Under Former Administrative Judge Sharon Townsend, the 8th District was selected to develop a pilot project in Erie County entitled “Children Come First”. Judge Townsend appointed Hon. Janice M. Rosa, then the 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 under Social Worker Noreen Flynn, L.C.S.W. who assisted parents 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.
Currently, the Children come First program is staffed by two licensed social workers: Sarah Lane Koessler, LMSW, Program Supervisor, and Christine Sarzynski, LCSW. The primary functions of the program include: parenting assessments, parenting mediation, and referrals for services in family court and matrimonial matters in the 8th Judicial District.
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 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: www.nycourts.gov/reports/matrimonialcommissionreport.pdf.
Audrey Rose Herman, Esq.
Sarah Lane Koessler, L.C.S.W.
Christine Sarzynski, LCSW