Dr. Rachel Birnbaum

FULL PROFESSOR 

University of Manitoba - BA
University of Manitoba - BSW
University of Manitoba - MSW
University of Toronto - Res.Dip.S.W.
University of Toronto - PhD (Social Work)
Osgoode Hall Law School (York University) - LL.M.

Contact Information
Biography

Rachel teaches in the area of children and families and on the intersection between law and social work. She is cross appointed with Childhood & Social Institutions (Interdisciplinary programs).  Rachel has over 20 years of clinical practice experience working with children and families of separation and/or divorce, specifically focused on high conflict families. She has presented and published both nationally and internationally on child custody and access assessments, child legal representation, children's participation in family disputes, and access to justice issues.  Her research is interdisciplinary and collaborative with colleagues in law, medicine, psychology and social work.  Rachel has co-authored several books regarding separation and/or divorce, on research methodologies and authored several Department of Justice papers on children's participation during parental breakdown.

Rachel is a Member of The Royal Society of Canada, College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. She was the President of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) from 2005-2009; the President of the Canadian Council of Social Work Regulators (CCSWR) from 2012-2014, and was the President of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts-Ontario (AFCC-O) for 2014-2015. 

Research Interests

Intersection of Social Work Ethics and the Law; Children’s Participation in Family Disputes; Research Methods; Separation and Divorce; Dispute Resolution Processes; Access to Family Justice.

Recent Publications & Research Activity:
Selected Publications:

Tam, D., Brown, A., Paz, A., Birnbaum, R., & Kwok, S. (In Press). Challenges faced by social work field supervisors in the practicum. Journal of Social Work Education.

Birnbaum, R., Saini, M., & MacAulay, M. 2017). Ottawa coordinated case management project for high conflict custody and access cases: Lessons learned. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 36, 292-307.

Bala, N., Hebert, P., & Birnbaum, R.  (2017). Ethical duties of lawyers for parents regarding children of clients: Being a child-focused family lawyer. Canadian Bar Review, 95, 2-32.

Bala, N., Birnbaum, R., Poitras, K., Saini, M., Cyr, F., & Leclair, S. (2017).  Shared parenting in Canada: Increasing use but continued controversy. Family Court Review 55(4), 513-530. 

Birnbaum, R. (2017). Views of the child reports: Hearing directly from children involved in post separation disputes. Social Inclusion, 5(3), 148-154.

Bala, N., Birnbaum, R., & Watt, C. (2017). Addressing controversies about experts in disputes over children.  Canadian Journal of Family Law 30(1). 71-128.

Birnbaum, R., Saini, M, & Bala, N. (2016).  Canada’s first Integrated Domestic Violence Court: Examining family and criminal court outcomes at the Toronto IDVC. Journal of Family Violence. DOI: 10.1007/s10896-016-9886-z

Saini, M., Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (2016).  Access to justice in Ontario’s family courts:  The parents’ perspective.   Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues. 37, 1-25

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., Polak, S., & Sidhu, N. (2016).  Shared parenting: Ontario caselaw and social science research. Canadian Family Law Quarterly. 139-179

Saini, M., Birnbaum, R., Bala, & McLarty, B. (2016). Understanding pathways to family dispute resolution and justice reforms: A court file analysis and a survey of views of professionals in Ontario. Family Court Review53(3), 383-397.

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., & Boyd, J.P. (2016). The Canadian experience with the Views of the Child Reports: A valuable addition to the toolbox? International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family.
16, 145-180.
https://academic.oup.com/lawfam/article-abstract/30/2/158/2364285/The-Canadian-Experience-with-Views-of-the-Child?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Saini, M. & Birnbaum, R. (2015). Supervised visitation checklist: Validation with lawyers, mental health professionals, and judges. Family Law Quarterly, 49(3),447-475

Saini, M., & Birnbaum, R. (2015). Raising the bar: A risk assessment checklist when supervised access is being considered in child custody disputes. Canadian Family Law Quarterly.  34, 335-371

Birnbaum, R., & Saini, M. (2015). A qualitative synthesis of children's experiences of shared care parenting arrangements post separation. The International Journal of Children's Rights, 23(1), 109-132.

Harris, B., & Birnbaum, R. (2014). Ethical and legal implications on the use of technology in counselling.  Clinical Social Work Journal. DOI 10.1007/s10615-014-0515-0

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., & Jaffe, P. (2014).Establishing Canada’s first integrated domestic violence court:  Exploring outcomes, process and lessons learned. Canadian Journal of Family Law, 29(1), 117-171.  

