Piloting child impact analysis and Positive Parenting Programme

Anthony DouglasAnthony Douglas, Chief Executive

As we progress into the New Year we will be evaluating our pilots in Essex and North Yorkshire which are replacing a standard section 7 report in private law cases with a child impact analysis. The pilots appear to have gone well and have also brought out some learning points. The key difference in the new approach is to focus on an individual child in much more depth than is possible in a more family-based report.

The main issues in child impact work are emotions and mental health concerns faced by children, not the finer details of arrangements for spending time with a parent, which can often be a secondary issue for children compared to the powerful separation-related emotions they are experiencing. In a child impact analysis, we are looking for the start of any difficulty for the child, which may be long before an application to court. Many children are affected by relationship breakdown for months or years so that when a case finally comes to court, the child may have been carrying complex and often conflicted emotions for a long time. The outcomes the child will be seeking are often simple: feeling happier; not being so worried; and being able to concentrate in school. Many children cannot conceptualise these emotions, they just feel them and are in the grip of them. We hope that through our work on child impact, we can get closer to what is going on for these children and help them and their parents to recover as soon as they can.

Another private law pilot is our Positive Parenting Programme, a new four-session intervention in complex cases that are stuck in conflict. Often cases included in the pilot will be where the court has identified that the child faces risks from protracted and unresolved conflict between parents or within the family. This can include between siblings and other relatives – separation is everyone in the family’s business, not just the parents. This programme is structured to work supportively with children and their parents to reduce the level of conflict and to assess whether a way forward can be found which limits further emotional damage to the child or children. We are aiming to prevent emotional damage becoming lifelong emotional wreckage. As in the TV drama Doctor Foster, this process is often happening for a child without either parent realising it.

2018 will undoubtedly bring more pressure – each year does in turn – but we hope these approaches will help us to improve the service we provide to children within the limited professional time we have available.




4 Comments

Our Positive Parenting Programme pilot is a 12-week programme for families which provides structured sessions for medium to high conflict parents. It is aimed at promoting change, improving communication between parents, and reducing the emotional harm experienced by the child. It encourages parents to place themselves in their children’s shoes, so they can understand the impact of their behaviour. There is an emphasis throughout the programme on co-parenting therefore it will not be suitable in cases where one, or both, parents will not engage.

Our practitioners are skilled in assessing the indicators of alienating behaviours and have tools to support their assessments. A case may be considered suitable for the Positive Parenting Programme where there are some indicators of alienating behaviours however, parents must express a willingness to engage in change and intervention work. Cases where there is a high level of parental alienation will not be suitable for the programme and other intervention may be considered. The Cafcass Officer will assess case suitability for the programme.

Following the completion of the Positive Parenting Programme, the Cafcass Officer will file a report on the outcome to the court. It is then for the judge to decide on next steps.

The final decisions in cases are made by the court and it is for the court to determine the weight to be attached to any evidence, including the professional judgement of a Cafcass practitioner, representations by both adult parties, and safeguarding information from the police and local authority. Where there are disputed allegations, the judge may determine that a fact-finding hearing is required.

See here for more information on the programme: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/high-conflict-practice-pathway/

Our Positive Parenting Programme pilot is a 12-week programme for families which provides structured sessions for medium to high conflict parents. It is aimed at promoting change, improving communication between parents, and reducing the emotional harm experienced by the child. It encourages parents to place themselves in their children’s shoes, so they can understand the impact of their behaviour.

Our practitioners are skilled in assessing the indicators of alienating behaviours and have a range of tools to support their assessments. A case may be considered suitable for the CPPP where there are some indicators of alienating behaviours however parents must express a willingness to engage in change and intervention work. Cases where there is a high level of parental alienation will not be suitable for the programme.

A number of our FCAs have been trained to deliver the programme and it is being piloted across the country in Rule 16.4 cases assessed to be suitable. Please ask the Cafcass officer allocated to your case whether your case would be suitable for the pilot. If you have any concerns about the way your case has been handled, you are free to make a complaint to Cafcass for your concerns to be investigated under Cafcass’ complaints procedure, please see here for more information: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/contact-us/feedback-complaints-adults/.

See here for more information on the CPPP: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/high-conflict-practice-pathway/

Would you start on the Positive Parenting Programme if there was any evidence that one or both parents were implacably hostile to the idea of the other parent having contact..?
After the four sessions and the commencement of the Life Story Book, would there be any monitoring of the programme , and review of outcome?
Would you use this programme if there were already strong signs of Parental Alienation in the children or would you consider if that were the case then another programme would be more appropriate.? How much if any checks would be put in place to ascertain if one or both parents were actually giving you truthful answers to the background of the conflict? I would urgently request answers to the above

Hi, I’d like to know more about this,
And if it will be rolled out in greater Manchester any time soon.

I am a father who hasn’t seen his 8yr old daughter in over 8 months and feel the system has failed me in every way.

Parental alienation is clear for anyone to see in my case other than the lady Cafcass officer who dealt with my section 7 report for my daughter.

In fact I’d go a long way to saying it was the Cafcass officers failing which have increased the level of alienation somewhat dramatically.



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