June 25, 2018
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Dedicated professionals volunteer to assist families through difficulties of divorce

By Joni Averill

Every once in a while, information about a fundraiser comes across my desk that makes me want to learn more about the organization that is to benefit from it.

Such was the case with the recent For Kid’s Sake Fundraiser hosted by Bangor Breakfast Kiwanis, the Hermon Key Club and For Kid’s Sake at Hermon High School

Bangor psychologist Dr. John Lorenz was kind enough to explain the program to me, and I must say I had no idea of the kind of services being provided to needy families in divorce situations,  in our area, by a very small group of dedicated professionals in the medical, educational, mental health and legal fields.

For Kid’s Sake is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children and families who are in the midst of divorce, or experiencing post-divorce problems.

It was around 1998,  when current U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuck was a District Court judge, John said, that she and other professionals began to discuss the fact that the same cases would come before them “again and again,” and they recognized no services were available to resolve these cases, especially when children were involved.

“We felt awful no services were available for lower-income families,” John said, adding that while “extremely low-income folks” have access to services and treatment to help them and their children through divorce, “everybody else is on their own.”

So a few local professionals “started talking about that need,“ John said.

“We considered the old line, rather than cursing the darkness, we should just light a candle.”

And they did.

John, Carrie Clark-Jordan,  a family attorney in Orono, and Susan Polyot, a family counselor in John’s office, went about the process of establishing a nonprofit organization to help correct this situation.

“We knew about Kids First in Portland,” John said of the Kids First Center founded by  professionals and volunteers that has been providing services for families involved in separation and divorce for several years now, “and we decided, if they can do it, we can do it.

“We came up with a structure, got our filings with the secretary of state’s office to set up a nonprofit, and started our board. “It’s 11 years later. We’re still going but, as a nonprofit, we’re always broke,” he said.

Hence the fundraising.

For Kid’s Sake members are all volunteers and include family law attorneys, a pediatrician, two psychologists, an elementary school teacher, a medical center administrator and a social worker who conduct programs, on Saturdays, in Bangor and Ellsworth.

One key to the program’s success is that attendees are court-ordered to take the course. The reward is how much the children are helped through this process.

“It’s very moving to see and hear what kids experience over the years,” John said.

It can be heartbreaking, for example, to hear a child say he or she doesn’t have a home. They say they “go to my dad’s and go to mom’s, but I really don’t have a place.”

Others, John said, have learned to “make a little deal” with a sibling, where one will “stay and take care of Mom if you take care of Dad.”

The parenting course offers “basic education about the to-dos and not-to-dos going through divorce,” John said, and another program serves families in “very high-conflict cases.”

Parents meet, separately, with other parents, working together in a group. When the course is completed “we even have a little graduation ceremony,” John said. But, to be clear, he added “not every case is successful,” and people can end up back in court. However, he added, “in some cases, there really are miracles.”

Anecdotally, he spoke of one couple going through a divorce who could not speak with each other by any means, which was complicated by a parental health problem. Once they went through this program, they were finally able to have a conversation, focus on the children and, in the process, the parents’ health improved.

“When children are involved,” John said, “some people just need to hear that there is a better way, and this is how you do it.”

With a divorce rate some indicate can be as high as 50 percent, this program has helped thousands of children in our area, John said.

And while there are costs involved and participants are asked to contribute what they can, “we made a commitment that no one would ever be turned away for not being able to pay,” John said.

Expenses include meeting sites and materials, and For Kid’s Sake also trains people to become guardians ad litem, court-appointed guardians who represent children in divorce matters.

For Kid’s Sake always needs donations to continue its work, is always seeking new volunteers and hopes, sometime soon, to have a full-time executive director.

If you can help, in any way, call For Kid’s Sake at 942-9329.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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