October 30, 2013
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, National Parents Organization
Last July, National Parents Organization agreed to serve as a founding member of “Two Homes: The International Platform on Shared Parenting.” This is an umbrella organization with representatives from fourteen countries in Europe and North America. Of these, National Parents Organization may be the only component group with a major grassroots presence. The other organizations consist primarily of child development experts, social scientists, psychologists and lawyers who wish to promote better lives for children through shared parenting after separation or divorce of the parents. Our Founder and Chairman of the Board, Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S., was asked to serve on the Scientific Committee of the new umbrella organization.
Trans-Atlantic organizational discussions took place in July. An international conference on shared parenting was convened in Bonn, Germany on August 10-11, 2013. Dr. Holstein and I participated by Skype and by telephone. Dr. Holstein presented the history and the current status of shared parenting in the United States. He concluded that the issue of shared parenting is a classic case in which the general public has an overwhelming favorable consensus, but is blocked by small special interest groups that have political power. Representatives from Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, England, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Canada and elsewhere also gave presentations on the status of shared parenting in their countries.
At the August conference in Germany, new research was presented that further supports the value of shared parenting. Swedish researchers found that children in separated families who had shared parenting experienced less bullying than those with only one involved parent. Previous research from three continents had already shown that after parental separation, children long for both parents and suffer when they have little or no contact with one of them. Those with shared parenting do better in school, and have lower rates of psychological problems, child abuse, substance abuse, behavioral problems, developmental problems, delinquency and teenage pregnancy.
The following resolution was adopted in August, “We must extinguish the flames of conflict between separated parents so that children can benefit from the support of their mothers and fathers. There must be more widespread awareness, acceptance and implementation of shared parenting as a viable and preferred solution among the public and involved professions.”
Angela Hoffmeyer, a key founder of the international effort, emphasized, “Across Western societies, there is increased enthusiasm for shared parenting. Our aim is to raise awareness of the benefits of this living arrangement for children and to overcome reservations still prevailing in the legal system.”
Dr. Holstein will travel to Germany for a planning meeting in February, and will return for a second international conference in July, 2014. Holstein stated, “This international effort will pay big dividends back here in the United States. By marshaling the research evidence showing how well children do with shared parenting, by demonstrating an international consensus among Western developed countries in favor of shared parenting, and by educating decision makers, we will greatly advance the legitimacy of shared parenting in the United States.”