By the early 1970s, AFCC’s conferences had traveled some distance from their original California home. Annual conferences had been hosted by court personnel in Honolulu, Phoenix, Detroit and Chicago. Family court services were beginning to turn their attention to helping couples end their marriages with a greater sense of dignity and self-worth and with less trauma to themselves and the children.
The Review began to establish itself as a significant publication, having grown in size and scope and served as a harbinger of things to come for family courts worldwide. The September 1970 issue featured an article titled, “The Modern Family Rescue Team—Judge, Lawyer and Behavioral Scientist,” by Andrew S. Watson, M.D. The article called for an interdisciplinary approach to court services, an increased numbers of counselors and thorough education of the bench and bar. In that same issue, Jack Bradford and Jean Brindley, marriage counselors from the Third Judicial Circuit in Detroit, wrote about group orientation and group intake processes, a precursor to the parent education programs that would proliferate so dramatically two decades later.
In 1975, Review Editor Meyer Elkin editorialized on the language of family law:
Why do we continue to use the language of criminal law in family law? Is it primarily tradition that causes us to continue to use the old words in family law? Or is it something else? Is it a reflection of the prevailing ambivalence of this society which, on the one hand, tells people that divorce is okay, but by its actions, or lack of it, shows that many still do not accept the idea of divorce in a pair-oriented society? We need to develop new words that will alleviate stress on the divorcing family rather than add to stresses already present….Family law is entering a new period. There is now present an opportunity for introducing new practices and procedures—and words that will represent the combined expertise of both law and the behavioral sciences who, after all, are equally concerned and have similar goals regarding the strengthening of the family. Lets us now start the search for the words.
AFCC members and courts continued to lead the way in developing new services throughout the 1970s. In 1973, the Los Angeles Conciliation Court began a pilot program to mediate custody and visitation disputes. Divorce education workshops for parents began to emerge in several AFCC member courts.
Ten years after its inception, the Conference of Conciliation Courts had members in 15 states and several Canadian provinces, and 34 members on its Board of Directors. The 1973 Annual Conference was held in Chicago. The theme was, “Alternatives to Divorce.” Regional conferences were also being added to AFCC’s list of professional offerings, bringing the organization closer to its members and tailoring conferences that addressed issues germane to the region.
Throughout the 1970s, the Conference of Conciliation Courts became increasingly interdisciplinary and international. Conferences featured presenters from Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia, andReview articles featured contributions from judges, lawyers, academics, clergy and behavioral scientists. In 1976, the Conference of Conciliation Courts changed its name to Association of Family Conciliation Courts.
In 1978, AFCC held its first annual conference outside of the United States in Vancouver, British Columbia, and concepts such as family self-determination and mediation were the subject of discussion. Gender issues were emerging. The Divorce Experience, a didactic orientation program for divorcing parents and their children, was introduced.
The late 1970s marked the beginning of a new organizational trend. AFCC members in California came together to form the first AFCC chapter. In the years to follow, the AFCC California Chapter would be joined by chapters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ontario and Texas.
By the end of the 1970s, AFCC membership had grown to 900 members, and the Board of Directors had expanded to 50 members. Professional networking opportunities were highly valued by conference attendees, as was the opportunity for camaraderie between the association’s members who participated in pre- and post-conference trips to Alaska, New Zealand, Australia, England and Sweden.
The association was also becoming a business. AFCC’s first executive director was California Counselor Frank Bailey, whose main job was to keep a current list of the members and put out the AFCC newsletter, keeping members apprised of association activities. The AFCC office moved to Portland, Oregon, when Professor Jay Folberg became executive director (1975-1980).