Social work students help families deal with conflict

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Social work students are joining with a local nonprofit organization to provide a series of classes for people dealing with divorce, separation or family conflict.

The Family Academy, along with BYU students, will host free classes for the community from April 12 to May 31 where attendants can learn from community experts on family issues.

Jay Jensen, a child psychologist, said he founded the nonprofit for children who deal with high-conflict divorce or separated parents.

“These situations produce unfavorable outcomes for kids,” Jensen said. “We work with families to reduce the level of conflict so they maintain relationships with kids.”

The organization provides a variety of services including therapy, counseling, mediation, education, third-party exchange and expert consultation.

Rachel Bradford McBride is an intern for The Family Academy and the social work student project leader. She said the academy was established in 1995.

“Prior to that there were few services in the area addressing the needs for separating and divorcing families,” McBride said in an email. “Especially the children of the families.”

She said the families they work with face unique trials that often require specialized knowledge and a significant amount of money.

Michelle Nielsen is getting her master’s degree in social work and said, in an email, the free classes are part of a project for her community organizations course.

“One of the requirements for the class is for all of us to plan and implement a community project together,” Nielsen said. “The class helps us gain experience with the process of creating change on a larger scale with communities.”

The community project will feature numerous community experts such as mental health providers, lawyers and mediators. The classes will address issues of custody, healthy family environments, blended families and the legal system.

“By providing free classes to these parents (either separating or divorcing) we hope that we can provide them with that knowledge and support before damage is done through other adversarial processes,” McBride said.

Any member of the community is invited to attend the classes, but the topics address a specific demographic.

“We are aiming to have parents who are divorced, considering divorce or never-married parents who are separating attend the information seminars,” McBride said.

Jensen said they want to reach people earlier and provide resources there to help them and influence how people go about divorcing.

“The biggest trouble we have is reaching broader groups of people,” Jensen said.

For more information on The Family Academy and a schedule of the upcoming classes visit utahfamilyacademy.org.

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