As a young girl, Lesley Friedland regularly saw her parents doing philanthropic work. She knew that she also wanted to be part of the solution and that law was an area where she could help people. Lesley enrolled in a public interest law school where students participate in legal clinics throughout their three years of school. During law school, Lesley interned at South Brooklyn Legal Services and “fell in love with what they were doing.” She went on to work as a court attorney and then a referee hearing cases in NYC Family Court. She also oversaw programming in King’s county where supportive services were offered to separating families at no cost.
The classes offered in the court house were programs where people would come to class and learn how the divorce and separation process worked and how they could best support their children through the change in the family configuration. They also offered a mediation program for separating couples. After the 2008 recession, these programs were cut resulting in Lesley and other jurists hearing many more cases in much less time and having few resources to offer separating families.
After a lot of soul searching and with the support of her fellow divorce professionals, Lesley left the court system to start a non-profit to help bridge the gap that was left when the programs were eliminated. Lesley says “I never thought I’d have a Phase 2 career. I feel tremendously lucky and energized to be working with the FamilyKind team. We pull together to do what’s right for families.”
Lesley is now facing an ‘empty nest’ at home, as her sons are both in college. She is experiencing a transition and she sees similarities in the many types of transitions families face in their lifetime – including separation and divorce. Just like her new empty nest which she has accepted and embraced as the right next step, Lesley believes “divorce can be a happy shift, it wasn’t working before but it can work now.”
FamilyKind was started in 2012 offering services on a sliding fee scale to families going through separation and divorce. Their very noble missions: to offer high quality services to everyone, despite their financial circumstances and to change the way society views divorce. Today, FamilyKind offers an array of classes and services for both parents and children. All programming is designed with helping keep the children out of the conflict of divorce to minimize the impact the process has on them.
Currently, FamilyKind programs are offered in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens Westchester and Long Island. (link to calendar). Fees are based on a sliding scale of need. They include:
NY State Certified Parenting Classes for divorcing and separating families (open to all, often mandated by certain courts)
•Classes are taught by an attorney and a mental health or family science professional
•4 ½ hours – refreshments served
•Topics include: personal well-being, coping with children as well as legal information
•Offered in a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere where parents can get to know others experiencing the same difficulties
Step family Services
•Leads couples through what they may experience blending families- offers tools and techniques for success
•Individual step family coaching also available
•Highly experienced mediators work with individual couples to help them come to agreements out of court
•A communication program for couples using elements of mediation and parenting coordination
•Helps parents learn to communicate in a healthy manner
•6 week program for children with some parent involvement
•In school offering for children grades 3-5 to help children understand the changes their families are experiencing
•Individualized service for high-conflict situations
•Parenting Coordinators are all mental health professionals