Move Closer: Lessons For Those Seriously Interested in PA-UK

We are fast approaching the end of 2017 and I thought it might be useful to round up the PA news in the UK, ahead of what is going to be a very big year.  As I do I am moving in closer to the issues which stand in the way of getting PA recognised as the child abuse issue it really is.  Let’s start with the politics.

PA is emphatically not about a child’s contact relationship with a parent after separation.  Let that sink in and I will say it again a different way.  PA is not about parental rights, it is not about conflict between parents and it is not about both parents behaving badly.

Lesson One.  With great respect, I would argue, that if the issue of parental alienation is left to the parental rights groups such as FNF, then the issue will never be recognised for what it really is but will instead be used as a political football between the mothers and fathers rights groups, leaving the needs of the children affected completely overlooked.

Wake up call:  Contact used to be called access, both are words devised by feminist academics to describe a child’s post separation relationship with a parent who has been pushed to the margins of their child’s life by social policy which was written by feminists.  The portrayal of the issue as being a contact issue is manufactured by the feminist paradigm.

Therefore, If all we do is speak about ‘contact’ when we discuss PA, we are working within the feminist paradigm which deliberately created a division of post separation parenting into caring parent (victim/best/good/deserving)  and non resident (perpetrating/bad/dangerous)  parent.

And if all we do is allow the issue of a child’s unjustified rejection of a parent to be appropriated by the parental rights groups, then all we will get is the battle of the parental rights groups, with CAFCASS playing referee in the middle, telling us that PA is all about conflict and look see – here is the evidence.

Takeaway: To get the issue of PA properly recognised and dealt with in the UK we have to stop playing the feminist game, move out of the conflict paradigm and show case the issue for what it really is, a post separation mental health issue which has a serious and life changing impact upon children.  PA belongs in the field of children and family mental health and we urgently need to put it back where it belongs.

Response: This year The National Association of Alienated Parents, developed by psychotherapists and legal experts, was set up to properly represent the needs of alienated parents, the experience of the alienated child and to demand that the UK response to the issue is not driven down the cul-de-sac of high conflict analysis and therapy which is currently being proposed by CAFCASS.  NAAP is scrutinising, analysing and critiquing the proposals being made by CAFCASS, from a position of real skill in the field and will report regularly on their findings to the families affected.  This is healthy parent power and it comes from a place of real understanding of the issue.  NAAP launches formally in March with a seminar at Portcullis House.  By invitation only, the needs of parents will be fully and properly represented at this seminar which will include policy makers and interested MPs.

Lesson Two: Parental alienation cannot be treated with generic therapy and those who say that it can are either not treating parental alienation or they are not treating it as it should be treated.  Treatment of a child’s unjustified rejection of a parent after separation is not about fixing the rejected parent to please the aligned parent, it is not about allowing the child to decide when they are ready to see a parent and it is not about mediating a conflicted space between parents.

Wake up call: The real issue at the heart of parental alienation is that the child involved has utilised a coping mechanism call psychological splitting. This has been caused by a maladaptive response to the behaviours of one parent and where it is a response to both parents, it is usually that the rejected parent has reacted to the behaviours of the alienating parent.  Differentiating this is a critical part of developing and delivering treatment routes, which inevitably involves overriding a child’s expressed wishes and feelings.  Anyone not comfortable with overriding a child’s wishes and feelings should not be doing this work, which requires knowledge and skill in building the covert therapeutic alliance with a child, which is necessary to overcome the defence of splitting.

Takeaway: The need for a governing body for practitioners in this field is determined by the manner in which this work leaves those who are doing this work properly, unprotected and in danger of complaint and sanction.  Whilst some say that they are doing this work, practicing within the ethical guidelines of existing bodies means being risk averse. Recognition of how to differentiate a case of alienation from that of justified rejection is simply not enough.  Practitioners need a governing body which offers training, supervision, accreditation and protection, so that the internationally recognised reunification protocols of separation from the unhealthy parent and forced reunification with the rejected parent can be properly carried out.

Response: This year the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners was convened in Prague with involved members who are powerful in their own countries as well as within the European Union.  EAPAP is currently being built and will offer a membership body with governance of internationally recognised standards of practice in this field.  This new body will provide standardised and accredited training, supervision and delivery of best practice with children and families in this field.  EAPAP is launched in August 2018 at a landmark conference headlined by some of the key people in this field from around the world including Amy J.L. Baker.   Designed to drive up standards and understanding in the UK and Europe, the key aim is to protect children and parents from the risk of being pushed into the cul-de-sac of generic therapy from untrained and unskilled practitioners.

