Some weeks I find it difficult to carry the burden of knowledge of what is being done to parents and children in the UK. This is one of them. During the run up to Christmas, that most painful time of year for so many, the narratives and the lives of the people I work with and the faces of their children, stay with me through the night. Surrounded as we are these days in London, by the threat and fear of terrorism, it is unsurprising to me that my mind, usually resiliant, is unquiet. Like parents who live with the loss of their child, in the early hours, those small details of worry and anxiety cause me to be restless. Those of you who cannot sleep because of what you bear are not alone. I am here, in that place where the tides run restless, with you.
This week I have been witness to something so unbearable that unless it is expressed it will haunt me. This is the essence of what so many parents are grappling with in the midst of the loss of their children and it goes to the very heart of what is wrong with UK family law and, I guess, family law around the world. Dr Childress and his supporters will be glad to hear that what I am speaking about is his category of pathogenic parenting (what I call pure) and the terrible damage that it does to children. The unspeakable nature of this being the acts of utter violence and cruelty which are enacted within this pattern of alienation and the absolute futility of the family justice system’s ability to stop it.
Children are being abused in the UK and we have no methodology to prevent it, no standardised services that even recognise it. All we have is a legion of people who believe in a political ideology and a handful of clinicians and practitioners who know that this is not the way to help those families where parents are, shall we say, less than psychologically well.
Let me tell you this story. Heavily disguised of course, but a true story of an act of cruelty so unspeakable that for days now I have carried this, unable to know what to do with it. I cannot imagine what it must mean to have to wake up every morning knowing that your children are in the care of someone who is capable of this.
Three children all reunited with a parent. One day the children asked the once rejected parent if they may be able to take a much loved treasure that they had also been reunited with back with them for a few days. The treasure never returned. If only that treasure had been held hostage by the vengeful parent. I think you can guess the real ending. The children involved have been party to an act of unspeakable cruelty and I am awake in the early hours because I know that the reason the children are so incredibly vulnerable to this, is because the other ‘professional’ in the case undermined my work and ensured the power stayed in the hands of the unwell parent. How can I sleep? How can that parent whose life has been utterly shattered sleep?
In the light of this, my unquiet mind tells me that it is all well and good for me to discuss with Dr Childress his pathogenic parenting and it is all well and good for me to recognise those patterns and call it pathogenic, pure or downright sadistic. What good does it do when we are up against the reality which is that these unwell people can manipulate the family services supposed to support children, in order to maintain their control over them. We have a vast number of social workers, Cafcass workers and other mental health people who simply treat all cases of alienation as a he said/she said situation. And in the midst of that young, vulnerable children are being exposed to the unspeakable cruelty which is their parent’s desire for vengence.
What kind of madness is this, that our families are so regularly torn apart and the children within them placed with people who are capable of unspeakable acts of violence and supported to do so by political ideologues who (appear to me) to lack skill insight and empathy?
Tonight I cannot sleep. Tomorrow I will because the exercising of my unquiet mind and the processing of the helplessness I feel in facing this and being unable to stop it, will let me.
I imagine it will be a long long time before that parent sleeps through the night again.