Children Need Both Parents
By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
The recent tragic death of a young, divorced mother, who had lost custody of her children, has raised awareness about the matter of resolving custody/visitation cases when one of the parents is no longer observant; a subject that has been on our radar at Project YES for many years now.
In 2009 we posted Shlomo Hamelech for a Day and I encourage our readers to review that essay carefully and the 130+ comments to understand better the multi-layered complexity of these situations. 
In particular, see Comment #25 posted following the article written by "Tortured Dad" - the non-observant father who contacted me originally. Also read my response in Comment #30 "Introducing You to Tortured Dad," #77 and #79 on "Arranged Marriages," and comments #71, 80, 86, 105 and 114 by noted therapist Dr. Benzion Twerski.
It is our very strong feeling that children need the love and involvement of both parents - all the more so when their nuclear family unit is disrupted by separation or divorce. We believe, as do the Rabbonim, attorneys and mental health professionals with whom we regularly consult, that parents should never be denied regular visitation unless they are abusive.
On a personal note, having been raised in a blended family, due to the tragic death of my father before my fourth birthday, I am particularly sensitive to the importance of stability in children's lives. As such, for many years I have been an advocate of mediated settlements and peaceful resolution of custody and visitation matters. More recently, I authored several essays addressing this salient topic such as: 1) Father of the Man begging divorced parents to avoid acrimony, 2) Blending Families in honor of my parents, who raised three sets of children in one seamless family unit, and 3) co-authored One Foot in Front of the Other with my amazing mother, sharing her life's experience as a single parent.
This past May, we posted Do You Have an Adult Non-Observant Son/Daughter, Spouse/Ex, or Sibling? In this article, we invited observant and non-observant family members faced with situations like those described above, to a meeting designed to encourage them to explore compromise and mediation rather than contentious litigation.
Over the summer, more than 30 observant and non-observant parents/grandparents responded to this post and expressed interest in participating in our efforts. Now that the Yomim Tovim are over, we are scheduling the session. If you are interested in attending the invitation-only meeting and live in the metro New York area, kindly drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Someone from our office will get back to you with the details and all correspondence will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
Our long-term goal, though, is more focused on prevention than intervention. Several months ago, I reached out to and met with several members of the formerly-observant community in the hope that we could together chart a less contentious course for families in these situations moving forward.
We had an excellent first meeting and we are deeply committed to doing our utmost to collectively create a culture of negotiation and compromise that will help parents make the most of a challenging situation for the sake of their children.
Horav Shmuel Kaminetsky shlit"a who has graciously served as the rabbinic advisor of Project YES since its inception in 1997, has given us his enthusiastic haskama (approbation) for this effort. We are also working with other community leaders in the charedi world who are currently involved in matters of this nature.
Sadly, there is no shortage of bitter divorce litigation in the general population and we have no illusions that we will be able to peacefully resolve all custody disputes. However, we strongly believe that we can develop a "road map" for families who are committed to the emotional well-being of their children by drawing on the best practices of successful mediation efforts.
May this project be a ze'chus for the neshama of my father-in-law Reb Aryeh Leib ben Reb Shlomo Berger a"h who passed away just two weeks after the initial post appeared.
We look forward to working together in the hope that this initiative will help more children and adults lead happy and productive lives.
Director, Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES
 For more background on the matter of OTD Adults, I suggest you review The Chinuch Challenges of Our Generation, as well as subsequent columns we published in Mishpacha and The Jewish Press over the past few years: Exit Interviews, All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go, Running Out Of Time (see the many links there).
If you are looking to help your children or grandchildren improve their Hebrew and Chumash skills or if you are involved in some capacity in your local school's education, please consider taking a look at our recently-released Bright Beginning Chumash Workbook Volume II. Here are links to: A 5-PageSample of Volume II our Bright Beginnings Homepage and 10-minute video explaining the educational philosophy that drove the creation of these workbooks.
P.S. Parents; please speak to your children about BOTH "Stranger Danger" and overall "Child Safety/Abuse Prevention."
Here are links to view three free 4-5 minute videos which are designed to give you the parents, the tools and language to comfortably have safety talks with your kids:
You can purchase our Project YES children's safety book,
"Let's Stay Safe!" online at http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/letsstaysafe/index.html or at your local Jewish bookstore.
You can also download the Read-Aloud Video Version of our Child Safety Book here and watch it with your children.
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