Healing hearts, changing minds and CAFCASS: the power of the positive

I am working with a CAFCASS colleague at the moment with whom I have established a strong and powerful alliance, even though we have never met. This colleague instinctively understands the complexities of human nature, particularly as they play out during separation.  A conversation between us today revealed to me that the reality is that long drawn out court disputes happen largely because the people involved in working with families do not understand the intricacies of family separation and the psychology of what it is to be human.  When they do and the work that they and we do instinctively complements each other, outcomes are faster, children are happier and mothers and fathers disentangle themselves from each other and see the world more clearly.  And even where one parent remains determined not to change, outcomes are still faster and still better for children, when colleagues in the right places, hold the tension that creates change.

Known as I am for having my say about CAFCASS it is only right and proper that when I meet someone who not only ‘gets it’ but does so without any need for recognition, that I give the proper due respect. Of course my duties in court cases prevent me from naming people, however I am sure that this person will know who I am talking about and anyway, this is not about the personal but about giving respect where it is due and about recognising the massive potential that lies within CAFCASS when someone really understands the reality of what faces families as they struggle through separation. I am amazed at the difference this person has made and how my work has been potentized by our partnership, even though we have never met. Excitingly I can see how such partnerships could be developed across the country to deliver expert teams that make a fast and lasting difference to children’s lives.

I have worked in several teams with many colleagues in my time in the field of family separation and I am hugely appreciative of the power for change that has made itself apparent in recent weeks through this particular partnering.  I know that the families and especially the children  are too. So it heartens and excites me to report great strides in this way of working and I hope it also does the same for those who read this.

The critical difference between this partnership and others is that in this partnership there is –

A deep understanding of the complexities of human nature and the different ways that people struggle to get through separation.

A committment to helping children to keep in close relationship to both parents after separation.

An empathic understanding of the lives lived by rejected/targeted parents

An ability to cope with other people’s dislike and discomfort without the need to rescue them.

A clear understanding of dynamic processes without any requirement for recognition or reward.

That latter statement is really critical because working in teams and in partnerships brings its own layer of complexities. In some teams there are unspoken struggles between the top brass and the lower orders, in others there are power struggles over who is the most ‘expert’ and in some disastrous combinations indivuals may pull in opposite directions until the whole thing falls apart. Something I have witnessed more than once.  The only losers, where this happens are children and it grieves me when it occurs because when it starts to unravel, all the ‘experts’ suddenly begin to hand on the potato to someone else, hoping that when the music stops, it will not be in their hands.  That this can happen in the professional concentric circle around children in the family court process is not a comfortable thought but it can and it does.  The psychology of working in teams is as complex as any other process and in teams around the separated family, each persons clear understanding of their place and ability to deliver the goods without recognition or reward, is the requisite for safe delivery of children from those captured places of alienation and withdrawal.

And so I salute this colleague who remains nameless but who has changed children’s lives for the better in the short time we have worked together. Even though we have never met, the power of understanding at a deep level and sharing a commitment is already proven in my mind.

In a world which can seem forsaken and at times leaves me feeling very forlorn, the power to heal and change hearts and minds with colleagues who also really care, is a really rather lovely feeling.


  1. Yes, It’s wonderful when peace suddenly looks able to break out!
    Trouble is, there are still far too few people like your CAFCASS colleague – and indeed far too few people like you! Especially in the difficult cases the hearts and minds are the real arena for change, not the courtroom. All power to your elbow…


  2. To my own surprise I find reading this latest post of yours Karen encouraging, if not to say pleasantly surprising, and I shall tell you why. I have had countless experiences with Cafcass officers, many of them from different offices around the country.Some were just court reporting officers on the ground floor, some higher up the ladder above them who, it seemed to me, called the shots in decision making, passing them on to their subordinates. You will forgive me, if I relate to you Karen, that amongst them all I did not find one who was willing to accept written, corroborated, evidence as undeniable proof when making complaints about their shabby poor court reporting. In other words I found them to be totally dismissive and purposely intransigent to reason with. I got rather fed up of that expression on their faces, that seem to say: ‘yes this Is certainly positive proof of your complaint that you have presented, but I, we, just don’t care”. I found all of them poorly trained, badly lacking in empathy or any human understanding, and without conscience. You will think my words here are strong and forceful, however…

    ….However, you certainly will have had more dealings with Cafcass officers than I ever did Karen, and to judge all of them, as one might think I have by the foregoing, would, and might be unwise. I have to leave space in my head for some to be good at their jobs, for we cannot tar all of them with the same brush can we? Therefore, accepting you word for it in trusting you totally, it is refreshing to know that you have met one who is indeed open, reasonable with an understanding of human complexities, of a realistic idea of what actually takes place in family breakdowns.