Lesson Three: We seriously need some changes to the way in which family law responds to the problem of parental alienation in the UK.  Whilst we have some highly skilled legal people in the UK, we have few specialist lawyers and barristers who understand the way in which the legal and mental health interlock is necessary to treat the problem.  We also have a real problem with the lack of continuity in court and the lack of joined up awareness of the issue across the UK, leading to strong awareness in some courts and low awareness in others. This leads to a postcode lottery for parents who are seeking assistance through the family courts.

Wake-up call. We are still allowing PA to be characterised as a contact and conflict issue in the family courts.  Whilst ever we allow this to happen, a child’s descent into the defence of psychological splitting and the source of the problem which is the unwell parent who is in control of the child, will not be recognised.  PA in severe cases is about coercive control of the child’s emotional and psychological functioning as well as the curtailing of their normal healthy feelings for a parent.  We have to act fast to help those children who are suffering a serious and covert type of abuse.

Takeaway: We urgently need a triage system in the UK Family Court system, a way of ensuring that those cases which are capable of being mediated are dealt with swiftly and preventing those which are more complex from becoming entrenched because of delay.  Only by moving upstream to deal with the issue as early as possible, will we get the help which is needed to the children and families which need it most.

Response:  Those who know are aware that such a response exists.  The Early Interventions Project, which is at its most simple, a form of triage of those cases which can be resolved quickly and those which need expert input.  EI can quickly resolve the problem of lack of standardised understanding of pa and the response in the UK family courts.  We need this project, over anything CAFCASS proposes, because it is rooted in the international evidence and works with the mental health aspects of the post separation landscape rather than a political ideology.  Early Interventions stands the test of time, it is time it was tested formally, without covert attempts to change it or get rid of it.  I continue to back the drive to get the Early Interventions Project implemented, it provides a rapid move upstream in my view and in 2018 I will be supporting continued efforts to get it piloted.

Much going on, much more to do.  The biggest barrier to the reform of  the PA-UK landscape continues, in my view, to be reliance upon feminist research by CAFCASS and the misrepresentation of PA as being either about conflict or contact.  Both of these words should, in my view, be cast aside by anyone involved in this work and we should, instead be focused upon mental health and internationally recognised standards of practice with families.  Children and their parents should not be shunted into experimental programmes which bear no relation to recognised research and practice in this field and anyone proclaiming themselves to be an expert in this field should be able to offer evidence of successful reunification of children.  Which is, at the end of the day, the only real issue here.

Children’s lives are are at stake here, there is no room for mistakes, no time to waste in terms of getting it right for the next generation.

2018.  Moving closer.

 

14 Comments

  1. How interesting I’ve just noticed within your words that “the feminist paradigm which deliberately created a division of post separation parenting into caring parent (victim/best/good/deserving) and non resident (perpetrating/bad/dangerous) parent.”

    This in itself is splitting.

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    1. It sure is Steve, a splitting which caused in my view, the shift of the problem of post separation mental health malfunction into the belief that it was all about good mums and bad dads. The foundation of the problem of PA in the UK is the way in which the women’s rights movement appropriated the post separation landscape and wrote the narratives based upon political ideology, ignoring children’s needs and seeing them only as secondary to those of their mothers. A diversion we have been following for far too long. When we get this issue on the right track then all of the mental health issues will be properly recognised.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interestingly, and I’m unsure if you’ve noticed but it mirrors the domestic violence and domestic abuse narrative! How coincidental? I sometimes wonder if we’re looking at the mass manipulation of women.

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      2. the domestic abuse narrative is that which is used to demonise men Steve, it underpins the whole of the division of the post separation landscape and controls outcomes. If you look at the social policy it was designed that way. Not just the mass manipulation of women but of men too. A manufactured gender war which is created by the feminist ideological approach of dividing men and women from each other and destroying the nuclear family. It’s all linked.

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  2. Would it have been more constructive, and more accurate, for you to acknowledge that FNF is the only charity to have raised this issue through a national conference where all groups were invited and to thank them for bringing this issue to the table?

    Isn’t it also very telling that this issue isn’t championed at all by the women’s rights groups who receive millions in government funding (shockingly FNF receives none)?

    Just a thought

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    1. When FNF properly represent parents by scrutinising and critiquing instead of welcoming without any kind of constructive criticism, everything CAFCASS have ever done, then you might have a point. But they don’t and so neither do you Robert.

      If you knew the history of FNF you would be aware they received an awful lot of funding from government until they lost it completely.

      FNF have not properly represented this issue and whilst I have absolute respect for the pastoral care the FNF groups provide throughout the land, the head office approach of appeasement is not one I support and neither do I consider that the issue of PA either belongs to or is properly represented by FNF.

      NAAP is the proper response to the issue, watch things change in 2018.

