In the thick of it: life as a PA specialist

Next week I am going to return to the subject of empathy and the alienated child but this week I thought I would indulge myself slightly with an exploration of life as PA specialist.  I am doing so, in the full conscious knowledge, that working with Parental Alienation on an every day basis takes its toll and that, for me at least, continuous self supervision as well as external supervision is an absolute necessity.   Supervision, is the process by which therapists externalise their personal and individual responses to the issues that people bring into the consulting room. This process is one in which therapists obtain clarity and perspective and it is the way that we prevent ourselves from falling into the trap of using ‘similarity heuristics’ (assuming this case will unfold in the same way as a similar one) and ‘affect heuristics’, (relying upon how we feel about people we are working with to make decisions about their actions).  Supervision in my work, involves my own personal processing, external processing and writing this blog.  It is often, through writing about my work that I uncover for myself what I am feeling about the work that I am doing.

This week I have been processing some thinking and feeling about the work that I do and the world in which I do it.  This 360 degree review enables me to understand the ways in which the person that I am intersects with the work that I do.  I have been thinking particularly about my decision to leave the charitable world behind and how this has removed me from the circle of charities which sit around the government.  This decision was probably the best I ever made in terms of my ability to focus upon my work as an alienation specialist.  However it is clear that I cannot remove myself entirely from that world, just as I cannot remove myself from the world at large and in reviewing my writing over the past few months, although I am no longer active in government, my voice has never been silent for long about the way in which those organisations set up to support mothers and fathers are part of the problem and not the solution.

I have also been thinking about the ways in which I continuously analyse and refine my understanding of why this country is such fertile ground for alienation reactions in children and the demand that places upon me to speak up about the political environment in which I do this work.  Concentric circles is an image which is always true for me in doing this work, worlds within worlds and the potential ripple effect that can be created by one tiny change somewhere within.

Some in the fathers movement, I am told, find my voice a bit scary and feel that I sometimes go overboard in my drive for transparency. Some in the womens movement find me objectionable and compare me to Erin Pizzey for whom they appear to reserve distaste.  Reading other people’s words about me on sites like Mumsnet makes me smile, so many assumptions, so many well defined belief systems in which I do not belong.  Life in the thick of it can sometimes be lonely when one does not align onself with this side or that and everyone often ends up finding something wrong in what I do.

But I am not writing this blog for your sympathy, I am writing it to process some of the things which have floated to the surface for me this week as I have gone about my work with families and alongside that, as always, have been observing the developments in the field of family separation and parenting in general.  For I am constantly scanning, constantly processing the political landscape as well as my own internal world, so that I can understand always, as closely as possible, what life feels like for the families that I work with.

Bobbing about on the surface this week has been a powerful awareness that not everybody thinks and works like this.  I suppose I have started to realise that I have mined deep under the surface where not everyone wants to go.  I was pondering on this over the weekend, when thinking about how the world in which I now work bears no relation to the world of the family and parenting sector that sits around government.  In fact this world and that world are so different as to be unrecognisable, which leaves me struggling to map the cognitive dissonance that this creates.  I have always known that the concentric circle of charities sitting around government is a world in itself in which smoke and mirrors are used to great effect and money is spent often purely so that government can tell the world that it is doing something about X Y Z every five years or so. But I don’t think I realised until quite recently how little this circle actually bothers or cares about the work that it does (or even, for that matter, how little government bothers or cares).

The shock that arrives when one realises that these charities are simple reflections back to government of how they would like things to be, as well as bottomless pits sucking up funding to build empires over which CEO’s on inflated salaries can preside, is jarring to say the least.  The realisation that actually nobody cares and its all just a wheeze to make a good living is a somewhat bleak outlook.  The fact that others do not see this or conversely, they do and want a part of it, is something I have gotten used to.  But its a grim reality to face, especially when one knows that these concentric circles are the core of the damage which is being done to families in this country.

Just outside of the charitable circle sits what I call the ever hopeful band of brothers.  These are the chaps I think I scare the most in my writing.  I think they know that I do some good therapeutic work and I think they know that I am a voice that they want to listen to but I also think they are nervous about me being a bit edgy, a bit much, a bit too over the top.  This band of brothers are those who were most likely to prick up their ears and be interested in last week’s launch of a ‘world leader’ backed website which promised equal parenting.  I’ve been thinking about them since last week and wondering how, when they work in this field, they are not underground digging with me, they are the ones I most expect to be by my side.  But they are not.  Some of these brothers are closed in their minds because of the lens that they look at life through.  Some make assumptions that are on par with the labels that mumsnetters like to stick on me.  Some have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, even when I spell it out word by painful word.

