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children living in single parent homes. Educators could urge both custodial
and non-custodial parents, as well as after school providers, to set aside a time
and place for homework.

• Make provisions for non-custodial parents to receive information about their
children. Both parents should be encouraged to continue their involvement in
their children's education. In most cases, school records and reports may be
made available to non-custodial pgirents unless a court order is issued restrain-
ing the school.

• Do not assume that children from single parent families will have difficulty in
school. Be prepared, however, to offer support to children whenever they need
it; this may be several years after their parents' separation.

Part II. Strategies for Educators

Parents may be reluctant to inform school personnel that a divorce is pending or has
occurred. Educators must be sensitive to the signs and symptoms demonstrated in the
classroom which indicate a crisis in a child's life. It is important to recognize that any
noticeable change in behavior probably reflects some emotional turbulence or stress in
the child's life. The importance of appropriate intervention at this time cannot be under-
estimated, but the nature of the intervention need not be complex. As children of divorce
have indicated, support and genuine concern are the most important things a teacher or
counselor can offer. This may be as simple as exercising patience, understanding and at-
tentive listening.

In addition to offering emotional support to children, a more structured approach may
be taken. Many counselors around the country are offering support groups for children
who have experienced, or are in the process of experiencing divorce, separation or the loss
of a parent. Groups should be small, generally having no more than ten children. Each
child should have the choice of actively participating or listening. Two basic rules for
groups are: (1) everyone who wishes to speak gets a turn, and (2) the group listens to
everyone. Active listening skills are critical. It is essential for the groups to be suppor-
tive and non-judgmental.

Classroom teachers are in the unique position of being able to reach all children, not
just those who volunteer to participate in a support group. Group discussion and
bibliotherapy in the classroom are two useful techniques which provide coping skills to
children who have not experienced divorce, as well as therapeutic value for those who
already live in single parent or remarried families. Bibliotherapy is the use of children's


literature to provide a process in which children can obtain help with developmentfil con-
cerns by being able to identify with characters in the stories and gain some insight into
their own lives. The books used in bibliotherapy must be carefully selected, and the
discussions must be carefully formulated. Follow-up activities, such as role playing or
play therapy, are useful to help children deal with emotions and feelings presented by the
written material, (See bibliography for suggested books.)

Group discussion should also be handled carefully. Educators must guard against in-
vading the privacy of the home while, at the same time, providing a supportive and ac-
cepting atmosphere in which children are encouraged to share their feeUngs.

Other approaches which may be especially helpful when working with children of
changing families include values clarification exercises, affective education curricula and
activities to enhance children's self-concepts. It is critical for teachers to remain consis-
tent in their expectations for children, as the classroom may be the only consistent area
in a child's rapidly changing life.

Part III. Working with Parents

In addition to providing support for the children, educators may be effective in pro-
viding support and guidance for parents. It is important to recognize that helping the
parent will ultimately help the chUd. Educators can help parents understand the impact
of their actions on their children. The following are guidelines for school personnel to
share with concerned parents upon request:

• Children deserve an explanation as to why the divorce is occurring. Specific
details are not necessary; however, the explanation of feeUngs are important.
Children should be assured that the divorce is not their fault. Guilt is a very
common feeling among children experiencing their parents' divorce.

• Children should have all possible information about the new family living ar-
rangements (e.g., where the non-custodial parent will be living, where the
children will be living, when they will be able to visit the non-custodial parent,

• Visitation is extremely important. Even though the transition from one
household to the next may be difficult, it is essential that a child stay in con-
tact with both biological parents. Visitation should be planned and regular,
even if it must be infrequent. Children suffer extreme disappointment when a
p£irent fails to follow through with a visitation.


