In our last post we began a series about why it is important to be “family-centred”. We quoted from a CBC Tapestry interview with Lisa Genova who turned to fiction as a way of exploring and understanding a person’s journey with dementia. During that interview, Ms. Genova talked about the importance of “reframing”. She quoted a friend with Alzheimer’s who said “it is all in how you frame it”.
By starting with the family and trying to understand and empathize with the family’s experience as they encounter the justice system during separation and divorce, we are reframing the problem to be solved.
The first “AHA” moment for our Lab team was when my colleague Jerry McHale, Q.C. described the challenges we were attempting to tackle in a new way. He said “this is not a legal system with a few social aspects but, rather, a social system with a few legal aspects”. This reframing was powerful because:
- it turned the traditional thinking on its head
- it took the focus away from the only the justice system and legal players (lawyers, judges, government etc.) and recognized that multiple systems were involved
- it recognized that the “social system” is the journey of the families and that, for many, their interaction with the formal justice system was a minor part of their experience
- the perspectives, needs, desires and experience of the family members becomes central
- it pointed out the importance of multi-disciplinary input since the family’s journey might involve education, health, mental health, financial people and services
It was this moment that was a new starting point for our journey as a Lab. We knew we needed to centre on the experience of the families and not on the needs of those serving them. Like any new thing it turned out to be easier said than done. The good news is that there is much inspiration to be drawn from other systems (like health and education for example) who are working hard to take a human/user-centred approach.