Those of you reading the news in the UK over the past few days, would be forgiven for thinking that a breakthrough was occurring here. Before you break out the bubbly however, let me further set this news in context because, far from this being something to celebrate, the news that CAFCASS have finally ‘got it’ when it comes to parental alienation, is what I think is called in the USA, false news.
Being a veteran of the UK family services scene and having been for a spin round the block a few times, I am well versed in the manner in which CAFCASS are skilled at claiming the space which they feel needs to be cleaned up. CAFCASS have a history of being ‘fixers’ and this is not the first time that a spin on reality has been pulled on unsuspecting families. Let me take you back to the turn of the century, somewhere in London, shortly after a significant conference had been held to introduce a project called ‘Early Interventions.’
Now the format of this project was (and still is) truly groundbreaking. If ever there was an approach which would triage the difficult cases into the specialist help they require, this is it. Unfortunately however, the project does not fit the underlying political ideology which runs through CAFCASS like the word Blackpool runs through a stick of rock. This political ideology, which has no place whatsoever in the support given to post separation families, is that of women’s rights, in which the idea that contact with a non resident parent (father), can only take place ‘if it is safe to do so‘ comes first, last and always.
This concept, which has been promulgated for the whole of the time that I have been involved in this field, is one which has poisoned the lives of too many fathers (and indeed mothers) who are separating. The idea that ‘contact’ – what a horrible word – may not be safe for children, is one which even children themselves are heard to utter. This concept is part of the brainwashing which goes on in the ancillary services around the family and it is this, more than anything else, which leads to desperation and despair in non resident parents. Back to the early interventions project.
Early interventions as a project was endorsed by Lady Butler Sloss and commended to government in the early part of this century. All signs were good that this project, the first of its kind to truly address the needs of the separating family population would succeed. Founded upon the principles of triaging easy cases into following guidelines about making child arrangement orders and taking the difficult cases into a court managed process, this project aimed to sort out the family court process swiftly and competently. Unfortunately, at the last minute, as the project was making its way through the government channels of approval, a civil servant, seconded to CAFCASS, switched the project for another, this time run by Relate. What happened next is history (for those who are interested, read Nick Langford’s ‘An Exercise in Absolute Futility‘) but you can be sure that what really happened is that the early interventions ethos, was kicked into the long grass, never to be heard of again.
What a tactic. Take a project which offers families real help and gives fair and equitable outcomes to help parents to share the care of their children and switch it for another which looks similar but which in fact is ideologically different. From the inside the Ministers can be told that their requirement that an early interventions project is delivered has been met, from the outside the world can be told that early interventions is safe in the hands of CAFCASS. Bingo. For CAFCASS it is an easy win. They can deliver an early interventions project within their own comfort zone. For parents however, it is another two decades on the road to the hell that is the family court system. More children lost to their loving families, more families sacrificed to the political ideology of women’s rights first, children’s indivisible from their mother’s wishes and feelings.
I should be clear here and say that not only has this sacrificed the relationships that fathers have with their children, it has sacrificed too many mothers relationships too. The women’s rights political ideology, goes hand in hand with a kind of blinkered approach to helping families where children display a refusal to see a parent. And there is none so savage and none so judgmental as social workers who, when confronted with a child making allegations against a mother, assume that something must be wrong, in fact much more wrong because good mothers don’t have children who hate them.
This is a deeply complex issue in the UK which I see again and again in my work and which leads to abusive fathers being able to control their children into refusing a relationship with their mother and then control the professionals to see only the good in father and the bad in mother. It comes from a lack of training, a lack of subjective knowledge of the self and a disproportionate degree of power which is held by social workers in the family court system.
Back to CAFCASS. What I see happening now is round two of the CAFCASS strategy to bury an irritating issue. Having been forced to recognise that the cases left in the family courts are those which feature a child refusing to see a parent, CAFCASS are now ready to claim the space for their own. And the grounds upon which they are going to claim the space? High conflict.
High conflict. Think about it. High conflict.
Not personality disordered parents who are harming their children, not coercively controlling parents who are using their children to control the other parent, not children who are unable to cross the transition bridge and using the coping mechanism of withdrawal. No. The message being circulated widely by CAFCASS is that it is all about high conflict. And worse than that, they have the audacity to tell the world that it being all about high conflict and as such being a polarised debate, they, CAFCASS, have come to claim the middle ground and tell us that it is a spectrum problem.
