Virtual Library of Newspaper Articles

Divorce's effect on kids 'neglected'
Social worker wonders why issue not tackled

Calgary Herald, Mario Toneguzzi - February 10, 2003

The Calgary Counselling Centre provides sessions specifically for children of divorced parents.

Society is doing a horrendous job of providing support for children of divorced parents and this will have serious implications for their future, says a Calgary expert in the field.

The consequences to society will also be enormous as these children are at high risk for negative behaviour.

I don't think we have a handle on this at all," said Lesa Wolfe, a researcher, social worker and the children's program leader at the Calgary Counselling Centre.

Divorce is very common today -- about 50 per cent of families -- but we've neglected to look at the impact it's had on kids. We've neglected to take it seriously. We've neglected to provide support and intervention."

Wolfe said society has long believed there was no difference between a child living in a traditional family setting and a child with divorced parents.

She said children from divorced families are more likely to drop out of school, get involved in drugs and are at a higher risk of adopting negative behaviours, adding the risk factors are as high as children in abusive settings.

In an abusive environment, Wolfe said, authorities would react quickly and decisively to protect the child, but not when it occurs as a result of divorce.

It's amazing to me that we close our eyes and not pay attention to this," said Wolfe. "We turn a blind eye to it because we've normalized divorce."

Recent studies have shown the negative impact of divorce on children can be minimized with counselling.

Claudio Violatto, a psychologist at the University of Calgary, agreed there are few programs to help children in divorce situations.

That's the biggest concern in divorce -- the impact on children," he said. "They develop a variety of problems -- interpersonal and trust issues. They tend to repeat the cycle (of divorce) down the road."

So, why isn't society responding?

We don't have the political will to do it," Violatto said.

To counter that, the Calgary Counselling Centre offers a 10-week Children of Divorce group program, which began in 1984.

The program is open to children ages three to 18. They are placed in age-appropriate groups with up to six children in each group.

Facilitators use an educational and therapeutic approach to help parents and children adjust to the numerous changes that occur as a result of separation or divorce.

They talk to the children about all their feelings and what they can do when they're caught in the middle of a . . . divorce," said Wolfe.

The counselling centre's program includes children and their parents. Children use role play, puppetry and peer group discussions to explore their feelings.

We want the whole family here," said Wolfe.

Often, the issue is of one child acting out," she said, "and that child is brought in for intervention and treatment, but we invite the entire family to be present because it affects everyone."

Wolfe said children often start misbehaving in school, "doing all kinds of crazy things." Other signs of the impact of divorce on children include anxiety, withdrawal, falling grades in school or lethargy.

Due to stress and worries, Wolfe said, kids may also exhibit sleeping problems and be more prone to crying.

Frank, not his real name, enrolled his seven-year-old daughter in the program.

I think it's working excellently," he said. "There are tremendous benefits for the kids. Our child is seven and she's excited to go. Ecstatic. She want to go share, talk and get things out.

This program gives the kids a chance to know they're not alone. It's got to be (hard) for them."

The most recent Statistics Canada figures on divorce show that 71,144 couples finalized their divorces in Canada in 2000. Close to four out of every 10 marriages end in divorce. The rates have stabilized over the past several years, but grew five-fold between 1968 and 1995.

Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald

National Post

Ontario's child financial support collection agency has big problems

Ontario's Family Responsibility Office has many problems

Quote from Ontario Government Ombudsman -"an equal opportunity error-prone program,."'

Support recipients not getting their money.

Men who've been meeting their court-ordered obligations have trouble getting the FRO to stop taking payments when it's supposed to.   Read More ..

National Post logo

Pilloried, broke, alone

March 25, 2000

Divorced fathers get a bad rap for not supporting their children. The truth is, many can't. And, tragically, some are driven to desperate measures, including suicide.

In his suicide note, Jim, the father of four children, protests that "not all fathers are deadbeats." Jim hanged himself because he couldn't see any alternative. Even now, his children are unaware of the circumstances of their father's death. Meeno Meijer, National Post George Roulier is fighting to regain money wrongfully taken from his wages by the Ontario child-support collection agency. Chris Bolin, National Post Alan Heinz, a Toronto firefighter, has gone bankrupt fighting for the return of his daughter, 3, from Germany. No one will help him, but German authorities are trying to collect child support from him.

Whenever fathers and divorce are discussed, one image dominates: the 'deadbeat dad,' the schmuck who'd rather drive a sports car than support his kids. Because I write about family matters, I'm regularly inundated with phone calls, faxes, letters and e-mail from divorced men. It's not news that divorced individuals have little good to say about their ex-spouses. What I'm interested in is whether the system assists people during this difficult time in their lives, or compounds their misery. From the aircraft engineer in British Columbia, to the postal worker on the prairies, to the fire fighter in Toronto, divorced fathers' stories are of a piece: Though society stereotypes these men relentlessly, most divorced dads pay their child support. Among those who don't, a small percentage wilfully refuse to (the villains you always hear about).

What you haven't been told is that the other men in arrears are too impoverished to pay, have been ordered to pay unreasonable amounts, have been paying for unreasonable lengths of time, or are the victims of bureaucratic foul-ups. Read More ..

Calgary Sun newspaper logo

Non-dad on hook for support

Edmonton and Calgary Sun
Feb 5, 2005

EDMONTON -- An Edmonton judge has decided a divorced dad has to make child support payments, even though the child isn't his. Justin Sumner had an on-again-off-again relationship with the woman he eventually married, Dawn Sumner.

She already had a child from a previous relationship with a man named Rob Duncan, and as she and Justin broke up and reunited, Dawn was sexually involved with both men.

When she found she was pregnant, she called Justin, who recognized there was a possibility that Duncan was the father, but later concluded he was the dad.

Father Committeed Suicide after calling Family Responsibility Office

Andrew T. Renouf committed suicide on or about October 17, 1995 because he had 100% of his wages taken by the Family Responsibility Office, a child support collection agency of the Government of Ontario, Canada.

He asked for assistance for food and shelter from the welfare office and was refused because he had a job, even though all of his wages were taken by the Family Responsibility Office.

Andy was a loving father that hadn't seen his daughter in 4 years.

A memorial service was held in October, 1998, for Andy in front of the Family Responsibility Office at 1201 Wilson Avenue, West Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is in the Ministry of Transportation grounds in the Keele St. & Hwy 401 area. All members of the Ontario Legislature were invited by personal letter faxed to their offices. Not one turned up. The Director of the Family Responsibility Office and his entire staff were invited to the brief service. The Director refused and wouldn't let the staff attend the service although it was scheduled for lunch time. There was a peaceful demonstration by followed by a very touching service by The Reverend Alan Stewart. The text of the service will soon be able to be read below.

The service made the TV evening news.

It was Andy's last wish that his story be told to all. YOU CAN READ HIS SUICIDE NOTE