Practitioner Resources

Tools and training in parenting coordination

The article includes resources and training opportunities for psychologists as well as findings from a study report concerning the emerging practice area of parenting coordination

by Legal & Regulatory Affairs Staff

April 28, 2010 — The American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Directorate has been involved in the development of Parenting Coordination (PC) as an emerging area of practice for psychologists since 2004. 

PC is a non-adversarial process that aims to minimize the impact of high-conflict custody disputes through parent education, mediation, conflict resolution and intensive case management. PC is designed to help parents implement and comply with their parenting plans, make timely decisions in a manner consistent with children’s developmental and psychological needs, and reduce the amount of damaging conflict between caretaking adults to which children are exposed. 

The underlying principle of the PC intervention is a continuous focus on children’s best interests.

APA promotes the development of PC practice in a number of ways, including:  offering in-person and online training opportunities; developing practice guidelines for psychologists; and increasing the availability of PC services for low-income families. 

The PC program and research report

To make Parenting Coordination services more widely available, the DC Superior Court, the APA Practice Directorate, Argosy University, and the DC Bar Family Law Section launched the Parenting Coordination Program (PC Program) as a pilot project in 2004, and it became a court-funded program in 2009. The PC Program strives to serve the needs of low-income, high-conflict families involved in child custody disputes in the District of Columbia.

With the support of a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, last year the Practice Directorate retained Child Trends, a highly respected non-profit research center that focuses on improving outcomes for children, to evaluate the PC Program and make recommendations on how best to replicate the program in other jurisdictions.

The resulting Parenting Coordination Project Implementation and Outcomes Study Report (PDF, 742 KB) examines the PC Program's impact on parents, children and court outcomes. The report includes information that may be useful to psychologists, lawyers, judges, researchers and others who work in parenting coordination and related fields. This report may also be useful to jurisdictions that already have or are considering implementing parenting coordination programs, especially those with demographics similar to Washington, DC. 

Highlights of the report's findings include:

  • A persistent focus on the best interests of children helped parents and caregivers shift their priorities to the well-being of their children. 

  • The PC Program‘s individualized services allowed program staff to create supportive relationships, identify service needs, and develop and implement pragmatic solutions. 

  • The available data suggested some positive trends in terms of the PC Program‘s impact on families and the court.  Analysis of court activities revealed several significant associations between the receipt of PC services and decreased use of court resources.

These findings are particularly important given the limited amount of research in this area to date and the potential benefits of providing PC services to families involved in high-conflict custody disputes. 

More resources and training opportunities

APA and the APA Practice Organization continues to develop resources and training workshops for psychologists interested in PC work.  An online course titled Parenting Coordination: An Introduction is currently available. In addition, a full-day APA pre-Convention CE Workshop titled Advanced Topics in Parenting Coordination will be offered on August 11, 2010, in San Diego. Further information and online registration for this workshop is available on the website.

To promote the continued systematic development of this area of practice, an APA Task Force is currently drafting Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination.  These guidelines, which describe best practices for ethical and competent functioning by psychologists in this unique role, are expected to be released in early 2011.  To review and comment on the draft guidelines, please see the announcement in the June 2010 issue of the APA Monitor on Psychology. 

“Parenting Coordination Project Implementation and Outcomes Study Report” was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. We thank the foundation for its generous support but acknowledge that the findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of the author(s) alone.  For additional information, contact our Legal and Regulatory Affairs Department by e-mail or call (800) 374-2723.