Birnbaum, R., & Lach, L. (2014). Teaching about what ethical social work practice means: Responsibility starts with schools of social work. Intervention Journal: Journal Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec. 140(1), 37-43.

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (2014). A survey of Canadian judges about their meetings with children: Becoming more common but still contentious. Canadian Bar Review, 91, 637-655.

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., & Bertrand, L. (2013). Judicial interviews with children: Attitudes and practices of children's lawyers in Canada. New Zealand Law Review: Special Issue, 3,465-482.

Bala, N., Birnbaum, R., Cyr, F., & McColley, D. (2013). Children's voices in family court: Guidelines for judges meeting children. Family Law Quarterly, 47 (3), 381-410.

Birnbaum, R., Saini, M., McCleary, L., & Hurwitz, H. (2013). A community-based response to address the needs of high conflict separated families. Ontario Association of Children's Aid Society Journal, 58(1), 15-23.

Bala, N., Birnbaum, R. &, Bertrand, L. (2013). The role of the children's lawyers: Instructional advocate or best interests guardian? Comparing legal practice in Alberta & Ontario - Two provinces with different policies. Family Court Review, 51(4), 681-697.

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., & Bertrand, L. (2013). The rise of self-representation in Canada’s family courts: The complex picture revealed in surveys of judges, lawyers and litigants. Canadian Bar Review, 91, 67-95.

Birnbaum, R. & Saini, M. (2012). A scoping review of qualitative studies about children experiencing parental separation. Childhood. 20(2), 260-282.

Birnbaum, R. & Bala, N. (2012). Views of Ontario Lawyers on family litigants without representation. University of New Brunswick Law Journal, 65, 99-124.

Birnbaum, R. & Saini, M. (2012). A qualitative synthesis of children’s participation in custody disputes. Research on Social Work Practice, 22 (4), 400-409.

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N. & Cyr, F. (2011)Children’s experiences with family justice professionals in Ontario and Ohio. International Journal of Law, Policy and Family, 25 (3), 398-422.

Bala, N., Birnbaum, R. & Martinson, D. (2011). One Judge for one family:  Differentiated case management for families in continuing conflict.  Canadian Journal of Family Law, 26(2), 395-450.

Birnbaum, R. & Bala, N. (2010). Judicial interviews with children in custody and access cases: Comparing experiences in Ontario and Ohio. International Journal of Law, Policy and Family24 (3), 300-337.

Birnbaum, R. & Bala, N. (2010). Towards the differentiation of “High Conflict” families:  An analysis of social science research and Canadian case law. Family Court Review, 48(3), 403-416.

Birnbaum, R. & Chipeur, S. (2010). Supervised visitation in custody and access disputes: Finding legal solutions for complex family problems. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 29, 79 - 94.

Birnbaum, R. & Bala, N. (2009). The child's perspective on legal representation: Young people report on their experiences with child lawyers. Canadian Journal of Family Law, 25, 11-61.

Saini, M.& Birnbaum, R. (2007).Unraveling the label of "High Conflict": What factors really count in separated and divorced families? Part 1. Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society Journal, 51(1), 14-20.

Birnbaum, R. & Saini, M. (2007). A pilot study to establish reliability and validity: The dimensions of conflict in separated families. Part II. Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society Journal, 51(2), 23-31.

Fidler, B.J. & Birnbaum, R. (2006). Child custody disputes: Public and private assessments. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 25(2), 137-167.

Birnbaum, R. & Alaggia, R. (2006). Supervised visitation: A call for a second generation of research. Family Court Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 44(1), 119-134.

Birnbaum, R. (2005). Hearing the voices of lawyers and clinical investigators who represent children in custody and access disputes.  Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 24(3), 281-303.

Birnbaum, R. & Fidler, B.J. (2005). Commentary on Epstein and Madsen’s “Joint custody with a vengeance: The emergence of parallel parenting orders”. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 24(3), 338-349.

Birnbaum, R. (2005).Independent child legal representation: A concept in the making. Journal of Law and Social Policy, 20, 131-143.

Selected Professional Newsletters

Bala, N. & Birnbaum, R. (June, 2017). Reforming Ontario’s Child Welfare Law: Bill 89. Lawyers Daily

Birnbaum, R. & Bala, N. (February, 2017). Child inclusive mediation: Research on Views of the Child Reports in Ontario. The Professional Family Mediator. Academy of Professional Family Mediators. https://apfmnet.org/child-reports-mediation-research-ontario/

Birnbaum, R. (April, 2016). Children’s participation during parental separation. King’s Cosmos. King’s University College, Western.

