A group of Florida State University researchers has launched a new online toolkit designed to foster healthy co-parenting after divorce.
The Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce Toolkit, an online, interactive, multimedia curriculum, became available to the public Feb. 1. It has obtained certification from the Department of Children and Families as a Florida co-parenting program. The program has the potential for expansion to all states with mandatory parenting education.
Researchers from Florida State’s College of Education, College of Communication and Information, College of Social Work, and the Department of Family and Child Sciences developed the program. It is funded by a gift from the Vandermark Foundation.
“The toolkit has the potential to shape the landscape of families across the United States,” said Karen Oehme, director of the Institute for Family Violence Studies at FSU’s College of Social Work. “About a quarter of families in America are currently single-parent families with children under the age of 18, and over a million children experience the divorce of their parents each year.”
Research indicates that children are healthier when their parents have the knowledge and skills essential to resolving conflicts, compromising, and prioritizing the wellbeing of their children. Without these parental skills, children can face devastating long-term effects on their development.
The research team conducted a pilot study with more than 180 parents to test the training before its public launch. Preliminary results reveal that 91 percent of those participants believe the training can be effective in encouraging sustained healthy co-parenting relationships, and 88 percent reported that they learned new co-parenting skills.
As one participant of the pilot study wrote, “This is a great learning toolkit. I found some of the things I was already doing OK, some things that I need to improve upon, and a few new issues I had not really thought about yet … (it’s) a very good program.
“We are encouraged by the pilot testing and hope the public finds the resource helpful,” Oehme said.
College of Social Work Dean Jim Clark agreed.
“We are grateful to the Vandermark Foundation and its executive director Peter Scanlon for having the insight to fund this crucial and inspirational project,” Clark said.
Scanlon, who earned a doctorate from FSU, established the Vandermark Foundation along with his wife in 2012 in order to improve the lives of families and encourage self-sufficiency.
In addition to the certification from the Department of Children and Families, the Successful Co-Parenting After Divorce Toolkit also has gained approval for continuing education credits for mental health professionals and Florida lawyers who successfully complete the training.
“The entire FSU community, as well as families nationally, will benefit from this extraordinary gift and new program,” said James Sampson, associate dean in the College of Education.
Along with the toolkit, the FSU researchers will use voluntary participant surveys to assess changes in attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors in divorced parents and professionals who take the training. The ultimate goal will be the dissemination of information about divorce-related processes that can inform future research, practice and policy.
For more information, visit coparenting.fsu.edu.