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Father’s Day. PA

I can still feel the weight of the children.

Wriggling on my shoulders and “giddyup” tugging my hair as we galoped through forests and across rocks to beaches.

I can still feel the slump as we clambered back up the hill.

I can still hear them, sleeping.

Th warmth of their dozing breath on my head.

I can still feel them.

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Parental Alienation: The Words Matter

“The truth? What’s that? Don’t you know that the day has come when the truth is what we care to make it?”
― Iain Crichton Smith, Consider the Lilies

This quote speaks for the age of modern parenting, where sadly parents are being shorn of their beloved children by a legal process that encourages adversarial divorce and the misuse of abuse legislation in order to weaponise one parent at the expense of the other and force them from the home and their own children’s lives while paying for the privilege.

The truth, in such situations, is no longer the truth, but what the abusive party chooses to make it. And our children are suffering damage that will last for generations.

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is the act of deliberately abusing influence over a child in order to cause them to reject a parent. It is normally perpetrated by a resident parent as they have the time, control and opportunity and is more readily achieved when they are aided by their close network of family and friends. Given they often have a selfish agenda too, they often are.

Daddy11

People who commit such a morally repugnant act, proven to cause lasting psychological and developmental harm to the children, not to mention the target parent who in extreme cases may be driven to taking their own life, are understandably desperate to cover up their guilty actions.

They deploy a range of strategies for doing so, ranging from abdication:

“…friends and family made me”

“I’m only doing what my solicitor has told me to do”

through to ignoring any and all communication, a tactic called stonewalling or grey stoning,  passive aggressive savagery posing as “protecting the kids”

These people are experts at manipulation and projection and, worse still, are highly adept at blaming the loving victim for the hate crime that is killing them:

“He is a narcissist. All he ever cares about is himself and controlling us”

Yet it’s patently clear to any objective third party:

  • who has the actual power
  • who is the abuser and
  • who is the abused

as it certaintly isn’t the parent left out in the cold and the darkness struggling for warmth, light and love.

Word Power

Semantics, or the use of words, become one of the first weapons that alienators use.

First they deploy the lexicon of legal termonology to create an “us” versus “them”. The non-resident parent or NRP suddenly becomes the “absent” or “visiting” parent. Time with their own children is called “contact” or “visitation” and strangers refer to their beoved children as “subjects” or “case numbers”.

In the enabler groups where the hateful gather in gaggles to hiss and snarl their guilt-riddled poison, struggling non-resident parents are called “narcs” and “perps”, echoing the language used in physical abuse cases. Anybody who stands up for the abused is often mobbed by groups of enablers dismissing them as MRAs (men’s right’s activists), even though alienation knows no gender ,as more and more mothers are finding themselves targeted.

Parental Alienation was initially known as PAS or Parental Alienation Syndrome, but such was the volume and viciousness of the attacks on those who first coined the term by those desperate to cover their tracks, it has been abridged and re-focused.

STOP

Alienated or Estranged?

Attempts have also been made to re-categorise the millions of parents deliberately alienated from their children by the actions of their former partners, not as alienated but as estranged

The implication here is that the blame falls upon the targeted parent who has seemingly chosen to sever their relationship with their child or it has come about as a result of natural consequences of divorce like logistical challenges or even intractible hostility on the part of the NRP.

However, it doesn’t take a genius to spot that the hostility is usually generated by the resident parent who has what they want and is now desperate to assume complete control over the children without the irritant of their ex partner hanging around trying to play Dad or sometimes Mum. Follow any case and the NRP is aways the one compromising just to hang onto any fraction of their parenting role allowed despite the financial cost and constant humiliation. These are not the actions of a bully or an abuser. The truth is quite the reverse.

Because words matter, it is hugely important that all separating parents pay very close attention to the semantics throughout the child arrangements and legal process. Don’t settle for excuses like “we talk this way because that’s the legal process”. If you don’t trust or like the words, change them. Remember they are YOUR kids.

Better still, because words really matter, take control of your story. The children will be hugely influenced by what they hear as this will be what they remember. Make sure your social media is full of the love and affection you feel for your children. Send them cards, notes, emails filled with pride and joy and affection for them.

Tell Your Story

Unfortunately some of the negativity assoctaed with parental alienation is the fact that divorce is an industry.

