The Family Court Social Services (FCSS) work with families whose domestic conflicts have brought them to litigation. The service is provided free of charge, mainly through social workers, and its main purpose is to bring the disputes to a rapid and consensual conclusion through mediation. The FCSS address a range of issues: Divorce and separation, parental arrangements, domestic violence and more.
The current study is the first to examine the outcomes of the intervention by all FCSS in Israel from the perspective of the clients. The study evaluated two key outcomes of intervention by the Service: Positive perception of the mediation process (a positive relationship with the caseworker and the contribution of the mediation process to improving the relationship within family) and reaching agreement in the FCSS. The study attempted to identify factors that could predict the outcomes of the intervention in order to help the service to find efficient ways to improve them.
The study was conducted from 2012 to 2013 through a telephone survey of a sample of 321 clients, about six months after the intervention was completed. The study also used information from the intake forms completed by the social workers and administrative data.
Among the findings:
Most of the clients (73%) had a positive perception of their relationship with the caseworker and about 25% of them felt that the mediation process helped to improve relationships within the family.
Almost half of the clients (48%) reported that they reached an agreement in the FCSS in at least one area of conflict. Most of the agreements reached were in the area of parental arrangements (custody, visitation arrangements or child support payments). These findings highly correlate with the caseworkers' report regarding reaching agreement in the service.
Six months after the end of the intervention, most of the clients reported high satisfaction with the agreement (60%) and noted that it was stable in at least one area (67%).
The study identified factors that could predict a positive perception of the mediation process and reaching agreement in the FCSS such as, 12 years of education (compared to lower and to higher levels of education), higher motivation of the client for treatment and greater number of meetings at the Service.
The study findings have been presented at an FCSS conference attended by FCSS caseworkers, social workers from social service departments, judges and rabbinical judges. Great interest was shown in the findings and they will be disseminated in additional professional forums in Israel and abroad. The findings are helping the FCSS management to reach important operative conclusions, such as improving treatment practices with highly educated clients, as well as with clients with a particularly low education level.
The study was initiated by the Research, Planning and Training Division in cooperation with the Personal Social Services Division, Individual and Family Services at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services and funded with their assistance.