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PA: Is it me? Part II

Part II of our guest post from a professional head of social care.


Parent Alienation: Is it Me?

In part one I talked about the need to make a concerted effort to combat parent alienation, positively targeting marginalised men as an antidote to the growing problem of fatherlessness.

I talked about my belief in shared parenting and the importance of my own father in my life and what an inspiration he has been to me.

In part two, I would like to share some simple but effective tactics we’re employing to make this belief and need a reality.

As a Social Worker, we love an acronym!dddy

So in my training for father engagement, I use:  IS IT ME ?

  • Invite them
  • Share with them
  • Include them
  • Talk to them
  • Meet with them
  • Engage them

It is my firm conviction that we should offer fathers no different service than we would the mother – as this is in the child’s best interest. I also believe that if we don’t, we may soon face legal consequences aside from the moral and social ones.

I believe there are already a range of best practices or principles we can and should apply.

Some Principles of good practice with fathers  

  • Genograms – every case-child, should have a Genogram which cover at least three generations and covers both maternal and paternal families
  • No Assessment should be agreed or considered completed unless the biological father has been involved
  • Understand family dynamics, culture, ethnicities – social differences
  • Recognise the value of fathers to children
  • Commit to empowering parents – both of them
  • Be aware of own assumptions, prejudices and personal biography that may influence your view of fathers… consider your own experiences
  • Be empathic, be respectful
  • Be consistent, open and honest
  • Be prepared to understand and support difference
  • Practitioners must be prepared to involve fathers and paternal family from the outset
  • Family Group Conference should be used at the earliest convenience

In some cases, social workers haven’t even bothered to make much effort to identify who fathers are, such has been the focus on the maternal relationship.

How do we (IF) Identify Fathers?

  • We must exhaust all options to locate fathers
  • Be curious, creative and persistent
  • Make time to investigate (even if multiple fathers as any of them could be a risk or a resource and protective)
  • Speak to family networks, school, partners, professionals
  • Locate a copy of child’s birth certificate
  • Police checks / LA checks / DWP checks / tracing agencies if required
  • Ensure accurate information is obtained and recorded
  • Mothers can ‘gate keep’ the fathers identity (research evidence this occurs in 66% of all cases)
  • Do not give up – ask at every meeting and challenge non-compliance

If in any doubt about the additional workload, I have to hold in mind my own experience. My father was the best anyone could have wished for, and of course I know not all fathers are like mine, and not all children have the experience I had. But most parents love their children if given a chance.

In alienation cases, most often perfectly good fathers have been desperately trying to maintain a connection often for a very long time. We need to support them more.

loving dads

It keeps me awake at night worrying: “what if there are more and more fathers out there who are like mine? What if more and more children could and should have an amazing father in their lives, an amazing role model and someone who loves them unconditionally… what if?”

Surely based on this “what if”, we have to investigate everything fully. Doing nothing is not an option.

The case social worker has to build trusting relationships. Sure, we have to think the unthinkable when working with families. But  we must remain opened minded and assess the whole situation. What if the unthinkable is that a good father or co-parent has been deliberately alienated by the other parent’s deliberate actions? We all know it happens.

Surely the alienated parent, not to mention alienating parent need help, for the sake of the children and WHOLE family.

In recent times, I have noticed something of a “sea change” happening in certain quarters and there have certainly been cases where:

  • Children have secured permanency with their father as the father has, it turns out,  been the protective parent despite calculated attempts to depict otherwise
  • With the right support and understanding co-parenting can be successful if both parties do it for the child. Many cases have closed to social care as both parents have managed to put the needs of the children first and their differences aside
  • We have seen an increase in father participation in case work
    • They attend meetings, they are involved and engage with us in a more meaningful manner
    • Assessments have father’s voice within them
  • We have taken a new attitude to feedback, we have learnt from experiences, we collate feedback from families and use complaints to inform our practice further, so we can replicate what works and adapt.

There is still a long way to go. But social workers can and must do this differently and some are doing it differently; we just need to continue on this road of change and inclusion but perhaps change gears.


Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to support professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles.

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected, as is the case above.

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Why does so much PA advice describe the water to the drowning?

compassionI once heard parent alienation, where one parent has to get through each day with a living bereavement, poignantly described as “drowning in a sea of hope being hit by endless waves of grief.”

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to see someone actually struggling in water, they are literally consumed by a largely alien, hostile world and they flail wildly trying to latch onto anything that will keep their head from going under.

Yet what people who can swim know is that your lungs are natural buoyancy aids. Keep calm, think, fill those lungs with air and employ economy of effort and your chances of survival increase hugely.

Presumably experts in parent alienation understand this metaphor. Because we assume they have earned the label as a consequence of observing dozens of targeted parents and their children and wider families suffer at the hands of a system that is less the RNLI or emergency services and more the dark rocks of danger or a cruel riptide.

So why is it that there are so few parent alienation experts appearing with buoyancy aids?