Lawyers, social services, mediators, therapists and, yes, pressure groups are making a lot of money from misery.

One of the reasons why a certain children’s book and author has so much cross-gender support within the anti-alienation community is that:

  1. It is written by someone who understands the positive power of words
  2. The author is a father who has battled this social disease for a decade and it represents a positive, loving, balanced, empowering, hopeful and engaging response to the challenges of modern family ife.
  3. it is not a money making scheme but an engaging, educating and uplifting work.

To quote the author, Ian Buckingham:

“Modern life is tough for parents especially who have to balance pursuing two careers while caring for their kids. We have had gender equality at work for decades and the same in schools. Until we start to recognise both parents as equals and that they share responsibility for provision and childcare, home life is going to lag behind the demands of work life and misery, especialy for children, will creep into the cracks.

I wrote Legend of the Lost as a celebration of the love parents have for their children and kids for their parents and siblings regardless of their  gender. or family composition It captures the magic of being young and innocent and has powerful messages about overcoming adversity at its core, despite the toughest of trials.

None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. Children teach us this more than anyone else as they love us for our quirks as those quirks are part of them too. They helped me write this book and now these words keep that message alive forever. We just need more adults to remember them and to be more compassionate to one another.”

ClairePollardChalfont

Judging by the many messages, reviews and photographs on the website and social media pages, plenty of parents are getting the message.

The words really do matter.

These words matter.

Your words matter.

So whatever hell you’re going through, whatever emerges from the PA quagmire next to suffocate your relationship; whatevr attacks you have to endure and sustain, remember THE WORDS MATTER!

Pick up a copy of something inspiring if you need it, re-charge by connecting and communicating with the online community. Or better still open the keyboard and become a voice for the love you share with your children.

Because the best way to ensure that the truth remains free from the censors and the double speak is to take control of your own narrative.

Find your voice.

TELL YOUR STORY!

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The Rape of Innocence

I, like many parents, have been horrified by the creeping propaganda infesting children’s culture which recently plumbed new depths in a “cartoon” depicting the sexual assault of a fairy princess by Prince Charming.

This was widely shared by organisations like Amnesty International, allegedly as part of the #MeToo movement seemingly in an attempt to raise awareness of the need for mutual sexual consent.

Right!

sleeping-beauty-walt-disney

Of course, any parent in their right mind supports the aim of programmes and campaigns designed to improve the safety and security of our children. That isn’t my concern. What troubles me, as the title of this blog alludes, is the corruption of innocence and the erosion of childhood by the people behind this early-years targeting approach.

The cartoon in question depicts the archetypal Disney-esque Princess, a sort of mashup of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, in a deep sleep in a classic forest glade. She is then approached by the archetypal Disney Prince who first kisses and then, to use the street phraseology, clearly  begins to “finger” her.

prince

The message is clear and obvious once they over-lay the street patois and interject the chat about “meeting at a party” etc? But my biggest objection is that it would have been far more powerful and far less cynical to have made a film about teenagers for teenagers deploying the tropes, medium and platforms that relate directly to teenagers. But, I guess the issue is, they probably wouldn’t have stirred up the same controversy and outrage leading to the “buzz” the juvenile social media drivers seem to dictate.

The pressing questions I have with this cynical approach to alleged education is “where are the grown ups?” or “why has nobody stepped in to question the wisdom here?”.

The Disney Princess demographic is probably age 3-11. Like it or not, however, children are finding ways to access the internet using our devices a lot earlier than they should be. Children of that age range will see this!

Parents are most likely to be reading fairytales and stories to their children at that age. So are you ready for the “fanny banging” chat at bedtime?

Oddly, if you’re like the vast majority of parents and want to stimulate their imaginations and cultivate mysticism and magic and romance for as long as you can while gently and carefully introducing values, wisdom and life skills, you do not want teenage or other extreme propagandists dictating this for you.

It used to irritate me watching advertisements during children’s prime time tv that are devoid of male role-models, all aimed at mothers. It  disappointed me watching children’s tv programmes in which Dads are the perpetual idiots and butt of all jokes or superhero movies devoid of female role models. And I thought I had seen it all when I was forced to introduce positive male characters into certain stories like Mermaid SOS while reading them to the children as THEY were asking where the boys were?