• It is highly destructive to a child's self-concept to hear one parent degrade the
other. Encourage parents to talk with their children about their honest, per-
sonal feelings concerning the divorce without openly criticizing the absent

In addition to providing information on guidance, educators can support parents by:

being good listeners, refraining from giving advice and referring parents to
professional counseHng services when appropriate;

communicating with parents in positive, supportive ways that help to
alleviate stress;

realizing that, due to other stresses, parents may not be able to attend to
parenting as well as you or they might like;

providing opportunities for parents to meet informally in order to share prob-
lems and solutions;

encouraging parents to take time for themselves, as this will enhance their
relationship with their child;

alleviating guilt by assuring parents that a stable single parent home
enhances their child's development more effectively than a conflict-ridden two
parent home.

This chapter has presented specific strategies that school personnel may utilize in
working with children and adolescents of changing families. As previously stated, sup-
port and genuine concern are perhaps the most important things educators can offer.
Non-judgmental and caring attitudes will appreciably help children adapt to the changes
in their lives.


Chapter 4

The Schools' Role

Part I. Rights of Parents, Legal Issues and School Policy

The transition of the traditional two parent family evolving into varied family con-
stellations holds numerous implications for schools as well as other child care providers.
Many legal issues involving the rights of parents in today's changing families remain
untested as they pertain to schools. The purpose of this chapter then becomes not to
issue a definitive legal opinion, but to broaden the awareness of school professionals con-
cerning potential legal questions in order that schools, through poUcies, can take an ac-
tive position.

Cliildien in today's schools may come from families of varied compositions, such as
tiaditional two parent families, two parent families with a custodial and non-custodial
parent, joint custody families where custody is shared between divorced parents, single
parent families where the rights of one parent have been terminated, and the foster fami-
ly where the child resides with neither natural parent. Within each of the above men-
tioned families there also exists the possibility of a stepparent relationship.

The legal questions for schools usually involve many issues. Who is responsible for
granting specific permission concerning special testing and participation in school ac-
tivities? Which parent should be notified regarding school performance, teacher con-
ferences and school activities? Wluch parent's permission should be requested for any
potentially controversial school activity such as corporal punishment and sex education?

It is difficult to secure a legal response to each "which parent" issue, and it may
be wise for schools to be guided by the 1981 Montana legislature's statement (MCA
40-4-222) concerning the legislative intent of laws pertaining to child custody, speci-
fically joint custody. It states, "The legislature of the State of Montana finds and


declares that it is the public policy of this state to assure minor cMldren frequent and
continuing contact with both parents aiier the pareir' s have sepoiated or dissolved their
marriage and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibiUties of child rear-
ing . . .." For purposes of this discussion, "to encourage parents ..." becomes the com-
mon sense guide for schools. Conversely, this can be viewed to mean that all school
policies relating to parent/school interaction should be reviewed in order that they do not
di&courage divorced parents from sharing in the responsibilities of child rearing. Policies
which relate to notification of parents about conferences, issuing of evaluation
statements (report cards), parent permission and general school philosophy statements
should all be reviewed by this criterion.

As a general giiide, schools should be reminded that the legal custodial parent should
sign student documents requiring legal parental consent. Howe\'er, in the case of joint
custody, the parent wlio L&s educational rights within the divorce decree should sign. If
the divorce d(>eE not specify educational rights, and the parents axe in conflict on a par-
ticular school issue, school districts need tc notify parents that the conflict must be

The 1981 Montana legislature also enacted MCA 40-4-225, a clear statement as to the
non-custodial parent's rights of access to school records "Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, access to records nnd information pertaining to a minor child, including
but not limited tc . . . school recoid.M, may not be denied to a parent because siirh parent
is not the cliild's custodial jiorent." 'llierefore, a custodial parent wislring to prevent the
school from sending studont record information to the non-custodial parent would need
to present a court order restraining that access.

The non-custodial parent's right of access to school records does not imply that schools
must track down the non-custodial parent to send copies of all school records. However,
through a school pubKcation or the local newspaper, the school can request non-custodial
parents to contact them if they wish tc receive copies of school records such as report
cards and parent conference notices.

