Protect Children from Psychological Abuse: Policy

Common sense tells us that causing worry in children is unhealthy for them. When one parent causes their child to doubt, resent, avoid or fear the other parent, assuming no actual safety threat exists, this can have severe and lasting harm on the child’s mental and emotional well-being. Don’t take my word for it.

You can observe children being subjected to family / parenting conflict in every community if you are concerned about this form of psychological abuse and know even a little about what to look for. Use the Contact Us form at the top right of this page if you’d like more information.

It is also undisputed that when a parent is physically or emotionally abusive to the other parent, whether pre- or post-separation, including through the use of deception, manipulation, financial control or financial deprivation to destabilize or shame the other parent, the harm translates directly to a negative impact on the children. Children cannot possibly feel good about themselves when one parent is harming the other and working to destroy a parent-child bond and relationship. Whether the stress and troubling feelings are apparent or not, they are there – and are dangerous to the child.

This is a child safety and mental health issue we should all want addressed.  Our court officials are given instruction by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in this Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases, including specific detail on how to recognize and correct harmful tactics used by a parent against another such as coercive control. This form of abuse may not be seen at first glance or if an investigation disallows evidence of domestic abuse, which unfortunately is often the case. One key point in this Guide is that perpetrators of family violence, coercive control, economic abuse, mental cruelty, etc., position themselves forcefully and deceptively as victims; they can be good actors and enabled by professionals paid to suppress evidence of real abuse and victimization. As such, this is a tough area to resolve so it is important that more courts put the information in this Guide to good use.

Family violence / domestic abuse cases often include some form of child abuse, especially where the perpetrator is willing and able to use children to inflict pain on the targeted parent. It makes sense that if a parent is willing to harm his or her child’s other parent, the offending parent is indifferent to the harm caused to the child. Some parents are so lacking in empathy that they intentionally and willfully use their children as tools or weapons to cause distress, uncertainty about the child’s well-being or whereabouts, grief from having a child wrongfully removed, and some use children for their own financial gain, even if it means causing the loss of the child’s home and pets.

Perpetrators of abuse refuse to accept they can no longer access victims physically, so they use children as the means to gain proximity and to appear justified in sending disturbing messages in person or through digital means. There really is no limit to what an unhealthy person will do to another, so it is up to the Court to intervene.

This highlighted page embedded below was printed from Florida’s legislation updates page. I’ll get a clean copy uploaded soon for you to download or you can search for it online in the meantime. What matters is that leadership in Florida recognizes the damage to children and spells out the mental impact of psychological abuse, including when adults punitively or selfishly act to break bonds between children and safe, loving and available parents.

It is the intent to cause harm to the other parent, the indifference to the harm and deprivation of the child, and repeated, ongoing acts to shut out a good parent that causes me to share the proposed language of this bill. The term “alienation” is too often misused, so that word or description should not be substituted for plain language detailing acts of intentional abuse and family violence.

FL Bill to Include Psychological Abuse and Alienation of Children in Certification by Deb Beacham

Parents Rights in Georgia Law and Rule 22 Application

Rule 22 Governs Permission for Recording Court Proceedings

Parents in Georgia have rights that are often not applied in child custody cases, including when someone other than a natural parent is seeking custody of the children. But is anyone paying attention to this type of loss and trauma?

If you are paying attention or are interested in increasing this focus, contact me here.

Protecting the right to record and maintaining open access to courtrooms does improve protections for families and children.

The content to follow is a developing body of work revealing clear examples of the difference it makes to have cameras allowed in courtrooms and to avoid restricting our press.

While I have much more to do here I wanted you to have access now to documents and videos as I upload them and welcome your questions and feedback as this story unfolds. Your attention is needed to ensure we protect access to our judiciary and ensure our courtrooms remain open.

Two problems are ripe to be solved:

1. Missing clarification of Georgia’s laws on the rights of natural parents.

Georgia judges and domestic lawyers expressed interest in this case because it could help clarify what was previously an uncertain matter left to the court’s discretion. Let’s address this issue first.

In the case featured in this article, the lawyer for the maternal grandmother convinced the court that the children would be at risk if they were left in the care of their father. The father was able to receive help thanks to volunteer lawyers through the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and successfully appealed the trial court’s order giving custody to the grandmother.