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      1. Karen – you are so ‘on the money’ regarding FNF’s unwitting incompetence where, specifically, PA in the sphere of the family court system is concerned. I would go further and state, categorically, that (where recognised by the sitting judge) support of FNF often acted AGAINST the target parent in the court’s decisions

        My comments reflect substantial personal experience and knowledge dating back as far as 1992, through to 2006 – FNF were in pole-position to advance recognition of PA within family law but were ‘bought off/bribed’ with Government funding (and the seductive words of Nicholas Wall) just as they were on the verge of making significant progress…..talk about ‘grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory’!!

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  3. “The foundation of the problem of PA in the UK is the way in which the women’s rights movement appropriated the post separation landscape and wrote the narratives based upon political ideology, ignoring children’s needs and seeing them only as secondary to those of their mothers.”

    It seems appropriate to just mention that it is not solely fathers who are accused of PA, mothers are losing their children too. Which raises the issue of how/when has PA moved beyond its apparent origins in feminist ideaology? Indeed even to say that the pendulum has now swung against mothers in the eyes of many social workers, perhaps as a guilty response to their own past biases against fathers. The reality is that both genders are suffering in the PA landscape and so it cannot be appropriate in this day and age for any single gender organisation to lay claim to being the only wounded party of PA.

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    1. the problem with the women’s rights narrative which dominates the post separation landscape is that mothers who lose their children to PA do so because of the subjective beliefs of untrained and unaware social workers in this sphere who hold disproportionate power in relation to the powers they hold. Thus social workers are able to say that a child is or is not alienated, are able to go behind the findings of the court, are manipulating outcomes to fit their own belief system and are, in my view, harming children because they have not been properly trained to understand the power dynamic which underpins PA. And so, they make mistakes based on their own internalised biases which are in turn driven by the political ideological framework of training they are given. Pitiful in so many ways but sadly the reality I’m the UK at present.

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      1. “subjective beliefs of untrained and unaware social workers in this sphere who hold disproportionate power in relation to the powers they hold”

        Couldn’t agree more Karen. In my view it’s time that the whole role of social workers is reassessed. That the courts stop relying so heavily on social workers “subjective” opinions based on God knows what beliefs. The phrase ‘Too much power corrupts’ seems to fit well to these people. Unless a child dies, these people get away with doing what they like, for who follows up their actions a year, 2years or 5years down the line? No one. This way they can live on, happily oblivious to the harm they have caused, protected in their little safe bubble, deluding themselves that they must have got a successful outcome, for after all they are all powerful, all knowing, sainted social workers. I lost any respect for social workers after seeing up close how they work. Are they deluded? They are in my book.

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  4. Hi Karen

    This is an area that I have been giving a lot of thought recently. Straw man arguments abound in family law. Things are mischaracterised in order to make them easier to attack but the reverse is also common. i.e concepts are also mischaracterised in order to make them easier to promote.

    My favourite example is provided by the president of the family court Sir James Munby. In Re C he characterised the severance of a relationship between parent and child in public law as being amongst the most ‘drastic’ orders a court ‘in any jurisdiction’ could make since the death penalty was abolished. I don’t think many parents that have undergone the agony of this would argue with his analogy. Many judges have repeated or paraphrased his words to contextualise the gravity of these orders. There appears to be a consensus regarding the context of severing the relationship between a parent and a child.

    By contrast, what happens when, in private law, often for no good reason and without any due process, a parent unilaterally severs a relationship between a parent and a child? The outcome is the same but the only difference is that on the one hand an action is carried out legally and after careful consideration by the state but on the other hand, because of a vast power imbalance, the parental responsibility of one parent has been deemed worthless by another and their relationship with their children has been severed arbitrarily. When the state does it the law provides a process of presenting evidence, appraisal of evidence and independent judgment. When an individual does it it is no less devastating or hurtful and can be for no more reason than they simply feel like it.

    Firstly, the ‘private law’ pigeon hole implies that this is not as bad as the public law situation because it is something that the state does not want to get involved in. The state neatly washes its hands and averts its gaze despite the fact that there are harmful and abusive behaviours involved.

    Secondly, the parental conflict paradigm is engaged. The word conflict means a serious disagreement or argument: in other words a bilateral dynamic is being wrongfully used to describe a unilateral action by a single parent. A unilateral action by one parent, that the president described as the most drastic sanction the state could impose since the abolition of the death penalty was abolished, has been demoted and trivialised to the significance of a spat between parents that cannot sort out their differences like civilised adults.

    Thirdly, words like contact and visitation are engaged as inanimate quantities to mask the verb or action word that accurately describes what has happened i.e a parent child relationship has been unilaterally severed by a parent.

    The first step on the journey is to start calling things by the right names.

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