your nightmare with you.  When I am your Parent Advocate, you are the only person I listen to.  A Parenting Consultant has no power over me.  I am ready and willing to come in and explain to the schools, or doctors, or therapists that no matter what the custody designation is, you as a parent have the right to access information about your children.  You, as the parent, should be making the decisions, not a stranger, who more often than not, will never even want to meet your kids!  I’ll review all of your court orders in regards to school, clinics or any area of parenting disagreements that are causing you grief.   I will make a phone call on your behalf, send a letter or email, explaining that you have the same informational rights as the other parent does.  I’m also always happy to explain to them why the parents are the important piece in all of this and the Parenting Consultant is not someone to rely on.  If you are at you wit’s end, I am always happy to go with you and meet with the school in person.  I can explain some things and give the school some information about parent’s rights or I can just sit in the room to support you. We can mediate an agreement with the school so that you get your needs met as a parent and they get their needs met to keep the conflict away from school as much as is in your control.   If you’ve been driven to angry outbursts in these situations, I am a reminder to keep your cool.  If at any time you need to “practice’ what you plan to say, we can set goals and a strategic plan how to meet those goals when it comes to dealing with professionals in your child’s life.  I’ll do some roll playing with you prior to the real meeting so that you can know what you want to say and be confident in saying it.   If you have made some missteps in your child’s school or physician office, I can help you see if there is a way to turn that around.

In whatever way that you need my help, I am there to do my best.  The goal is to get you back on track, address any necessary damage control, and get your life moving forward again.  I want to help you get unstuck.  If you dread having to see your child’s teacher, principal or physician, you definitely should at least talk to me and see if I can help you find new ways to manage the difficulties.  If you need anything at all or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

*photos: FAQ by jscreationzs, Witz End by Now and Zen

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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