PASG Conference 2017

Something special happened in the world of parental alienation work this weekend as a large group of academics and practitioners in the field, gathered to discuss how to bring together a unified approach to raising consciousness, changing practice and ensuring that alienated children and their families are effectively and consistently supported.  Being there to hear different people speaking and to share our work from the UK with our peers, allowed us to showcase what we know works and learn more from others about how to enhance our practice.

Our small but dedicated English contingent gained a great deal from the experience, not least that our practice is on par with the best in the world in terms of our reunification work, although it is configured somewhat differently.  Hearing Brian Ludmer speak about the mental health and legal interlock which creates the framework for lasting change for families affected by PA, was particularly satisfying.  Outlining everything we know about the role of the Judge as ‘super parent’ helping to reset the family hierarchy, Brian gave us a lucid and detailed description of the orders which are necessary to support this approach.

Earlier in the conference programme, Nick presented on the educational needs of practitioners working in reunification programmes. Throughout he visited the protocols necessary to meet internationally recognised standards of intervention with alienated children and their families. Protocols which are curated and set down by the  research, which is abundant and robust in this field. During the day, as we discussed the interventions which really work for children and it became clearer to me that conveying this information to the wider world is both urgent and necessary on an ongoing basis.

There was a clear and overwhelming consensus for example, that therapy in any of its traditional forms, does not work in cases of parental alienation and in many cases it serves to make it much worse.  Discussing examples of reunification programmes from the USA, Family Bridges and Turning Points for Families, Deirdre Rand and Linda Gottlieb shared the reality that such programmes are based upon supporting the dynamic shift in a child’s mind through structured and compelled intervention.  Although we do not use a formal programme in the same way, I shared with the conference, examples of how the Family Separation Clinic convenes a bridging programme to accompany transfers of residence and the success we have had in reuniting 33 severely alienated children with a parent over recent years.  All of the panel agreed that in doing this work, clear protocols such as a cessation of contact between the child and the formerly aligned parent for a period of up to ninety days is necessary, to allow the child’s psychologically split sense of the world to heal.

The conference also discussed the multi layered assessment process which must be undertaken before intervention can take place and Nick discussed the Clinic’s continuous assessment and intervention process which has been demonstrated to be successful in severe cases.  This work very much echoes the structured intervention discussed by Brian Ludmer and in my view it is this which hold out strong hope for a more widely available intervention which can be easily replicated and implemented around the world.  Starting with the agreement that the eight signs of alienation are the child’s way of signalling to the outside world that something is wrong, the conference unpacked the multiple issues which are present in alienation cases, including attachment disruption, psychiatric disorders, parenting strengths and deficits and explored a range of ways in which to assess and report on these.  In addition, the essential ingredient which is the mental health and legal interlock, was explored in depth.

I will leave PASG to announce the agreements made to take forward a strategic approach to raising consciousness, developing standardised practice and certification and other key tasks which will move the work of this international group of dedicated academics and practitioner experts to the next level of influence and dynamic change.  Being involved in taking this work forward is a privilege and I left the conference feeling that something important happened this weekend which will trigger lasting change.  As we move forward with plans for the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners, we are now considering not only European standards of practice but the internationally recognised approaches which make a difference to children and families.

Most of all this conference felt to me that collectively there is now the necessary move to shift this horrible problem into the sphere where it properly belongs, that of mental emotional and psychological health of children in families.   Whilst I absolutely welcome all of the work done by rejected parents in this arena, the location of this problem in the parental rights field has, for example,  allowed too many people with power to assume that this is simply a post separation fall out between two parents, when it is nothing of the sort.

Parental alienation is not about contact, it is not a problem about high conflict, it is a  issue in which our first act has to be to ensure the child’s safety and our second act has to be to protect and rebuild the child’s relationship with their healthy parent.

As practitioners who work with alienated children we have a duty to say it like it is and call upon others to do so to. We need to get the message to the outside world that children’s lives now and in the future, are being damaged, not by conflict between parents but by the failures within our society and legal systems which allow a child to make a life changing choice to lose a parent with whom they have shared a loving bond.

