July 22, 2021 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Dr. Rachel Birnbaum, Professor, Cross-Appointed with Childhood and Youth Studies and the School of Social Work, has received a grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario. The project is a collaboration   between Peel Family Mediation Services, AXIS Family Mediation Services, and Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL). Dr. Birnbaum will evaluate the use of the OCL Voice of the Child Reports (VOC) and/or child legal representation in child-inclusive mediation of parenting disputes in select court-connected mediation sites across Ontario.

This particular project will be of great importance as it is anticipated that children’s participation will be front and center of any family dispute resolution process in Ontario with the use of child-inclusive mediation. 

“I have always believed that collaboration with government, the legal and social community networks and agencies along with academia helps to facilitate and promote good practice approaches in advancing children’s participation in family justice,” says Dr. Birnbaum.

The members of the team working in partnership on this project will be working towards three objectives:

  1. To improve family dispute resolution for parents and children in Ontario, allowing cases to be resolved in a less adversarial and more child-focused way, ultimately improving outcomes for children and reducing the costs of family justice dispute resolution.
  2. To improve methods for obtaining children’s views and preferences and taking them into account when resolving family disputes, as required by the amendments to the Divorce Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA) that came into force March 1, 2021.
  3. To increase collaboration between government, the bar, mediators, and the judiciary for seeking the views and perspectives of children in a sensitive fashion and promote family dispute resolution in Ontario a timely and effective manner.

The Voice of the Child Reports, which Dr. Birnbaum had previously completed research on, is being carried out by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer and is now available across every court jurisdiction in Ontario.

At King’s, Dr. Birnbaum teaches Social Work Ethics and the Law at King’s School of Social Work and focuses on children in separation and divorce in Childhood and Youth Studies. She is also a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.