That’s alright then. CAFCASS have come to save the day and sort out the high conflict couples (50 of which are being sought right now for their trial of ‘intense therapy’), we can all relax and go home, nothing to see here folks.
But parental alienation is not about high conflict.
In it’s severe form, it is a complex range of serious mental health problems which are caused by the decompensation of one parent and the manner in which this influences their child.
In its moderate form it is the influence of a parent without a personality disorder to cause a child to struggle to make transitions back and forth.
And in its milder forms it is the display by the child of the cluster of behaviours which are seen when they are becoming anxiously bound into a parent’s reactions to the drama of the family separation.
Whilst parental alienation may arise in a scenario where two parents are conflicted, it is more likely to arise in the scenario where one parent is displaying resistant behaviours and the other parent is desperately responding to that in an attempt to flag the harm which is being done to the child. The notion that parental alienation is about high conflict is false but it is an easy win for people who want to believe that both parents contribute to a child’s refusal to see a parent and it is a really easy win for CAFCASS who want to clear up the PA space, presumably so that they can tell the world that the problem is dealt with.
There is something dark and something murky about the ancillary services around separating families. It is an overly emotional and overly personalised arena in which too many individual beliefs and feelings are able to drive outcomes. This toxic swamp, in which families affected by parental alienation are expected to find help and support, adds to the impact upon the child. Too many children are, in my experience, sacrificed on the alter of the personal subjective reactions of ancillary staff in this field and CAFCASS claiming to be expert in the field of parental alienation, without any of the training or skills to work in such an arena, leaves me frankly, chilled to the bone.
If there is high conflict in many parental alienation cases it is often excacerbated by the personal subjective responses of family court professionals to the problems seen in the family. Responses which allow professionals to act as judge and jury and which are underpinned by the disproportionate power they hold in the court process. Unskilled and inexperienced people should not be allowed to practice in this field and yet this is what we are told is going to happen by CAFCASS.
Working with parental alienation requires the highest levels of skill and self knowledge in order to bring solutions to families instead of increasing the problems. So many family court professionals who end up tangled up in the webs spun by the alienating parent, do so precisely because they hold too much power whilst having too little responsibility for personal and professional competency.
In the coming days, as someone who is currently examining the standards of practice with PA families for the worldwide Parental Alienation Study Group, (a worldwide group of leading experts in this field), I will be scrutinising what CAFCASS are proposing to do and comparing it with internationally recognised best practice. I will be doing it publicly and transparently.
There will be no pulling the wool over the eyes of rejected parents and families on my watch and no blaming them by trying to convince them that they are part of the problem either.
I see high conflict coming.
I do not routinely see it in families affected by parental alienation.
I do see it in the battle to save Britain’s alienated children.
Thank you thank you and thank you. I have subscribed to your newsletter and will be closely following your findings.
I will be scrutinising and holding this up to the light here Kohl. And there is more to come, watch here for news of support for alienated parents, coming very soon. The battle is on and this time families are not going to be silenced. K
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Hi Karen, this blog describes my situation perfectly. I have always tried to do the damage limitation thing and am a very sensitive caring father. I work with children and young people everyday ( some are the most vulnerable in our society) and yet I find myself in this hurrendous situation and have not seen my son for 8 months now. My situation is not high conflict for me but I’m not sure if my son is experiencing high conflicts at home as his behaviour and anxiety changed when I last saw him.
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My experience of parental alienation is not one of conflict, but mental illness. The effects of this illness on me, my child and his Mother are profound, I have not been in conflict, but living with a broken heart, and living with sadness and pain and despair, and loneliness and sorrow and hopelessness – not conflict.
My struggle has been to find a place to exist living alongside the truth that my child is being abused by his Mother. I also must live with the truth and frustration that asking and begging for help CAFCASS and the court system and child protective services DID NOTHING and in doing nothing further harmed my child.
The effects of this abuse and the damage this abuse has caused is horrifying to me. The definition of conflict is
(Conflict. 1 noun to struggle or clash between opposing forces)
The effects of My Sons mothers mental illness on me and, our child can no way be described by the definition of this word Conflict.
