Training Materials for Professionals on Harm Caused by Alienation of Children

This is a lot to read, but critical for professionals to get this that it is no small thing to enable this form of abuse to ruin the lives of children when you are in a position to make life better for them.

 

AAML_Alienation of Children and Parents_2015 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Do you know how to recognize harmful behavior in children who have been turned against a parent?

Excerpts found below are borrowed from the above document and may include occasional notes by My Advocate Center as this review is part of a larger study geared toward reducing childhood trauma and improving safety for parents and children.

Page 14:

Good grades in school, excellent performance in sports and performing arts, and polite, compliant behavior in settings apart from the rejected parent comprise only some aspects of healthy psychological functioning. Children who suspend critical thinking and judge parents as either all good or all bad are prone to transfer such cognitive practices to peer relationships, resulting in the rupture of friendships at the first sign of conflict.

Alienated children’s relationships with their favored parents may appear ideal because of the absence of conflict and frustration. In some cases, though, children pay for such harmony by neglecting their own needs.22 Often these children feel responsible for their favored parent’s emotional well-being. They comfort distressed parents, serve as confidantes, and assure parents of their allegiance. Alienated children often sacrifice age-appropriate independent functioning in order to gratify favored parents’ needs to keep the children close at hand and dependent.

Page 15:

The children believe that they have their favored parents’ approval to suspend the usual rules of morality when dealing with the targets of their enmity.

Apart from what may be covert or subtle corruption of character and respect for authority, alienated children suffer overt irrational anxiety or hatred of a parent and declare their wish to completely erase good parents from their lives.

Such irrational feelings represent significant psychological disturbances, regardless of how well these children function in other domains.24 At the very least, unreasonably rejecting a parent is as serious a problem as are other irrational aversions and anxieties, such as avoidance of school, peers, or open spaces. Their obsessive hatred of rejected parents is at least as worrisome as fixed negative stereotypes and irrational prejudice toward members of religious or ethnic minorities.

Severely alienated children suffer significant impairments in their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development.25 They maintain a highly distorted view of a parent. They are unable to give and receive love from a good parent.

What would be a normal response, if the parents were not separated?

If these children were living in an intact family, professionals would not doubt the wisdom of addressing rather than ignoring the problems.

It is not necessary to cite the long-term consequences of parental alienation to justify the importance of addressing the problem. The family’s dysfunction in the present is sufficient justification for intervention.26 In addition to alleviating the child’s obvious impairments, interventions are needed to improve the functioning of both parents. Some mental health professionals and lawyers too readily counsel rejected parents to accept the situation and wait passively for the child’s return. Those who make recommendations and decisions for these families should understand that the family is suffering and should be aware of the immense tragedy for a child to lose a parent and for a parent to lose a child.

It is easier to appreciate what is at stake when parental alienation is seen through the eyes of a parent who is the victim. One mother puts it this way:

It is like your child has died, but you can’t go through the normal grieving process. Instead you are stuck in this Twilight Zone-like nightmare with no end in sight. You know your child is being abused, and this is child abuse pure and simple, but no one will help you save their hijacked souls and you are forced to stand and watch, with your hands tied behind your back. She describes what mental health professionals term ambiguous loss or complicated loss, more difficult to resolve than grief over the death of a child because it defies closure.27 She also identifies the pain of standing by helplessly while her child’s character is corrupted.

Page 17:

In addition to the emotional impact on families, parental alienation is implicated in violence, suicides, and homicides. An example is a father who alienated his children and then conspired with them to kill their mother. Explicitly recognizing the power of the father’s influence, the district attorney charged the man with having “coerced, persuaded and enticed his children to commit this atrocious crime upon their mother.”28

Researchers have limited data on what happens over time.

Researchers can extrapolate long-term outcomes, though, from several well-developed lines of investigation. These include: the impact of exposure to poorly-managed parental conflict, the consequences of intrusive parenting, and the risks to future development associated with parental absence and unresolved conflicts with parents.30

The literature on parenting most relevant to understanding the consequences of parental alienating behavior are studies on parental psychological control, also called intrusive parenting. This is defined as parenting behavior that “constrains, invalidates, and manipulates children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression.”33 Examples of psychological control include: “If I have hurt her feelings, she stops talking to me until I please her again.” “Is less friendly to me if I don’t see things his way.” The concept of intrusive parenting was not created with alienated children in mind. But “manipulating children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression” is precisely how authorities on the psychology of alienated children describe the negative influence of the favored parent.34

This type of manipulative parenting is linked to subsequent higher levels of depression and antisocial behavior.35 Higher risk for depression is also one of the known longterm hazards of parental absence during childhood.36

Some of the dynamics of this elevated risk may not apply to situations where parental absence is caused by the child’s rejection, but most of the identified reasons for the negative impact of parental absence are relevant to the risks faced by an estranged child growing up apart from a parent and without that parent’s psychological contributions to development.

The greater the discrepancy between the amount of nurturing and involvement children received from each parent—and for severely alienated children it is the most extreme—the lower their subsequent self-esteem, life satisfaction, and quality and satisfaction with friendships, and the greater distress, romantic relationship problems, and troubled ruminations about parents these children experience when they are young adults.37

In addition, children who hold a parent in contempt risk feeling contempt for the aspects of their own personalities that reflect identifications with the rejected parents. The resulting diminished self-esteem may contribute to depression. Children cannot escape the knowledge that each parent is part of them. It is difficult to harbor great contempt for a parent without, at some level, feeling terribly impaired.