PASG 2017 was not just a talking shop but a vibrant and dedicated place of learning and sharing and I leave today feeling that we have achieved a great deal.

We are now moving towards a world in which competence in knowledge and practice will be properly and fully certified in this field and this is a strong and powerful step. This will bring more practitioners to do this work around the world, giving families a greater protection and right to a properly trained workforce.

Practitioners who are properly trained and certified via international standards of recognised practice, will no longer need to remain risk averse to suit the guidelines of their existing governing body, but will be liberated to do what we know works for children. Protecting families from having to make do with services which shoe horn the issue of parental alienation into the comfort zone of current accepted practice, will bring healing and positive change to generations of children to come.

People change systems and when systems change the world in which families live changes.  The people who attended this weekend are a richly determined and committed group of people whose attendance during the weekend, all at their own personal cost, was heart warming.

There is much work to do now but what happened this weekend will change many lives in the weeks, months and years to come.

I was delighted to be part of it.

 

 

7 comments

  1. CG · 28 Days Ago

    Great to read Karen. Well done to your team for its participation and input. Very positive to read. Thank you.

    Sadly, I couldn’t agree more with your comment…”the location of this problem in the parental rights field has, for example, allowed too many people with power to assume that this is simply a post separation fall out between two parents, when it is nothing of the sort.”
    The child in my life has been poisoned, at the hands of their own other parent, but sadly many people held the cup to the child’s lips, their hands hidden under the guise of ‘high conflict’ and ‘he said, she said’.

    Time eases, but wounds don’t heal. I pray the child gets the courage, in time, to face up to the unpalatable truth and reach out to come back to the other half of their family. We here, ready to help move on.

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  2. Helen Dudden · 27 Days Ago

    It takes a tremendous amount of commitment and communication to repair the damage. 13 years of preventing contacting and even emotional destruction. I know of one innocent ex put into prison in one country, because the partner wanted to win and exclude him. Judges, will have to listen, constant court actions should not be part of a relationship breakdown.

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  3. Ally · 27 Days Ago

    It all sounds like music to my ears. And so glad you were both inspired & rejuvenated.

    Be interested to learn about these announcements from PASG. Just hope that a wider group doesn’t actually slow down the momentum of bringing in these standards, education & change to society.

    Every day we live through this horror, knowing what our children are being subjected to & the risks we run with their future wellbring, is a day too long.

    Days drift into weeks, into months & into years of court hearings, professionals missing the point & more frustration that ‘the system’ allows this abuse to carry on & escalate.

    Thanks for the update x

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  4. Sadsam · 27 Days Ago

    The day when parents can have faith that the assessments made to determine just which one is indeed the “healthy parent” cannot come soon enough. Up to now these assessments carried out by a variety of ‘professionals’ have too often managed to separate children from their genuinely healthy parent, place them in the hands of the alienator, and in so doing caused untold damage. Everything flows from that initial determination of just exactly who is the “healthy parent”. Get that wrong and all subsequent interventions simply reinforce a terrible mistake.

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  5. padrestevie · 27 Days Ago

    Hi Karen

    Firstly, here is a definition:
    STRAW MAN
    noun
    noun: straw man; plural noun: straw men; noun: strawman; plural noun: strawmen

    1. an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument.”her familiar procedure of creating a straw man by exaggerating their approach”

    2. a person regarded as having no substance or integrity.”a photogenic straw man gets inserted into office and advisers dictate policy”