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Yes in many ways you are correct in analysing the response to the psychology of alienation and its responding relationship to the levels of conflict within this spectrum; but the fundamental reality is not questioned by CAFCASS and what is more important what society needs.
The “ascertainable wishes and feelings” aspect will be played on for years by the psychopaths and neuropaths because there is NO change in the legislation to prevent this. If one parent cannot afford to be an applicant to enable their child to be protected (no LA) then there is nothing that can be done by CAFCASS even if they deem it necessary for their resources are so thin on the ground that to see an Officer of the Court is rare if you live in rural counties and even a telephone interview is from over 160 kms distance – really a telephone interview!!!!
No the only responsible acts are those actioned in Latin based nations who understand children’s needs and that of being with all members in their cohort families as is their past experience is their healthy welfare need.
This will NEVER happen in the UK, including England and Wales until the change is made in legislation. This is the growing demand and let us not forget that our children will benefit from this.
1/ Thank you for your continuing writings and fight over the issue of Parental Alienation â Your latest so on the mark.
2/ As a backgrounder, I have seen it firsthand- now over 12 years. I was for many years in the media . Still am to a degree. Details in my signature below. But P.A. has taken its toll.
3/ Here in Australia we are concerned about the same issues and the impact on mums and dads , but particularly children.
Although Attorney General Brandis has called for a review of the Family Court there are major concerns about the review itself.
The other problem being that any changes wonât occur for an estimated 5 or 6 years.
Over a million children are now affected across Australia, with some 300 thousand who donât see one of their parents and over 40 thousand more children affected every year.
You might find these links from a recent forum interesting
The Family Court â Part 1 of 3 – Russell Goodrick A personal perspective
The Family Court â Part 2 of 3 – Professor Augusto Zimmermann
The Family Court – Part 3 of 3 – Dr David Curl – for Kids Sake
Thanks Again and Best Regards
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This is a frighteningly accurate description of the situation. Having worked with CAFCASS for many years, their fight for women’s rights over everything else is intrinsic to every policy.
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As an alienated child now an alienated mother. I have watched my brother grow up and alienate his children to the point I was a foster parent to my niece. I have not seen my son now for 2 and a half years and his sister hasn’t seen him either. As a child no one helped me and the Verbal abuse and the blame they put on my shoulders to becoming a mother and watching for years a court system that never helped my family. I have watched my whole family from grandparent to Uncles and Aunts be alienated and taken some of the worst verbal abuse anyone should ever have to take to being denigrated as a mother and lies told about me. I have been defending myself for a very long time. 3 psychologists have told me to write my story. Apparently I’m a drug addict but it’s never been proven. I’m not by the way. My story could change everything as it is not a story it’s very real. They sent me to drug and alcohol counselling and even that counsellor in all her 25 years was disgusted and put a letter to the court in her opinion my son should be living with me and not with his father and could not e en understand why I had to see her, my doctor has written letters to the court asking for an explanation as to why they are doing this to me as she in her expert opinion was not a drug addict. But when my ex partners wife is a clinical leading psychologist in mental health and drugs and alcohol and started putting affidavits in on me I never stood a chance. The corruption and manipulation in the court room. Sent me over the edge WHY and HOW could they get away. I find myself having to defend me and what the real issue was never got told. My story has so much more to it and is so tragic for all the children that when I discovered Parental Alienation and what it was oh my god could not believe my mind was sane. That what has happened has a name. If there was a case that could show the world it’s true and exist it would be mine as Patental Alienation can be shown with proof to be at its severest.
I want my story to be told and I will not hold any punches as I have spent years becoming Mentally Strong to over come the abuse to me an staying sane to watch what was happening to my son
There is no conflict, there is NO communication, there is nothing but a father who sees himself “protecting” his daughter by offering no opportunity for contact, communication or love as it will “harm her and cause distress”. This directive is utilised to maintain a level of entrenchment in her older brother so he too believes it.
The children have conflict in their own heads, their father none. Me? I’m slowly dying from grief – but apparently it will get better…
I think your day will come. If you can prove enough successful cases then you will gain the support of the Judiciary. As you continue to alert everyone to a better understanding, drawing in experts and the media the wheels of progress will turn in favour of the minds and hearts of children.
