Saskatchewan

Family Matters seeks early intervention for Sask. divorcees

With research showing how joint custody could produce better outcomes for children of divorced parents, CBC takes a look at the resources available to families in Saskatchewan.

New research from Sweden shows joint custody could produce better developmental outcomes for kids

Family Matters, a new program in Saskatchewan, is hoping to help parents going through divorce or separation produce the best possible outcomes for their children. (iStock)

The stress of parents and kids can be inextricably linked.

A new pilot program in Saskatchewan, Family Matters, is looking to alleviate some of the shared stress that occurs in families experiencing a divorce or separation.

"Our hopes really are that we're going to minimize the effects on the children, the families," Robbi Behr, assistant director of Saskatchewan's family services, said Monday on CBC Radio's The Morning Edition. 

Robbi Behr, assistant director of Saskatchewan's family services, helped organize the Family Matters pilot project. (Nichole Huck/CBC)

Behr said that one of the crucial ways of achieving this goal is through early intervention as well as increased accessibility of support for those in the middle of emotional upheaval.

"Sometimes when we're in the middle of a fight, we lose common sense and we just don't know where to go to get resources," Behr said.

She explained that Family Matters provides a free three-hour meeting between both parties to arrive at solutions for concrete issues.

"We are doing more and more the three-hour session, and we're excited because some of them are early on," Behr said.

From there, Behr said the idea is to set people up with assistance from professionals such as financial counselors or lawyers in order to solve any possible future issues.

'Sometimes when we're in the middle of a fight, we lose common sense and we just don't know where to go to get resources.' - Robbie Behr, Saskatchewan Family Services

The program started in Saskatoon and Prince Albert last November. It expanded into Regina and Moose Jaw at the beginning of April and is set to launch across the province next year.

Joint custody

Researchers in Sweden have found that joint custody arrangements could produce better developmental outcomes for children than one parent having sole responsibility. 

Mike Boyes, an associate professor with the University of Calgary's psychology department, also appeared on The Morning Edition to discuss these findings.

He said the study looked at signs of stress including sleep disorders and stomach aches among children in various family situations.

The three groups examined were nuclear families, single-parent households and joint custody arrangements with each parent sharing 50 per cent of the responsibility.

"What they found basically was that children in the joint physical custody group had the lowest levels of stress amongst any of the children in a family of divorce," Boyes said.

He added that single parents often have heavy workloads and the pressure itself can make providing consistency difficult.

"If parents are capable of getting along with one other following separation and divorce to the extent they can put together an equitable joint physical custody arrangement, they're going to create a less stressful, more comfortable environment for children," Boyes said.

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