In subsequent years many of these children regret missing out on the relationship with the rejected parent. As they mature, many feel ashamed and guilty for having caused so much pain to a loving parent.

Why is it important to take action to prevent such abuse and harm?

Overcoming severe alienation usually involves extensive litigation, multiple failed attempts to modify the behaviors of the alienating parent and child, and sometimes an intensive intervention, all of which take a lot of money and time. The longer the process takes, the more the losses accumulate. The longer the absence of contact between parent and child, the more lost opportunities mount for the creation of family memories. School performances, music and dance recitals, scouting trips, science fair projects, sports events, proms, and graduation ceremonies all create memories marred in future years by the parent missing from the photographs.

Can educational programs help?

The programs teach about the impact of parental conflict on children and the importance of avoiding bad-mouthing and alienating behavior. They offer no guidance, though, on how to respond when the other parent engages in alienating behavior that places the children at risk for joining in a campaign of denigration and rejection. The programs exhort parents to refrain from behaviors that encourage alienation, but they make no suggestions to proactively protect children from succumbing to a parent’s alienating behavior or to stem the tide of alienation before it becomes severe. In short, parents receive no advice on how to respond effectively to the challenges posed by their children’s rejection and provocative, contemptuous behavior. As a result, alienated parents typically make mistakes that compound the problem.43

Therapy?

Page 25:

Counseling is not only ineffective in many cases of moderate and severe alienation. Often it makes things worse. Counselors who lack adequate understanding and competence in dealing with parental alienation may be too quick to accept at face value the favored parent and child’s representations of events.53 This can result in misdiagnosis and misguided treatment.

Detailed and Unambiguous Court Orders are Strongly Recommended

Parenting coordinators and therapists who work with high conflict cases emphasize the importance of the court issuing detailed and clear orders. A parent who is intent on obstructing the child’s contact with the other parent will exploit every loophole and ambiguity in the orders to accomplish this goal. For instance, the parent may claim that the child is coming down with a cold and can’t make the shift between homes. Or the parent will sabotage court-ordered treatment because the orders failed to specify which parent is responsible for getting the child to the therapist. Attorneys who represent rejected parents should anticipate every conceivable excuse to keep children from their clients and then ensure that the orders protect against these contingencies. If this is done at the stage of the initial temporary orders, it could help prevent alienation from taking root and becoming more severe. Attempts to corrupt a child’s view of a parent most effectively crowd out the child’s positive feelings and memories when the child has no reminders of the parent’s love and no time to enjoy that parent.55 The child becomes more dependent on the favored parent and more likely to see the absent parent through the distorting lens of the parent doing the bad-mouthing.

When their parents separate, children have no norms about what to expect. If they have regular contact with both parents from the outset, this becomes the status quo and the norm. If they lose contact with a parent, they come to regard this as normal. The longer children are apart from a parent, the stronger the negative attitudes, the more resistant to change, and the more difficult it is to reunite children with their rejected parent. The longer the children’s will dominates the behavior of adults, the more difficult it will be for the children to appreciate and accept that decisions about contact are not theirs to make.

Can courts do more to safeguard relationships between targeted parents and children?

One provision of many court orders, designed to safeguard children’s welfare, may have undesirable consequences. Parents are admonished to not speak negatively about each other to the children, not involve the children in parental conflicts, and not discuss the litigation with the children. The problem is that alienating parents, either intentionally or inadvertently, regularly violate this provision.

This places parents who are targets of badmouthing and smear campaigns in a bind. If they do not speak to their children and correct misinformation that persuades the children to see them in a bad light, they give their children no help to cope with the bad-mouthing, and may stand idly by as their relationship with their children gradually deteriorates.56 But if they do speak to their children, they risk being seen as criticizing the other parent, involving their children in the parents’ conflicts, or inappropriately exposing the children to litigation matters.

Lawyers and judges should recognize some limitations of court orders that attempt to regulate parent-child communications about the divorce. For example, parents should shield children from most adult-adult issues and not undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child—that is the true intent of such court orders. But a parent who is the target of bad-mouthing may need to defend his or her parent-child relationship by sensitively providing information to counter accusations the child hears from the other parent.

Even the most unambiguous and detailed orders will not help if they are not enforced. A parent who obstructs the children’s contact with the other parent may benefit from the status quo. In In re Miller and Todd, a New Hampshire court awarded custody to a mother who successfully interfered with the father child relationship.57 The court found that the mother alienated the children from their father, but reasoned that the children had spent the majority of their lives with her and that is where they felt most comfortable. This is typical for such cases. The absence of contact establishes a status quo that the court honors in order to spare the children drastic changes.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the award.58 It recognized that the father was denied contact with his children for more than two years, and that awarding custody to the mother because of the lack of father-child contacts rewards the mother for violating court orders.

The decision quoted the Vermont Supreme Court: Although obviously well intended, the court’s decision effectively condoned a parent’s willful alienation of a child from the other parent. Its ruling sends the unacceptable message that others might, with impunity, engage in similar misconduct.