But then I watched Maleficent, the re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty by Angelina Jolie, infamous for her personal family issues, and had to spend days reassuring the children that there were “good men in the world” after all, “honestly”.

maleficent-18

The use of fairytales as moral exemplars and ways of conveying the values of the times is nothing new. If you read the classics in their original form, they echo the big issues of their age, be they the danger of strangers, the difficult relations within extended families or the impact of dangerous play, disease, war or famine. And yes, they do deal with relations between the genders and romantic love as a bastion of stable society. These classics have been adapted down the years to suit changing mores and norms. But we now appear to be going way too far too fast.

What is it saying about our society when stories aimed at 3-11 year olds depict explicit sexual assault? Well, clearly, it sends very mixed messages via a format, the fairy story that should be a safe, innocent space in a world that seems to have fewer oasis of calm and innocence by the day. And what or who is next on the agenda, Father Christmas?

This trend towards sexualiising  children and the undermining of their innocence through excessive involvement in adult matters is, in my view, considerably concerning given the fact that children are increasingly portrayed as disaffected and unhappy in virtually every opinion poll. I believe the same applies to the abuse of “wishes and feelings” reports used in child arrangements disputes. Adults are forcing children into positions where they are having to choose between parents underpinned by a mistaken belief that they are both neutral and empowered enough to make decisions that are only fit for adults. It is actually damaging to the children and completely misses the point that it is impossible for the child to be objective as they are being controlled by the parent with whom they spend most of their time and who has control over their schooling, relationships and key activities.

So what can we , as parents, do about this relentless rape of innocence?

A few quick and simple things.

  1. If you still have influence over your children, then please do monitor what they are watching and reading and when. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure they get a balanced picture in line with YOUR core values. Set parental controls on social media and devices and get rid of and/or have conversations about messaging that you believe is contrary to your beliefs.
  2. Source great stories or tales in films and books that support a balanced view and ensure these are easily available. I always had a great selection of the classics to supplement the inevitable Disney and sought out authors that I believe portrayed healthy role models. Ian Buckingham’s Legend of the Lost is a current case in point.
  3. Make your voice heard and complain about the buzz-feeding nonsense like the latest campaign or films like Maleficent that are nothing short of sexist propaganda.

clairepollardchalfonts

If you’re in a a dispute over shared parenting, you owe it to your kids to make your views known about the way wishes and feelings reports etc are used and make a stand for your kids.

Innocence doesn’t last very long. Our children need their parents, the adults, to stand up for theirs.

SO make your voice heard.

Remember, (and this is an apt use of the metaphor) you need to be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable.

Silence by those properly empowered to know better, actually does encourage abuse.

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Parent Alienation and the Reluctant Hero

Last weekend I caught up with a group of old friends, a mixed group including happily married mates, happily divorced ones and the worryingly large percentage trudging through the #PA or parent alienation quagmire.

Our group also included Ian Buckingham, the relatively high-profile consultant and writer, an advocate for shared parenting rights and gender equality at work and at home who recently diversified from writing business books to writing children’s fiction.

As some people will know, he recently launched the first in a fantasy trilogy, a book called Legend of the Lost filled with positive messages about enduring family love and the power of reconciliation. It’s set in a supernatural context and is a great read for all ages.

He was relaying the positive feedback to date, including school visits and book signings, joking about how adults are often the actual main readership group and showed us photos on the related social media accounts of parents and their kids reading the book in remote and interesting places.

All really warm, positive news.

heros-journey_story

However, the only relatively negative response came from an odd source. It was someone connected with the marketing of the book whose daughter gave the book an unfavourable review.

Seemingly at odds with everything else fed-back to date and given their connection to the project, he inquired, politely, wanting to understand more as he’s now finalising the second in the series.

It didn’t take long to piece together a background of alienated child, alienating mother , lots of negativity and aggression and a coven of similar adult friends.

Given his understanding of PA, Ian gently explored the issue with the mother who, amid an outpouring of abuse, claimed the book  “didn’t fit with (her) view of parenting as s single parent with a deadbeat former partner”.

Surprised, he pointed out that the book was a fantasy fiction, out of the key characters, most of the leading figures are female and that only 1 of the 5 central children are boys. He also pointed out that the villains throughout the series are, where they can be identified, both male and female but most importantly, that the key message is about reconciliation and ending a family feud that had lasted centuries.

