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Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody

Having visited many courtrooms around the state of Georgia over the last decade, for extended hours observing and studying in clerk’s offices, I can say there is a marked difference between judges who have an eye and ear for filtering out abusive and deceptive tactics, and those who don’t.

This Guide was developed by the NCJFCJ for judges and other officers of the court to use for the specific purpose of enhancing child safety.

Coercive control is one of the key terms identifying the methods used by a parent who is willing to use children to harm the other parent and/or for financial gain. Being a compelling liar often goes hand-in-hand with the ability to effectively coerce a child or parent into complying with demands. Another sign that coercive control is being used is that the controlling parent and counsel are indifferent to the trauma caused to the children and the targeted or victimized parent.

Please download and share this Guide, and contact the NCJFCJ with questions, and let me know if local case studies might be helpful for your staff. This Guide and the related Trauma-Response documents are equally important for law enforcement, child protective services and all first responders, especially pediatricians and emergency room staff and doctors.

Deb Beacham

Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Preparing Your Court for a Trauma Consult

Being trauma-informed means asking,

What happened to you and how can we help?

versus

What is wrong with you?

The Trauma Manual for Judges in Family and Juvenile Courts

Informed judicial officers and other court professionals can make an immediate, positive impact on children and parents who are being traumatized by abuse and fraud within their immediate family or through their extended family units.

This applies to schools, churches and to healthcare companies and organizations as well. The kind of stress and trauma that is inflicted in litigation, especially where custody disputes are used as weapons against a victim of domestic abuse or fraud, for example. Any first responder, mandated reporter of abuse or anyone interacting with families and children in a professional capacity should become trauma-informed.

We believe it’s worth spending the extra time learning and discussing these issues with court officials, professionals in other fields, and also with family members in your cases to engage them in the process.

This guide or Trauma Manual as referred to by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will go a long way toward making your courtroom a safer and more constructive path for those who enter your court seeking protection and relief from abuse. [Read the Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases to learn to recognize signs that abuse may be concealed from the record.]

NCJFCJ Trauma Manual for Family and Juvenile Court Judges by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Trauma Prevention in Courts: What Judges Should Know

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has developed several insightful tools for judges and court staff involved with families dealing with conflict and troubling transitions. Mental health, family violence / economic abuse, child abuse and neglect, addiction, loss of homes and jobs, confusion and fear all mix together to bring new and greater challenges to our courts every day.

Previously I wrote about the Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases as the safety of children is often lost in the shuffle of legal documents and tactics to gain an advantage. Improving safety, reducing stress and keeping loving, safe parents together with their children can be back-burnered when professionals appearing before judges are too focused on billings.

Denying children safety or peace of mind and failing to protect parents who are being victimized by physical, mental and/or economic abuse translates to trauma and trauma-related symptoms that can set children up to fail, impacting them harshly for life. Fortunately more professionals are making time to learn and to advocate against abuse and uncertainty, and policy leaders are making this a priority.

Please read and share these documents with your staff and other judges and court professionals you know. Preparing to assess trauma and to respond for the sake of improving safety and recovery time will save lives. Contact me here if you would like to review case studies that show the difference – how lives are saved vs. lost depending on how courts respond to abuse of parents and children.

The Trauma Manual for Judges can be downloaded from this page as the next step after reading the “Changing Minds” Infographic below.

Thank you for paying attention – and taking action on this important topic!

Deb Beacham

Trauma Infographic for Judges 2016 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

The Right Bug Repellant

Years ago when I first started studying the conduct of professionals who assist families during times of conflict, I noticed something interesting. When someone who is intensely worried and frustrated believes they have the right counsel, they will dress as they are told, cut their hair and change various behaviors for the sake of achieving the objective of the day. These changes in behavior and style and speech seem to happen quickly, without study, due diligence or challenge.

Imagine if a man relying on counsel is heading into the woods instead of into a courtroom.

He’s mainly worried about mosquitoes.