Alongside the band of every hopeful brothers sits the self satisfied sisterhood.  I think we all know who they are, I named most of them in the comment thread last week and sat and mused on the power of these women. Self satisfied they really must be, not only did the coalition government water down every single positive proposal it came into power proclaiming in this field, it got rid of the funding to the ever hopeful band of brothers too, leaving the path clear once again for the sisters to reign supreme, recyling their illusions and carrying on their merry way regardless.

And then there is the family justice system, with all of its attendant bits and bobs, the Solicitors, the Barristers, the Mckenzie’s the Guardians, the Social Workers and the Expert Witnesses, oh yes and of course, the Judges.  At times I weave my way amidst this assortment of people who form the outer circle and I wonder how, when each of them plays a role in the drama of the lives of the people they serve, they can do that without taking a step back and wondering how it all fits together.  Maybe they do, some of them write blogs too, perhaps that is their way of dealing with their place in the process.  Perhaps they go home and kick off their shoes and pour a glass of wine and think no more about it. Perhaps.

Which leaves us on the outer edge, sometimes I think this is the sanest place to be, or at least the most honest. Sadly, because of ripple effect, from government at the core to the outer edges, its also often the place where the most madness arises.

And its that madness that I work in every day, with families where alienation strikes.  Far from the hallowed halls of power, distanced from the mirage of charitable care for what happens to real people and dislocated in time and space from the band of ever hopeful brothers and their equivalent self satisfied sisters. Floating like flotsam and jetsam, in the maelstrom of family separation, fed from by the family justice system, including the likes of me, are parents and their children for whom the process of separation has created opportunity, motive and method to kill the love a child feels for both parents.  Its a godawful sphere of existence and its a godawful place to be working, but this is where I spend most of my working days, doing what I can to help.

Feeling sorry for me yet? Wondering if I have entered into the one way street of delusion never to return? Fear not, this is merely me, mapping out the terrain of family separation, in at the thick of it, the only place it is possible to gain the knowledge and the power to effect change in my view.

Which leaves me with me.  At the end of the day that’s all I’ve got really, when it comes to doing this work, my knowledge, my skills, my perspective and me.  On this blog you get a very heavy dose of me, sometimes disguised, often toned down, sometimes so blatantly in your face I can almost see you wincing as I write the words, but me, always me.  Because if I wasn’t me in this work, if I dressed myself up as something other than me, put on my fancy suit and pretended to be not me, I would be doing you all a disservice.  I have been me at tea with Ministers and me with CEO’s of those charities I am so dismissive of, I have been me with the Family Justice System and me with the ever hopeful band of brothers and resolutely me with the self satisfied sisters.  And most of all I have been me with those families I have worked with, always just me, as I have already said, its all I have got and at the end of the day, its all any of us really have.

So what makes me a PA specialist I wonder to myself as I work out how to finish this musing, what turned me into this person who spends her time peeling back the layers of the onion and writing about it as well as working with families to create dynamic change? Well I never really set out to be such a person when I began this work 14 years ago, I never meant to be someone who spends her time investigating and analysing the field of family separation as well as working with those most affected by it.  I suppose I was drawn deeper and deeper into it the more we began to turn over the stones to find out the truth of how this country treats separating families.  Now I cannot stop and just like the digging that I do with the families I work with, my digging on a meta level continues, taking me places that I didn’t want to go to even though I had heard they were there.

And for now that’s where I will leave this post, as it has again performed for me the task of externalising my inner narratives and my internalised reactions.  It may be one of my more obtuse posts, some of you may wonder about the purpose of it or not bother to read it at all.  Others may be interested to know why my writing ranges far and wide across themes and perspectives and why I am continuously and determinedly transparent.  I think its that last word which for me, is what keeps me sane in this mad world and which prevents me from the worst of the second hand shock syndrome which can affect those of us working in a mad world within mad worlds.  Transparency.  I am who I am and you can rely on me being that consistently until the bitter end.  You may not like some of who I am or you may like parts of me but not others, but you can rely on me being me absolutely to the end.

And in the thick of it, where your child is turning into someone you don’t know and the person you used to love has become someone you never knew existed and the justice system has its hands in your back pockets and the ever hopeful band of brothers and self satisfied sisters continue their conjoined dance and the charities that are supposed to support you turn out to be less interested in you than the tick in the box that will garner them another big hand out and government appears to be listening and then at the last minute throws you the crumbs of the promises they once made.

I will still be here, warts and all, just me, being me.