    A Cafcass officer once told me: “Paul, there is no such thing as child alienation, it does not exist and Cafcass has no remit to apply it in the family courts or to take it into consideration when making decisions”. This told me one thing… that she was probably poorly trained and therefore should not be in her job. She was horrible to me and I could go on, but won’t here. How wonderful to know Karen that you have found at least one that might just understand what P.A.S is, although you have not stated this in your posting about this person’s position on this or that, or about alienation, I just hope that he, or she, does accept its existence, but do they? Glad to know that you have some open avenues to converse with the ‘good’ people at Cafcass, for we need more of them, with better understanding of what they are supposed to be doing. In many ways they hold in their very hands two keys, one that leads to misery, and the other key to happiness, yes for those families they deal with. What an awesome and serious responsibility that is! I hope you can work with your Cafcass colleague and that they will listen to you Karen, For me the Jury is still out though, but I am now more prepared to give them a chance, due to your words about this one person you know.


    1. Paul, you may be aware that in Scotland we don’t have Cafcass however, we (Parents and Grandparents) unfortunately have many other groups and organisations to convince that PA is alive and well an indeed flourishing in the UK and beyond. Regrettably many people choose to ignore even the possibility that a Child could be manipulated in such a way to alienate a Parent. We have to consider WHY individuals, organisations and Agencies take this very strategic dominant stand. Everyone who has went through the grinder in the Court process will rightly say, A COURT IS NO PLACE TO HANG OUT ONE’s FAMILIES DIRTY WASHING OR A PLACE TO BE SYMPATHETIC AND UNDERSTANDING. Therefore what is the alternatives.

      Just before we look at the alternatives if we pause for a minute and think that in America PA is a multi million dollar business and who would be the financial losers, if change was brought in. One of the most powerful lobbyists in the United States is Lawyers and I suspect that is true in the U K as well. Lawyers have the ear of the politicians and that door will have to be knocked down first before alternatives can be found and implemented. It must be the Families that are listened to by the
      Politicians and UK Goverments must sit up and smell the desperation and the misery. Please no one be misunderstanding that the British £ is no different to the impact and diversity that the Buck has in the US, in other words money is the driver of evil.

      There are numerous hurdles to jump before we can put a better system which will never guarantee the right result will be produced every time but by having proper appeals we may achieve 95% accuracy. The only alternative I can see to the long drawn out cruel present inefficient system is to train more Family Therapists. This will produce confident confident professionals that they can not just identify alienation is present in a Family, they must be experienced to be able to eliminate such behaviour and it may be then if the Family are not cooperating the Courts may have to use their powers.

      I would hate to know how many Children are living with the wrong Parent and suffering every day due to the present system which employed incompetent, uncooperative and properly trained personnel. Whilst their numerous bodies that try and convince us that there is no such thing as PA, THEY JUST DONT WANT CHANGE IN THE SYSTEM AND WILL KEEP TAKING A RESISTANT STAND. It must be recognised that many Mothers are being alienated but organisations like Families Need Fathers thank goodness do not implement a dogmatic attack a Dog approach as Woman’s Aid does. We all know that there are many bad Fathers out there as well as bad Mums but that is no reason to give good loving Fathers such a difficult fight just to see their Children at a contact centre.

      What in some cases Woman’s Aid does very wrongly in my opinion is to put all their energy towards the Mother at the expense in many instances to the welfare of the Children. Off course we definitely require an organisation such as woman’s aid as there is too much DOMESTIC VIOLENCE towards Females and cannot be tolerated, but what I am saying to Woman’s Aid is with the greatest respect take a step back and be honest with yourselves can you honestly say tha all your clients tell the truth. For to leave a Child with a bad Mother is I am afraid adopting a policy it does not matter if we have executed the wrong Man. It is vital Woman’s Aid put in measures where they are confident that they are not wrongly persecuting the Father and leaving the Child to be so cruelly abused by a bad Mother, if so it is unforgivable the damage that is being done to the wider Family but none more so in my opinion the most precious thing in the world, an inocent Child.