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., & Boyd, J.P. (November, 2015). Views of the child reports: An important tool for family mediators.  The Professional Family Mediator. Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (September 2016). Views of the child reports: A Valuable addition to the family toolbox. The Lawyers Weekly, Canada, Carswell Publications.

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (April, 2015). Pathways through Ontario’s family justice system. The Lawyers Weekly, Canada, Carswell Publications. 

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., Boyd, J.P., & Bertrand, L. (Nov., 2014). Shared parenting and mediation in Canada. The Academy of California Mediators. 

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., Boyd, J.P., & Bertrand, L. (Oct., 2014). Shared parenting and mediation: Lawyers and judges support reform. Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Birnbaum, R., Bala, N., Boyd, J.P., & Bertrand, L. (Oct. 2014). Shared parenting is now the norm and there’s professional consensus on the need for reform. Canadian Bar Review Newsletter.

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (April, 2014). Pilot combines criminal and family courts. The Lawyers Weekly, Canada, Carswell Publications. 

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (November, 2013). Interviewing children: The role of judges and mediators. Family Mediation News, California, USA. 5-8.

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (September, 2013). Judicial interviews with children: A voice but not a choice. Family Law News: International Bar Association Family Law Newsletter, 6(1), 49-52 Chandigarh, India.

Birnbaum, R. (Oct. 2012). Ask the expert: Qualitative research studies—it’s not about numbers and counting. AFCC ENewletter. 

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (July, 2012). Why so many family law litigants not have lawyers? The Professional Family Mediator. Academy of Professional Family Mediators. California, USA. 

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (May, 2012). Navigating without a lawyer. The Lawyers Weekly, Canada, Carswell Publications. 

Birnbaum, R., & Bala, N. (November, 2011). Lawyers and the vulnerable very young. The Lawyers Weekly, Canada, Carswell Publications. 

Research Reports:

Bertrand, L., Paetsch, J., Bala, N., & Birnbaum, R. (2012). Self represented litigants in family law disputes: Views of Alberta lawyers.  Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. http://www.crilf.ca/publications-articles.htm

Bertrand, L., Bala, N., Birnbaum, R., & Paetsch, J. (2012).  Hearing the voices of children in Alberta family proceedings: The role of children’s lawyers and judicial interviews.  Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family.
http://www.crilf.ca/publications-articles.htm

Birnbaum, R., & Saini, M. (2011).  Train the trainer: High conflict divorce and separation training manual. Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice, Canada.

Birnbaum, R. (2009). The voice of the child in separation/divorce mediation and other alternative dispute resolution processes: A literature review Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice, Canada.
http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/fcy-fea/lib-bib/rep-rap/2009/vcsdm-pvem/index.html

Birnbaum, R. (2009). Listening to youths about their needs and preferences for information relating to separation and/or divorce. Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice, Canada.

Birnbaum, R. (2009). Research on resources for children and youths undergoing parental separation and/or divorce: A literature review.  Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice, Canada.

Chapter Publications:

Kellen, A, Powers, L. & Birnbaum, R. (2017). Drug use, addiction and the criminal justice system.  In Rick Csiernik & William Rowe (Third Edition). (pp. 260-281). Responding to the oppression of addiction: Canadian Social Work Perspectives. Canadian Scholars Press.

Birnbaum, R. (2017). Impact of addiction on parenting post separation.  In Rick Csiernik & William Rowe (Third Edition) (pp. 152-165). Responding to the oppression of addiction: Canadian Social Work Perspectives. Canadian Scholars Press.

Lach, L., & Birnbaum, R. (2016). Obligation to report child abuse/neglect is more complex than it seems. (pp. 203-215). In G. Ronen and P. Rosenbaum (Eds.) Ethics in Child Health: Principles and Cases in Neurodisability. Editors are Rosenbaum, P.L., Ronen, G.M., Racine, E., Johannesen, J., & Dan, B. London: Mac Keith Press 2016.

Birnbaum, R., Lach, L., & Saposnek, D. (2016) Co-parenting children with a neurodevelopmental disorder (pp. 205-243). In L. Drozd, K. Kuehnle, M. Saini, & N. Olesen  (Eds.) Parenting plan evaluations: Applied research for the family court. (2nd Edition). Oxford University Press.

Bala, N., Birnbaum, R., & Cyr, F. (2015). Judicial Interviews of Children in Canada’s Family Courts: Growing Acceptance But Still Controversial(pp. 135-157) In T. Gal & B. F. Duramy,  Promoting the Participation of Children across the Globe: From Social Exclusion to Child-Inclusive Policies. Oxford University Press.