Left undisturbed, the court’s decision would nullify the principle that the best interests of the child are furthered through a healthy and loving relationship with both parents.59 This reasoning gives voice to the most frequent complaint parents make regarding their custody litigation:

Repeated violations of orders go unpunished, with some parents making a mockery of the court’s authority.

Experts agree. Dr. Joan Kelly notes, “[A] significant number of these parents have come to believe . . . that noncompliance with court orders, whether for facilitating contact between the child and rejected parent or attending divorce education classes or therapy, brings no negative consequences.”60

Are some professionals encouraging misconduct and willfully causing psychological harm to children and safe parents?

In some cases a child runs away from the rejected parent’s home into the welcoming arms of a parent intent on driving a wedge between the child and the other parent. Law enforcement authorities can be effective in such situations by retrieving the children, giving them stern lectures, and returning them to the parent from whom they ran away. The police are more likely to do so if the court orders anticipate such an event and direct law enforcement personnel to enforce the parenting plan.

Unfortunately often the police dismiss such incidents as family matters that need to be settled in court and not by police intervention. A parent is less likely to harbor a runaway child if he or she expects swift sanction from the court for violating orders. Instead what often occurs is that the children remain out of touch with their rejected parent as the litigation slogs through a quicksand of legal maneuvering and failed psychotherapeutic attempts to remedy the problem.

Drawbacks of leaving children with the parent using alienating tactics:

Leaving the children with their favored (abusive parent who is manipulating the children and exploiting the court process) parent may be less stressful for some children in the short run, and may be a default option if the court determines that the rejected parent lacks the capacity to assume full-time care of the children. In terms of alleviating alienation, though, this option has significant drawbacks.

It is not recommended when the favored parent has a history of sabotaging treatment (e.g., repeatedly failing to bring children to appointments, or repeatedly terminating treatment until locating a therapist who supports the favored parent’s position in the litigation).

It is not recommended when the favored parent exposes the children to an emotionally toxic environment, such as intimidating the children into rejecting the other parent. The literature on domestic violence describes the manner in which efforts to turn children against a parent sometimes represent a continuation and extension of behaviors by the other parent intended to harass, control, and punish a former spouse or partner.66

Are many court professionals currently getting it wrong?

According to a consensus of studies, treatment of severely alienated children while they remain apart from the rejected parent and with the favored parent is more likely to fail than to succeed and it may make matters worse by further entrenching the child’s distorted perceptions of the rejected parent.67 This is true for all models of treatment of irrationally alienated children proposed in the literature. Extending unsuccessful treatment while the child remains with the favored parent carries the hazards of delaying, and in some cases preventing, the eventual delivery of effective help.

Custody evaluators and guardians ad litem often prefer this option because they believe it is less intrusive and requires less of an adjustment on the children’s part than removing the children from the primary care of the favored parent.

Typically, court orders for treatment under this option are open-ended with vague and non-specific treatment goals (e.g., to reunify the parent and child, or to improve the parent-child relationship).

This is the reality for most parents being pushed out of their children’s lives. Is this intentional?

If treatment fails (which is more likely than not with severely alienated children who have no contact with the rejected parent outside of therapy sessions), the rejected parent wants to return to court as soon as possible (assuming finances allow), while the favored parent delays the process as long as possible. When the case is back before the court, the judge is likely to order an updated evaluation by the original evaluator. The timing of the re-evaluation is subject to the evaluator’s schedule and is usually prolonged by the favored parent’s obstructive and delay tactics.

The longer the delay, the older the children, the more accustomed they become to living estranged from a parent, and the less likely the court will be to overturn the status quo.

Note: in going through this body of work, it seems that there is great incentive for an abusive parent to violate court orders and engage in mental cruelty by manipulating and coercing children as it is so easy to get away with causing harm this way.

To what degree will abusive parents manipulate and collude to avoid intervention?

Collusion to Discourage Interventions and Placement with the Rejected Parent:

When the favored parent worries that an evaluator, guardian ad litem, or the court are likely to hold the favored parent in large measure responsible for the children’s alienation, and may place the children primarily with the rejected parent, often the favored parent encourages the children to pretend that they have overcome their alienation. Cooperative and superficial polite behavior replaces the former avoidance and disrespect. After months and sometimes years of no contact and scornful rejection, the children begin to comply willingly with orders for contact.

In an attempt to obscure the fact that the children had ever been alienated, the favored parent and children rewrite history. In one case, after the court heard evidence about a child’s animosity toward his mother’s extended family, one boy falsely claimed that he had been having weekly phone contact with his maternal uncle. Through texts and emails requesting to meet, greeting cards signed with love, and surreptitious voice recordings, the children fulfill their assignment to create a record that the favored parent subsequently uses to argue in favor of maintaining the status quo. Toward the end of a trial, a teen contacted her mother after months of avoidance to ask to meet for dinner.

The mother was aware that the offer was a ruse. If she refused the invitation the father would claim that the mother was not doing her part toward reconciliation. If she accepted the invitation, the judge would hear that the mother-daughter relationship was on the mend and no additional intervention or custody modification was needed. After hearing the details of the children’s communications during the contact, I advised the mother to be aware that her daughter likely was recording the entire interaction. The mother replied, “Come to think of it, she left her cell phone in the center of the dining room table during the entire meal.”

It exposes the power that the favored parent has wielded all along to remedy the problem and underscores that parent’s role in fomenting, strengthening, and supporting the children’s suffering.