It was positive.

It soon became clear that she hadn’t bothered to read the book. But it didn’t stop her voicing an opinion, openly and abusively.

Fortunately, later that day, several readers and their parents sent photographs and stories of their children, girls and lads, enjoying the book and the volume of great feedback now grows daily on the social media sites.

But while it is perfectly fine for people to genuinely have differing experiences of  any art form, based on their preferences and tastes, this incident also shows how depressingly negative the behaviours associated with parent alienation can be.

For, just as hundreds of children are enjoying a magical experience, exploring a fresh and creative storytelling journey that they can hopefully relate to in some way, that woman’s daughter is clearly so unhappy at home that even an innocent story about a reconciling family is a source of negativity for her.

And why?

Because her role models, in this case her mother, and their close network of friends, her flying monkeys, have launched a narrative of hate that they are clinging to like a leaky raft of ill will that is slowly drowning them all.

Our personal mythology, our family stories, our fairy tales are powerful. Most children’s books involve an element of jeopardy that removes one or both parents, if you think about it, it’s what gives the kids the room to and license and courage to take risks and explore.

Not many involve cosy nuclear or extended families as adversity is often the pivot.

Let’s hope more and more people realise that they have to become the heroes for their kids and that heroism is judged by what you do for others, not just yourself. That means both parents taking responsibility, despite adversity for filling children’s heads with the right, positive values, not divisive nonsense and negativity.

If the trials of your journey are weighing you down, as they do us all from time to time, pick up a copy of the first in the Legend of the Lost trilogy. Do check out the website for inspiring shots of children and parents enjoying a great read.

If you contact Ian, the author, as several parents have done, he will sign and dedicate copies (while initial stocks last).

It is also available in soft copy/Kindle format now if you need a quick fix of inspiration and positivity!

 

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Alienation is no myth…but neither is reconciliation

As time passes and awareness increases, we’re slowly seeing a shift away from having to prove the existence of Parent Alienation or PA as a tactic of abuse and enforced parental estrangement enacted largely by resident parents. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that it’s a modern social disease and has been spreading fast.

The CEO of Cafcass has clearly and officially acknowledged its existence, as has Lord Justice Munby and many MPs.

So we now enter the “what to do about it” phase. That’s an even tougher task and one that alienated parents are understandably very impatient about given the extent of the abuse they and their children continue to suffer at the hands of self-centered people who clearly show nothing but contempt for shared parenting or the court.

While the anti-PA community has respect for the pioneering work of the more father-focused groups like F4J and FNF, established with a mandate focused on the woefully neglected area of father’s parental rights, we all recognise that PA, while mostly targeted at fathers, is not entirely gendered.

PA largely stems from the imbalance created when one parent, post separation, is empowered by being granted resident parent status (or simply takes it), dominates the finances and the children’s time and activities and then has both the power and opportunity to erase the other parent from the lives of the children.

Largely by manipulating the narrative, they literally re-program the children’s perceptions of the other parent in order to get them to reject them and to take everything for themselves.

Journey

 

The outcome, while convenient for the alienating parent, is severe psychological trauma for the children, damaging them for life and unimaginable suffering for the targeted parent and their extended family and new partner.

They are forced to face a living bereavement, are dangled on the end of an alienator’s puppet strings, enduring rolling grief with no idea if or when it will end given reunification can be the only antidote and that is the last thing the abuser will tolerate.

People find different ways to cope.

One is to reach out for support via social media, the online community, led by groups like FNF, the PNP movement of which we have been a pivotal part, NAAP, grandparents groups and committed individuals.

Some of the most vociferous include:

@fatherscontact; @sasquires3006; @JaneEjackson; @daddyduwsf; @DivorcePioneer;  @JoJoWAR_DRUMMER ; @Bgrandparents; @Peace_not_PAS; @mick_ogden; @stopalienation.

The extended anti-PA network includes “woke” social workers, legal and reconciliation experts and offers invaluable and informed support for affected parents, children and extended families.

So please do follow them on twitter and join in the awareness-raising conversations and protesting online.