The best way to undermine the present system is to keep on doing exactly what you are doing and not be too bothered about the entrenched stubborn ways of Cafcass. They become obsolete in direct proportion to your success.
It is not so much a misunderstanding by Cafcass as an aberration. A “system” that is quite happy to reduce a child’s time with one of their parents to letter writing at birthdays and Xmas, reducing a former loving relationship to a sham has got to be a negligent system. My Cafcass worker told me if I lost contact with my children then when the children were old enough they could re-unite with me and everything would be fine. I guess all I had to do was pay my dues for the next ten years or so!!!!!
Child splitting is acceptable where Cafcass are concerned. The only conclusion I can draw is that the predominant state of mind is that alienation is promoted as an acceptable way of dealing with difficult situations. In public law cases where neither parent is considered fit for purpose the social workers will choose suitable homes/parents for what they consider to be abandoned children.
About training in social and care work: A place where I find myself, it seems to be the case that we are not trained to do our jobs. We are trained to conform to political and judicial ideology.
e.g. I am currently assisting a young man who has schizophrenia. I thought it quite reasonable to ask for training specifically to help me gain an understanding of schizophrenia.
What I am offered (or rather compelled to do) is training in manual handling, hygiene, medication administration and other largely irrelevant courses.
Whilst most courses make sense to some degree they do not contribute directly in any way to help the individual I support who has schizophrenia. (I had to Google what I wanted and found a paper from the Journal of Psychoses and related disorders…Thankyou University of Maryland).
So, it isn’t customary to train our workers to the job in hand, we train to conform to an ideology. In the case of “manual handling training” they tell you how many work days are lost through people phoning in sick and how bad backs are the most prevalent injury. It all makes sense financially; less bills for the NHS and more hours at work for the employee.
Is it possible to help the situation by introducing specific terminology to describe what you want to happen. Perhaps “Child psychological abduction” instead of high conflict could be used to describe these cases.
Many, many people are behind you Karen. Thank you
Jodie: “But when my ex partners wife is a clinical leading psychologist in mental health and drugs and alcohol and started putting affidavits in on me I never stood a chance…I find myself having to defend me and what the real issue was never got told. “
Yes, that’s common in these scenarios. You can also see it playing out, in the wider dimension, in Hollywood, Parliament, the Scottish Labour Party, the Old Vic…The personality disordered are pathological liars and, in our narcissistic society, easily corrupt those they come into contact with (or align with those who are already PD), if they are without strong boundaries and sense of self, into allies, flying monkeys. You can read a similar story in Tammy Mariposa’s life (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Own-Hero-Tammy-Mariposa-ebook/dp/B075V89JRZ), where her NPD ex got a social work manger to join in alienating her children. There’s no help in this from most professionals, who are ignorant and/or have their own unhealed childhood trauma driving them into narcissism. CAFCASS is an example of that, mostly locked into the childhood trauma re-enactment of its, mostly female, membership (I’ve just spoken with my first, rude, dismissive, unempathic example in their call centre). We have to hope to break through their trauma, which has made their organisational culture dishonest, with the truth.
Anonymous: “About training in social and care work: A place where I find myself, it seems to be the case that we are not trained to do our jobs. We are trained to conform to political and judicial ideology.”
Yes, that was the conclusion I came to when I was considering taking their Fast-track training path and to try to reform the system from within. You can see from the job descriptions and training dictates that there is little empathy and emotional intelligence in the system, instead it doesn’t know what it is doing and will generally align with abusers. The good people that exist do so despite the system.
