'I am their voice': P.E.I.'s new children's lawyer reflects on first 100 days
'Some of the children I've met so far are feeling quite relieved that they have someone they can talk to'
After nearly 100 days in her new position, P.E.I.'s first children's lawyer Catherine Chaisson says the position is already relieving stress for families in the courtroom.
The MacLauchlan government passed legislation this spring to allow the position to be created, which includes a $150,000 budget. The P.E.I. Department of Justice hired Chaisson in May.
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The children's lawyer position was created to provide a voice for children at the centre of parental custody disputes.
"Children do often get lost in the mix and families require some help when they're resettling into new family arrangements," Chaisson told CBC P.E.I.'s Mainstreet.
"This position seemed like a good way of providing a voice for children and helping families with those struggles."
Building rapport with kids
Chaisson took her first cases in July and first met with children in September. She said she has roughly 27 open or investigated cases so far.
The most important aspect of the job, she said, is building a strong rapport with children.
Hopefully, what we end up doing is lessening any stress on their lives so they can just be kids.—Catherine Chaisson
"I am their voice, first and foremost."
Chaisson's office works "as a team" with the family court counsellor to represent the needs of children in the courtroom. Sometimes parents "don't see the stress" their children are bearing," she said.
"In the beginning I end up meeting with parents and finding out from them what the issues they see from their perspectives and where they want to focus primarily," she said. "I also meet with the children and build a rapport with them."
Children feeling 'quite relieved'
Though it's still early to tell where the program will be in the future, Chaisson said there's at least an impact being made to take the burden and stress off of children.
"Some of the children I've met so far are feeling quite relieved that they have someone they can talk to," Chaisson said.
"Hopefully, what we end up doing is lessening any stress on their lives so they can just be kids."
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With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.