    Anyone taking a step or two back from their alienation situation will quickly notice that straw men are to be found everywhere within the alienation world. The first mischaracterisation lies in the popular ‘waring parents’ paradigm. I wonder how many alienated parents out there can trace the path of their relationship from the time it started and notice how they were targeted by the alienator virtually from day number one? Having taken stock of my own chronology and that of others I can see that the conflicted parents paradigm is a complete misrepresentation. Contact arrangements may have been the last agreement to have been broken or changed unilaterally but when one thinks back it is usually the last one in a long line of broken promises. Arrangements and agreements were made but were almost always ridden over roughshod even when they had been carefully developed, mediated and embodied in consent orders. Separation and estrangement are not the starting points for alienation which can actually begin its life at the moment when the targeted parent first meets the new partner. Separation and estrangement are merely symptomatic of a deeper seated issue. Alienated parents turn to the courts as a last resort in order to regain personal autonomy and eventually to maintain a relationship with the most precious things to them, their children. Time and again, I recall how an individual’s own problems were repackaged and mischaracterised as relational difficulties which was a million miles from the real problem. Because of this relatively blameless (unimpeachable) people are goaded, cajolled, even bullied into accepting a disproportionately large share of responsibility for a problem that was not theirs to begin with. Most people simply along with this because if they don’t they are severing all hope of the system helping them to rekindle a relationship with their kids. In alienation the scales are never as closely balanced as 6 of one and half a dozen of another. If they are, then, it simply cannot be alienation.

    Recently, I have noticed how those who do not like the sound of PA, or who are ideologically opposed to anything that does not accord with their world view, continually dredge up old and clapped out arguments in a vain attempt to cast doubt upon its credibility. They do not mention that the ‘syndrome’ paradigm was effectively dispensed with by the courts and in the case law as long ago as the year 2000. Yet the detractors still trot it out like worn records and ignore a burgeoning body of research and case law which even now continues to accumulate. Findings of fact are precisely that. If they have not been proven wrong, even to a lower standard such as the civil standard of ‘balance of probabilities’ or appealed, then that is it. In reality the family courts have been observing and recognising PA since the start of the millennium and they also recognised long ago that there was no point in arguing about terminology to describe something which judges were observing on a regular basis.

    We are misleadingly told that ‘if only we had shared parenting’ then everything in the world of PA would be fine. This might well be so where the equality of arms is closely balanced but in a relationship where one party seizes and abuses power in order to manipulate another and deprive them of their autonomy it is merely tinkering at the edges and mischaracterising a serious problem to solve another that is far simpler.

    I could go on because the spectre of straw men is ubiquitous. They have infiltrated the world of parental alienation for far too long, with an undeserved credibility and with far too much frequency. It is high time that we had a ceremonial and ritual bonfire in order to move on and address the real problem.

    For the avoidance of doubt let us be absolutely clear. Anyone that applies a straw man argument to PA, for whatever professed reason, is merely facilitating and perpetuating the emotional abuse of children. Even if the terms are in doubt the phenomenon is real. Therefore, failing to address the issue, mischaracterising it, or wilfully ignoring it makes a person complicit in child abuse.

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  6. pushing water up a hill · 27 Days Ago

    Having been through this ‘mill’ and experienced first hand how the judicial system works in a high court setting (and by that I mean the conduct of high court judges, QC’s, solicitors and local authority social workers and legal representatives), its laughable that as proposed the basis of this framework is that of the Children’s Act 1989 and ‘keeping the children’s best interests at the centre of all decision making’.

    I experienced time and time again were the local authority and the courts decision making was weak and their reasoning was to challenge PA experts, for no other reason but at best to save money, or at worse limit their negligence and subsequent financial obligations for reparation.

    What a refreshing piece of news that Brian Ludmer spoke about ‘the mental health and legal interlock’, as a way of bringing two sides of this divide that little bit closer together.

    I couldn’t agree more with your statement ‘Parental alienation is not about contact, it is not a problem about high conflict, it is an issue in which our first act has to be to ensure the child’s safety and our second act has to be to protect and rebuild the child’s relationship with their healthy parent’.

    The system is hell bend on commoditising kids, and far too quick to stick labels on people without doing any form of basic due diligence.

    Keep up this excellent much-needed work Karen et al.

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  7. Tone Margaret · 25 Days Ago

    My hope now, is a woldwide organization which go on arranging conferences around, and coordinate the press and news. I am following and are involved in different PAS group in Norway and US. Of personal matters. There are so many confused persons who cant find a way out. I also read laws changes from Denmark. Which make the mediators in familycourt better qualified. They are able to make justice remark when they see sabotage. Thats the way to go! As it is today there are no official reaction again the alientors. When they make sabotage which is the first steps in their alienation. And the metode/ system should be outside court, its for those who can afford it.! Its wrong againdt the childrens rights.

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