They have had my son at a psychologist that the fathers wife trained under. I am in Australia and here I have taken up the battle armed with everything that I can put my hands on for years now I have been studying the family law. As my case was the first in Australia to get 50/50 in interim orders. And please don’t take this the wrong way as I know there are many fathers out there going through what I am but it was based on dad’s that started getting together as they were being treated unfairly. But groups strat up here with the wrong people giving advice they go for the throat maybe we should have more groups start that bring us all together instead of Alienated mums groups and Alienated Fathers group wouldn’t it make more sense for us all to stand together. Wouldn’t it show a unity bigger than they have ever seen. Dividing into Mum and Dad groups I think is still alienating us all and I know if I walked into a court room with both males and females that have been alienated. The shame that would be on both my ex husbands face and her face WIN WIN we are one in this fight so stand as one. Alienated Mums and Dads Unite together and stand as one. This somthing that we all understand. I think I’m going to start a group and bring us all together. Jodie
Hi Karen I am in Australia and I’m a fighter until 2 months ago I had no idea everyone was out there. Alienated as a child and now my son. I have studied the law for 10 years now and always new What was going on but never new how to tackle it all until now. I have read everything I can On Alienation and what I really would like to see happen is instead of having groups for men and Groups for woman to talk about this. We really need to Unite as ONE get together and talk about it. I know if I had support from both Men and woman in a court room there as Alienated parents in support I know without a doubt My Ex and is Partner would then know what they have done and the shame they would have to feel. As it would show them that they are wrong on every level and that it’s both genders that are doing this. Men and woman come together in Jodie
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I concur with most of what you say but see other forces at play here. There is an economic one in which CAFCASS and the Family Division generally have dispensed as much as possible with the need for costly expert evidence across all ranges. The notion that a CAFCASS reporter with a week long seminar punctuated with mythology and doctrine can fill the gap is absurd. Particularly as you point out their point of embarcation is inherently flawed. They already pretend to expertise in all kinds of areas like mental health, drug and alcohol dependencey and Intimate Partner Violence without manifesting any aptitude for it at all. In the absence of true expertise I suspect we will have thorassic surgery being done by bicycle mechanics.
Part of the mythology they are already hinting at is the provision of courses and pseudo education. It is a popular fallacy embraced by governments and their agencies that education can and will overcome almost any problem. In reality there is no evidence to support this thesis and plenty to contradict it. There are many areas into which vast sums have been dedicated to ‘preventative’ instruction that have no effect whatsoever yet they still persist with trying to push string up hill. Drink driving around Christmas time is a good example. Teenage pregnancy another. Also drug abuse. None of the ‘awareness’ programs associated with these problematic behaviours has yielded any results at all but govt will persist in the belief that if it’s work making a mistake it’s worth repeating it. The provision of these ‘courses’ will of course provide further income for the attendant professions and providers who will flock to the feeding fenzy as is the case with almost equally meaningless mediation services.
The fundamental problem behind Parental Alienation is a lack of empathy and you simply can’t educate people with compulsive disorders to suddenly embrace empathy or install an empath chip in them. It’s like leading horses to water. There may be any number of underlying conditions that cause or lead to a lack of empathy which CAFCASS seem oblivious to.
A further point of concern to me is that CAFCASS fail completely to identify the other roles played in the process of alienation. Alienation takes at least three people to tango. They make no mention of the target parent who is still upiquitously referred to as the absent parent as if they forgot to turn up for something. Excluded parent might be more appropriate term. Both they and the child are victims. CAFCASS will not identify them as such though. To them Parental Alienation is essentially a victimless state of affairs in which the perpetrator needs support and guidance before they finally exhaust their patience with them. They also neglect to realise that there can be a pool of perpetrators when grandparents and siblings and friends of the alienator join in the denigration of the target parent.
Another deeply disturbing aspect is that they assume Parental Alienation only takes place within a family context with one principal actor alienating another. What they are not ready to accept is the role of institutionalised alienation promoted by themselves, social services, the courts, some schools and a range of other bodies all subservient to the doctrine of militant feminism. There will be no attempts to put social service workers, police, school teachers and family judges and other ideologues on awareness courses or mend their bigoted ways.
Sadly I suspect this juncture will only enhance the reputation of CAFCASS never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I liaise directly with their directors for the charity I work for and will be taking them to task in great detail over this but past experience has taught us that being a stakeholder in CAFCASS is a meaningless titular matter and they will often use us as a fig leaf to cover their injustices by saying oh yes we regularly consult with (ignore) Mens Aid/Families Need Fathers/Both Parents Matter. They recently did exactly this when they collaborated with Women’s Aid to produce yet another grossly discreditable ‘study’ on allegations of DV. Bear in mind Women’s Aid have argued for years that Parental Alienation does not in fact exist and they are already howling with indignation over this recent announcement.