(I want to be clear when I discuss with you the band of ever hopeful brothers, they know who they are but you may not and I don’t want you to think I am talking about the whole of Families need Fathers when I write these things because I am not.  There are many associated with this band right across the country in the England, Wales and Scotland too.  These brothers, in their regional incarnations, are wonderful people, they provide endless support to families, careful advice and outstanding pastoral care.  Some of them are the most incisive thinkers I have ever met, its not those brothers that I speak of when I speak of the ever hopeful ones.  The ever hopeful ones are those who still believe that change is coming, the ones who still believe that the Children Act has been changed, the ones for whom, the reality that since their joining with Gingerbread in the Kids in the Middle Campaign, nothing, but nothing has changed hasn’t sunk in yet – oh, apart from the single parent lobby getting stronger perhaps.  Those are the brothers I am speaking of and it is with sadness and affection I write about them as much as frustration and despair).


  1. Karen, I doubt that anyone who reads your blogs regularly thinks any thing of you less than someone who is committed to her work – but more importantly, someone who understands the work and is scraping with her fingernails to make a difference.

    The UK heads further downwards. We already have 15 years of “the best interests of the child” and as the new Children’s Bill is now an Act, it looks like we shall have another 15 years. And every year the word spreads further & further amongst separated parents that the mother will never be punished by any UK court for withholding her children’s time from one of the most important persons in that child’s life. Soon daughters of these women will be mothers themselves, perpetuating the scenario.

    Recently gangs have been in the headlines and yesterday on the news I watched an MP saying that they were going to investigate why the problem with gangs and girls. I shouted at the TV – “You bloody caused it”

    Those charities which you mention are caught in the position where they tell those who listen exactly what they want to hear. It almost appears to be a conspiracy – all wrapped up in self-interest – and all repeating, zombie like, the “party line”.

    I really despair – I don’t know how you can keep going.


    1. Some might say I keep on because I have a large ego and like to be right all the time, others because I refuse to be bent or broken out of shape. Some would say that I keep going because I am bloody minded. I would say I keep going because I simply cannot stop unravelling this thread and finding that still, clear place within, where there is simply nothing but the truth of the matter. When I get there and stare at it and see it for what it is I am propelled back out to tell the world. And then I realise that not everyone knows what I am talking about and then I have to go back again and find another way to say the same thing. I am mapping not only the inner terrains of the alienated child and family but the inner terrains of the concentric circles in which that child exists and as I do I am teasing apart the threads, like a large ball of wool made of single threads all ravelled up. In every case I assess and analyse I am doing this work and I find, when I go into supervision mode, that I am often wrapped up in those threads too and so I have to tease them apart and free myself a bit more to get a clear look at myself.

      I keep going because to not keep going would be to let go of what feels like a universal truth and because my own internal world is clearer and calmer when I am unravelling the outer.

      I am aware that my outer life is a reflection of my inner world and that all of the disparate parts that I regularly dismiss and am snooty about are also parts of the shadow me, the me I don’t want to look at. So for example, my high handed dismissal of the band of ever hopeful brothers, for whom I feel a great deal of affection for. Its not very long since I was at that same coal face with those chaps, digging desperately, hoping that this time the change we were seeking would come. Faced with reality over the past year or so and seeing the light switched on blindingly when Tim Loughton and Maria Miller disappeared from the family separation landscape in 2012, I stopped digging and started thinking what could I do next that might keep me going until we had chance to do something a second time around. That’s what I mean about scanning the landscape, plotting the terrain, knowing who is moving which pawn to which bishop and why.

      Maybe I am just deluding myself, after all nothing I have done made anything change. But if by speaking about it I make just one person’s life different that is enough for me at the end of each day. I never wanted to be a world leader, just honest and transparent.

      And I got what I wanted, which I guess is why I don’t despair and keep on keeping on, because at the end of the day I stayed true to myself, I said no more to working with the government and I left the charitable sector and went to work with parents. A better choice I could not have made. Yes I still face the horrors but at least now I can do something about it if only on an individual basis – and I can keep writing about it on here – which reaches even more people.

      And far from being silenced I feel as if my voice has developed a range and a depth and a distance that it has never had before.

      and those who mind that don’t matter and those who matter – don’t mind. K


  2. Please not all charities are bad, at least mine isn’t or maybe it is. When someone is desperate and looking for help fast they don’t google them to see if they are involved in government indirectly or directly. All they want is a listening ear, someone who can empathetic, someone to be there.
    It seems it is a minefield out there, one that I don’t understand.
    I no longer know who can be trusted, who is genuine, who has an ulterior motive.
    It is hard to take on all this heartbreak without being engulfed by it all.


    1. Jane, if you look I am talking about the charities which sit in the circle around government, not all charities and certainly not yours. The biggest problem with those charities is that they are household names, pushed by government and thrust upon people as being the answers to everything. I am not talking about regional work at all, I know that there are some fantastic people doing fantastic work out there, its only a pity the money doesn’t get there, its gobbled up by the household names, long before it ever reaches the regions.