So why is it that there are so few parent alienation experts appearing with buoyancy aids, like emotional and procedural lifeguards during the worst times of trouble? Better still, why haven’t they joined forces after such a passage of time to build a lifeboat station or even erect a lighthouse to warn parents of the perils ahead? At the very least why aren’t they pulling together to bring disaster relief when increasing numbers of people encounter tragedy where they thought they would find help?

We started campaigning because we had suffered too much and kept bumping into people with similar stories but few positives to report about support.

Yet they are also paying to be abused:

  • family lawyers charge day rates north of £1,000
  • barristers cost much more and usually attend WITH a referring solicitor
  • mediators employ an hourly charging system
  • so many psychologists are quacks and charlatans
  • court fees vary but the £hundreds quickly run to thousands
  • counselling costs at least £30 per hr, per “patient”
  • courses and workshops are not inexpensive
  • psychology reports and assessments cost £100s
  • so-called PA consultants charge rates comparable to solicitors

And yet none of these “professionals” are held accountable for outcomes or results.

It is not inconceivable that a parent, if not both parents, will have to utilise all 8 of these so-called support mechanisms. And yet, as the “experts” suggest with mis-placed glee, even if the target parent is successful in obtaining an order to see THEIR OWN CHILDREN, they still remain at the mercy of the resident parent. Because, if the resident parent refuses to comply, the court will do nothing to enforce their own order in 99 out of 100 cases. And the target parent could easily have spent £20k plus for that outcome.

Even then, however, the PA grief counseling commercial machine will still attempt to pick what’s left of their pockets. It is an absolute scandal.

Meanwhile, our international network talks daily of  ongoing acts of immeasurable cruelty and vindictiveness with former partners deploying their own children as weapons; of a legal system seemingly unable to help and which makes matters worse and of a so-called support system that wants more money from them, not to fix the problem and re-connect them with their kids, but to help them live with their grief. Yet when they feel that third parties have been a large part to blame for the cause of that grief and the pain is all they have left of their kids, grief counselling is frankly a tricky sell.

This is not an exact science but if we presume that parent alienation, or the act of one parent, probably the resident parent, abusing the extra time they have with the kids to turn them against the other parent, rejecting and then blocking them from their lives, has been going on since the 70s, at least, that’s half a century of child abuse taking place in clear sight. Yet despite the proliferation of experts and specialist services, the system has changed very little. And yet the ill effects of parent alienation on society are very well documented.

So how can it be, that in all of that time, not a single so-called PA specialist has managed to successfully highlight root causes with conviction and challenge and change the broken machine when even judges acknowledge it is not fit for purpose? Yet so many specialists exist, advertise their wares, argue with each other, take money from the cash strapped and the broken and contribute to reports and papers that reek of ego and a grieving industry. Why?

People, by which I mean children and adults, who are being subjected to this very deliberate form of abuse don’t need reports describing their symptoms, stages of grief and the harm it is causing unless those facts are being used to bring about change.

Parents thrown overboard by “due process” are not looking for vengeance or retribution, they simply want to honour the primal instinct any of us has, to protect our children, nurture them and shield them from harm. And they expect the experts in this field to rise with a common voice and not to undermine each other over petty turf wars that so often replicate the abuse within the system they’re all supposed to be battling.

We need proper help and support that not only challenges but changes the system so fewer people suffer in future

With that in mind, we need proper help and support that not only challenges but changes the system so fewer people suffer in future but which helps us remain afloat and become stronger swimmers.

The very last thing we need are more people joining the crowd on the beach describing the state of the water to the drowning while they rifle through our clothes for the last of the loose change.

So if you’re one of the professionals and are not only passionate about what you do but open to constructive feedback on how to help yourself and others become more effective, then get involved with this movement.

When a system is as rotten as this is, change is not optional or a nice to have but a moral obligation.

When a system is as rotten as this is, change is not optional, or a nice to have but a moral obligation and if we can’t look to the experts to save us all from drowning, then I guess we are going to have to ignore the cynics and do it ourselves.

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WARNING: PAS You’re Next!

motherinlawWe recently wrote a provocative post suggesting that in an increasing number of cases, “single parenting” has become a lifestyle choice.

We suggested that an alarming number of unscrupulous parents are deploying common tactics, shared within online networks, to strip assets, gain an income, often for life and then remove the targeted parent who no longer fits their narrative.

It has stirred up quite a response, because it’s painfully close to the naked truth, it seems.

Given the very many cases and situations we sadly hear in our various forums and platforms, we’re not surprised.

Just this week we heard of one mother who worked in human resources with her ex, spent two years sacking most of her friends, moved into his house after she was made redundant, started a family with him and then, three years later, “sacked him” too. She then blocked out her colleagues and spent years alienating him from their kids because he was an inconvenient truth.

Yet what is equally striking, is that for every decent human being who sees these people for who they are, with their petty but cruel behaviour and the victim narrative they create to garner sympathy for denying their former partner time to love and care for their own children, there seem to be twice as many people who turn a blind eye to this alienating abuse. They are supposedly friends, family and acquaintances yet by doing this, these people are condoning and enabling the obvious damage being caused to the children concerned.