One of the parents who has been instrumental in striving for change, by continually challenging the institutions and organisations to address the out-dated leadership, processes and culture problems that are allowing PA to creep into the cracks between agencies, has been transformation consultant Ian Buckingham. He has featured here before  in the ongoing Cafcass dialogue and change debate.

Ian champions the use of storytelling both at home and at work as a means of making sense of the challenges we face.

He reminds us that myths, legends and stories have long been the way of engaging with and educating children about the values and behaviours we hold dear; that life’s rocky road of adventure is never straightforward and that we need to be resolute in adversity and humble and balanced in moments of success.

Along with the business books, Ian has just published the first in a series of children’s fiction books. They are described as entertaining escapism, first and foremost, intended to entertain adults as much as children in the Blyton, Lewis or even Rowling tradition.

heros-journey_story

But as with the best children’s books, there is a clear moral undertone. Overcoming estrangement and adversity in order to forgive, re-focus and re-unify is the over-arching theme.

As you might expect, given they’re aimed at children 7-11 and young adults, the message is conveyed with the help of changeling children, mermaids, were-creatures, pirates, incredible magical items and a cast of thousands of animals who come together to save parts of the planet along the way.

If you are lucky enough to have anyone to read them to, or know a special young person who enjoys a cracking read and would benefit from a bit of escapism with an important message, then do grab a copy or two of Legend of the Lost, the first in the trilogy.

They are available online for orders now and will be in the shops the end of August.

As a special favour to our parent network however, Ian does have a limited number of advance copies of the first edition available.  He will be happy to personalise a message for you/someone special.

If you know a special someone who will benefit from that sort of message in an uplifting tale of overcoming adversity and reunification , then contact him via the website related to the books.

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Counter-parenting and the malicious in-law

One of the common tactics of resident parents who set out to alienate the non-resident parent is counter-parenting,

This is typified by constantly contradicting or deliberately doing the opposite to the other parent, who isn’t there to stand up for themselves. It undermines them and plays a percentages game with the childrens’ psychology.

Counter-parenting is based on the following logic “I spend most time with them as they live with me and depend on me so I don’t have to compromise on anything and they will come round to my way of thinking or will have to deal with the consequences.”

Examples of counter-parenting range from the petty, like fashion choices “Why would he make you wear that? It’s not what we girls like, is it?”  Or “Those trousers? You wouldn’t want to end up like him would you?” or “God, when you do THAT you’re just like him!”. Through to more complex scenarios involving values, ethics and morals, like religious choices, choices of and at school and questions of right and wrong in relationships, etc.

The consequences for the child of the parents contradicting each other in this arena should be obvious and can lead to some extreme developmental dilemmas in later life.

And let’s face it, kids can be crafty in seeking the path of least resistance too, so before you know it you’ve taught them that all they need to do is disrespect the other parent, appear to agree with the resident parent and they will get their own way. That’s a pretty unhealthy scenario, especially when it comes to trickier choices or dealing with authority later in life.

Counter-parenting is clearly a tactical ploy to constantly undermine the stability of the child’s relationship with the other parent in a very practical sense. It causes anxiety, insecurity and is a form of bullying and abuse.

More explicit examples of this include agreeing to the child accepting invitations to stay with friends during scheduled time with the other parent, consciously scheduling special events when they should be with the other parent and not managing any genuine clashes as adults between the adults, but leaving it to the children to resolve.

Over time, little issues grow into a pressure cooker of uncertainty and insecurity as the non-resident parent can’t plan and the child becomes nervous of every event or date. It becomes stressful for all but the resident parent, in fact who, after all, will be taking the children to school on Monday as usual, tucking them into bed 10 nights out of 12 come what may and has no real negotiating to manage if they create the problem. It’s deliberate and it’s spiteful.

Many of us, even in stable marriages, encounter a taste of counter-parenting when unexpectedly having to manage our children’s relationships with their grand parents, especially if they see them a lot. Inevitably, some differences between generations manifest themselves at some stage whether it’s about birthing plans, development goals or setting boundaries for younger children.

Where there are healthy relationships, we tend to take responsibility for our own parents and quietly sort these differences out between us, especially if the previous generation are mature and wise, as they should be. The aim of parenting, after all, is to raise children who are the sum of the learnings of the adults, plus some. But we all know someone who struggles with say an over-bearing in-law, who has unresolved issues with herself and her relationship with son/daughter and needs to impose and dominate in order to validate themselves in some way. These issues are accentuated when a grand child comes along as suddenly their fragile self esteem screams “this is your time, this is the one thing you can really do better than them”.