Despite the extra paperwork involved, active participation of both parents in a child's
education is most beneficial to the child and ultimately to the school.

Part II. Training for Today*s Families

It is important for schools to adopt as a matter of pohcy a commitment to providing
school persormel the opportunity to increase their skills in understanding children from
changing families. Inservice training should be allowed and encouraged. Some of the best


training resources exist within every Montana community— the families themselves. If
at a loss foi training rescuices, local parent support groups or human service agencies
can be contacted.

For current independent education, the following books may be helpful:

1. Allers, Robert D., Divorce, Children and the Schooi, Princeton Book Co., 1982.

2. Jjuepnitz, Deborah Anna, Child Custody, A Study of Families After Divorce,
Lexington Books, 1982.

3. Ricci, Isolina, Mom's House, Dad's House, MacMillan Publishing Co., 1980.

All families, regardless of theii makeup, are "real" families, and tho members should
be treated accordingly. A school professional may find that the majority of students in a
class are from families in some stage oi transition— some successful, some not. The role
of the school, however, should remain non-judgmental, supportive, and caring.


Chapter 5

Referral Systems &
Community Resources

Although many ser^'ices exist to help Montana families and children with special
needs, people often do not know how to seek the help they require. Teachers can bridge
the gap. They are in an excellent position to advise parents and to make referrals
because, more than anyone else, they work intensively with the school-aged children of a

Occasional!}', a teacher may need to advise the parent that a special need or problem of
the child has been observed and that a suitable agency or program can help. At other
times, a parent needing help in dealing with a peirticular situation will seek the advice of
the school.

Most often, however, school personnel will need to assess carefully both the problem
and the family's readiness to receive help. To be able to match a particular family with a
specific resource, educators must know what services are available in the community.
For example, no single profession or agency has been designated to conduct marriage and
faniily counseling in the state. Thus, school personnel iri ' 'now which local clergymen,
mental health staff, or professionals in private practic amily treatment, and what

methods they use. In districts where counselors are available, teachers and principals
may refer families to the school counselor who assists with referrals to outside agencies.

Part I. Kinds of Referral Services

In-House Services

In-house services are a school district's specialized programs and services, exclusive of


its regular instruction, sports, and social activities. School counseling, remedieil instruc-
tion, and gifted/talented programs are examples.

Informal Services

Informal services comprise assistance provided by other family members, neighbors,
friends, and mutual self-help efforts that do not involve formal agencies and programs,
for example, parents from several families who organize a rotating babysitting arrange-
ment among themselves on a barter basis. Informal services are particularly worthwhile
when few formal progams exist in a community, when there is a need to tailor a service to
specific needs, or when it is necesseiry to reduce costs to the recipients.

Formal Services

Formedized services are provided by agencies and programs whose staffs include profes-
sionals and specialists. In contrast to informal assistance, agencies usually make pro-
grams available on a regular basis, provide trained staff, and can be held accountable for
the quality of their services.

Part II. The Referral Process

Needs Assessment

Persons making referrals should first determine the problem of the child or parent,
then evaluate the cHent's motivation and readiness to receive help, then consider the
family's particular style of utiUzing assistance. Some families, for instance, may go will-
ingly to their minister for counseUng and therapy but may mistakenly view a mental
health center as a place only for the "insane." Some famiUes resent outside help but seek
the assistance of their own circle of family, friends, or church members. Others prefer to
rely on outside experts and authorities for advice and counsel.

Selection of Resources

Teachers shouM refer famihes to:

a. In-house services, if they are available within the school.

b. Informal services, if they are dependable and accommodate the family's style
for using help.

c. Formal services, when specialized help is needed and the family is ready to
utihze it.

