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  Local Programs:
Cope: Helping Children Cope With Divorce

Chelan, Douglas, Stevens, Ferry, and Pend Orielle Counties
  ISSUE: One out of two couples marrying today will divorce in 10 years. Seventy percent of the divorced parents fail to build cooperative post-divorce relationships that benefit their children. Fifty percent of the children of divorce remain angry about it. Researchers agree that the amount of conflict between parents and the number of times they return to court over divorce-related issues are major factors in how well their children adjust to the transition from divorce. The less conflict they face, the more resilient they will be.

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE: Washington State University Cooperative Extension is a licensed provider of Children Cope With DivorceŽ and has offered classes in five counties since 1997. The program helps parents focus on the needs of their children during and after their divorce or separation. Families First of Georgia, program licensor, trained 24 instructors, including several bilingual instructors, who work in paired male-female teams to teach the classes. Classes are provided in both English and Spanish in Chelan and Douglas counties.

In Chelan and Douglas Counties, superior court judges have mandated class attendance for couples with dependent children under 18 who are going through dissolution, custody and in some case trying to settle paternity issues. A total of 373 people attended classes in 1998, 61 more than the previous year. IMPACT:

End of class evaluations in Chelan and Douglas counties elicited such comments as the following from participants:

  • I learned not to put children in the middle of conflicts and how to co-parent better.
  • I learned to focus on my child as much as possible and stay neutral.
  • I learned to take time to see things the way my children will see them and to make sure to tell them the divorce is not their fault and that I love them.

As of October 1, 1999, superior court judges for Pend Orielle, Stevens and Ferry counties have adopted a local court order requiring parents or custodians in specific court proceedings involving their children's welfare to take the class within 90 days of filing. Prior to this time, judges were requiring attendance on a case-by-case basis.

In 1998, a three-month follow-up survey among parents who took the Children Cope with DivorceŽ class in Pend Oreille county found that the majority better understood the importance of the other parent in their children's lives. The majority also found a way to communicate more effectively with the other parent and spoke more positively or in a more neutral way to their children about the other parent. The majority believe they have a more positive relationship with their children.

FUNDING: Registration fees for classes

Janet Kiser Lambarth, Chair
WSU Cooperative Extension, Pend Oreille County Telephone: 509-447-2401
e-mail: lambarth@coopext.cahe.wsu.edu

Ann Diede, Area Extension Agent
WSU Cooperative Extension, Chelan-Douglas Counties
Telephone: 509-664-5540
e-mail: diede@wsu.edu


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