He asks his highly recommended counsel to hand him bug repellant to save him from the buzzing mosquitoes. He’s assured that if he applies this spray liberally and forges ahead, he will come out fine on the other side of the woods.

As he heads into the woods, believing he is covered and really has only about 100 yards to go, the buzzing sound goes away but he notices something else. He pulls up his pant legs to find a handful of ticks – you get the picture.  Ticks dig in and they are hard to get out. Treating disease caused by ticks? Expensive, time-consuming, stressful, and not always possible.

The man is confused. He has no reason to believe that his counsel would not give him the right advice or that he wouldn’t receive the protection he’s paying for and expecting, so he starts looking around trying to figure out where all the ticks came from and why he wasn’t warned about them. The ticks are much more threatening and painful than the mosquito bites he was trying to avoid…so what to do?

He calls out to his counsel who offers to sell him another bottle of spray and some ointment. So the man pays for what he is handed, takes the bottles out of the bag and begins spraying and applying the ointment. While he’s busy with these bottles another problem hits him. He can’t see his feet…or his ankles any longer. While applying the ointment to the back of his legs and prying out ticks, he doesn’t see he’s been standing in quicksand. He panics – he’s never seen quicksand before and realizes it seems to be pulling his legs in an inch at a time!

Now angry and scared, he calls out loudly to his counsel. Then he pauses.

He sees his counsel and a couple of other suits approaching with shovels and barbed wire. Quickly he tries to rationalize how they are going to save him with barbed wire? Is the shovel enough to move the quicksand away as he is now in up to his hips?

Feeling stuck?

You know what to do now, right? Click here for the right tools.

 

Child Safety Must Come First by US Representatives

Great news for children and parents being denied protection from domestic abuse, who are often harmed during prolonged child custody litigation.

Please read, share and contact your state’s leaders to join in with their support of this House Resolution No. 72.

Georgia’s children and parents are especially vulnerable, as hundreds of cases across the state now prove. Television and print news media and several independent journalists have documented professional conduct in what is referred to as “sensitive” cases, including by filing Rule 22 Requests to Record judicial proceedings.

The big deal about the conduct being documented is this: the way many Georgia child custody cases are managed often puts children in harm’s way as they are given to the parent most likely to cause stress or injury.  It is hard to fathom if you can not see it firsthand, but sometimes court professionals, including child custody experts, go so far as to deny children and adult victims of domestic abuse protection and even necessary medical and psychological care.

If you live in Georgia, you can find your U.S. Representatives here. Please encourage your representatives to read and support this resolution. And, in Georgia, learn how you can encourage leadership to keep our courts and court records open and accessible.

As these cases are usually cloaked by a veil of secrecy, and speaking about what is happening to the family is frowned upon and outright discouraged, it is critical that journalists are not restricted in recording judicial proceedings or in obtaining case records.

Both of these issues, policy to improve child safety and rules governing the ability to record judicial proceedings, need your attention.

Thank you!

Child Safety and Child Custody in House Resolution 72 / Bipartisan Support by Deb Beacham on Scribd

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Psychology Today Contributor Gets It

No, it’s not your imagination. You heard correctly: a judge ordered children into a detention center and then into a special “camp” because they reported on family violence and asked to not be subjected to further abuse. The children spoke up because they did not want to be separated from the parent protecting them.

This issue is not about gender but about ignored facts and profit motives of certain professionals; it is just a game that is played in family court, and it harms mothers, fathers, grandparents and always the children.

At My Advocate Center in Atlanta, Georgia, we have been receiving data from and reporting on cases involving (equally) damages to good fathers and to good mothers, cases in which nothing makes sense when you look at the facts and available evidence and testimony.

