From 1987 to 1990, Judge Ina Levin Gyemant presided over the family law department of the domestic relations court, noting that while lawyers filed motions and parents sought orders regarding custody, visitation and other diputes, children and their needs were almost completely ignored. Mediation services were mandated for parents in California in 1980, but no educational program was available for children, who are often the people most vulnerable and confused during separation or divorce.
Gyemant and other professionals in law, education, social service, and mental health, felt strongly that early intervention would not only reduce litigation, but increase the well-being of children, improve their performance in school, and teach children and parents important skills in the midst of family reorganization. In 1988, with the help of attorneys Ann Van Blen and Jennifer Jackson, Gyemant started Kids’ Turn as a nonprofit agency in order to offer direct educational services to children and their parents who are undergoing separation or divorce.
The current home office for Kids’ Turn is located in San Francisco. Out of that location, services are conducted for four Bay Area Counties. Those counties are: San Francisco, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa. Due to the significant response to Kids’ Turn in the East Bay, the organization rents a small space in Oakland in order to accommodate East Bay staff.
In the early 90’s, the Kids’ Turn Board developed a framework for selling the curriculum and for licensing affiliates. Presently, seven organizations hold affiliate status; those organizations are located in California (Sonoma, Napa, San Diego, Shasta and Yolo Counties), Dayton, Ohio, Hillsboro, Oregon, and Bloomington, Illinois.
Although Kids’ Turn was developed as an early intervention and prevention model, it is highly effective for families who have been divorced or separated for some time. The goal of Kids’ Turn is to provide a safe, accessible environment in which children learn to deal with the difficult situations they face as their family reorganizes. The purposes of the workshops are to: demystify and de-stigmatize the separation/divorce process; provide children and their parents with communication and problem-solving skills to help them with the divorce/separation; provide a place for children and their parents to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their experiences.
In the spring of 1995, Kids’ Turn was featured on the ABC-TV news program, “20/20,” and also recently on CNN, generating calls worldwide from people interested in starting the program in their area. A videotape entitled “For Kids’ Sake” features interviews with participating families and goes inside the sessions to show what takes place in a workshop. Both these videos are available locally.