A large number of our members have reported how modern parenting practices that see dads playing a much more hands on role in the home and especially with their children, have jarred with their  in laws in particular.

“It is not uncommon for people who exhibit alienating traits to care more about the needs of their own parents than their child’s. It’s as if they have returned with a child trophy for their parents, as a form of personal validation.” 

Some may have talked a good game about wishing their “Bernard” or “Brian” had been more involved when their kids were babies. Yet they just can’t resist elbowing their way in when grand children arrive often coming between their sons in law and their grand children and undermining their own daughters, however unwittingly. And they certainly get involved should problems lead to divorce, venting all that pent-up fury from their own years of frustration. They also have to avoid any blame, come what may.

To quote one of our family law friends “It is not uncommon for people who exhibit alienating traits to care more about the needs of their own parents than their child’s. It’s as if they have returned with a child trophy for their parents, as a form of personal validation. But they are fated to repeat all the same patterns of their youth and look how that story ended.”

So just how much of a link is there between the selfishness of people like this and the patterns of deliberate parental alienation we are witnessing, especially where there is conscious counter-parenting?

And how significant a role are former mothers/parents-in-law playing in reinforcing their parenting models at the expense of all else, dominating their daughters and now grand children, oblivious to the long term costs?

Alternatively, are there actually examples people would like to discuss where in-laws have tried all along to do what’s right and are actively trying to resolve the alienation tactics of their own daughter or son?

As ever, the goal is to share learnings with the aim of ending parent alienation for good. So we are very interested to hear your comments, views and experiences in the comments below.


Please Note:  This blog covers difficult issues. We will gladly refer readers to specialist professionals who specialise in parent alienation,  if you are in need of additional support.

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected, of course.

Contact us.

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PA: Is it Me?

We are very pleased to provide a platform for another progressive voice for change.

This time, our guest blogger is a senior social services manager who is a change catalyst within her social services department.

She recognises that parent alienation is extremely concerning and a growing problem, largely because it is not properly understood, is often wrongly blamed on non-resident parents and very little is being done to understand and promote the importance of children having a loving relationship with both parents. She wants to change that situation.

Our core belief is that parenting should be shared not bossed or governed by one parent simply on the grounds that they somehow obtained primary carer status, usually by way of adversarial legal processes that too often cause severe and lasting damage.

There’s an important amount of information so this will be a blog in two parts.

Here is the first:


Including Fathers (or other alienated/absent parents):

IS IT ME?  

As a daughter of the most wonderful and precious father, a man who was my hero and my inspiration, and I miss him every day.

I write this blog in his memory detailing why fathers (or other absent parents) must be part of any process. Children need fathers in their lives, I would not be who I am today without mine, children need both parents.

The problem of erasing parents from the lives of children is hugely destructive and is growing.

Whilst this two-part blog will look at fathers, who are still by far and away the group most targeted by alienation practices, it is meant for the alienated parent generally (regardless of gender).

Make no mistake, if we do not address the problem of parental alienation, more and more mothers will become targets as well, as gender equality at home catches up with the gender laws at work. Already, former same sex parents are enacting parental alienation dynamics too.

So, how do we ensure equality in parenting and prevent parent alienation becoming a disturbing, abusive norm? What does absent/alienated parenting mean? How do we change this and include alienated parents, especially the Hidden Men…

As a social worker, and a manager and I have worked across many domains in both public and the private sector.

I am passionate about:

  • Good social worker practice
  • Upholding parents’ rights, families’ rights, including the rights of those, for whatever reason, are absent/hidden in children’s lives.

I advocate for families’ rights every day and develop teams where this is held in high regard and the whole family at the centre of all we do.

I want people to read this blog, who may find that they are lone parenting and to stop and ask themselves, “How did this happen?

Is it me?”

For if we all change our behaviour a little for the better, our children will be the ones to thank us for it.

I design and deliver training on ‘Hidden Men: Fathers can safeguard too.’ The training is meant to open our minds to the fact there are as many good fathers out there as mothers, they are very valuable and they have rights the same as the mother, and should be included fully by the social worker in everything they do.