At the same time, it reveals a previously unseen malleability in the behavior of the favored parent and children when sufficiently motivated by the court’s authority.

The sham, intended to convince the court to take a hands-off approach, instead helps the evaluator and the court appreciate that the successful resolution of alienation requires the court’s firm expectations, oversight, and enforcement. When the children believe that, as far as the court is concerned, failure is not an option, they are more likely to engage meaningfully in efforts to repair the damaged relationship.

The fear of getting the favored parent in trouble with the court provides children with a face-saving excuse to “follow the rules” and return to a normal relationship with the other parent. The children then feel relieved to shed the burden of having to disrespect one parent for fear of disappointing the other.

Can the court or professionals expect the abusive parent to do right by the children and other parent after winning?

The parent with whom the children are aligned has carried on a lengthy campaign to support the status quo of no contact between the children and their other parent. It is unlikely that the aligned parent will be inclined to relinquish the campaign in the immediate aftermath of the court’s decision.

Tips for Lawyers Representing a Parent Who is Alienating the Children – page 67.

1. If your clients are aware that they are undermining their children’s relationships with their other parent, impress upon them the damage this is likely to cause the children in the near-term and in the future.

4. Ensure that your clients understand the possible legal consequences for interference with custodial contact and for violating court orders.

The Targeted Family Usually Does Not Recover, but Faith Remains

Despite weathering cruel treatment and untempered hatred that would drive most people away, many rejected parents maintain a steadfast commitment to their children’s welfare and invest considerable resources trying to restore positive relationships. Very often the tragedy extends to an entire half of the children’s family who remain astounded and deeply hurt at the formerly loving children’s complete estrangement.

Challenge to the Legal Community and to Healthcare Professionals

The outcome of cases with severely alienated children spells the difference between elated parents who recapture their identities as parents versus bereft parents who mourn the loss of their children and whose children grow up with parents who may be perpetrators of emotional abuse, who force them to make a child’s version of Sophie’s Choice, and fail to honor their right to love and be loved by two parents.

If they don’t find their way back to their rejected parents when these children grow up and have their own children, the next generation is deprived of a legacy.

Helping these families is challenging and a heavy responsibility.

It is not often that legal and mental health professionals get the chance to alter the course of generations.

Remaking of Minds using Psychological Abuse

It’s possible to wear someone down to the point of making them think and act in ways they otherwise would not. This is one form of psychological abuse explained by Psychology Today in this article that reveals what happens to children who are mistreated within the context of family conflict.

My goal since beginning research on this problem, and then reporting on the ways children are used and harmed through the mismanagement of family conflict, has always been about reducing childhood trauma and disrupting cycles of dysfunction.

The dysfunction I’m referring to manifests as addiction, mental illness caused by family violence, sexual abuse and neglect of children, abandonment, financial failure and home loss, suicide and divorce as primary examples. Children experiencing these forms of dysfunction are more vulnerable to exploitation, more inclined to rage and desperation. Boys seem to be more severely impacted by divorcing parents than girls, according to this article featured on Mic.com which explains the commonality between young men involved in shooting rampages. [See Ready, Aim, Fire at Pain and Anguish]

A prominent dysfunction is also seen in how bonds between loving, safe parents and their children are broken down and destroyed. Georgia law speaks to misconduct in the form of poisoning the mind of a child against a parent, showing that this is abuse and that it harms both the child and the targeted parent.

The term often used in courts and by psychologists is parental alienation. Alienation of affection is specifically prohibited in court orders governing custody and care of children of divorced parents. If one parent acts to cause distance and break the loving bond between the child and the other parent, he or she can be held in contempt. Why this form of misconduct is not being confronted and corrected in our courts is a separate matter.

The term as an allegation of wrongdoing, however, has been improperly applied often in Georgia court cases involving actual child abuse and/or domestic violence, to blame the victimized or protective parent trying to keep the child safe and the abused parent’s rights intact.

The right to nurture and care for one’s own child is a protected right in our courts, but that right is stripped away by wrongfully condemning the targeted or abused parent for “alienating” the child from the perpetrator of abuse. As a result of this misapplication of the term alienation, it has had a polarizing effect on parents who have suffered from its use and amongst professionals involved in family conflict.

Another useful article on this subject featured in Pyschology Today can be found here.

Notoriously and across the globe, parental alienation syndrome (“PAS”) has been used by questionable custody experts to fault protective parents by claiming the safe parent has engaged in a sickness, a disorder, to cause an abused child or child who has witnessed or experienced family violence to want distance from the abusive parent. The conduct of such professionals goes against the needs of the child and is in direct conflict with laws specific to child safety and protection.

What the expert is saying to the child is that he or she should accept the abuse as normal. It is common for experts appointed or hired in custody cases to normalize abusive conduct, including psychological abuse, neglect, violence and even sexual abuse. Actually, this tactic is most commonly used in cases involving true sexual abuse of children to discredit the abused child and the parent fighting to protect the child. Of course, the expert, whether a psychologist or attorney acting as a guardian ad litem, is being paid to manage or filter information going to and from the child, to the court and other authorities, but always in a way that serves to guard the abuser and restrict the safer or more nurturing and emotionally healthy parent.