Referral Steps

The referrant should:

a. Describe the resource to the family.


b. Take one of the following actions:

1. Make an appointment with the agency.

2. Send the family to the agency.

3. Go with the family to the referral agency.

4. Have the referral source contact the client.

Follow-up Steps (if warranted)

In some cases, it is desirable to learn whether the family used a service and the result,
particularly if the performance of a school child is involved. The follow-up provides a way
to assess the effectiveness of the services the family received.

Part III. Resources Available in Montana

Agency Resources

Some services are available in many communities statewide. Most, if available, are
listed in telephone directory white pages. The more frequently used services are:

Big Brothers and Sisters (many larger communities)

Campfire (serves boys and girls)

Catholic Social Services (regional offices in larger towns)

Chambers of Conmierce (all county seats; CCs have listings of all local organiza-

County Social Services and Economic Assistance Programs (under county tele-
phone listings)

Family Planning (also listed as Planned Parenthood)

Florence Crittenden Home (in Helena; offers residential services to pregnant teen-
agers from Montana communities)

Head Start

Health Department (offers child immunizations, nutrition, stress management
training, parenting classes; telephone listing under county)

Health Information Clearinghouse (covers most of western Montana; telephone
outside Missoula area: 1-800-332-5759)

Home Health Agencies (most larger conmiunities; may be located within county
health department or local hospital)

Job Service

Lutheran Social Services (regional offices in larger towns)

Parents Without Partners, Inc.


Regional Community Mental Health Centers (five regional centers, with many

satellite offices around the state)
Singles groups (vary in title and function)
Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) (rehabihtation, child welfare, veterans

and other social services; under state telephone listings)
Support groups (vary in title and function)
Women's groups (vary in title and function)
Youth Court

Resource Guides

Community Education Personnel & Resource Directory
Office of Public Instruction
1300 nth Avenue
Helena, MT 59620

Montana Human Services Directory: 1980 Edition ($10)
Montana State University Bookstore
Student Union Building
Bozeman, MT 59717

Developing a Local Resource Guide

Educators may wish to develop a directory of resources containing specific information
about local services and contact people. Such a directory may be useful because the range
and mixture of services varies greatly from one community to another. Self-help and sup-
port groups for single parents and divorced persons, for example, are organized quite dif-
ferently in different locales.

The sample form, on the next page, may be reproduced in quantity to make a resource
guide. The following are definitions of the terms included.

Category. The general type of service offered by the organization listed on that form
page (examples: counseUng; day care; divorced support group).

Program. The official title of the service agency (examples: Bitterroot Counseling Ser-
vices, Lake County Health Department).

Contact Person. The agency representative who should be directly contacted.

Address. The agency's mailing and office addresses (if they are different, list both).

Telephones. Office, answering service, and home telephone numbers (list all, if ap-










Chapter 6

Resources & References

Part I. Books for Children & Adolescents

Adams, Florence. Mushy Eggs. Illus. Marilyn Hirsch. New York: Putnam's, 1973, ages
3-8. Here is a story of a family managing after a divorce. The mother functions well,
and the children are cooperative and understanding.

Agle, Nan Hayden. Susan 's Magic. Illus. Charles Robinson. New York: Seabury Press,
1973, ages 7-11. Susan's parents are divorced. Her father seems to be uncaring but
not unkind. The mother is weak and over-protective.

Arundel, Honor. -A Family Failing. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1972. Pb. Scholastic, ages
11-up. A young girl must accept the fact that her parents are individuals, not just
parents, when they separate after family difficulties.

Bawden, Nina. The Runaway Summer. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1969, ages 9-11. Mary's
parents are getting divorced. The)' do not really care about her, so they send her to
live with her grandfather and aunt. Mary meets friends, is happy, and decides to
Uve there permanently. She realizes that for her, her parents' divorce was not a

Berger, Terry. A Friend Can Help. Photographs by Heinz Kluetmeier. Milwaukee: Ad-
vanced Learning Concepts and Children's Press, 1974, ages 7-10. A simple book,
but very helpful and reassuring. The photographs clearly reflect the characters'
emotions, Susan, a friend, helps considerably with understemding and com-


Berger, Terry. How Does it Feel When Your Parents Get Divorced? Julian Messner,
1977, elementary level. This story deals with a 12-yefir-old girl's reaction/fears
regarding divorce.

