The Family Change Services Rating Rationale

The FCS Rating System has been designed to provide higher ratings for separation and divorce (S-D) service providers who emphasize decreased conflict and cost effectiveness. Similarly, the FCS Rating System assigns lower ratings to service providers who are seen by clients as not appropriately reducing conflict and as not being cost effective. The rating system was designed with these characteristics in mind because they are central to what we call alternative S-D care. Both the scientific literature and our customer surveys have shown that there is a sizable population of divorcing couples who would like alternative S-D providers to be more readily identifiable.

While research indicates that alternative S-D methods are a better solution for the majority of people undergoing separation and divorce (and, especially, any children who are involved), it is not necessarily the best solution for everyone. There are occasions when legal confrontation (i.e., traditional S-D care) may be necessary because reliable evidence has been uncovered that one or more family members truly are at risk in some way. However, the vast majority of risk issues that traditional S-D care identifies as important are, in fact, not risk issues at all. In our view most supposed important risk issues that are identified by traditional (legally oriented) S-D care are either fairly typical lifestyle or daily activity choices that are made routinely by people everywhere in our society, or are minor problems that can be readily corrected using educational or other measures.

Who Can Submit Ratings?

Any member of a family can submit ratings for any S-D service provider who has had a substantial contact with that family member. This applies whether the professional was selected by choice of a family member, or was assigned by the state through a court sponsored process. And it applies for any member of a family who was affected by that S-D service provider, regardless of who the primary contact is. For example, if an S-D service provider is selected by the husband of a divorcing family, any advice or actions taken by that provider will affect everyone in the family. This means that the wife of that same divorcing family, any children in that divorcing family, and close members of the extended family in that divorcing family can also evaluate the selected professional, even if the person making the S-D service provider choice was the husband. This rule is derived from the most basic tenet of family treatment, namely, that S-D professionals are helping families, not isolated individuals. No matter who the primary familial contact may be, the functionality, relationships, and resources of all family members are affected by an S-D service provider.

To rate a particular S-D service provider a family member should have had a substantive interaction with that S-D service provider. The substantive interaction can be either direct (meaning that the service provider has had direct contact with that family member) or indirect (meaning that the service provider has not had direct contact with that family member). The direct contact can occur in any venue, or can occur via a medium such as telephone, teleconference, or internet. Indirect contact typically occurs when an important effect initiated by an S-D service provider is transmitted via a change in a family member’s behavior to other members of the same family. The key is that a family member recognizes that an action on the part of a particular S-D service provider has had an important impact on him or her, whether positive or negative, and that the family member wishes to provide feedback about the substantive interaction to the FCS community.

How Often Can a Family Member Submit Ratings on the Same Service Provider?

As many times as the family member wants. If a family member enters his or her registration information (email and password) in order to submit a new rating for an S-D service provider he or she has already rated, the new information is considered an update, not a new rating. Raters can update their rating for a particular S-D service provider as often as they wish. The rationale for this rule should be obvious – each re-rating contains the most extensive experience a family member has had with an S-D service provider and is therefore likely to be the most accurate.

Who Should Not Submit Ratings?

A family member should not submit ratings for an S-D service provider if he or she has not had any substantive interaction with that S-D service provider. That is, family members should be able to identify at least one important consequence (in their opinion) that are related to the professional activities of an S-D service provider and that personally affected them. Opinions, whether from the rater or someone else, that don’t reflect an important personal consequence for the rater do not quality as a substantive interaction. In addition, a particular S-D service provider and anyone with a personal or professional relationship with that S-D service provider (family members, friends, relatives, work subordinates, colleagues, co-workers, etc.) should not submit ratings for that S-D service provider. Family Change Services considers ratings from these sources to be intrinsically biased.

Do I Have to Submit Ratings for All Questions in the FCS Rating Interface?

No. The FCS Rating System consists of 12 questions, each one of which generates a rating between 1 and 5. The assessment interface allows raters to submit as little as one rating, or as many as 12 ratings, or any number of ratings in between. The rater should submit ratings only for those questions that are pertinent to his or her experience with a particular S-D service provider.

Each rater is also required to answer 6 additional questions at the end of each submitted assessment before the assessment can be captured by the system. The 6 additional questions identify the timing of the interaction of family members with a S-D provider, and how the interaction between family members and that S-D service provider was structured. Family Change Services may use this additional data to adjust its ratings if it deems that such adjustment is possible and will create a significant improvement in the results and usability of the FCS Ratings System.

How the Rating System Works

In the FCS rating system S-D service providers are evaluated using 3 kinds of questions. First, there are a group of questions that assess whether or not the provider is trying to prevent accusatory behavior from getting out of hand and/or is establishing lines of communication that can reduce conflict. Second, there are a group of questions that assess whether or not the provider is perceived by the consumer as cost effective. (We use the term cost effective because we think the issue is not absolute cost, but rather whether or not the cost was commensurate with the results that were expected by the client.) And, third, there are a group of questions that assess generally accepted professional behavior, such as being on time or treating customers in a courteous way.

The results of the 12 questions in the FCS rating system are then combined using a proprietary methodology. The methodology is applied in a slightly different way to providers who are chosen by a family member versus to providers who are assigned using a legal or administrative process supervised by the state. An example of the former is a family lawyer chosen by a husband or wife, whereas an example of the latter is a custody evaluator assigned by a family court. S-D service providers who are identified by choice are assessed using a grading curve, similar to what most people are familiar with from their high school experience. In contrast, providers identified by court mandate are assessed using an absolute grade. In other words, for assigned S-D service providers, it is assumed that the provider was pre-selected by a state of the United States because he or she possesses high level credentials as determined by rigorous state processes. All such providers are expected by the FCS Rating System to function at a high level, and are therefore graded on an absolute scale, not on a curve. In contrast, S-D service providers who are selected by family members are subject to less rigorous requirements (primarily licensure), and they are therefore graded on a curve, not on an absolute scale.

Ratings are assigned to service providers (whether identified by choice of a family member or by assignment through a court procedure) using a computerized comparison process in which the rating for an individual service provider is compared to the ratings for other service providers of the same profession who practice in the same state of the United States. For example, psychologists are compared only to other psychologists; and family court judges are compared only to other family court judges. And both comparisons are limited to individuals practicing in the same state. The rationale for state specific ratings is straightforward. Each state of the United States sets forth requirements for all S-D service practitioners that are uniform within that state, but are not necessarily the same as in other states.

Since comparisons in the FCS system are both profession and state specific, any differences across either professions or states in education requirements, licensure or government selection process are automatically adjusted out. In short, the FCS rating system is designed to facilitate fair comparisons of S-D service providers in which both profession and geography (at the state level) are taken into account.