[The following is an interview with an alienated parent who wishes to remain anonymous]
What is your experience of parental alienation?
I separated from my wife two years ago. She told me that if I ever left her she would make sure I never saw my kids again. She said this numerous times throughout our marriage, but I never thought for a minute she would actually attempt such a thing. At the moment I have not had any meaningful contact with my three children for almost two years.
Why is this?
Well, immediately following the separation she locked me out the house. The following day she changed the locks. She instantly became the resident parent, only by virtue of the fact she changed all the locks to the property that at the time was still co-owned by us both. I also requested that we shield the children from our separation but she refused. She also at this time refused me any contact with the children. I now know that it was at this point that she started to alienate the children against me.
What alienating tactics were used?
She started making false allegations against me. She claimed that I had stolen money from her. She also claimed that I had physically and emotionally abused her and all the children in the past. This resulted in an unnecessary and unfounded safeguarding referral being put in against me. During this time I was legally prevented from having any contact with any of my children for approximately 3-4 months. I now know that during this time she brainwashed the children against me and my entire side of the family. She encouraged the children to write hate letters to me. She then emailed these hate letters to me.
What happened next?
Well, once I was deemed to not be a safeguarding issue my ex had already brainwashed my children against me.
How did this present itself?
By that time Cafcass were involved. They have this ‘wishes and feelings of the children’ approach. However as I have come to understand the complexities of parental alienation more, I now understand that the children were simply telling the so-called professionals what they were told to say by their mother. My children were telling Cafcass that they no longer wanted a relationship with me, because of what I had done to them all!
What happened next?
The Case Manager at the time remarkably advised me to give the children time and space. At the same time I was busy researching parental alienation. I am fortunately a mental health nurse with a professional interest in both research and psychology. So with this professional background I understand research and how to use it. And what I found in terms of evidence based approaches to assessing for and managing cases of parental alienation was very interesting?
Why was that?
Well, what I found in terms of research was in stark contrast to the current approach taken by Cafcass. The advice from the Case Manager to give the children time and space, was the complete opposite to what you should do according to the research out there. In actual fact the approach of whole system to parental alienation is flawed. And when I mean the whole system I mean Cafcass, Children’s Social Services, Judges, the current legal system, the whole lot, the whole system. Parental alienation is basically emotional abuse, but the UK Government does not officially recognise it as such.
So how do you fight a system that is flawed?
Good question. With great difficulty, that is how you fight it. It becomes something akin to a full time job. Constant emails to numerous services, regular meetings. It completely takes over your life.
Do you feel you have made any progress fighting what you call a flawed system?
Well, I’m definitely not going to give up on my kids. But I do feel that I have made progress. If I had listened to the advice of the original Case Manager, the case would now be closed and my children would be completely estranged from me, with no hope of reconciliation. I have chipped away at the system, I have got results that have prevented this case being closed down.
What is your experience and opinion of the professionals within this system?
Shocking, absolutely shocking. None of them appear to care about the job they do. They allow themselves to buy into parental stereotypes. At some point my case was under the management of two different services; Cafcass and Children’s Social Services.
Did that work to your benefit?
You would think so, but no it didn’t; absolutely not. Since a public statement by Cafcass CEO Anthony Douglas in February 2017, Cafcass do now recognise parental alienation as a form of abuse. However Cafcass are clearly not disseminating this down to their front-line staff in the context of training and/or organisational change. This was evidenced by the fact that the Case Manager at the time, informed me that although he saw evidence of parental alienation on the part of my children’s mother, he informed me he was not permitted to use the term in the case notes. In fact he was only permitted to use the term ‘alienating behaviours.’ However on the other hand Children’s Social Services do not recognise parental alienation as a form of abuse at all. So ultimately for a period of time I had two organisations co-managing my case, however with one organisation that recognises parental alienation as a form of child abuse and the other that doesn’t. It’s bonkers, absolutely bonkers!
Had you ever heard of parental alienation until it had happened to you?
No, not at all. This is now a whole new world I never knew existed. It is weird to explain, but now I do know, I find it hard to comprehend how so many people don’t know what it is. It is ultimately child abuse happening right in front of us and no government body, service etc appears to want to do anything about it.
What is your understanding of parental alienation now?
My understanding is that parental alienation is when, in most cases the resident parent, following separation will deny contact with also brainwash the children against the other, non-resident parent. The targeting parent’s aim is to destroy a previously healthy and loving relationship between the children and the targeted parent. I have also come to understand that in severe cases of parental alienation, the targeting parent will statistically present with some personality traits indicative of an un-diagnosed personality disorder.
What is your advice for anyone else effected by parental alienation?
Support, support, support. This is absolutely key to surviving this. Whether it is actually having people around you, or connecting with people online, either of those I have found an absolute life line.
In terms of connecting with people online, I was absolutely shocked by how many people there are out there effected by this. I am proud to see myself as part of an unofficial anti-parental alienation community online. As a community we all look out for each other.
What are your next steps?
Well, like I said I am not giving up. I owe it to my children. They deserve to have their father in their lives. I have a date to return to court and a member of the reconciliation team that you referred me to is currently reviewing my case notes. She is incredibly concerned with the way Cafcass have and are still managing my case. So I will return to court and carry on. Like I said before, I will not give up on my children.
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