The expert is saying to the safe, protective parent that you should avoid asking for protection or else face condemnation and separation from your child. This tactic is based in fraud and often involves acts of false reporting and perjury by the experts influencing courts and other authorities against the safe parent and in favor of the abuser. Claiming that a parent who seeks help for a child who is having medical or psychological treatment withheld by an abusive parent, for example, is alienating the child from the other (abusive) parent is a false allegation.

This is extremely common in such cases involving child custody where there is evidence of actual abuse and the perpetrator expects the custody experts to suppress evidence of abuse. The false allegation serves to put the safe parent on the defensive, forcing him or her to spend more money defending against the false allegation. The focus of the expert’s investigation, instead of being on the perpetrator of abuse and on protecting the child, becomes a series of substantial steps to condemn an innocent parent. This is why U.S. legislators included language in a Congressional concurrent resolution discourages the use of “parental alienation syndrome,” as it is misused or used for wrongful purposes.

For the purposes of this article and throughout the rest of my reports, the terms alienation, alienating behavior and parental alienation are referring to the abusive conduct by either a party to family conflict or a professional engaged in targeting the safe parent and exploiting, for profit, the children involved. Any form of alienating behavior is an intentional act to cause harm and should be identified and corrected as such; children should be protected from this form of abuse.

The proposed legislation is solid, but there are other tactics involving psychological abuse and professional misconduct yet to be addressed. There are a host of false allegations and abusive methods that come in to play in litigation, but what they all have in common is that they cause trauma and increase risk of other injuries to both children and loving parents.

There is an entire body of work on this form of psychological abuse shown above in the poisoning of a child’s mind and in the manipulation of their normal behavior to break the bond between parents and children. Psychology Today featured the work of Dr. Craig Childress to explain the harm done and to demonstrate what can be done to address and correct the damaging misconduct. Excerpts of this spotlight on the issues follow:

Trauma to Safe Parents and Children

  • Enduring the experience of parental alienation is also a profound form of psychological trauma experienced by targeted parents. It is both acute and chronic, and externally inflicted. It is thus a type of domestic violence directed at the target parent. The fact that children witness such abuse of a parent also makes alienation a form of child abuse. This is perhaps the principal source of anxiety for the alienated parents, who witness the abuse of their children, and are prevented from protecting them.
  • This psychological trauma of alienated parents differs from what groups like combat veterans face when they develop PTSD, yet the experience of targeted parents is a form of trauma as debilitating as any other. Although not all parents who are victims of parental alienation experience trauma, as the same event that plunges one parent into trauma may not do so with another, those who are closely attached to their children and were actively involved in their lives most certainly do.
  • Losing the bond with your child is also a form of complex trauma. It is no coincidence that the pathology of the parent who engages in alienation is often born in complex trauma from the childhood of that parent, and that the current processes of attachment-based parental alienation are transferring onto the targeted parent a form of complex trauma. The childhood trauma experience leads to the development of the aggression behind parental alienation. From a psychodynamic perspective, the processes of parental alienation represent a reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the alienating parent into the current family relationships. The trauma reenactment narrative represents a false drama created by the pathology of the alienating parent, in which the targeted parent is being assigned the trauma reenactment role as the “abusive parent;” the child is being induced into accepting the trauma reenactment role as the supposedly “victimized child;” and the alienating parent adopts the role of the “protective parent.” None of this false drama, however, is true.
  • The parenting of the targeted parent is entirely in normal range, and the child is in no danger and does not need any protection from that parent.

The Nature of the Problem

  • A major impediment for victimized parents is that the problem is largely systemic in nature, as support services for alienated parents are virtually non-existent, and support services for their children are also in short supply.
  • When parents of alienated children attempt to bring their concerns to child welfare authorities, as parental alienation is a form of child abuse and thus a child protection matter, these agencies often disregard the problem, and when they do become involved, rarely share their findings in family court child custody hearings, despite the fact that this information will serve the best interests of the child.
  • In parental alienation situations the targeted parent is put on the defensive, and must continually try to prove to therapists and others that he or she is not “abusive” of the child. The targeted parent is often blamed for the child’s rejection, even though he or she did nothing wrong: “You must have done something wrong if your child doesn’t want to be with you.”
  • It is often deemed irrelevant that the parenting practices of the targeted parent are entirely within normal range. The alienating parent, often skilled in the use of adversarial combat (and thus rewarded within the current adversarial system), thus has the upper hand. In this upside-down world, your child is being taken from you, and no one seems to care or understand.
  • The emotional trauma inflicted on the targeted parent is severe, and the grief of the targeted parent is deep.

Keep in mind that the intent of the parent using alienating tactics against the targeted parent is to do harm. The effect if the abusive behavior if successful is erasing the targeted parent from the lives of their children either completely or to a significant degree.

There is no current solution to prevent this abuse or to help targeted parents and children overcome it.

  • The trauma experience captivates the psychology of the targeted parent, as the world of the targeted parent revolves entirely around the trauma experience and the false drama.
  • Repeated court dates, lawyers, therapists, custody evaluations, that all occur in the context of continuing parent-child conflict, consume the targeted parent. Yet it is vital for targeted parents to find ways of coping with the attachment-based complex trauma of parental alienation. They must strive to achieve the triumph of light over the darkness of trauma, and find their way out of the trauma experience being inflicted upon them.
  • They must free themselves from the imposed trauma experience, restoring their psychological health within the immense emotional trauma of their grief and loss.
  • As much as targeted parents desperately want to save their children, they cannot rescue their children from the quicksand by jumping into the quicksand with them. If they do, they will both perish. Instead, they must have their feet firmly planted on the ground, steady in your own emotional and psychological health, and then extend your hand to retrieve your child. But even then, given the nature of parental alienation and its profoundly damaging effects on a child, a child may not grasp the parent’s hand.