      It is a minefield out there and that is why it is vital to understand it, every single little thing about it. Only when those of us working outside of the feminist paradigm, understand the reality of what is going on, can we protect the people we serve from the worst of what the outside world does to them.

      Taking on heartbreak however is so much easier if you know the landscape you are traversing and which road actually leads somewhere and which is just a dead end. Part of the heartbreak comes from watching people entangled in the concentric circles, trying to make sense of the world that they have stumbled into. Knowing where to send people and knowing you can trust those people is how you keep yourself on the safe side of sane and how the second hand shock that comes to all of us working in this system is kept at bay.

      Easy rule to follow – if its a national charity and it receives government funding it is likely to be working within a feminist paradigm and its not going to do much good for your people. If its a regional charity and it doesn’t, its likely to do some good because its not being paid to uphold a particular doctine. If its a regional branch of a national charity and the national branch receives funding, it might be ok but you would need to check it out yourself first before you referred people. If its a local charity and it serves the needs of mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers and it understands the way that the government has not achieved its aims over the past five years, its safe to refer.

      For any parent or grandparent who suffers alienation, the person or organisation you refer to has to be able to demonstrate that they understand why children reject parent, have experience in working with those children and can offer more than just therapy.

      Who can be trusted? Anyone who can show you transparently that they are who they say they are, consistently and anyone who understands their own personal and political agenda and how it drives them.

      There are plenty of them out there, you are one of them, when you meet someone you trust, ask them their views on national charities and then ask them their views on how the government helps. Then ask the most important question of all – what is the most important factor in helping other people. If they tell you anything other than the quality of the relationship between people run a mile. People help people and most of all people who are just people above all else help people. You don’t have to be engulfed by it Jane, you are one of those people, at the end of the day, that’s pretty much the most important thing you need to know. K


  3. Hi Karen
    You are my saviour. I was desperate and began trawling the net for help. Suddenly I hit upon parental alienation and it was bang on! However I don’t think you have touched on PA as much when it is the father who has alienated his children from the mother. I have to keep reversing the words dad, father and substituting with mum and mother.
    I am so obsessed with the fact that he has done this and I don’t think it was entirely intentional but it has worked out this way for 2 years now.
    I am the grandmother of these two teenage kids now 14 and 17 and I feel so upset for my daughter.she has a shrine for each of them in the bedrooms they left behind.
    The reason for the marriage break up was an affair by my daughter and naturally husband is bitter, but it has wiped off onto the children.
    Thanks for your articles. I wish I had discovered you sooner.



    1. Dear curlygirl,

      I am going to write for mothers who are alienated just before Easter. I have been doing a lot of work in my Phd studies and also direct work with mothers recently and have much to share. I will begin writing about this during the week of 15th April as part of my efforts to keep on track for the publication of the new book so look out then for that. I am glad to hear it helps to read x K


      1. How do you keep up the empathy towards your alienated grandchildren when they take everything and give nothing – not even a thank you. I acknowledge their birthdays, Christmas, and Easter and not once have they said thank you. How can they take take take? They did not even wish their mother happy birthday last week and yet the week before the 14year old rang her mother up asking for $150.00 for a new school blazer because dad couldn’t afford it at the moment AND neither could the mother (she earns a third of what the father does). But the mother living in hope pays for it.


  4. I
    Your criticism of people, Institutons and Organisations is not a problem for me. What I benefit from most is your observations, interpretations and positive cosiderations. You seem to have an uncanny knack of interpreting and defending the emotional needs of our children. The fact that you now spend more time promoting what you think rather than trying to move the immovable can only be a good thing. Who knows one day the immovable may see what you have to offer and want in on the action.

    Kind regards


    1. Well, I am told that to render the old obsolete one has to build the new instead of attacking the old and so that is also what we are doing with our family separation centres and our family separation hub and network. This is of course a step by step process, we are not working with the millions that government makes available but everything we are doing is outside of the prevailing paradigm and so when families come to use for help, they get the best of what we can give, without the prejudice and the discrimination and without the smoke and mirror effect. We do what we say we do and if we get something wrong, as we have this week, we put it right.

      Somehow I never felt right in that world of government and big charity, it always felt dirty somehow, not real, not honest. I think there are probably some people who do some good things, but being welcomed at the table requires one to give up much of what one believes to be true and learn parliamentary doublespeak..we say it is great even when we know it is not and we keep on saying it through gritted teeth even in the face of evidence to the contrary and we all close ranks and keep on saying it, especially if anyone says the emperor has no clothes on in a very loud voice. Because if we all say it long enough we will come to believe it is true and if we believe it is true we can convincingly tell others that black is white and up is down and we have done something really beneficial for families.

