Children's participation and procedures at the office of the family advocate.
Williams, Felicity Gertrude.
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Children's right to participate in judicial and administrative matters that affect them is perhaps the most frequently overlooked children's right, globally. This research was a descriptive study of what exists with regard to children's participation, at the Office of the Family Advocate, when parents divorce. The methods of data collection used included a content analysis (quantitative method) a focus group interview (qualitative method) and review of the literature and legislation. The content analysis involved analyzing the data of forty case files involving disputed cases, according to a content analysis schedule. The focus group interview was conducted with family advocates and family counselors and focused on various factors that facilitate or impede children's participation at the enquiry. The data obtained was analyzed manually and presented in the form of pie charts, tables, discussions and quotes. From the content analysis the researcher found that most children had definite views regarding their future care. One of the factors that hinder children's participation at the enquiry is the fact that not all enquiries are conducted using the team approach. The research also indicates that the adversarial nature of divorce proceedings impact negatively on children's participation and a more conciliatory approach would prove more child-centered. The focus group interview indicates that the professionals involved have positive attitudes towards children's views and participation in the enquiry. Children's expressed wishes are considered in conjunction with other factors such as the bond between parent and child, and the suitability of the parent. The focus group participants made various suggestions with regard to ensuring a more child centered approach regarding children's participation. The researcher presented the major findings, together with recommendations for future research at the end of the study.