You don’t have to actively participate in the gossip, to agree or even to encourage the alienating parent. Simply doing nothing, indulging them yet engaging with them makes the enabler complicit in what is now widely recognised as child abuse.

As Edmund Burke said ” “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”

Now, undertaking a calculated campaign of cruel spite is obviously deplorable from a wider ethical standpoint. But it’s much worse than that because it is deeply personal and will, very likely, have direct consequences for the enablers, the people who ignore the signs and choose to do nothing.

Why?

  • It makes what should be unacceptable behaviour an acceptable norm which, before you blink will spread to other families
  • Because, if the alienator, a member of your social circle can abuse their own child’s father/mother in this calculated and relentless way,  then how can you trust them with:
    • your husband/wife?
    • your children?
    • your contacts?
    • your life?

Let’s cut to the chase here.

Despite what the alienator may say, you know enough about the targeted parent to understand that they are dedicated to their kids and desperate to do the right thing.

You have seen them fight against overwhelming odds, desperate to stay in touch.

You’ve witnessed them turn up at school or events despite having to put up with incredible levels of discomfort and abuse.

You have seen your “friend” destroy the children’s love of their own parent.

You have watched how they have even used new partners to cause additional pain and abuse, before they too have left.

So why on earth would the non-resident parent still try to stick around unless they loved their children dearly?

Do you seriously believe they are trying to see their own kids just to annoy let alone “abuse”someone they no longer love?

Really?

Above all, have you ever stopped to ask yourself?

  • who the real problem parent is?
  • what sort of person would persist with so many cruel and petty actions that are causing so much damage to their children?
  • why the often hysterical parent won’t just do the right thing?
  • why they have prolonged this revenge parenting for so long?
  • what are they covering up?
  • what does this say about their judgement and their mental health?
  • how they behave with your kids/husband/wife when you’re not there?

but most importantly

what would they do to me if they ever fell out with me too?

targetwoman

Be honest.

How many parents who demonstrate these relentless alienating behaviours that clearly damage the children let alone the target parent, do you actually respect?

How many are or were independently successful and well balanced in their own right before they married?

How many actually only have what they have because they took it from their former partner yet can’t even show them basic respect?

How many of these people would you trust not to do EXACTLY the same to you?

Are you still happy to sit and listen while they spread poison at social events, at school or at your house?

What exactly would you do if they turned their sights on you and how would you want your network to behave?

How do you know they haven’t already?

Well?


Please Note: This blog deals with difficult issues. If you need support, we will gladly refer you to legal, mentoring and reunfication specialists. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected, as is the case above.

So please do contact us.

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Forever young!

sadironmanSomeone who I know to be a very good man, has fought a lifelong campaign for re-unification with his daughter, who turned 16 today.

Parent Alienation is horrific, whatever range of terrible variables you happen to be enduring. But this man has had to watch his former partner set up home with a man who he knew to be unsavoury, but who has since been convicted as a paedophile and sexual deviant.

It’s every parent’s nightmare.

And yet still, he will not be seeing his own daughter on her birthday because, somehow, his ex, who clearly knew about her partner’s character, manages to alienate him.

He has recently posted various snapshots of the frozen twilight zone that his alienated life has become, including a very touching photograph of his daughter’s favourite dress, still hanging on the back of the door where she left it after last wearing it. But today’s birthday announcement reminded me of a time when I had been so full of pride, excitement and promise for our first daughter and the speech I gave at her Christening.

We, of course, put a great deal into the event. One of the features was a playlist of our favourite music, which we had played to both children when they were in the womb and to help lull them to sleep in their nursery. It featured the song, Forever Young, made famous by Joan Baez.

Of course, the sentiment at the time was that, like at Sleeping Beauty/Princess Aurora’s Christening, we all wanted to bless the baby with our wishes for health, wealth, innocence and happiness, that they remain young at heart.

Now, however, the song has become very painful to listen to.

Because it has come to represent something else, a malign presence crept into our lives, the dark disease of Parent Alienation.

For a parent alienated from their child/children, the child remains frozen in their minds at the age at which the alienation began. And there is evidence to suggest that, psychologically, the children also suffer lasting developmental damage linked to the distressing disturbance to their welfare incurred upon traumatic separation from a loving parent.

So, to some extent, as the father alludes in his birthday message, while the child ages, they remain, in our minds, and to some extent their own, Forever Young:

Parent Alienation MUST be stopped.

It is child abuse.

It is destroying loving relationships.

It is enabled by our ridiculously out-dated legal and social services systems.

It is an absolute disgrace and will be forever seen as a dark stain of shame for those so self-obsessed to have perpetrated it!


Please Note:  The issues we deal with in this blog are potentially distressing. If you feel you need support over and above the resources available, we will gladly refer readers to professionals within our team, such as those mentioned, who can help deliver results and who operate in line with our core principles. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers. Any wish to remain anonymous will be respected as you will observe.

So if you have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.