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And in your last sentence lies the trap Richard. What I have known all along would happen if we allowed this issue to continue to play itself out as a he said/she said parental rights argument. The trap is sprung and in walk FNF like blindfolded rabbits. Does anyone else think that this PA stuff has arisen just after the criticism by FNF of CAFCASS and Women’s Aid producing research together is more than just coincidence? Give FNF a tasty titbit and catch them in the parental rights argument, light the blue touch paper, stand back and admire your handiwork whilst the real issue, the real cause of PA is hidden in the smoke and fog of the fireworks going off in the ring as women’s aid and FNF slog it out. No prizes for guessing who will win and CAFCASS, nicely placed as the referee will be able to dust themselves down and say ‘there you go folks’ it’s all about high conflict. Well it’s not all about high conflict and some of us are not as stupid as FNF are ( I am talking about their head honchos here not their pastoral carers who I think are wonderful and woefully represented by their head peopl).Some of us understand the underlying dynamics and some of us won’t lie down and take it. PA is about mental health not parental rights and women’s aid can huff and puff all they darn well like – though I know exactly what is coming next, CAFCASS will roll out their chosen academics to provide a handy little piece of research, in house produced and independent of any real expertise to say that PA is not about mental health, never was and never will be, it’s all about the conflict. It is not.
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I cannot comment on the quality of FNF with any authority. I work for MA who it must be stated every time are not a mirror of WA. We help women equally and have female members and staff through all levels of our organisation. There is a lot of overlap between us and FNF but I am not au fait with the precise nature of the policies they espouse. MA is more operational than they are. They are more of a social support group and campaign body. We are more about providing lay advocacy skills in court proceedings and are sometimes referred to as the legal aid board for FNF. We do engage in campaigning but not as much and my particular role does not include campaigning as such but I do liaise and consult with a range of charities, police forces, local authorities, academics and other charities apart from delivering our advocacy service. Where they and others like Fathers4Justice, New Fathers4Justice, Old Fathers4Underpants or whatever they call themselves nowadays seek to change the landscape of the family justice system we essentially work within it albeit an imperfect one. We fight case by case and attempt to save a few souls along the way. Therefore it is the statutory and political framework that operates in the Fam Div that is of concern to me and this proclamation and various Practise Directions colour the atmosphere in which we operate. Making PA arguments and attempting to get meaningful interventions is a huge part of our workload. As you know these are often compounded by DV arguments (either true or false) and various other forms of high octane conflict. I am deeply concerned that this buoyant declaration by CAFCASS is promoting hope in desperate parents where it simply masks the the long history of gross incompetence and adherence to doctrinal and dogmatic values that operates in CAFCASS. Particularly as you state it could be a couple of decades later that they actually realise they have once again gone awry. If change and reform is to take place in CAFCASS I aim to shoehorn myself into that process as much as possible and influence their thinking if possible. I am not seeking adventure with WA but they seem to seek conflict with us. I have repeatedly offered to collaborate with them and other feminist groups but sadly we are simply ignored by them. I have repeatedly been told by individual members that we are in fact women haters despite roughly half of our workload being for women etc. Anyway I hope to see you featuring in that debate too as your contributions are greatly valued by many even if much of it does fall on stoney ground.
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Hi Richard, I would like to see these guidelines they are supposedly consulting on, if they are anything like the high conflict handbook I shudder to think of the consequences. I too work in the family courts, I work case by case using the internationally recognised standards of practice which are shown to be effective. I do not wish to see CAFCASS being enabled to determine whether a child should be removed from a parent or whether a parent is or is not alienated, that is not the role of CAFCASS it is a role for specialists who understand how to properly differentiate a case, specialists who have been properly trained and who understand their own personal subjective stuff. Alienating parents are a particular group of people who cannot be easily dealt with in a short intervention. We will see what the outcome of all this grandstanding actually is in time, I fear for the families who will be the guinea pigs and for those forced into such programmes if it is rolled out.
Have you read this article Karen?
I have HDAL – another lecture on how we’ve all got it wrong about PA and how we should just behave ourselves 🙂
Absolutely spot on. Even the terminology of decompensation supporting what I’ve been forced to learn these last two years.