Birnbaum, R., & Adams, D. (2014). The role of mediation inside and outside of the workplace.  In Csiernik, R. (Ed). Workplace Wellness: Oxymoron no longer? Occupational Counselling Issues and Responses. (pp. 458- 476). Canadian Scholars Press.

Glidden, G., & Birnbaum, R. (2013). Policies, programs and practices: The tensions about quality of life for children with developmental disorders. (pp. 344-357) Health promotion and quality of life in young people with neurological and developmental conditions: Theory, concepts, evidence and practice in Ronen, G. & Rosenbaum, P. (Eds). MacKeith Press.

Birnbaum, R. (2012). Rendering children invisible: The forces at play during separation and divorce in the context of family violence. (pp. 371-413) In R. Alaggia & C. Vine. (2nd Edition). Cruel but not unusual: Violence in Canadian families. Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Birnbaum, R., Lach, L., Saposnek, D., & MacCulloch, R. (2012) Co-parenting children with neurodevelopmental disorders. In K. Kuehnle & L. Drozd (Eds.) Parenting plan evaluations: Applied research for the Family Court. (pp.270-329). Oxford University Press.

Birnbaum, R. (2008).Code of ethics as control: Is it? In Frank Turner & Joanne Turner (Eds.) Canadian Social Welfare Sixth Edition. (pp. 426-437). Pearson Publishing.

Birnbaum, R. (2006). Rendering children invisible: The forces at play during separation and divorce in the context of family violence. In R. Alaggia & C. Vine. (Eds.) Cruel but not unusual: Violence in Canadian families.(pp. 267-324). Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Book Publications:

Csiernik, R., & Birnbaum, R. (2017). Practicing Social Work Research: Case Studies For Learning. Second Edition. University of Toronto Press.

Birnbaum, R., & Mosher, J. (2016). Law for social workers: A Canadian guide. Fifth Edition.Thomson Carswell Publishing.

Csiernik, R., Birnbaum, R., & Decker Pierce (2010). Practicing Social Work Research: Case Studies For Learning. University of Toronto Press.

Fidler, B.J., Bala, N., Birnbaum, R., & Kavassalis, K. (2008). Specialized topics in child custody and access disputes: A resource guide for legal and mental health professionals. Thomson Reuters Publishing.

Birnbaum, R., Fidler, B.J. & Kavassalis, K.(2008). Child custody and access assessments: A resources guide for legal and mental health professionals. Thomson Carswell Publishing.

Birnbaum, R., & Mosher, J. (2008). Law for social workers: A Canadian guide. Fourth Edition.Thomson Carswell Publishing.

WEB-BASED KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER ACTIVITY

Birnbaum, R., Moscoe, T., Burke, B., & Shore, S. (2017). Access to justice in Ontario. Youtube:https://theactiongroup.ca/2017/10/family-law-webinar/ Access to justice, TAG, Law Society, Toronto, Ontario

Rosenbaum, P., Birnbaum, R., Glidden G., MacCulloch, R., & Lach, L.M. (2016). Parenting Matters! The biopsychosocial context of parenting children with neurodevelopmental disorders in Canada. See https://canchild.ca/en/research-in-practice/current-studies/parenting-matters-the-biopsychosocial-context-of-parenting-children-with-neurodevelopmental-disorders-in-canada.

Research Awards:

Dr. Birnbaum is the 2016 recipient of the Dr. Hugh Mellon Excellence in Research Award, from King’s University College, Western, Ontario.  The Award was designed to recognize a colleague who has earned distinction for King’s University College as a result of the outstanding characteristics and significance of their research.

Dr. Birnbaum is also the recipient of the Stanley Cohen Distinguished Research Award, 2014 from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (an international organization composed of family justice professionals).  The Award was created to recognize outstanding research and/or research achievements in the field of family and divorce.

In 2016-2017, Dr. Birnbaum (PI) and Professor Bala were awarded a research grant from Women’s Domestic Violence Directorate, Department of Justice, Canada, to continue to evaluate the Integrated Domestic Violence Court in Toronto, Ontario.  

In 2017-2020, Dr. Birnbaum (PI) and Professor Bala were awarded a research grant from Women’s Domestic Violence Directorate, Department of Justice, Canada, to continue to evaluate the Integrated Domestic Violence Court in Toronto, Ontario.  This is the only court in Canada that hears both criminal and family matters sequentially before one judge.