With no evidence in support of the grandmother’s claims that the father was a violent man, the trial court gave custody for a second time to the grandmother. This time the Court of Appeals made sure the message was received, that the rights of natural parents should be taken seriously and that absent clear proof of ongoing or future danger to the children the natural parent’s rights are above those of a grandparent. Attached first is the June 24th ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, the final ruling driving home the instructions to adhere to the law and facts of the case. Additional filings and orders follow in reverse order.

Rights of Parents Georgia COA Jun 24 2016 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

2. A lack of transparency or ability to review proceedings in child custody matters

You might say this is the problem in all types of judicial proceedings, hence the attention given to the proposed amendments to Georgia’s Rule 22 governing decisions to allow filming or other types of recordings in courtrooms. Changes were proposed by Georgia’s judiciary and only a few organizations and individuals are focused on the flaws which could further restrict public access to court proceedings and discourage open records.

The focus here on child custody is due to the high volume of cases wherein children are used for leverage and/or to punish the other parent by moving to restrict rights, to cause pain and suffering or to avoid paying child support, for example. This is a widespread problem with almost nothing being done to curtail damaging tactics which exploit children and vulnerable parents.

Given the question of law governing the rights of natural parents and the opportunity to observe and film three pro bono lawyers fighting for a wrongfully accused father, I filed a Rule 22 Request to record this Hart County hearing. I learned about the case because the Court of Appeals had twice reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case.

When I began my investigation into the case history and factors that caused the reversal, I recognized the pattern of abusive litigation that is causing so many of Georgia’s children to lose access to loving, available parents. When you’ve seen this pattern of foul play unfold nearly one hundred times, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that intervention and transparency are needed.

There are several videos to this story:

Initially the hearing was set for late summer in 2016, and the grandmother’s attorney argued vehemently against having the proceeding filmed. This video portion will be added shortly.

After listening to her argument, the judge allowed the recording to go forward.  The lawyer was not about to give up on her strategy for denying the father custody, so another tactic was put into play that would either prejudice the court against the father or cause another delay, or both. This clip will be added.

Rather than allow the grandmother’s surprise expert to testify without fair notice and a deposition, the father’s counsel objected and moved to continue the hearing to allow for their deposition of this child custody psychologist Dr. Barbara Oxley.

The argument made by Athens attorney Ed Tolley is one often missed in similar proceedings. His argument and commentary from our interview will be added here.

The continued hearing was reset for December, 2016, and again the court ruled in favor of my Rule 22 Request, saying afterwards, “These days you’re afraid not to grant these things.” Interesting perspective and statement, but I’ll take it.

I’ll be back to complete this story and share the outcome, which will definitely surprise you!  In the meantime, please let me know if you’d like to contribute to additional use of Rule 22 Requests and other forms of increasing both public safety and especially better protections for parents and children.

The rest of the footage of the trial above will be shared in the coming days, and admittedly it will have much more meaning to children taken from safe parents, and for parents stripped of their right to nurture children without cause.

In the meantime, here’s another sampling of images and news reports that have meaning and which support protecting the intent and integrity of Rule 22.

Cameras Needed in Courtrooms

Do Cameras in Courtrooms Make a Difference?

There is no question that our citizens are safer when there is transparency in legal matters, but some judges are going out of their way, even issuing gag orders to media in addition to parties and sealing records in select cases, to prevent a review of what goes wrong in child custody matters when laws, facts and evidence are ignored or concealed from the court.

For several years I’ve been observing, analyzing and reporting on issues in family conflict matters that are causing avoidable stress and loss to children and to loving, safe and available parents. At the center of all of my research and reporting is the needs of children, which too often are forgotten or just set aside. The reports are not what matters, but the possibility of improving outcomes for children; the correct term for this form of journalism is Solutions-Based Journalism.

This form of news media and investigative reporting may not be popular in some circles as it challenges the dangerous status quo, but if it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t be talking about Rule 22 laws and cameras in courtrooms in this state. This is a critical topic the public needs to know is being debated and decided, so I’ll share more of my work and that of other journalists to support understanding and participation in this debate. In the meantime, please ask video journalist Nydia Tisdale about her experience filming public events and proceedings, and ask how you can support her efforts to inform citizens and increase transparency. Her unique work has been featured by news media not only in Georgia but by the Associated Press for her bold moves to support open government and greater public participation.

The more you know, the greater likelihood you’ll contact your legislators and your local news media because we do need cameras in courtrooms and we do need ongoing reporting about how family conflict and legal matters are managed.