      Is it not true that we all have a duty and want to achieve Family cohesiveness and for Children flourish and to have a happy and rewarding Childhood. If Woman’s Aid step back and see that there goals are no different from good Fathers who love and protect their Partners and Children, and certainly no one wants a Child to be suffering every day at the hands of a manipulative Parent.

      With regard to Social Work in Scotland as I said earlier we do not have Cafcass and I am therefore unable to comment, Social Work in Scotland is broken and in crisis due to basic resources. In any organisation to be efficient it requires many things such as well trained confident sympathetic staff, stable financial resources, good communication and good high standards of moral. Social Work have none of these and therefore there has to be a certain amount of sympathy towards Social Workers, this is all due to lack of funding by the Government it is as simple as that.

      There is much to do in the UK before we can have an efficient robust system to identify and eliminate the presence of PA, BUT WE CAN MAKE A START BY TRYING TO SEE AND UNDERSTAND OTHERS POINT OF VIEW. We must never lose sight that the Children are the important people hear and all Organisations and Agencies must approach matters with an open view.

      Having said all that we must lobby for change, I am honestly delighted with the many Mothers and Fathers who have been fighting for years and still not seen their Children, but nevertheless they go on fighting for other Parents. These Parents deserve the warmest praise and in my opinion they are nothing other than HEROES. IT IS OUR DUTY AS PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS TO LOBBY FOR CHANGE.

      So Paul I wish you and every other traumatised Mother and Father good luck for the future and if you are not doing something to raise awareness of the evils of ALIENATION please do so now and transfer any negative energy into positive energy. Fight, keep fighting, never stop fighting for your Children’s sake.


    2. My loathing and complete disdain and contempt for Cafcass is well known to those who read my blog, I accept of course that such as in any walk of life where human beings congregate, there are good and bad. That individuals are on the ball is common sense of course, to tar everyone with the same brush, in any profession would be foolish.

      But Cafcass, nonetheless, should be scrapped, for one or even one hundred decent individuals cannot, clearly, atone, assure or assuage our collective fears that the organisation is rotten to the core, fundamentally flawed in its very concept, and dangerously incompetent.

      I would struggle with any suggestion that the organisation can be reformed though the good work of the rare individual or three. I have 13 years of experience to support such a statement, and that, I submit, is a reasonable enough standard to go by….


      1. You don’t like them then? You are nor far off the mark, but as you wrote, there may be some good one’s out there, even if they are as rare as “hen’s teeth”, still looking myself, one day though, one day.


  3. Hi Karen the thing that gets me with caffcass they are meant to be impartial but always on the mothers side I have always provided and been there for my children but when my ex went with this new partner and stopped me seeing them I did everything to try to see them and got done for harassment for texting my ex to see my own kids!! And caffcass don’t appreciate or understand what the dads go through its all one sided they can’t see the affect it has in the children and it does affect them the system Is so wrong and affects childrens life’s


  4. Thank you, Karen, your two recent posts about projection and the dangers of the victim as guru were rather bleak and depressing. While a dose of realism is healthy, it is good too to hear something that brings hope. Someone within the belly of the Beast actually gets it!

    On a more personal hopeful note, two days ago I spoke to my daughter for a few minutes on the phone (her mother was present in the background). This is the first conversation we have had since December, and I have not known my daughter sound so relaxed with me for nearly three years (she is now nine). We chatted about family, about school, about the books that I send her, and that she has clearly read. This is the child who was so afraid of me she could not abide my presence, or so the court was led to believe!

    Mother has been badgering me about paying for a trip to Disneyland Paris for the two of them. This put me in a difficult position: I simply don’t have the money, and if I did I would put it aside for our daughter’s future, but I didn’t want to get trapped in the role of being the ogre who refuses to pay for what has become the peak experience of consumer-childhood. So I told mother to cost it up, and she now realises how expensive it all is, and when I said no, she hardly demurred, while my daughter didn’t mention it at all!

    Instead I sent my daughter a mouldering piece of paper with some hobbit-runes inscribed on it. It came from a time capsule that was found under a tree stump by the man who bought the family home from my mother. The capsule was buried in our back garden by my sister over 25 years ago. I also sent my daughter the letters about it from my mother and from the man who found it, a key for deciphering the runes, a copy of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and some family photos. She was captivated…


  5. I was once told by a professional, ” Well at least he isn’t throwing them against a wall.”
    That was supposed to make me feel good I imagine.