Can a Parent Engaged in Alienating Behavior Become Self-Aware and Change Course?

  • According to the work of Dr. Craig Childress, parental alienation is first and foremost an attachment-based trauma.
  • Attachment-based parental alienation is essentially a role reversal of a normal, healthy parent-child relationship.
  • Instead of serving as a “regulatory other,” which involves providing stability and meeting the child’s emotional and psychological needs, alienating parents use their children to meet their own needs, violating boundaries and seriously compromising and damaging the child’s healthy development.

If a parent is indifferent to the harm he or she is causing a child, that parent isn’t going to seek treatment and work to change behavior, let alone help heal the injury caused to children and the targeted parent. The alienating parent will refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing and, if confronted, will escalate the abusive behavior. Left to his or her own devices, the abusive parent will continue causing harm.

This pattern of continuing abuse despite laws and court orders is similar to that seen in the conduct of the perpetrator of domestic violence of a physical nature. The severity of the harm being done can be better understood by reading the statements made by Congress in House Resolution 72.

Intervention from authorities, responders, healthcare providers and other stakeholders in child protection is needed.

Learn more about tools provided to courts around the United States about coercion, bullying and deception of children, about how easy it is for the abusive parent to present as the better parent because of being skilled at lying and manipulating, and about approaches courts can take to remedy these forms of abuse.

Download and read the Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases.

Access insights about bullying and suicide rates.

Let’s talk if you are interested in learning more about solutions.

I appreciate your time here and commitment to improving protections for our children.

Deb Beacham

Catch Them Doing Right in Three Steps

Do you want better service & greater value?

In our busy lives and with so many challenges confronting us we’re often too distracted to notice when someone is doing right by us or by our children. Do you find yourself only watching out for the next hurdle or bump in the road? It’s very easy to fall into this trap, especially if you’ve been hurt or taken advantage of along the way.

Managing our own responses to others can be exhausting, but it can also be what sets us free!

If your biggest job is parenting your children, you may be so caught up in redirecting behavior that is not what you desire that you forget to catch them doing right. It’s easy to be so focused to miss that window to give them that timely smile, pat on the back or other type of reward or encouragement. We all need that acknowledgment, but it may not come as often as we need or want. If it’s something you want or need, try giving it away more often than you seek it for yourself.

Can you say to yourself or to your children that you want to enjoy their company, that you want to appreciate them? Or, are you too caught up in monitoring performance and guiding them, being somewhere on time, managing appearances whether it’s your own or theirs?

Make more room for enjoying their company, the fact that you have each other, and take a chance that the other things will follow. Let your response be positive expectation of something that is natural and easy to give.

Keep trying. I’ll admit that this is a process, not something that’s mastered or overcome, but each success builds on another.

The same thing applies to professionals who serve others in our legal system, the ones we need or learn about only because we’re snagged by a legal problem.

It is natural for people who are anxiously and uncomfortably dealing with a legal matter to focus on everything that is wrong, everything that brings uncertainty and expense. It is less than natural to recognize when a lawyer, a paralegal, court clerk, staff attorney, judge, bailiff, court reporter, social worker or other court professional is not only doing right by you, but going out of their way to add value or simply make something unpleasant more bearable for you.

The people who serve in ways that show that you matter, these are the people I’m asking you to acknowledge and encourage. You may need to take a moment to learn more about their roles to understand what good service or value looks like or sounds like, so just ask if you want that insight. But you should be able to recognize patience, kindness and time well spent on your own, right? So, all you need to do is make a point to look for it and acknowledge it. Doing this and doing it more often will not only encourage more positive service, but it will make what you are facing less burdensome.

Over many years of spending time with families and professionals during high-conflict times, observing or filming in courtrooms, researching in clerk’s offices, presenting to a jurist or making a case before some other authority figure, I’ve gathered a lot of data to illustrate these three key points for you.

Write these down and carry them with you:

  1. You matter, and you can influence how people treat you and serve your family.
  2. There are people in every role and in each jurisdiction who do their jobs well, and who care.
  3. How you respond, whether or not you acknowledge good service, ethical conduct and professionalism makes a difference.

FOR EVERY PROBLEM THERE IS A SOLUTION:

The problem I’d like to see solved by acknowledging value and good service in our court system has to do with unhealthy trends and bad practices I’ve documented over several years, actually going on a decade now. The problem is so widespread, the negative trends and damaging practices so many and pervasive, that writing and speaking about this has taken up much more time and space than is desirable. Yes, a lot of work is ongoing to manifest solutions to these problems, but a key component of the solution is recognizing when things go right, when performance by professionals is excellent, and saying so.

Ask for and expect what you need from professionals and from those you must interact with during times of conflict. Even though you aren’t at your best and may be misstepping constantly, you can ask for help to do better, to be more articulate and prepared, maybe less emotional.

When someone provides the support you request and helps you complete even the most simple task, that’s a win; and, it not only helps you ease your own stress by showing appreciation, it helps build more success in the person you are acknowledging.

