May 11, 2018
NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION WELCOMES PETRA MAXWELL AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
National Parents Organization is thrilled to announce that Petra Maxwell, JD, is its new executive director.
“I am looking forward to taking on the challenge of ensuring that our legal system is more responsive to the true needs of children and parents after divorce. Unfortunately, many states still have antiquated laws about child custody and child support that have the effect of unfairly punishing the non-custodial parent. In the end, the people that are hurt the most are the children because they need both parents in their lives,” Maxwell said. “I am excited by the mission of National Parents Organization and its potential to impact hundreds of thousands of people through its mission.”
Ned Holstein, MD, the founder and board chair of National Parents Organization, said: “I speak for everyone involved with National Parents Organization and family court reform in saying we are elated to welcome Petra. With her experience and dedication to our mission, I’m confident National Parents Organization will rocket to new heights under her leadership.”
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Maxwell spent the early days of her career as a Policy Associate for the Mayor of Chicago. From there, she founded and led a 24-hour, volunteer-based grass roots nonprofit, First Defense Legal Aid, benefitting Chicago residents in need of free legal defense services after arrest. There, she drafted and secured passage for Illinois legislation to protect the legal rights of juveniles in custody, winning several awards for her work.
After moving to New York City in 1997, Maxwell continued to lead and provided legal counsel to youth development and social service nonprofit organizations. Her work on behalf of such organizations led to her appointment by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to work on key initiatives to improve the State’s partnership with its nonprofit organizations. Among her achievements were the creation of the NY State-wide Prequalification System for nonprofits, and the reshaping of contract procedures for the New York State Council on the Arts in order to improve efficiency of services and payments to grantees dependent on State support.
Maxwell’s personal experiences played a role in her decision to join National Parents Organization.
“I am a divorced mother of a teenager. But our son was very young when my ex-husband and I were first divorced. Because my son’s father was focused on his career, and because there was a legal presumption in NY that I, as the mother of a toddler, would be the custodial parent, I had my son for roughly 75% of the time. My son is truly my greatest joy in life, but my career took a nosedive during the early period after our divorce. It was very, very hard for me personally and financially. A few years later, my ex and I renegotiated our parenting plan on our own and settled on a 50-50 shared plan. My son was much happier, and it was the first time I felt some relief and was able to get my feet back on the ground professionally so I could earn enough to support my child.
After this period in my life, I became a Certified Family Mediator to help other parents going through divorce and to advocate for shared parenting. In NY, there is still a presumption that one parent will be the custodial parent. Until the law changes – and I hope NPO can influence that change – crafting a settlement agreement through mediation is often the best alternative.
National Parents Organization’s work begins with the premise that children need access to both parents in order to lead happy and healthy lives. Even if parents have separated or divorced, ample research shows that continued and consistent access to loving, fit parents has a measurable, positive impact on a child’s self-esteem, mental health, overall wellbeing and long-term success. To carry out its mission, National Parents Organization advocates for shared parenting by reforming state legislation in order to presume equal custody between two fit parents after a divorce or separation. As the Washington Post recently reported, the organization has propelled legislation supportive of shared parenting – where children spend as close to equal time as possible with both parents – forward throughout the nation.
RECENT RESEARCH: SHARED PARENTING VERSUS SINGLE PARENTING
Shared Parenting Data
- In January 2018, The Journal of Child Custody published an update on child development research surrounding what’s best for kids when parents divorce or separate. In the update, Linda Nielsen, a Wake Forest University professor of adolescent and educational psychology, analyzed 60 studies spanning multiple decades and numerous countries. She concluded that shared parenting is better for children than single parenting on almost every measure of wellbeing.
- In September 2017, Acta Paediatrica, a peer-reviewed medical journal in the field of pediatrics, published a paper by Swedish researcher Malin Bergstrom of the Karolinska Institute titled “Preschool children living in joint physical custody arrangements show less psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one parent” – it concluded the mental health of children ages three to five with shared parenting is better on average than the mental health of those in the care of a single parent.
- The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “... shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.
- In 2016, Dr. Warshak wrote, “Two years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak consensus report remain supported by science.” He also wrote, “The paper has been translated into at least eighteen languages and has informed legislative deliberations throughout the U.S. and parliamentary deliberations in several countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Finland, Romania, Croatia, and Sweden. Two years after its publication, the consensus report continues to be one of the most downloaded papers from the journal’s website.” He added, “The list of endorsers and their stature and accomplishments reflect the field’s general acceptance of the consensus report’s findings as rooted in settled science from more than four decades of research directly relevant to this topic, including seminal studies by many of the endorsers."
- The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.
- The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”
- In December, 2016, The American Psychological Association published research by William V. Fabricius of Arizona State University in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law entitled, “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data.” Prof Fabricius’ findings provide “… strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time [up to and including 50/50 overnights –Ed] for infants and toddlers [even younger than one year –Ed], because the benefits [for children-Ed] associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections.” Fabricius shared details on his findings during the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, a May 29-30, 2017 event in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by National Parents Organization and the International Council on Shared Parenting.
According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:
- 63% of teen suicides;
- 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
- 71% of high school drop-outs;
- 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
- 85% of those in prison;
- 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
- 90% of homeless and runaway children.
ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION
National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bonds with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting, bringing in research scholars from 18 countries to share their results on shared parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org