Social workers often work with the ‘main carer’, it is often that work is undertaken with them to support change within the family home. Who that person is, is largely decided before our involvement.

Learning from serious case reviews, one of the revised approaches for improved practice includes:

  • Identifying the men in the child’s life
  • Involving fathers/men
  • Seeing men as protectors

This indicates that there has been learning from serious case reviews.

But has it really changed our practice?

What is clear to me is that we need to fundamentally change the culture of social work, changing the thinking, believing that fathers can safeguard. But also, mothers can harm.

ItTakesTwoPeopleToMakeALieWork

Children need safe parents and where safe to do so they need BOTH parents.

It has to be all about the children, their needs, their voice and their wishes not the agendas of the adults, which will not always be child-centred. Alienating one parent from another is clearly a growing, of less well understood or publicised cause of harm.

My minimum expectations in social worker practice is:

  • Genograms are undertaken from the outset, who is who in the child life; these are done with the adults and done separately with children and young people. This enables us to assess those absent adults
    • Genograms allow us to start conversation with the resident parent/main care giver
    • Absent comes in many forms, working full time, service families, and those parents who do not live with their child, absent parenting takes many forms and I want social workers to engage, include, speak with, visit, share, the same level of work, support, everything they offer, share or give to the main care giver
    • Social Workers also need to fully understand parental alienation and the signs, signals and proven pathways and tactics that lead to it
  • The alienated/absent parent, must be included, invited to meetings, sent reports, information should be shared equally with parents
  • Sessions with the father (absent parent) should always take place, their voice is vital within any assessment, court report or intervention being offered, regardless of where they reside.
  • If a child is open to social care, there is some concerns, therefore the non-resident parents may be a protective factor, and this cannot be disregarded.
  • Two parents sharing care in some form will, more often than not, be a safeguarding asset rather than an additional risk.
  • Mediating can be useful, but social worker must remain focused on the child and they need to have the view that the child needs both parents in their life.
  • Assessments should not be signed off by managers unless there is a clear voice of the absent/alienated parent – the assessment needs to understand how parents conflict impacts on the child as well as parental alienation, assessments and reports need to offer a balanced view, where all sides have been given equal weight and outcomes are evidence based with the child at the centre.
  • Some resident parents may not be open about the alienated parent, they may say they don’t know where they live ect… it is the Social Workers job to build a relationship with the main carer to ascertain this information and keep talking about the importance of the child.

What we need to do to involve fathers:

  • From the very beginning, emphasise to parents how crucial the father’s role is to the child’s well-being in the context of both parents being important.
  • Encourage fathers to attend appointments and classes. Make appointments for times convenient to them, such as evenings.
  • Involve fathers and male carers in assessments. Ask them directly about risky behaviours such as drug and alcohol use and offer them services based on their needs, if there are any such needs.
  • Make sure fathers and male carers, including those who are not directly involved in mothers’ and children’s lives, know about concerns relating to their approach so they can take any necessary improvement action. Consult them about plans, invite them to child protection conferences and include them in core groups.
  • Some fathers (parents) may still choose to not engage, this is their choice, but a social worker MUST try to understand this, and still include them regardless.

We need to change the narrative from seeing men as threats and to start properly appreciating their role, especially as protectors.

HappinessOnlyRealWhenShared_PeaceNotPas

Why?

  • Estranged fathers and ex-partners may be able to give crucial information about a mother and children. Likewise, the siblings of an at-risk child can give insights into family dynamics and important people in their lives.
  • We must explore the potential of estranged fathers to offer protective care and stability; many can if we engage them.
  • Fathers can safeguard too. Paternal family can safeguard too, we must adopt a whole family approach.
  • Children need to know their wider family; they have a right to understand their whole journey and we have a duty to provide this.

It is clear that alienation of non-resident parents, predominantly Dads, can and is having a very detrimental effect on the development of thousands of children.

Social workers can and should adapt practice, do this differently and in many cases are doing it differently; we just need to continue on this road of change and inclusion.

In the second part of this blog I will highlight some of the ways in which I am modifying social worker practice under my control to be much more inclusive of fathers and male role-models, combating alienation practices wherever we encounter them.


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