Simon Hughes in his speech to the Family Justice Young People’s Board “Voice of the Child” conference in July 2014, made a commitment to providing children over 10 with the opportunity to be heard in family proceedings. He stated that there will be a dialogue with the family mediation profession about how we make sure that the voice of the child and young person becomes a central part of the process of family mediation. He accepted that it cannot be right that parents mediate an agreement affecting their child or children and then ask the court to make the agreement into a binding order in the absence of the children’s voice being heard.
Children’s voices are often not heard or listened to in the process of separation. In the court process children’s views are often interpreted by adults, with the best of intentions. If parents are able to hear their children’s views directly it can have a profound effect on their approach to finding solutions.
Research has shown that being listened to and heard is much more important to children and young people than actually getting what they want.
A new website has just recently been launched that aims to give children and young people a voice. Kids in the Middle provides help and support to young people aged between 11 and 18 when their families separate. Young people spend a great deal of time on line and on social media. The Kids in the Middle website is an ideal platform for the provision of information and a place young people will feel at home.
Kids in the Middle is a registered charity backed by young people and by family law and mediation firms. Much of the money used to set up the website was raised by young people themselves. On the website young people in separating families can hear the stories of their peers. It is so important that they know they are not alone. The website is by young people for young people. It gives them a voice and shows parents what their children are really thinking and feeling. There are helpful videos on the site and users can upload blogs and videos. Kids in the Middle provides a peer mentoring and counselling service to help improve emotional well being and resilience and to help young people develop positive coping strategies. There are three levels of support: self-help, advice and support and counselling.
Focus Mediators recommend the site to any parents with children aged 11 and over. Kids in the Middle hope to be able to extend the age range to younger children in due course. This is a fantastic resource and we hope it will be able to help many young people who currently feel as though they don’t have a voice in the process of separation.
Focus Mediation has been committed to listening to children where appropriate for many years, long before it became fashionable. Most of our family mediators are trained and CRB checked to consult with children to establish their wishes and feelings, so they can help inform parental decision-making.