A major issue for all, including for ethical, talented legal and healthcare professionals, is that foul play by certain other professionals is rampant and worsening with each year. In part this is due to a vulnerable and unsuspecting public but is also due to a cloudy courtroom landscape where it is easy to disguise bad faith and unethical tactics used to increase billable hours.

Another factor in the worsening of predatory & harmful case management is that certain judges are willing to play along, such as in this highly unusual Augusta situation which was investigated and reported on by local news media.

In the case featured in the news report below, the judge gave custody of the mother’s daughter to her ex-boyfriend when he gave custody of her two sons to this man, their father. However, the man has no biological or legal relationship to the girl, meaning this child and her mother were tormented and torn apart unnecessarily. Note: I have no connection to these parties, no bias or preference other than for facts and laws to count for the children involved. After studying dozens of cases closely in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, collaborating with local news media & seeing news stories through to completion, I know these courtrooms and local practices well and stand by my work and these news reports. Also worth noting, this is not water under the bridge for these children and their families; the damages are ongoing, and more families are being harmed in similar ways as you read this.

The Featured Report:

If the facts and evidence of this case justified an award of custody to the father of the boys, that would be reasonable, but the court also ignored the physical, visible evidence of family violence.

In a separate conversation we’ll feature more of the instruction for judges pursuant to the Georgia Domestic Violence Bench Book, which should be required reading for court officers and court staff such as clerks, social workers and others working with judges on these cases. This Bench Book is available online and published as a 10th edition, with participation from dozens of professionals from around the state of Georgia, so it’s not a secret to our courts that family violence, including in making determinations of custody and visitation, is a matter to be taken seriously.

Please review this news report and ask yourself how this could happen, why a judge would do this, and if the judge is making this kind of ruling, what else is going wrong in his courtroom.

Another key question is whether or not this court and this family could have benefitted from the application of instructions found in the Judicial Guide to Child Custody.

Solutions to Consider:

First, learn about your local courts before you enter into a legal action. Learn about practices of professionals before you sign agreements and pay retainers. Understand why so many families are losing their homes, health and jobs during or following litigation and especially why so many children are kept in or moved to unsafe environments.

Next, learn about accountability systems that exist to provide oversight of professional conduct, including judges and other court officers and experts who help determine outcomes. Do you see any consequences being given to professionals in your area or are you familiar with any investigations into questionable conduct of those managing these types of cases?

Learn from the testimony of lawyers, doctors, teachers, parents, grandparents and others who are brave enough and articulate enough to state clearly what they experience or witness, and who are willing to call it what it is – especially if something improper has transpired, as in this Augusta news report.

Remember that all of these court professionals, including judges and child custody experts, are human, meaning they make mistakes, become fatigued and even worn out by the extreme emotions displayed in these cases; none of them, and none of us, are perfect. But the reality is that they have sworn to uphold our laws and they have a duty to do what is right by the children caught in litigation and who are often torn apart in the process.

Where you have the opportunity to encourage the use of cameras in courtrooms, with proper approval of Rule 22 Requests to Record, Videotape and/or Audiotape, to Televise or otherwise make publicly available these proceedings, please do so as it is highly likely you will help save lives.

Please contact My Advocate Center and let me know if you have questions or would like to contribute toward making these solutions available.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham, Founder

 

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Our Wish is for Children to Be Cared for by Safe, Loving Parents

These simple wishes this holiday season remain our top priority:

family, charity, healthcare, health. christmas, x-mas and happy

Return children who have been removed from parents they love and need. Prevent children from being sent out of state and isolated for the purpose of silencing them.

Restore relationships between children and parents when they are separated for all the wrong reasons, and even cut off from all communication.

Protect children who are being abused, including emotionally abused when safe, loving parents are threatened with the loss of their children.

Protect the rights of parents asking court professionals to ensure they stay in the lives of their children. When the opportunity presents, help them recover from trauma and loss associated with these avoidable problems.

Show some courage and help grant them their wishes!

 

Loudon Sisters Jailed for Refusing to Live with Father

Loudon Sisters Jailed by Judge Article Washington PostWe were 14 years old when a police officer led us out of our school in handcuffs. We hadn’t committed a crime, and were dedicated students who maintained clean disciplinary records. But we could no longer abide by the shared-custody agreement our parents had signed in their divorce nine years earlier.

It mandated we spend half our time with our father, a man we had no relationship with and who largely ignored us except when he wanted something from us. When living with him became unbearable, we made the terrifying decision to use civil disobedience and refuse to go with him.

