The European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners was convened on July 11th 2017 in Prague. The purpose of the new association is to standardise and regulate practice in work with alienated children and their families and to ensure that the reunification processes which are codified in the internationally recognised standards of work in this field, are pre-dominant in all EAPAP membership countries.
EAPAP is a membership body for those who work directly with alienated children and their families, as such it provides support to practitioners working in this increasingly recognised field in mental health and it provides protection to those who are working in ways which are not recognised by existing governing bodies. Additional aims of EAPAP are to educate and inform ancillary services about the harm caused to children by parental alienation and the methods which restore the healthy relationships needed by children in these circumstances.
The meeting in Prague was attended by many practitioners already involved in changing the systems in the countries they are working in. Many of the practitioners have already achieved significant change for children in their own right.
From Romania, where parental alienation is now a criminal act, due in no small part to the work of Simona Vlădică Ph.D who is a representative of the Professional Body of Mediators at Bucharest Court of Appeal and is a member of the Faculty of Psychology, Ecological University of Bucharest. She is also the CEO of Health Media a media company specializing in health communication.
And from Croatia, Prof. Dr. Sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, Director of Child Protection Center Zagreb, has spent thirty years of her careers on children. As a Pediatric Pediatrician at the Zagreb Children’s Disease Hospital, she often met with abused and neglected children who did not have the necessary protection of adults. She was therefore one of the first to recognize this issue in Croatia in the early 90s and devoted her further work. She is the founder of the counseling line for abused and neglected children “Brave Phone” and the initiator of the establishment of the Child Protection Center of the City of Zagreb, recognized by the Council of Europe as a model of good practice and thus presented at the UN. Prof. Dr. Sc. Gordana Buljana Flander is a recipient of numerous awards for her work, including the award to the Polyclinic multidisciplinary team awarded by the International Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) in 2008. Along with her professional work, she has been actively engaged in scientific work and has also published numerous scientific and professional papers at international conferences and publishes books, manuals and brochures for parents, children and experts.
Other member practitioners, are actively working to develop services to families and educate the judiciary and ancillary services about parental alienation and the need for treatment routes which conform to internationally recognised standards of practice. Alongside working directly with families affected by the problem, many research and evaluate interventions and contribute to new thinking about the problem. For the first meeting, all practitioners who attended, travelled many miles at their own expense to be there, some having to travel via Istanbul and others by coach due to problems with flights.
This is a significant group of individuals who are expert in their respective countries and deeply concerned about the lack of practitioner availability to assist families affected by the problem. That lack of practitioner availability is caused not by a lack of knowledge about parental alienation and how to treat it, but by the reluctance of many to become involved in this notoriously difficult and conflict ridden field of work. This group of practitioners, are working to establish the internationally recognised standards of practice which will enable those who do this work to ensure that the interventions which are being used with families are effective and the outcomes for children are positive. My work with this group, is to share my own expertise in reunification work with children which has now reached significant numbers of children and is demonstrated to be repeatedly successful.
In sharing expertise in this way, colleagues from each country can build successful reunification interventions which fit within the legal system of the country in which they work. All of this work is done free of charge in our own time, all of it is done to further enhance understanding, knowledge and practice with families.
EAPAP’s first year work programme leads to a two day conference in London in 2018 at which internationally recognised standards of practice with alienated children and their families will be shared with mental health and legal professionals. The conference will provide unique learning opportunities for the Judiciary as well as ancillary service staff in all European countries and will showcase the mental health and legal interlock which is necessary to ensure that parental alienation is properly treated. Many highly respected people in the field of mental health and the law, will be presenting their most up to date work with families and the conference is headlined by Amy J.L. Baker, the most prominent researcher in the field of parental alienation.
The aim of EAPAP, are to improve practice across Europe and ensure that families affected by parental alienation are helped to receive the very best interventions possible. All of the members of EAPAP are aware of the problems caused by the lack of knowledge about parental alienation in social services and court reporting services. All know that without joined up work, the reality of parental alienation, will continue to be opposed and denied. The courage of these people is immense and their heart based contributions to the well being of children is clearly demonstrated in their determination to face criticism and scepticism about parental alienation, in their own country and their own field of practice.
Working together in such a conflicted field is a hugely necessary and important step forward, because if professionals mirror the splitting seen in the families affected by parental alienation, the outcomes for children become poorer. The significance of so many people who are willing to do this work in Europe cannot be undervalued, nor should it go unrecognised or diminished by criticisms from whatever quarter.
These people work successfully with parental alienation, they resolve the problem for the child and parent and at the same time they spend their spare time working on sharing practice and developing new services.
And that, for me, is testimony enough.
The rest is a storm in a teacup.