Hear the Child

“Its kinda tiring cuz I just want to live in one home” (boy, 9 years old)

“My mom tells me about court but my dad does not… My dad asked me yesterday who I wanted to live with. I didn’t answer because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings” (girl, 9 years old)

“I kept wishing I was 12, so someone would listen to me”
(young woman, 19 years old, reflecting on her experience as a young child of divorcing parents)

Legislation in British Columbia, the British Columbia Courts, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 12) support hearing the views of children where children are involved in disputes going through the court system.

Social science research has shown that children want an opportunity to be heard, and hearing children’s views in family disputes can be beneficial to both the children and their families. Research has further shown that there may be immediate and long-term negative effects of excluding children, or not consulting them, when decisions are made about their best interests. Hear the Child early in the family dispute can help focus on the needs of children and reduce both the intensity and duration of a family conflict.

It is essential that hearing from a child is carried out in a sensitive way, that does not put the child under any pressure whatsoever. It must be done in a way that supports the child’s wellbeing.

Paul Henry was part of a pilot project in Kelowna of lawyers and therapists conducting Views of the Hear the Child Reports. One of his reports was positively cited in a 2007 reported Supreme Court of British Columbia Case: C.A.M. v. T.A.W. 2007 BCSC 940. Paul is now a member of the BC Hear The Child Society  a roster of qualified child interviewers available to interview a child and prepare a report that contains the views of the child.

“What I do, is listen to the child. I ask the child a number of questions for the purpose of enabling the child to express his or her views relating to the breakup of a family.”

A report is prepared which will be considered by those making a decision affecting the future of the child. The child is asked about such things as living arrangements, relationships, school, activities and any other questions, that are directed to an issue that the court, lawyers, or parties wish to be addressed. The child does not make the decision, for instance, about where he or she will be living, but the child’s view is written up into a report and is considered by the decision-maker or makers. The interview is voluntary and the information gleaned in the interview is disclosed in the report with the consent of the child. Typically, the interview is initiated by a judge, mediator, parenting coordinator, the parents or a lawyer involved in the matter.

“I find this work tremendously worthwhile. I see the child or children in my office, which is not a stereotypical lawyer’s office, but a comfortable space. It is my commitment to listen with my full attention to the child, to ensure that the child knows that the interview is voluntary and that I will only report what the child agrees to me to be reported. It is not my job to be a therapist or to assess or judge a situation, but to accurately report what the child relates.”

For further information visit website: http://hearthechild.ca/