I’m glad to talk through this with you if you are caught in conflict and trying to find ways to better manage what you’re going through; but I assure you that this very simple method – the tool of gratitude, appreciation and acknowledgment – will help carry you through many rough days and can significantly impact your outcome.

If you’re a parent snagged in a legal matter, for sure you want to model this behavior for your children so they can learn about confidence and courage even in the midst of strife. Let your children see you making the choice to deal with problems appropriately, whether the problem is their own misconduct or a failure by a professional. When kids see their parents balance confrontation with appreciation or positive acknowledgment, it serves them well in that moment and throughout life. Yes, it’s a tough balancing act, but showing what’s possible – and recognizing the possible in others – is highly rewarding and worth the effort.

Deb Beacham

Fatalities in Georgia related to Stalking: Annual Report 2017

Georgia’s Commission on Family Violence and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence provide us each year with an annual report that is more than just stats, it’s a roadmap to saving lives. The 2017 report focuses on stalking and is a must read for all responders and advocates. It’s especially important for victims and family members or friends of victims.

 

Georgia Domestic Violence – Fatality Review Annual Report 2017 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Early Intervention Key in Bullying of Children

Bullying is everywhere in our society and while we’re often made to believe we are over reacting or being too protective, the truth is that we may not be as responsive as is warranted given the lasting impact on bullied children.

How should you respond to a child who behaves like a bully or doesn’t handle stress well?

It’s hard to know when and in what form intervention should be provided, so it’s important to know the right specialists to evaluate each unique situation. Early intervention is always the best approach.

My Advocate Center’s data encompasses decades of study on forms of bullying, coercion and manipulation of both children and parents, so it is my hope that you’ll spend time on this subject and learn from the resource material shared here such as the CDC brochure below on bullying and suicide risk.

Another useful tool speaks to coercive control and can be found on this blog as the Judicial Guide to Child Safety.

This Judicial Guide addresses abusive conduct by a parent and was presented to family and juvenile courts across the U.S., but the terms, descriptions and responses are helpful in addressing bullying in other contexts.

What we know for certain is that the better informed parents are, and the more support they have in serving the needs of their children especially when any form of abuse is involved, the greater the opportunity for their children to remain safe, healthy and peaceful.

There are many forms and styles of bullying and harmful behavior, so if you do not see what you are looking for in this resource, please contact me using this request form.

Deb Beacham, Founder of My Advocate Center, Inc. and Pro Advocate Radio

 

Bullying and Suicide CDC Report_Violence Prevention by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Protected: What Makes a Guardian Great?

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Judge Rules: States “Something Wrong with You” for Molesting a Child

It is a good day in Georgia when evidence and testimony are allowed into Court, and allowed onto the record, showing that a crime was committed against a child.  

This is the lead-in to this story in The Daily Report, crediting Oprah Winfrey’s show with giving a teen girl the courage to report the crime committed against her when she was younger:

“A man who was convicted of child molestation after an Oprah show prodded a teenage girl to report him received a 20-year prison sentence and some stern words from a Cobb County judge.”

This should not be such a surprise that this happened, but based on large numbers of cases we have seen this is not happening as often as you would hope given the evidence and testimony available to the Court.

We posted about this story recently because the Court so clearly stated, “You have a hole in your soul…” for molesting a child.

The Court found this man guilty and it will be a long time before he is out of prison. There is more in his history that supports keeping him in jail, but our focus here is not on his time being served, but on the fact that the Court did not shy away from the damages to the child, to the egregious nature of the crime and did not help to deflect the evidence and testimony, or to explain it away.  

The Court in this situation did not act to allow a crime against a child to be covered up, rewarding the criminal and highly-paid court professionals to help “deal” with the crime by denying the evidence.  

This is quite the contrast from what is happening in many Superior Court cases when profits are driving the conduct of family law attorneys and court-appointed child custody experts.  It is one thing for a criminal defense team to use laws and due process to help protect a client against charges.  But what is happening on child custody cases in Georgia, where attorneys and Guardian Ad Litems are choosing not to advocate for children, or attorneys for their own clients, is something completely different. (Please note the emphasis online in comparing Augusta “Outside The Gates” to our Atlanta news stories.)

If there is money to be made from helping to keep evidence off the record in a criminal matter, while denying a child protection in a child custody case, there is much that can go wrong.  My Advocate Center is working with news media and local and State leaders to show that much IS going wrong on these cases in Georgia.  

Sadly, there is repeated interference with rulings that should lead to larger investigations and, most importantly, to the protection of children. 

There are pending cases in Fulton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Forsyth County, Columbia County and Richmond County where My Advocate Center has seen enough evidence and heard enough testimony to know that teams of investigators are needed to correct these situations.  Law enforcement and ethical attorneys have a different opinion of this situation, and are not the problem.

Our hope is that real investigations can happen before more children die, and before more parents commit suicide due to the trauma of seeing their children suffer and having their rights removed on top of the loss of all of their property and income.  Parents are in dire straits, and it’s time for our State to take action.  This cannot continue being swept under the so-called “rug” as it is a filthy, soaking-wet, and thread-bare “rug” at this point.

Below are some examples of coverage on the story in which the Court properly recognizes the nature of the criminal and rules to protect children:

 

Cobb County is waking up to the fact that children are being left unprotected even in light of clear evidence and substantiated reports of abuse.  WHY?