Hope Loudon Jailed by Judge for Avoiding Abusive Father

A Michigan judge imposed the same injustice on three siblings last month. Judge Lisa Gorcyca sentenced the Tsimhoni children — ages 9, 10 and 14 — to juvenile detention for refusing to meet with their father, drawing international attention. Gorcyca dismissed the children’s claims of abuse and insisted that their father, Omer Tsimhoni, is “a good man.” She sent them to Children’s Village before relenting to public outrage and moving them to a summer camp after more than two weeks.

In too many parental custody and visitation disputes, adults belittle children’s attempts to escape homes where they feel mistreated. Our father seemed to derive pleasure from controlling us and crushing our spirits. But like Gorcyca, a school administrator told us our father was “loving” and insisted that cutting him off would amount to throwing our lives away. Our friends’ parents were sympathetic, but believed what happened in our home was family business. Instead of allowing us to live with our mother full time, police sent us to juvenile detention for being “incorrigible” children.

[Editor’s note: Contacted by The Post, the authors’ father sent an e-mailed response: “Did I do everything perfectly? No. But my goal and my motivation is and always was for my children to become strong, healthy, happy people. … From the eyes of the adolescent girl, a parent’s behavior isn’t always seen clearly.”]

Judge Gorcyca justified her action by saying the siblings’ mother brainwashed them to hate their father. She told the children, “one day you are going to realize what’s going on in this case and you’re going to apologize to your dad.” But as 22-year-olds who were once in the Tsimhoni children’s position, we’re still not apologizing.

This article can be found on the Washington Post website here.

Please follow Hope Loudon on Twitter. Call to action: #StopCLA means Stop Court Licensed Abuse, which is what is happening to children all over the U.S. and beyond. Where cases can be exploited to increase profits to certain professionals, children are being punished, denied protection, medical & psychological treatment and silenced. The silencing of these children sometimes includes sentencing them to a detention center when they’ve done nothing wrong, threatening them with detention, or sending them to “treatment centers” for “troubled teens” when they were doing fine and no evidence was presented to prove they needed to be sent away or medicated to keep them quiet.

Hope Loudon is a freelance journalist now on the speaking tour helping other journalists and the public understand what is happening to children and families, how they are damaged by judicial rulings that ignore evidence, ignore the true best interests of children, and cause trauma for children that is virtually impossible to recover from. But Hope, true to her name, has shown that children can go on to rise above the loss and trauma, and can contribute to society in a meaningful way, and can be healthy and happy.  It’s just not easy and there are not enough resources to help these kids and their parents fighting for them.

Please read Hope’s work on the Huffington Post, especially related to the detention of the Tsimhoni children and the professional misconduct damaging the children and mother in this case.

The Rights of Children

Should children have rights when parents and other family members fight?

Needs of Children_Freedom to Know Their Parents and Be Protected

Excerpt of material borrowed from Jennifer Baker PhD’s article on this case of child abuse and deprivation:

“Barbara Bennett Woodhouse  is the L. Q. C. Lamar Chair in Law at Emory and serves as faculty advisor for the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic.

She is one of our most eminent scholars on the topic of children’s rights. She has developed an account of five basic human rights that represent what other experts agree is crucial to the well-being of children. (Please read her excellent book on children’s rights, here(link is external).)

These are: privacy rights. While we are familiar with how these work in regard to adult lives, for children, “the basic unit of privacy is not the individual but the relationship between the child and the caregiver. “ Children, in other words, need us to respect their relationships and their capacities to form relationships.

Agency rights. Children develop voices and they have agency. They need to have a voice in matters that affect them, even if “they are not ready to take responsibility for the ultimate choice.” Children are both citizens-in-training and valuable in their own right, as they are.

Equality. Children, dependent on communities as they are, deserve access to the necessities of life that other children in the community are given.

Dignity. Children are their own persons, and “laws that penalized innocent children for the sins of their parents,” as existed in the Victorian era, have come to look “inhumane.”

And finally, protection rights. Civilization depends on the weak being protected from the strong. Situations where children are put in danger of harm violate these children’s rights.

Woodhouse explains that children’s rights flow “from the same set of basic values” that give adults rights. We cannot, in other words, pretend adult rights are on some firmer basis than those of children.”

Do you agree?

Let us know: MyAdvocateCenter.com

Use your voice,

Deb Beacham

 

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