- Massachusetts Probation Service
Media Contact for Hampshire Probate & Family Court receives international award
Coria Holland, Communications Director
Washington, D.C. — The Hampshire County Probate & Family Court was recently recognized with the Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award at the 55th Annual Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Conference held in Washington, DC. The award was presented on June 6 at a reception held at the Washington Hilton.
Hampshire Probate & Family First Assistant Chief Probation Officer Ronald “RJ” Waskiewicz, First Justice Linda Fidnick, Judicial Case Manager Noelle Stern, Family Consultant Deborah Roth-Howe, Attorney Mary Ellen Niles Howard, and Dr. Marsha Klien-Pruett all traveled to the nation’s capital to accept the prestigious award on behalf of the court, a community-based, problem-solving court for families in conflict.
The AFCC describes its association as the premier interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. The organization's motto is "Improving the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict."
The Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award, named for the late Honorable Irwin Cantor and AFCC President, was created to recognize innovation in court-connected or court-related programs designed by an AFCC member. It recognizes innovation in program and content, objectives and presentation, creativity, and contributions to the mission of AFCC.
“Our Specialty Court involves the entire staff at our courthouse, as well as a number of volunteers, in order to make it work. The FRSC has changed the way the Hampshire Probate & Family Court handles a high conflict case. The specialty court transforms a highly-contested court hearing into a collaborative problem-solving meeting,” said Waskiewicz. “The family is supported throughout the process by a team consisting of the parents, their attorney, a family consultant, a probation officer, an attorney for the children, and mediator. Together, working as a team, the issues surrounding children are troubleshot as opposed to litigated.”
Waskiewicz continued, “I would like to thank the FRSC Advisory Board and the entire staff at The Hampshire Probate & Family Court for working together as a team to make this program work.
Hampshire Probate & Family First Justice Linda S. Fidnick said of the award, “In my 40 years of experience in family law, as a practitioner and as a Judge, I saw the damage caused by family conflict to multiple generations of families. The court system does not give parents the tools or support to change or get past the personal tragedy of a divorce or separation to refocus on the future of their children. FRSC is not just about the court,” It is a program that pulls together everyone in the community who has the same goal of trying to make life better for children and families.”
Judge Fidnick listed the community partners involved with the court which include: ServiceNet, Community Action, Smith College School for Social Work, the Mediation and Training Collaborative, the Hampshire County Bar Association.
Probation Commissioner Edward J. Dolan congratulated the Hampshire Probate & Family Probation Department and the FRSC team on their recognition.
“The Hampshire Probate & Family Court Probation Department is to be commended for their impactful work which helps families come together in a healthy and constructive way to resolve issues that have torn many families apart. When families are able to work together, it benefits the children in the long run and allows them to grow up in a nurturing and supportive environment,” said Commissioner Dolan.
Margo Riley, Statewide Supervisor for Probate & Family Court Department also commented on the court’s award, “This creative model is a great example of court staff utilizing evidence based practices to minimize the negative effects of parental conflict, thereby assuring better outcomes for families. Our focus should always been on what is best for families.”
Hampshire Probate & Family is one of 12 Probate and Family courts across the Commonwealth. Probate & Family Probation Officers are involved in assisting the court in civil matters such as domestic issues, divorce, paternity, guardianship and adoption. Probate & Family Court Probation Officers are asked to perform such tasks as investigating custody issues, resolving disputes regarding visitation and enforcing court orders regarding child support as well as drug testing and supervision of job search activity.