      Real change will come when people work together to weave the kind of support that keeps families out of court and supports them to make their own post separation arrangements. Support that with a change to child benefit after separation, incentivise care by both parents, assess both for responsibility to pay child maintenance and financial fast track dv allegations to a criminal court and we might be onto something. I am working on the former and there are ears listening to the need for the latter. Who knows, one day before I hang up my pen for good, we might must have something to really celebrate.

      Thank you for indulging me in this post, it has helped me to offload to you, the reader and share with you, something of my journey.

      I will be back next week to attend to that thinking about children, I spend a good deal of time thinking about them; such tiny precious gems in a centrifugal force of mess and murk made all the more so by those concentric circles containing so many silent and silenced people innured to the fact that these are lives, real human lives. K


  5. Another superb blog. Thank you.

    Today, as I sit here alone, after my 11 year old son texted me again to inform me that “he never wants to see me” I thought: “what on earth have I done for this to happen?”

    Then I stop, and think about what the writings herein tell me: that my son and I are stuck within an abysmal cycle of hateful and wicked deceipt.

    Then I breathe and allow the tears to come and the self esteem to rebuild, and the blood to fill my body again, from a heart that, although broken almost beyond repair, supports my vital organs, and my life and my sense of being alive, and of being a nice man, a decent father. Believing I may be a worthy human being settle into normality once more.

    Then the Siberia of broken memories, of diluted futures and of pulverised emotional well being calms down, I regain and compose myself and look at the picture on my mantlepiece; an image taken two years ago that is as close to the ‘perfect’ father-son bond as one could imagine. I shed a lonely tear for it, but continue to ‘send out’ hopeful, loving thougts to my boy, my future.

    Then I think of the tragedy that befalls so many of my fellow creatures every day; where their children are lost through tragedy, disease, injustice, and simple, fallible human misconception. And I think of them and all they’ve lost and remind myself that I am not the only one living their own personal Hell, and that my fellow creatures are there with me, some with far greater burdens to bear than I could possibly imagine.

    Karen, you’re the most important person in my life, if that’s not too abstract a statement. Without your work, I would be lost, and beyond the scope of my son ever deciding to find me again; if indeed that ever comes to pass, but:

    ‘This too shall pass’

    Hopeful, grateful and getting better: Thank you, Karen.


    1. Walter, you are absolutely not alone, the folks who come on this blog are testament to that and I am always here, I am so glad to hear that what I write helps and yes, ‘this too will pass,’ its how I have gotten through some of the most difficult times of my life, along with Tubthumping by Chumbawamba here it is, its good for a sing along x


      1. Brilliant!
        FYI- ‘Walter White’ is my twitter pseudo name. Real name: Darryl Westell; you were kind enough to offer me invaluable advice via e mail back in October time. I emailed a picture of my son Josh, still so grateful.



  6. Karen, I spent a number of years working with local community organisations providing various services to people and became completely disillusioned by them. They were riddled with political agendas, personal ambitions, lack of awareness and lack of ability to self-reflect. They knew how to say the right words to impress people ‘out there’ in order to convince them they were the experts, and should be given contracts and funding, but it was a lot of hot air.

    I came to you because I needed your help with my family situation, but it has also been wonderful to be able to experience the way you work, with transparency, respect and genuine quality.


    1. Thank you Miriam and I have absolutely appreciated your clarity of vision and self reflection and ability to keep on keeping on in the face of so much k x


  7. No, Karen, I don’t feel sorry for you. What a strange conceit! Indeed, you are one of the people in this area for whom I feel least sorry. Sometimes I even envy you your clarity and incisive ability to cut through the bullshit.

    It is those who do not see as clearly, or as far, for whom I feel sorry, and the hordes who every day blindly stumble into the family justice system, thinking it will resolve their problems for them.

    I have enormous respect for you, and eagerly await each blog post and comment, largely because you are at the cutting edge and precisely because you are not following what others have done or written.

    Sometimes, of course, I disagree, and sometimes I disagree profoundly, but we cannot reach the truth without sometimes taking a wrong turn, and your own early dalliance with feminism should teach you that you are not infallible.

    Just as you turned to feminism to make sense of the world, so many fathers turn to the fathers’ groups, and we shouldn’t necessarily condemn their members because they haven’t yet seen the light. I am still quite embarrassed by some of the things that I wrote and believed only a couple of years ago.

    You should also not be too dismissive of the fact that there are a few others working in this field who share your integrity and insight, even if they, too, do not always agree with you. I am thinking of people like Glen and Vincent, and of course Erin. You are not, happily, quite as isolated as you may imagine!

