Children Come First


Former Administrative Judge Sharon Townsend announced that based on the developments that had already begun in the 8th District to improve the court system’s response to families in crisis, the 8th District has been selected to develop a pilot project in Erie County entitled “Children Come First”. Judge Townsend has appointed Hon. Janice M. Rosa, 8th Judicial District Supervising Judge of Matrimonial Matters, to lead the development of this project which assists parents in dealing with conflict after separation in order to protect the needs and interests of the children involved. This program began last year when Social Worker Noreen Flynn, L.C.S.W. was hired to assist in developing parenting plans in Supreme Court along with the previously established mediation programs through Catholic Charities and the Center for Dispute Resolution that have been in existence in Erie County Family Court. The overall experience of this program has led to swift and comprehensive disposition of these matters. 

As part of this program, two additional social workers have been hired by the court system to expand the Children Come First Initiative. Sarah Castner, L.M.S.W. and Sarah Lane, L.M.S.W. are currently conducting early case screening for purposes of tailoring services in matrimonial and Family Court matters in Erie County. Additionally, Justice Rosa has overseen the development of Parenting Coordination protocols which also provide for the establishment of a court roster of qualified parenting coordinators who will receive referrals from the Courts in high-conflict cases. The proposed Parenting Coordination protocols and application for Court Roster Parenting Coordinator can be accessed at Parenting Coordination

This pilot project is consistent with the recommendations contained in the 2006 Report of the Matrimonial Commission that was submitted to former Chief Judge Judith Kaye. The Matrimonial Report can be accessed at the OCA website at:


Contact Information

ADR Program Administrator for Matrimonial Matters
Sheila Weir Schwanekamp

Sarah Lane, L.C.S.W.