As you rightly point out it’s nothing to do with high conflict it’s one parent decompensating not both. Usually, the reasonable parent is left defending themselves from non-molestation orders and restraining orders and just about anything and everything the other partner cares to attack them with. Sadly there is no mechanism to defend yourself against it. The female narcissists along with the backing of the political agenda and the system are arguably the worst.
Nobody in any public service has any mental health training – that’s the actual problem here. Police, social services the judiciary – they are all arguably positions of power and control, hmm.
I have my fingers crossed however for a little two-year-old girl who is being abused and alienated by her own disordered mother right now.
Great post, keep it up Karen – a lot of people are listening and are totally behind you.
There is a very sad side to this entire debacle. I think it is fair to describe Cafcass as belegured. I also think it’s fair to say that they have a major credibility and trust problem. After, acknowledging the phenomenon of PA (34 years after the courts first did) they had a golden opportunity to do things properly. They could have consulted. They could have researched. They could have gathered an evidence base and made informed choices and recommendations for procedural changes and practice changes. Since Anthony Douglas described PA as a form of child abuse they have squandered a golden opportunity to behave with integrity and professionalism and behave in a way that truly is (for them) ‘groundbreaking’.
Instead what have we got? Cafcass second in command Sarah Parsons grandstanding about a new initiative, as though she is the only person involved in the family justice system blessed with an intellect, to people that really are experts in the field. It is breathtakingly arrogant. She forgets that it is Cafcass’s role to ‘safeguard’ and ‘advise’. It is not their role to dictate policy. The initiative to be piloted has been developed with very little, if any expert input. It is like asking flat earthers to develop global navigation systems.
Only a few years ago Sarah Parsons was trumpeting the virtues of evidence based practice in Cafcass conclusions in the Family Law Journal. Once again Sarah is showing how Cafcass agrandise their worth because they are actually supposed to provide advice and their input is by no means conclusive or determinative. They do not make the decisions: judges do. She claimed that these principles had been embedded in Cafcass practice yet this recent announcement demonstrates that any embedding is so shallow that to quote Munby P, it is merely ‘ a tottering edifice’.
It illustrates such a dismal aptitude for leaning from ones past mistakes and changing tried and failed behaviours, It heralds yet more of the same. In a nutshell when users of the court system see how little care and attention is given by Cafcass’s second most senior manager to finding the right answers then how are they supposed to have any faith in the recommendations and conclusions reported by her officers?
As I said, Cafcass have squandered an opportunity and shot themselves in the foot.
Air Chief Marshal Woodall, you have many wings and many groups at your call. You have my wings and my cannons.
Never in the field of ‘high conflict cases’ have so many owed so much to so few, including you Ma’am.
Flight Sergeant Squiggle. x
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Another excellent article, Karen. Given the articles in both the Guardian and Independent this week, I was interested to see members of the police force tweeting about #pas and psychological abuse, @mycafcass finally making the right noises but in conversations with another warrior on behalf of abused children and parents, there are worryingly little signs of early intervention and the constant “high conflict” noises persist. The legal profession has a lot to answer for here, which doesn’t bode well for a swift turnaround when a deliberately adversarial system persists and billing is based on time rather than child-centric outcomes. Our gender neutral group at Peace not PAS have asked to be involved in the transformation of the process. Let’s hope they consult far and wide and you’re one of the first names on the call list.
Reblogged this on Madison Elizabeth Baylis.
Thanks Karen. Your words resonate deeply with me, I wonder if you have been modeling your work on my family!
It’s a dark place for an adult, yet alone a child. You are an inspiration to stay strong and resolute despite the seemingly unfavorable odds stacked against us. I have often, and continue to wonder what I’ve done to create this situation and realize that whatever my own flaws are, they have not caused a rift between my sons and my ex and her family. It is so hard to deal with this situation ‘you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t’. Making a last stand at court feels like the only option left.
From what you say about CAFCASS I am not expecting a successful outcome, but selfishly it will give me inner peace, and allow me to look them in the face when they are older so I can tell them I did what I thought was best.
Thank you and your team for all you are doing in this area.
Phil was bemoaning the fact that Dandlebear Bridge had long since disappeared washed away in the currents of time. Some 15 years later Phil was still hopeful that darling little John would finally come to his senses and see the light. After all he was now a young adult and would be aware of divorce and all those terrible unnecessary arguments. He must have a yearning to see his Dad, surely, and if he didn’t that would be his Mum’s fault, thought Phil.