    For many, reform is still a goal, even if they know that the new Children and Families Act has blocked reform for at least another 5 or 10 years. I’m not sure where you stand on reform, these days, or if you even think it is possible. Optimism isn’t necessarily naivety, and nothing, however bad, endures for ever. We may now have to accept that feminism is the new establishment, and that the family justice system is deliberate, and not an accident which an informed government will correct, but we should not give up hope and we should not abandon exposing those circles within circles, and the corruption and hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty which keeps them rotating. One day they will grind to a halt.


    1. Thanks Nick, yes it’s an odd conceit I agree, I think what I was getting at was that as I was writing, I realised the madness and was thinking to myself that anyone who does this work has to be mad themselves and then I was viewing my writing through the eyes of others who might think I had actually gone mad and might be feeling sorry for me. Supervision, in terms of getting above it all and looking with literally ‘super vision’ brings a sense of understanding about how one might be perceived by others, in so many ways it brings layers of understanding that help to unlock the routes to communication that bring greater understanding, it is always that understanding that I am seeking, in all that I do.

      I am of course aware of those others who think and work like me and I am grateful forever for knowing you all, without you the world would indeed seem like a terrifying place, truth keepers, in my terminology are utterly essential as we move through these often bleak times.

      Reform will come, whether you and I will still be working when it does is an unknown right now but we (NW and I) keep working behind the scenes on things that we know are necessary for real reform to happen..the children and families bill looks like it has driven us into a blind alley but, watching the political landscape, should there be a right leaning incarnation of the next government we may stand a chance of radical reforms of the issues that we know cause the biggest problems (of course if there is a left leaning incarnation we will have to keep waiting)…watch out though in May for a very radical agenda coming into the public eye from some work Nick has been doing, it will set out what we know is needed. When it is out I will flag it up.

      We have it keep on keeping on and, though I criticise the ever hopeful band of brothers, I know I shared their optimism only a couple of years ago so yes, that is part of my shadow self, strongest when the light shines on me. K


      1. i read this on Adrienne Burgess’s blog today. i think its a very important statement and the studies she refers to are critical in the fight to establish a better way forward for families after separation. Well done to her and finally FI are doing what I have wanted them to do for a long time so credit where it is due.


  8. At the risk of sounding like a sycophant (again!), I have to say what a wonderful blog this is.

    And, again, I find myself agreeing with exinjuria. Your energy, capacity for work, clarity of thought and expression, synthesis of argument and ideas are virtually super human and enviable. I often wonder how on earth you manage because the work can be harrowing, the supervision / recovery takes time and to fit so many other things in too is just incredible. Do you sleep at all?

    At the moment there appears to be some respite from the alienation process, so, the opportunity is available for me to regroup and think. You give us all a huge amount of food for thought. I am aware though of the need to remain vigilant in order to act immediately if it ever raises its head again.

    Each instalment, from the lovely little dandle bears to the horrors of the deadly female species, has resonated with events in my alienation experience and seemed to arrive almost by telepathy just when I needed them most. Fortunately, your output is prodigious so the wait is never too long.

    For me, the extent of vested interest in perpetuating the status quo suddenly hit me at my first visit to the court. I felt out of place because, apart from the people working there, I seemed to be the only one wearing a suit. The usher actually asked me whom I was representing! The ladies working there were all smartly and quite expensively turned out. They smiled brightly as they wished each other good morning and giggled about Facebook postings following the weekend. The solicitors floated by in smart expensive clothes: carrying their monogrammed bags from nice cars in the car park across the road, happy and smiling. The barristers and judges breezed past self-importantly in their knitted wigs and black gowns. There were CAFCASS officers and probation workers and support workers that seemed to be doing their best to blend in with their clients but whose middle class confidence betrayed their relative good fortune. Then there were the punters and their families. These were by-and-large washed out, haggard; heads bowed, down, brow beaten and malnourished etc.

    Then the paradox hit me. The contented top of this mushroom, with plenty, was being payed for by the bottom, who were generally poor and legally aided or struggling to pay their fees. The misfortune of these people was food and drink to the rest. But, in spite of my despair I had to admit how relatively lucky I was: able to express myself, fight my corner and fortunate to be supported by a solicitor who really cared about what she was doing (but cost me a small fortune that I do not have).

    It was the same when I worked for a homelessness charity. I could not reconcile my salary and travelling expenses, the plush city centre offices and the glitzy promotional blurb with the misery of those I was supporting. At times it felt very uncomfortable. Things do need to change in family law and charities but there are so many “social entrepreneurs” and vested interests in maintaining the status quo that I’m forced to agree that the only realistic prospect of effecting any change at all in the short term is, as you say, at the coal face.