  6. Children entering a Family Court will often leave it shorn of one parent. Painful to most children and seriously damaging to others. A ‘washing our hands’ culture that’s cheap and cheerful. But it’s neither cheap or cheerful in truth.

    If a problem is complicated then the proper solution of course will be sophisticated too. Maybe when that particular penny has dropped at Cafcass headquarters things will change?

    A broken leg is beyond most peoples experience to heal but we don’t blindly amputate it. We choose instead to use both skilled professionals and resources to heal it. It’s Immoral not too.

    Unsurprisingly Judges or Cafcass would not be asked to make medical diagnosis in the NHS so why do we use them to understand and resolve relationship issues or change family dynamics that are needed?

    Maybe the understanding and resolution are irrelevant to Cafcass and a Court? The default ‘prescription’ handed out time after time by Cafcass is evidence of this?

    For me the wrong tool for the job that overshadows alternative solutions that are far likelier to help everyone.

    Cafcass/ Family Courts will see increasing numbers of people experiencing it’s ‘prescription’ and experience it’s collateral damage. People understanding the real issues of their own separation and able to contrast it with the ‘odd’ Cafcass output. An output unsustainable viewed in children’s and adult lives affected and a wider view of gender inequality and gender segregation of family life.

    As public and political pressure inevitably grow, eventually a change will happen. Maybe one day both children and parents will be met by expertise that does help them directly in a rounded and individually appropriate way.

    Sorry for sounding of Karen. Very thankful that we have an outlet and direction to try to make things better for the next generation.


  7. As a targeted targeted, I have not seen my daughter in over 10 years. She will be twenty tomorrow. Things got so bad during the alienation process, that I was blackmailed into giving my consent for my daughter to be adopted by her stepfather, otherwise further false allegations of child abuse were going to be made against me which could potentially have destroyed mine and my new wife’s careers as teachers. Despite all the evidence I provided to the ‘so-called’ professionals (social worker and CAFCASS) demonstrating my irrefutable innocence and how this was a text book case of Parental Alienation, all they could come up with was a dismissive ‘WE WILL PROBABLY NEVER GET TO THE BOTTOM OF IT’.
    The adoption went ahead, no questions asked. I found this response totally unforgivable in my opinion, considering all the evidence I had to corroborate that PA taking place and the amount of irreversible damage they have now caused to the relationship between my daughter and I.

    I sincerely hope this one seemingly properly educated member CAFCASS that you speak of is a sign of things to come, to save other families going through similar tortures.


  8. It really is nice to hear of positive cases. Some hope for at least someone.
    Parent alienation was recognised by both the cafcass representative & the royal courts judge in my case though they still failed to do anything about it.


  9. It is extremely hard for me to stomach anyone saying anything good about Cafcass. They seem to be such a crass and biased organisation only affirming the tendency toward irrevocable and permanent splitting of the family unit. The very thing I was trying to avoid.
    Nevertheless I cannot blame Cafcass for the split that renders my family apart. They did not instigate it; I didn’t even know they existed at the time my family was already in turmoil. So I must take some responsibility for the situation I found myself in.

    An error of judgement I made was perhaps to believe that they were the panacea for fixing this emotional turmoil that was strangling the life out of me.

    In retrospect it would have been good to have been in more control of myself and my situation, but I was not. Like most of us who suffer such trauma we become immobilised and incapable of making good decisions or even any decision at all. We scream we rant we feel lost and helpless devastated by the very thing that matters most to us.

    Into this heady mix comes the Cafcass officer who seems to want peace………but at what cost I ask myself?

    Listening to little Johnny the withdrawn six year old placing the burden of responsibility and weighted guilt with such fragile and vulnerable youth.

    Placating a distraught parent with sanctimonious comments about seeing your children again when they become young adults.

    Choosing sides………..you are the loser in the best parenting competition which is reflected in the report

    Beware this parent is potentially dangerous and must be kept away


    My gut feeling when I read your Blog was how on earth did this Cafcass officer get the job? More to the point how will they keep their job whilst their philosophy is at odds with the organisation they work for?

    Kind regards


  10. I also salute this rare cafcass Professional and hope and pray that people such as this can snowball withing social services…


  11. In ‘This Morning’ today divorce lawyer Marilyn Stowe recommended Cafcass website and mediation for parents with contact issues !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Many of us grandparents and parents of us know this is just giving false hope.


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