From the far side of the room George was suggesting the absurd. Although it was impossible to cross the river of separation now, George thought it might be possible to reconstruct the bridge and if not, he didn’t see why John might be encouraged to hire a boat to at least come and have a look see.
Encouraged? queried Phil. Yes, I think your website with pictures of you and your son making sandcastles on the beach is a very good idea. If he sees it John may be thinking it is safe to reconnect with you and that you still hold a torch for him. But there is something missing.
What do you mean? Said Phil
Your Ex. She doesn’t feature in any of the pics.
Why should she? said Phil indignantly, she doesn’t deserve to be there after all she’s put me and John through hell.
I was hoping you could work that out for yourself said George. Think back to the concept and purpose of Dandlebear bridge. What is it that makes Dandlebear bridge work? What is it about? Who goes across it?
The children of course and the purpose is to provide warmth and safety on both sides.
John won’t come across if he fears your disapproval of your Ex.(his Mum). This isn’t about you explaining you are right and your Ex is wrong. This is about creating a safe haven for your child.
So, what are you saying shouted Phil, that my son should never know the truth.
No, said George, in his own time he will work that out for himself.
What I am trying to convey to you is what might give him the courage to enter a relationship with you. Don’t forget where his mind is now. You will help him question his hatred of you if you plant a nice smiley mug shot of him aged 4, you and your Ex catching the breeze on the prom with ice creams screaming happiness and fun and love and care…………….
Most importantly I was thinking if you had these happy pictures of you and your Ex, or perhaps John and his Mum then your bank on the other side of the river would be a good place for John to moor his boat.
Because he knows he won’t be interrogated by you about all the terrible things his Mum has done to him.
Phil was clearly upset; his palms were sweating and he seemed to be lost for words.
Luckily Jane was on hand to steady the boat.
Phil, this should never have happened to you, it is not your fault, please don’t be too hard on yourself. We are all going through difficult times that cause immense emotional stress which is very real. George is trying to understand what it might be like from your child’s point of view. He wants to share his successes because he cares about you a great deal.
But john is 20, he is no longer a child, surely he has entered the age of reason?
John’s child ego is trapped, if we can release the child ego we can save his most important relationships and you are definitely one of them, a very special one.
My first reaction on seeing in the Press that Cafcass would take away children from an alienating parent was – hope. Shortly followed by my second reaction which was – this news will make alienating parents accuse the targeted parent of alienation. I have recently been on the receiving end of heavy-handed and bullying decisions by Cafcass after submitting an application citing emotional abuse and evidence of false accusations. I was tarred with the same brush as my child’s Mother and required to allow something which is actually worsening the alienation (they believed her story). And a few months to go before final hearing. It was distressing that I applied to try and help my child and the outcome made things worse, temporarily. But a few months is a long time for a child to be in a worse situation.
I too wrote to Anthony Douglas about my cynicism of this new pilot; his reply referred me to their recently updated website with information about the ‘High Conflict Practice Pathway’ (HCCP) pilot (that has been put together by 40 Cafcass practitioners).
After the introduction to the HCCP, here is a section that reads, “Practitioners who have used the pathway will provide feedback on its use, including what worked well and what can be improved. We will collate this feedback in February 2018. Cafcass will also seek views from sector experts to help shape the pathway before it is finalised”.
“While Cafcass is not legally obliged to carry out any formal consultation on the practice tools and guidance that it issues we will be asking a range of sector experts and family justice stakeholders for their views about its effectiveness and content. This will include the judiciary, lawyers, academics, therapists, and men’s and women’s groups. Their feedback will be considered alongside feedback from Cafcass practitioners as part of the pathway review to give a rounded picture as possible.”
Huge error that they didn’t arrange the consultation pre the pilot, but anyway…
The PA community is relatively small, do you know who is being consulted?
Too late for my case, but just curious, as some of the so called ‘experts’ I was landed with clearly did not understand that my ex was ‘using the child as a weapon of control over me’ and assumed the hybrid/conflict model that is being perpetuated by Cafcass, and so were destined to fail.
Their choice of experts, and how much Cafcass actually take on board from them, could make a world of difference to PA cases in the future.