    It is a fact of life that one of the fastest pieces of legislation to get enacted was the 1969 Tipping Regulations, which supplement the 1954 Mines and Quarries Act. Depressingly, it took the massive human cost of the Aberfan disaster to provide the motivation for that. In a similar vein, the Health and Safety at Work Act took centuries of dangerous working practices before it eventually became law in 1974. With Human Rights we have fared even worse. We have no constitution or bill of rights. Magna Carta in 1215 afforded some, but we did not get many others enacted until the European Human rights act was codified into English Law in 2000.

    The bottom line is that Health and Safety and Human Rights Acts benefit all of us and it has taken centuries to bring about change. Furthermore, given half a chance there are still plenty of detractors that would do away tomorrow with these hard won concessions to human decency.

    Realistically, with so many vested interests in greasing the wheels of our present status quo the outlook for enacting change in Family Law is bleak. The recent removal of legal aid for these cases means that it will get even worse before it gets better. Many will be denied access to legal advice. Legal aid will now only be available where there is evidence of domestic violence. However, the level of evidence required is pretty low, so, any resourceful alienator is more than well equipped to meet the grade.

    Reason, rigor, honesty and transparency will ultimately triumph. I think history tells us that. Nonetheless, in the meantime those of us that actually “get it” are duty bound to make as much noise as we possibly can in the hope that others will too and eventually things will get changed. But, history also informs us that much stamina is needed for it will be a long, hard slog.

    Far from being “scary” Karen, and I do hope husband Nick is not the possessive type, but you are an absolute bloody darling!

    P.s Every time I see my daughter she asks whether there is another Dandle bear story.


    1. Just for your daughter and Kat’s another dandlebear story is coming up and the dandlebear illustrations are also being completed this week by my daughter. I passed a little girl on the street last week, she was dandling a long armed bear alongside her, he was hooked over her arm, I rang my daughter and we talked about it and she started to work on it for me. I would so love to have a book and an actual dandlebear that children could have for their own, we are going to talk to our publisher soon and see what we can do. And don’t worry you are not a sychophant, you will never know how much you enrich my life through the conversations we have on here, even the ones where I get uppity about things!! And yes, I do sleep at night, though I confess, most of my days are spent on this subject, thinking and creating and studying and learning. I do this because I love children, I find them absolutely fascinating every respect and the landscape of their children should be filled with birds and bees and sunshine and the only thing that every makes them cry should be scraped knees and not being able to find their dandlebear. I see so many little faces so troubled and worried and so many childhoods trampled all over. What I want to do is put as much knowledge into the hands of parents and as many tools as possible so that children can keep as much of those precious days as possible. Thank you for reading, another dandlebear story coming up, this time its called ‘the night is not so scary dandlebear’. K


      1. Thank you Karen.
        I passed the message on to my daughter as she was with me last night.
        You’ve made my amazing and precious little girl very happy indeed.
        We can’t wait!
        I don’t now if you’ve seen this but I think this link may be of interest to you, Nick W and ExInjuria. It is certainly worth remembering. Last sentence, Para 3 in particular is quite incredible and topical!


      2. I have just posted the third story Padrestevie, I will take a look at this link now too x


      3. Confused is what I would call Adrienne Burgess, PadreStevie, she has, in my view, no real idea of what gender equality actually means and so lurches from one opinion to the next. NW has had some very interesting discussions with her in the past on topics to do with separated fathers, not always peaceful. But look at the language she uses in this address, look at the way that she seeks to distance herself from the fathers rights movement, look at the way that she is unable to articulate the realities of what happens to fathers in this country but instead locates the blame in fathers themselves, in separating fathers in particular and in the ‘angry dads’ caricature which is so incredibly unhelpful. I hope that your daughter enjoys the latest Dandlebear story, the next one is already clamouring to be told. It is called ‘I don’t like this Dandlebear’ and is for completely alienated children (we just have to work out how to get this one embedded into the book so that its not so obvious that is what we are dealing with and the book might get past one or two of those difficult parents…..


  9. Another brilliant post, Karen! Thank you!

    While reading through all you have written about your experiences and the comments from others, I was wondering just why you do what you do and why you persevere. Then, there it was, right in front of me, the plain, pure truth in your reply to padrestevie: you do what you do because you love children. A simple, beautiful truth that touches my heart.

    I hope that those in the inner circles you describe come to realise through your work that the focus must come back to our children. They claim to act in the best interests of our children but they do not. I remember a judge at a hearing where my ex-wife made an application for ‘leave to remove’ saying that if I did not consent to this then the request would most likely be granted anyway. I said to him that I couldn’t understand how any family court in this country would think that it’s in the best interests of my children for them to be moved so far away from me to another country, where there would be even less chance of us having contact. He just directed me to the city library where he said I could find many examples of cases where leave to remove had been granted. To show such a flippant, contemptuous regard of a loving parent in this way speaks volumes about the family courts and how they handle families. Just another example of misguided behaviour to add to the list of those in the inner circles you mention in your post.