In 2015-2017, Dr. Birnbaum (PI) received a research grant from the Department of Justice, Canada in collaboration with Ottawa Family Services (Ottawa High Conflict Forum) to bring together key decision-makers in the family justice system to learn from one another about promoting collaborative and more effective family justice services for parents and children (e.g., both unrepresented and represented litigants) as well as those who are thinking about separating/divorcing in Ottawa, Ontario.

In 2015-2017, Dr. Birnbaum (PI) received a research grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario to explore Views of the Child Reports in Ontario.  The research will focus on whether and how children’s participation can be facilitated during their parents’ separation and divorce.

In 2015-2017, Dr. Birnbaum, Dr. Tam (PI), and Dr. Kwok received a research award from the American Foundation for Research and Consumer Education in Social Work Regulation to examine different models of assessment on professional suitability and licensing in two Canadian provinces.

In 2015- 2019, Dr. Birnbaum and her colleagues received funding from Neuro-Dev Net (Industry Canada) to explore Neurodevelopmental disabilities and the social determinants of health: Assessment and intervention across conditions.  Dr. Birnbaum will be examining: (1) how are the needs of and accommodations for children with neurodisabilities described by parents in case law; (2)  how are the needs of and accommodations for children with neurodisabilities described by judges in case law; (3) how are the needs of and accommodations for children with neurodisabilities described by child custody assessors in case law; and, (4) what are  the financial costs on families with a child with NDD and child support in separated/divorced families.

In 2014-2019, Dr. Birnbaum and her interdisciplinary colleagues, Professor Nicholas Bala (PI), Dr. Francine Cyr, Faculty of Psychology, University of Montreal, Dr. Michael Saini, Factor-Iwentash School of Social Work, University of Toronto, and Professor Alain Roy, Faculty of Law, University of Montreal received SSHRC funding to continue to explore access to justice and outcomes for children and families involved in separation and divorce.

In 2011-2014, Dr. Birnbaum and her interdisciplinary colleagues, Dr. Michael Saini (PI), Factor-Inwentash School of Social Work, University of Toronto, Professor Nicholas Bala, Faculty of Law, Queens University and Dr. Francine Cyr, Faculty of Psychology, University of Montreal received SSHRC funding to examine the role of parenting post separation in Ontario and Quebec.

In 2011-2014, Dr. Birnbaum (PI) and her interdisciplinary colleagues, Professors Nick Bala and Peter Jaffe were awarded a research grant from Women’s Domestic Violence Directorate, Department of Justice to evaluate the Integrated Domestic Violence Court in Toronto, Ontario.  This is the first court in Canada to hear both criminal and civil matters sequentially before one judge.

Dr. Birnbaum has also obtained several (PI) SSHRC awards since 2003-2011. She was the sole investigator on examining how social workers conduct child custody and access assessments across Canada. Her current research initiative as Principal Investigator, along with her co-investigators (Professor Nicholas Bala, Faculty of Law, Queen's University, Dr. Peter Jaffe, Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario,  Dr. Lynn McCleary, Faculty of Nursing, Brock University, & Dr. Francine Cyr, Faculty of Psychology, University of Montreal, Quebec) is to understand the importance of distinguishing between different types of "high conflict" separations to allow the judicial system and mental health professionals better address the needs of children and their parents post separation.

In April 2009, an interdisciplinary team of 12 researchers and 6 collaborators that Dr. Birnbaum has been working with were successful in obtaining a Canadian Institute for Health Research Award (Pl's Dr's. Peter Rosenbaum, Lucyna Lach, and Dafna Kohen) focusing on parenting of children with neurodevelopmental disorders.  The Parenting Matters! carried out 4 projects.  Rachel was the team leader examining federal, provincial, and territorial policies related to income support, respite or alternative care, and case management.  The objectives of the 4 projects are to: 1) compare the parenting of children with NDD to that of parents of children without NDD; 2) examine ‘parenting-in-context’, how social (e.g., policies, neighbourhood), family (e.g., marital satisfaction, interparental discord, family function, and social support), parent (e.g., caregiver age, gender, education, income, physical and mental health) and child factors (e.g., age, gender, birth order, function) are associated with parenting; 3) examine the bi-directional relationship between parenting and child well-being; 4) explore new ways of conceptualizing parenting and its relationship to the social and family environment that have not yet been considered; and 5) situate the findings in the context of existing policies and practices for the purpose of making recommendations. The results of these projects will inform policy, program planning, and practice in sectors such as child welfare, health, rehabilitation and social services.