The gender war (along with racial bias) is encouraged by the professionals profiting from the conflict, so that one group believes the other is benefitting from a bias or “unfair advantage.” Money does often play a role, but it is not always the person with access to money and status who is driving or benefitting from the foul play. This is why our data and reports are valuable to authorities, and why we support both professionals and parties in organizing facts and outcomes; it is overwhelming for those subjected to this misconduct, and even to professionals trying to unwind the case and assist the victims. You might not see who is causing the damages, how they are doing it and how it is being covered up if you do not look closely enough, or look at enough cases, including transcripts, billing records and custody reports (if the report has not been put under seal, if the transcripts are accurate and complete, and if the billing records or file are not withheld.)

The Michigan story this Psychology Today writer reports on could almost as easily be featuring a father who has been wrongfully separated from children who have asked for protection from their mother. That is the situation in an Augusta case covered by The Augusta Chronicle. It was not the father who was violent (per DFCS records which were hidden from the father), the child did testify on his behalf as did a competent, ethical guardian, but the facts and the needs of the child were ignored…while the father was stripped of everything – his rights to and time with his child, his financial assets, his job, and he was put in jail.

This Augusta case and other cases we have investigated show that men also are abused, and men can be the “protective parent” while the mother is the one involved in a “pay to play” game to avoid consequences for her own misconduct. What is being done to parents, to both mothers and fathers, sends the message that you are better off staying quiet about abuse (from addiction, violence, financial or fraud-related abuse) than asking for the court’s help. Ask for help at your own peril…and at your children’s peril…not that you are better off if you stay quiet, mind you. But many are told, “Do nothing, say nothing, or this will get worse; you will never see your child…”

The wrong outcomes are being forced upon good people and abused children as frequently as you see panhandlers near a highway or intersection; it is just something that happens and that many people have become numb to, but this happens to an unsuspecting public and causes irreparable harm. Currently there is no way to recover, including no way to recover or to bring home these children.

Coercion and intimidation tactics, and retaliation methods, rule the day, just like we see in this Michigan case with the children put in detention centers, cut off from their mother and the mother put under a gag order.

Child abuse can be prevented_My Advocate CenterAs in other cases, the children are old enough to be heard and to be believed, and they were clearly not represented properly by professionals charged with the duty of representing their best interests.

Psychology Today contributor Jennifer Baker, PhD, nails this story and the problems emphatically with her pen, in this article and in others, including this one and this one. This case and the issues is raises are not going away anytime soon.

This is one reason we focus on the needs of children consistently when noting questionable conduct and outcomes. The term best interest has been so badly misconstrued or even corrupted that it has become meaningless, at least in terms of the results shown in thousands of cases across the country, and around the world. Children are being betrayed when they ask for help and often silenced as the judge did in this case.

It is almost impossible to fathom that this is happening, let alone that it is often intentional and done in bad faith and with a complete lack of empathy for the trauma being caused to children and to the parents they need and want.

This is also a reason we emphasize to legislators that loopholes must be closed that allow certain court professionals to block evidence and testimony that should be used to protect children and victims of abuse. Evidence and testimony should be recorded and used for the benefit of our most vulnerable citizens; it is just not that complicated, but our data reveals that the opposite is taking place when cases are easily manipulated and controlled by certain attorneys and select child custody experts. If you read the transcript of this Michigan case and the associated articles, you’ll see what we mean.

What is consistent across these cases is the motive:

It is simply more profitable to keep children and safe parents off-balance, unprotected and ignored.  They have to spend money to fight back, until there is nothing left to spend. But typically the other side – the side driving the stress and trauma – will keep on spending. Profit over protection has become a pattern or a formula followed by professionals who typically lack oversight and who believe there will never be any consequences for causing harm to children.

We advocate for children to have the best of both parents, meaning the best that each has to offer, and that sometimes means one or both parents need to receive a “tough love” message from the court or the right treatment for addiction or counseling to manage bad behavior, but it that message should NEVER mean sentencing and locking up children who have not done anything wrong. Unfortunately, children in many states are being convicted and locked away – from safe, loving and available parents and families – when they asked to have a voice and to be protected.

To learn more or to report details of similar cases, please visit our Report Cases form on MyAdvocateCenter.com.

Deb Beacham, Founder and Director