Blue, Rose. A Month of Sundays. Illus. Ted Lewin, New York: Frankhn Watts, 1972,
ages 8-10. When Jeff's parents divorce, Jeff moves to New York with his mother. A
useful book for children who feel that divorce and a change of life style signal the
end of their world.

Blume, Judy. It's Not the End of the World. New York: Bradbury Press, 1972. Pb. Ban-
tam, ages 10-12. Karen's parents go through a divorce. Karen and her sister and
brother react normally. They try to get their parents back together; they worry
about whether or not their parents love them; they worry about their welfare.

Brooks, Jerome. Uncle Mike's Boy. New York: Harper & Row, 1973, ages 10-up. Pudge's
parents are divorced; both have personal problems. The plot is comphcated but ex-
poses the problems many children must face when their parents divorce.

Cleaver, Vera and Bill. Ellen Grae. Illus. Ellen Raskin. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1967,
ages 9-11. Ellen Grae's parents are divorced; she lives with the McGruders during
the school year. Her parents love her, but neither one can assume responsibihty for
her. In this book, it is demonstrated that no adult completely understands Ellen
Grae but that she will endure nevertheless.

Cleaver, Vera and BiU. Lady Ellen Grae. Illus. Ellen Raskin. Philadelphia: Lippincott,
1968, ages 9-11. In this book Ellen Grae is sent to live with an aunt in order to ac-
quire the social graces. Attempts at imposing conventional behavior on Ellen Grae
fail, and she returns happily to the McGruders. Her parents love her, although her
mother seems less concerned about her than her father does . The relationship is an
unusual but operational one.

Clymer, Eleanor. Luke Was There. Illus. Diane de Groat. New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1973, ages 8-12. Julius' mother has been married and divorced twice. He
and his half-brother, Danny, are sent to an institution when their mother becomes
ill. Luke, a sensitive counselor, serves as a positive force in the boys' hves.

Corcoran, B. Hey, That's My Soul You're Stomping On. New York: Atheneum, 1978. A
pre-teen girl spends the summer with her grandparents due to her parents' separa-
tion. The book discusses her feelings and the difficulties of growing up.


Eichler, Margaret. Martin's Father. Illus. Beverly Maginnis. Chapel Hill, NC; Lollipop
Power, 1971, ages 3-7. Martin and his father live together. The story describes the
commonplace daily activities that the two engage in together. A gentle, matter-of-
fact presentation.

Gardner, Richard A., M.D. The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce. Illus. Alfred Lowen-
heim. New York: Science House, 1970. Pb. Bantam, ages 10-up. Written by a
psychiatrist for children, this book discusses a child's feelings toward divorce, uses
of anger and love, reactions toward working mothers and stepparents, and provides
many practical suggestions for adjustment to the new situation. The book assumes
that children live with their mother.

Gardner, Richard A., M.D. The Boys and Girls Book About Stepfamilies. New York:
Bantam Books, 1982, ages 10-up. Written by a psychiatrist for children, this book
discusses the issues of stepfsmiilies. It provides suggestions for learning to live in
the new situation.

Goff, Beth. Where Is Daddy? The Story of a Divorce. Illus. Susan Perl. Boston: Beacon
Press, 1969, ages 4-7. A little girl who cannot understand her parents' divorce
blames herself, and she is afraid that her mother won't come back whenever she
goes off to work. Gradually her mother and grandmother help her to accept the new
situation and not to blame herself for the divorce.


Online LibraryMissoula County Superintendent of SchoolsChildren of changing families : a resource manual for educators and helping professionals (Volume 1982) → online text (page 2 of 3)