    I agree with others in this post that your job is best done at the coalface and perhaps by opening more Centres for Separated Families those people in the inner circles will realise that there are kinder and more loving ways to treat separated families and our alienated children.

    Keep on keeping on and I for one will keep on keeping on with you.

    Sending you much love and gratitude for everything you do and the support you give me through your posts.


  10. The Dandlebar series promises to be wonderful for children who will be able to access this.

    My son is autistic and won’t be…and I would struggle to have sufficient contact opportunity to tell them – even if he could.

    I don’t have Karen’s energy to run a blog at the moment, but hope it is possible to make a contribution to maintaining a focus on the overall situation we face.

    As various of us are saying…we face an apparently insurmountable barrier in terms of overall Family Law and practice…which is being increasingly solidified against us, it would seem.

    However, I would like to encourage us to believe that things may not be as fully desperate as we may think – IF, that is – we are rather better able to understand the abyss we are staring at.

    Exinjuria and many others also simply describe our antagonist as feminism…but it is important to recognize that to the extent that we may have misjudged our opponents – then we will have correspondingly less opportunity to challenge them.

    As regular followers of Karen’s blog will know…my contention is that the situation we face – is one which I feel has actually by-passed feminism!

    Instead, our society seems to have moved from (what there has been widespread agreement over) has been a male dominated era (at least superficially) to one which is now increasingly female dominated in many ways.

    In this scenario, is denying that patriarchy has ever existed – really going to make much impact?

    Let me have a quick go at understanding what Patriarchy MAY have been, then.

    To me, Patriarchy owes it’s existence to the protective function of the male – freed as we are, from the task of carrying to term a new child and nurturing them in the early stage of life.

    From this – came, I suspect – the collective projection (by men AND, EQUALLY, women) of the male protective function – in the form of a male DEITY.

    This increasingly would then have allowed for development of the concept of overall male control, as part of men’s protective role – in being seen as subsidiaries or functionaries of the Deity.

    As the grip of religious thinking has gradually given way to secular humanist principles, it is this element of male control that feminists have railed against…especially where the control has been seen to be excessive and oppressive – and has seemed to be out of touch with the sense of responsibility which originally inspired it.

    Male violence – the other rallying point of feminists, also derives from the male protective function (as men have to be constantly prepared to attack other groups – on behalf of their own group) and also from the inherent frustration of the effect of gender roles which so often prevent men from receiving the support/recognition/love they need in their lives…from women. This completely in-articulated frustration may then cause a minority to attack women indiscriminately…or, more generally (understandably) to despise what they most desire and desperately need – but cannot attain.

    While some feminists (and we should really call these Equity Feminists) retain a vision of shared control of human affairs together with men – which would then start to address these very considerable problems; others (we should really call them Gender Feminists) have brushed this aside as impractical – and even futile, counterproductive and unethical.

    These people are clearly aiming for a situation where women are now absolutely in the ascendant – and in full control of society – NOT so as to understand and develop the behaviour of men…but simply to suppress these types of manifestations. (Some even talk of culling male populations down to a low percentage).

    To the extent this state of dominance has been achieved…the pendulum has already swung from patriarchy to matriarchy; with the matriarchal community believing that THEY are the ones that now hold the protective role for humanity – and that men, by contrast, constitute a destructive and not a protective capacity (in an overall sense) – at least when not under the control of women.

    An increasing proportion of men – have also signed up to exactly this view of ourselves as a group. I hope those of us here would agree that this is a simplistic and immature idea which ignores the reality of how both men AND women – can lose touch with their responsibility to care – which is the fundamental reason for which authority over others is to be given.

    Only a balanced male/female approach can help to avoid this inherent HUMAN weakness.

    Since for most of its life, this cooperative approach has been, and still is – the definition of feminism (Equity Feminism) I suggest that this term remains the most appropriate for this egalitarian approach.

    The reason that this is particularly important – is that it seems high time that those who CLAIM to be feminists…but in reality are simply using this to disguise their matriarchal intentions – are required to dispense with this total pretense.

    This will then split that frighteningly “impenetrable wall” – in half – and bring it ‘crashing down to the ground’…giving us the opportunity to move into a new era of equality – if we wish to do so.

    The current “feminist paradigm” then – is not monolithic at all – but made up of these two TOTALLY contradictory notions.

    Only a few of us will be able to participate in the new flagship enlightened Family Centres that are planned, wonderful as they will be.

    For the rest of us – our way forward, I suggest – is to work to expose the conflict at the heart of contemporary thinking on men and women in society – to challenge the argument for a matriarchal world which has ALLOWED all this Parental Alienation to be taking place on such a vast scale – in the first place.


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