Co-parenting in a Pandemic

The Cause

For over 22 years Starfish Family Resources has been supporting Alberta’s children and families transitioning through a divorce or separation. We have partnered with over 110 community-based organizations (schools, churches and non-profit agencies) to deliver the Internationally acclaimed Rainbows program, a no cost peer support program for children, youth and adults experiencing grief due to divorce, death, or abandonment.

In 2018 we developed “The Next Chapter: Rebuilding After Divorce”, a psycho-educational peer-support program for divorced or separated parents. The Next Chapter uses a trauma informed approach to mitigate the impact of divorce or separation on children. Through a focus on healthy discussion and resolution of familial concerns, conflict and stress can be minimized or eliminated, lessening the impact of divorce as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) on children. The goals of The Next Chapter are in line with the goals of the justice community, including the Reforming Family Justice Initiative. The above includes a more collaborative approach to divorce, reducing conflict between parents, improving inter-parental communication and providing support for both parents and children.

We urgently see the need to adapt this program to include the additional pressures placed on families due to the Covid-19 crisis, including but not limited to: co-parenting in a pandemic, parental mental health, children's mental health in isolation, health related anxiety, etc. Additionally, this program will be adapted to an online delivery model to address heightened child care issues that single parent families are facing. We are well positioned with technological infrastructure (Google Classroom, Zoom meetings) to adapt to an online environment. We are seeking funding to support the onboarding of a Program Coordinator to adapt this program and its delivery for maximum access and impact to Alberta's families. Our organization currently employs one part-time Executive Director, so this funding is vital to our ability to adapt and deliver this program.

Who Will it Benefit?

According to Statistics Canada, over 70,000 divorces occur in Canada each year and nearly 1.2 million children or youth live with divorced or separated parents. Without proper supports in place for the whole family, divorce can easily become an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). Adverse Childhood Experiences can have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. When parents and children get help, the impacts of divorce on their mental and emotional health and even their finances are mitigated. Informed and supported parents are less likely to have a high conflict divorce, which is hurtful to their children and reduces their ability to learn resulting in tremendous socio-economic costs.

Starfish Family Resources “The Next Chapter” program focuses on supporting divorced or separated parents using an approach that benefits both the parents and children, whereas other programs focus primarily on children's support. Moreover, the Covid-19 focus in our updated program will equip parents with the newly required skills to address the various additional impacts that this crisis has created for their families.

We project delivering this program immediately to 40-50 individuals in the Edmonton area (10-12 individuals per session, a minimum of 4 sessions delivered within the project timeline), while developing the critical program infrastructure to address the Covid-19 challenges, adapt to an online delivery model, and develop partnerships to deliver this program in a variety of other community based settings. Under our expectations of ripple effect impact we expect that this program would indirectly affect 150 individuals at a minimum (based on each participant having an average of two children and their ex-partner). The Next Chapter program will accomplish this by reducing stress and conflict, and by increasing collaborative communication and coping skills between parents. This program will have a positive effect on the community at large through the reduction of the support requirements of the families, as they develop skills sets and resiliency to thrive after change in their family structure.

This program has the unique opportunity to "pay-forward" resilient children, parents, families, students, employees and future generations, ultimately leading the numbers of those who would benefit from this program funding into the thousands.