Report on APA parent education program finds positive impact

APA's Practice assists a D.C. Superior Court program that offers parenting seminars for parents initiating custody disputes

by Legal & Regulatory Affairs Staff

November 23, 2009 — The American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Directorate has been providing program development and educational services to the Program for Agreement and Cooperation in Contested Custody Cases (PAC Program) in the D.C. Superior Court since 2007. The PAC Program provides half-day parenting education seminars for persons initiating custody disputes in the court.

Children ages 7 to 14 who are the subjects of the contested custody attend a concurrent educational session specifically geared toward their needs. This PAC program is unique in that it focuses on educating both parents and children and tailors its services for a diverse and mostly low-income population.

Earlier this year, the Practice Directorate retained Child Trends, a highly respected non-profit research center that focuses on improving outcomes for children, to evaluate the impact of the PAC Program and make recommendations for further development. The Program for Agreement and Cooperation in Contested Custody Cases 2007-2009 Implementation and Outcomes Report, which includes data from 1,490 adult participants, demonstrates the PAC Program's positive 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 education and related fields. This report may also be useful to other jurisdictions that already have or are considering implementing parent education programs, especially those with demographics similar to Washington, D.C.

Highlights of the report's findings include:

  • PAC Program participants had more positive mediation outcomes than parents who were never assigned to PAC and only attended mediation.

  • PAC cases had a greater rate of full mediation agreements and a lower rate of contested custody hearings than non-PAC cases.

  • Feedback from participating adults and children was generally positive.

  • Presenting a varied and interactive curriculum enhanced participants' learning experience.

  • Hiring highly qualified staff, most with doctoral degrees in psychology and additional relevant experience, facilitated program implementation.

Please see the report (PDF, 139 KB) for more details.

For additional information, or for an electronic copy of the full report, contact our Legal and Regulatory Affairs Department at (800) 374-2723.

NOTE: Legal issues are complex and highly fact-specific and require legal expertise that cannot be provided by any single article. In addition, laws change over time and vary by jurisdiction. The information in this article should not be used as a substitute for obtaining personal legal advice and consultation prior to making decisions regarding individual circumstances.