Feature Speech at the Launch of Co-Parenting Pilot Programme.

Remarks presented by Ms. Susan Shurland Deputy Permanent Secretary Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts

Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Mrs. Beverly Harry-Emmanuel, the Director of Community Mediation Services Division and her team for today’s launch of the Pilot Co-Parenting Programme. The genesis of which came out of a demand from various sectors for a  programme to treat with the challenges of co-parenting. 

But before we go any further, let me ensure we are all on the same page. What is Co-parenting? Well simply put, it is also known as shared parenting. It is a term coined to describe a parenting relationship in which the two parents of the child are no longer romantically involved, but still, assume joint responsibility for the upbringing of their child. Occasionally, social scientists also use the term to describe any two people who are jointly raising a child, regardless of whether or not they are both biological parents or have ever been romantically linked.

As anyone who’s been through a separation or divorce will tell you, the process is not easy. More often than not the family is thrown into a time of confusion, anger, and sadness. The happy, peaceful home life you once cherished is now a stress pit — and that’s the last thing any parent wants for their child.

Co-parenting or shared parenting is about finding balance; it is not a competition between who is the better parent and who provides the better home. It’s about parents collaborating and working with one goal in mind; what is best for their child or children.

Statistics from Trinidad and Tobago’s court system have shown that there are increasing numbers of relationships that were dissolved resulting in what may be the need for a co-parenting support. The magistrate’s court of Trinidad and Tobago has revealed that a total of 14,532 family types cases were filed between the periods 2017 to 2018, at various magistrate courts across Trinidad and Tobago.   The family court has reported for the 2017-2018 law term that 2,623 matters were filed for divorce, 1,342 for maintenance and 565 issues of custody.  These statistics reveal the need for support to parents as they navigate new waters of raising a child or children with two separate households while at the same time ensuing that the children are taken care of and are emotionally equipped to handle changes to family structure.

This is where the programmes of the Community Mediation Services Division can assist, in reducing the number of combative cases before the courts and providing parents with the tools necessary to communicate effectively.  The goal is to help them devise strategies to raise their child or children under this new paradigm.

The co-parenting course has a significant benefit to the adults who also have to deal with the emotional challenges that come with a change in the relationship. The programme will:

•    Sensitize parents on the issues and arrangements that arise out of their break–up.

•    Sensitize parents on the impact their break-up may have on the children.

•    Teach parents how to communicate in a civil manner with each other.

•    Help parents learn how to deal with their anger.

•    Help parents learn how to collaborate in the decision-making processes when it comes to their children.

In this pilot programme, twenty-four (24) parents will have the opportunity to receive training. Three (3) facilitators, and twelve (12) co-facilitators will guide them for the duration of nine (9) sessions at the North and Central Main Meditation Centres. 

In future cycles, the programme will be open to all parents or guardians facing co-parenting challenges.  Participants will be selected based on a screening process that measures the risk of conflict in the shared parenting relationship and the impact on the child or children. To register you can visit our website- www.cdca@gov.tt or any Community Mediation Centre or follow our facebook or IG for updates.

Very often, in fact after every radio ad and on every print ad and invariably in every speech, we include the mandate of the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Art; that is, “Building Culturally Rich and Resilient Communities”. Well this programme speaks specifically to the second part of this mandate..’resilient commuities’; families,  whether nuclear, extended or single parent are central to Government’s focus on putting people first as Trinidad and Tobago’s greatest asset. And focusing on the needs of parents and children in what is a reality of today’s environment is central to people centred development and building communities.

Again, I thank the team from Community Mediation Services Division for taking the initiative to design this training programme to help parents treat with the challenges of co-parenting and we look forward to its further build out.  While we encourage participation in those programmes like the parenting support group and all our other free developmental programmes in effective communication, stress management, emotional intelligence to name a few, we prepare for the realities when things don’t always go as planned and parents and children need help to  “Talk it out…not fight it out”.