COSD Center Helps Families to Heal
In the United States, the statistics are pretty clear: One in every two marriages ends in divorce. Two-thirds of these families include minor children and, as a result, approximately 1 million children each year become informally classified as children of divorce.
Not as clear as the statistics, however, are the implications for children who experience the breakup of the traditional family structure. An abundance of articles, books and viewpoints attempts to answer that question, but disagreements on the subject abound.
“The only thing anyone seems to be able to agree on,” says Risa Garon, executive director of the Children of Separation and Divorce Center (COSD) in Columbia, “is that divorce is arguably the most common problem children face today. It is more prevalent than drug abuse, teenage pregnancy or the death of a parent.”
According to Garon, Howard County is a mirror image of the national statistics, but as alarming as they may be, statistics are irrelevant. “Statistics don’t allow you to look at the true effect of divorce on children and most of the studies you read about attempt to give blanket answers to the problem. You have to look at the individual child and the individual family if you want to make a difference,” she says.
COSD is working to make a difference by providing support to families experiencing the possibility or the after-effects of divorce—whether they have made the decision to separate or divorce; are considering separation or divorce, but have not yet decided what to do; want to explore pathways toward reconciliation; or face divorce-related issues such as dating and remarriage.
“Our primary focus is to help children better understand and accept the realities of changes within their family, as well as give them the guidance they need in order to identify and express their feelings in a healthy way,” Garon. “At the same time, we also provide parents with the support they need to put aside the anger and pain of experiences or events in their relationship and focus instead on the needs of their children. In addition, we also help educate and train mental health and legal practitioners on the effects of divorce on children at various developmental stages, and the critical nature of using COSD’s child-focused decision-making model in their professional capacities.”
“Unfortunately, most of the research on divorce that has been done to date reveals a one-sided discouraging view of how children of divorce fare—many citing that children of divorce have higher rates of depression, substance abuse, problems with school and delinquent behavior; and that, statistically, they are more likely to marry earlier and divorce than children from intact families,” says Garon. “What most of these studies do not tell you, however, is that most of the children presented in these studies did not receive adequate counseling, if any; and their parents were not educated in child-focused decision-making or utilize child-focused therapeutic and legal support systems. We have the tools to make a difference in the lives of children affected by divorce.
COSD’s efforts are not just for divorcing or divorced families. Nor are COSD’s efforts focused only in Howard County. In fact, the Center is a national organization that has been called upon by organizations and court systems across the country and even internationally for guidance. These organizations and the courts request access to publications authored by COSD staff, as well as training in the programs COSD has developed for parents and professionals. Reconciliation and parenting programs are a big part of COSD’s services, and many of these programs have received national recognition.
Recently, Garon received the Irwin Cantor Award for Innovative Programming from the Association of Family, Court and Community Professionals (AFCC). The award recognizes Garon’s outstanding contributions toward child-focused divorce, most notably the development of The National Family Resiliency Program, which is currently being launched by COSD and is becoming a model for a nationwide program. The National Family Resiliency Program is the only one of its kind in the nation to fully focus parents on the needs of their children through a variety of services and programs that help them resolve conflict, co-parent and make child-focused decisions. The program is unique in that it is child-focused, non-adversarial and, most importantly, supported through a multi-disciplinary team of professionals, including judges, attorneys, mediators, educators, school guidance counselors, pediatricians, and mental health professionals.
“This circle of support is key to the program, but the parents are the ones that make it work. We tell them to avoid the lengthy, costly and emotionally difficult process of conflict-ridden decision-making and instead invest in the health and well-being of their children,” says Garon. “The goal of all of our programs and services is to protect the best interests of the children by helping families to cope and become stronger—whether or not they have decided to divorce or there is a chance to reconcile. The important thing is to put aside the anger, forget about the house, the cars, the banks accounts and put the kids first,” she says.
For more information on COSD’s award-winning programs and support for families, as well as internationally acclaimed training and resources for professionals, please contact Risa Garon at 410-740-9553 or visit the COSD web site at www.divorceabc.com.
An article published by:
The Business Monthly
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