One Judge Properly Calls a Crime Against Children what it is…TERRIBLE.   We are asking that more Cobb County Judges wake up to the fact that children are being left unprotected even in light of clear evidence and substantiated reports of abuse. Why not allow investigations based on the evidence & testimony available?

 

In other sections of this website you will see reports about good parents who are falsely accused and even imprisoned when evidence exists to exonerate them.  It is the same problem in those cases, that for some reason certain professionals do not want evidence and testimony heard that would lead to proper rulings based on our laws – and based on common sense and what would serve the needs of children.  

If you have not seen the Divorce Corp. or No Way Out But One documentaries, now would be a good time to get up to speed by watching those.  The Kids for Cash documentary is also being screened in Atlanta in June, so you will not want to miss that if you care about what certain judges are doing — abusing power while exploiting those who fall under their power.

 

 

 

Play

Naming Names – Help for Parents Caught in Conflict

You’ve now seen through press coverage of specific stories that certain judges are being influenced – in an inappropriate way – by certain attorneys and custody experts.  Many of you are asking, “So who are the others doing this?”

Obviously, as your comments reflect, there are more than a few people engaged in misconduct and in covering it up, or these actions would not be so blatant, and so profitable.

EXTRA NAUGHTY LIST 2013

This “hidden influence” is leading not only to financial and emotional damage to good parents, but also leading to physical and emotional damages to children.

The impact on our community is tremendous – and virtually no one is immune to what is going on.

But we should all be putting our foot down collectively over the damages to our childrenWe are seeing children develop severe, long term medical/emotional problems that would not be occurring otherwise.

This trauma is leading to drug problems, truancy, jail time and even suicide.

That alone is worth naming names publicly of those contributing to or benefitting from the court-related misconduct, and working toward transparency and accountability.  (Yes, we are inviting discussion with these professionals, asking for help in restoring health, peace & support for these families and children.  It is the ONLY right option, and it’s not too late to shift gears and help rather than harm.)

Please feel free to submit via PRIVATE email here on this website or via PRIVATE message on Facebook the names of professionals who have conducted themselves in similar fashion. 

The best means of sharing information is to Contact Us HERE.

We don’t need a lot of detail for now, just enough to know that a bad/harmful outcome was obtained because professionals ignored or suppressed evidence that, if the laws and ethics rules were being followed, would have been used to provide protections and support.  Should you want to discuss your case or situation further, let us know and we will provide you with our Intake Form.

Any and all legal advice must come from an attorney licensed in the State of Georgia, so please note that submitting information – while we treat with all possible confidentiality and view submissions as sensitive – is not considered “attorney-client privileged.”

We are not attorneys but do have legal, financial & psychological advisors on stand-by and will help inform you so that you know you are in the right hands going forward.  (If you have peace of mind about those supporting you, you’ll make better decisions..meaning your children will be better cared for.)

Information can be shared with our Resource Team and advisors by telephone or in person if digital/email communications are not appropriate for your situation.  You can also submit evidence directly to contacts with press or law enforcement, and we can arrange to help you with that if appropriate;  just get the information where it can be followed through on.

At a minimum, and for starters, if you have a case where you can show what appears to be professional misconduct, you should immediately call the State Bar and request a grievance form.  We’ve been told, “If people are being harmed, then WHY are they not filing grievances with us?”

So, please do ask for those forms, fill them out, send them in on a timely basis.  (If you need assistance, we have good malpractice attorneys available to consult with you on this process.  Note that this is hourly fee-based work, but worth it if you can afford to pay it.)

The more information that comes to light about misconduct and cases being mishandled, the better our community can be served.

*Our job is NOT to act as law enforcement or reporters, but our mission includes informing and empowering those entities responsible for reporting and protecting.

Professionals: if you are committed to upholding laws, ethics rules, fiduciary duty and the needs of your clients – and especially their children’s needs – please let us know if you would like to help with these cases coming in.

One part of our mission is to help the State Bar fully realize the nature of the misconduct and the extent of the damages, and to influence this conduct to cease.

Give parents and children a chance to recover, so that they can thrive as they would be doing but for the interference, misconduct and hidden influence as described in the press coverage.

Going forward, we are working hard to help families transition through and out of conflict faster, to support children in receiving the best that both parents have to offer, and to allow the family’s resources to be preserved for the benefit of children and parents.

Children deserve to be healthy and supported, in the care of loving and available parents, and they deserve to see their parents thriving in this role.  Anything else is not natural, and does interfere with the child’s development and future.

Sometimes it’s OK to be seen as controversial, or even “radical” as certain guilty parties like to say… But here goes: Shame on you if you disagree with this, or if you stand in the way.

If you are a parent who has hired and used professionals engaged in these tactics… aimed at harming the other parent, please know that there is a way to correct your situation without making things worse.

We are especially asking you to reconsider this situation.  You’ve probably already done enough harm to the other parent to feel that sick sense of satisfaction…not that it’s ever enough when your temper is raging or when you are feeling wounded.

Just know this: There is a way to meet in the middle, better serve your children, and allow your family to move forward with less conflict, expense and stress.  For sure, having a conversation about options will not do you any harm. (We won’t tell if YOU won’t!)

Thank you for your trust and your support.