Practice Evidences and Future Directions
This is a critical aspect of evidence-based practice and for the ongoing and continued improvement of the SFT model. Our goal is to have SFT implemented by Clinical Groups that serve family Courts and Children and Youth Protective Services Divisions across the nation. It will be imperative for a Clinical Research group to secure the necessary funds to measure the SFT intervention outcomes with the different Levels of CARE established in SFT Service planning. It will be and is erroneous to think of evidence-based practices as a one-time accomplishment or as an assembly-line type of product. Evidence-based practice is context-based and its purpose is to improve life. The level and quality of evidence (knowledge-base) is never static rather is continuously changing; so are the characteristics and nature of the problems or circumstances of families and children we serve. Henceforth, and overtime the successful replication of any practices including SFT requires ongoing adaptations as new research and knowledge become available. This section starts this process by reviewing the current research and seminal literature on co-parenting and reconciliation as a field of practice.
First, we will begin with a review of the established evidence of the impact of negative parental relationships and chronic conflict on the health and development of the individual involved especially on children. Then, we will review some of the intervention approach in addressing relationship problems. The section will close with a discussion of the conclusion and future direction on the subject of co-parenting and reconciliation.
The Impacts of Conflict
There is surmounting evidence that the quality of the parental relationship within the family and responsive caregiving for children are two of the most critical determinants in assuring the healthy development of a child, particularly those children who are at developmental risk (Feinberg 2003; Turney & Wildeman, 2013; Cummings & Davies, 1994; Finger et al., 2009). Similarly, the development of effective approaches for promoting healthy family functioning and continuity are vital, especially in circumstances of divorce or separation and when the dissolution of family unity is unavoidable (Grych et al., 2003; Harold et al., 2012; Cowan & Cowan, 2005). It is the capacity for cooperation and partnership between dissenting adults (especially when children are involved) that must be secured and nurtured. Without this capacity, both adults and children face the risk of costly social and epidemiologic consequences. Indeed, statistics indicate that between 20 to 25 percent of the children whose parent are divorced are more likely to experience behavioral and academic problems including, but not limited to, disobedience, aggression, delinquency, poor self-esteem, antisocial behaviors, and depression (Whisman et al., 2010; Connell & Prinz, 2002; Davies et al., 2008; Dadds et al., 1987). . These consequences are intergenerational and continue in adult life. Studies have shown that chronic parental conflict not only carries negative psychosocial consequences on the individuals, but also poses serious concerns for the public health and well-being ; alcohol and substance abuse and dependency, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, childhood obesity and diabetes among others have been linked to poor quality of co-parenting relationships and caregiving (Graham-Bermann, Gruber et al. 2009; Graham-Bermann, Perkins, 2010; Boynton-Jarrett, Fargnoli et al. 2010;….).
Programs and Interventions Focus
Who are the families and children at risk, and what determinants of health and well being are to be the targets of Specialized Family interventions? My pithy answer here to that question, I hope, will be the salient point that inspires program developers, grant writers, court administrators CEO’s of non- profits and therapists to passionately adopt SFT as a human alternative dispute resolution offering to families of all types.
Irrespective of whether a family is wealthy or has limited income, the shock of being embroiled in endless custody visitation disputes punishes children emotionally and often drains the parents of perspective on how to best address their children’s need for security. The turning to a Specialized Family Therapist fully trained and experienced in this model enables the family to stabilize and create both a future narrative and every day experiences that are nurturing to the children. The children are dramatically less likely to feel in any way responsible for their parents separating and feuding over them. Also, the children can maintain a positive loving opinion of their parents, their childhood and their family if the parents stop fighting over them and their emotions.
There is ample evidence in the research literature that point to the need for innovative programs and intervention focused on enhancing co-parenting relationships as a strategy for improving the health, quality of life and well-being of the families and children at risk.
Feinberg (2003) it was not the divorce per se, nor even particular custody arrangements, but rather a handful of post-divorce factors such as parental absence, economic disadvantage, and most importantly ongoing inter-parental conflict that negatively affected children’s adjustment (Amato & Keith, 1991a; Kline, Tschann, Johnston, & Wallerstein, 1989; Maccoby et al., 1990; Whiteside & Becker, 2000.