EFCAP 2nd international conference Basel 7-10 September 2010

The author, who has worked independently since 1990 as an investigative psychologist, is analyzing 60 of her case investigations of severe custody conflicts in her ongoing research project called “The best interests of the child and the child´s human rights in severe custody conflicts.” Two case studies, one about a boy 9 years old who was separated 2006 from his mother, and one about two sisters, 4 and 2.5 years old, who were separated from their father in 1992, are presented.

In both these cases the children have been heavily alienated from the parent they were cut off from by the parent they live with. This parent accuses the other parent of abusing the children. Such abuse has not been substantiated, but the accusations have, over years, served as argument to protect the children from that parent. The systematic source critical analysis of direct and indirect statements and documents produced over time document a loving relationship that has been broken. The children develop a fear; they reject the parent they were separated from. This has served as foundation for the courts to make decisions in accordance with what appear to be the child´s own will.

Conclusion: The children´s legal and human rights have been violated. They have lost their identity. Thus we can conclude that there is an ongoing practice that is not in accordance with the laws and the best interests of the child. If social workers, mental health and legal professionals learn about parental alienation and how it effects children, harms them and violates their rights, then hopefully practice can be changed.

___________________________

Unconditional love is a child´s fundamental need, above food, water, shelter. Usually this love is given by parents and grandparents.

Most parents love their child and want to give their child roots and wings.

 

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When parents separate most couples come to an agreement after the first turbulence. But in some cases parents go to court (in Sweden 7-10 % of couples with children who separate) and in some of these cases the child is used as a weapon by one parent against the other parent. Sometimes this war includes one parent claiming the other parent has some mental problem, or has abused the child, this resulting in the conclusion that the child must be protected from the accused parent.

The accusing parent is usually the one who he is seen as the best protector of the child. When the accusations have been investigated  and   – in most severe custody conflicts with accusations – no foundation can be found,  time has passed and the accusing parent claims that the child doesn´t want to see the other parent, or that the child is afraid of the other parent.

 

Parental Alienation

A separation of a child from a parent can be justified when that parent has abused the child, exploited the child or betrayed the child severely. Those cases are not included in the research on which I base what I am saying now.

As we know from science and experience a healthy and close contact with both parents is what is best for the child, if the child is to develop mentally and physically as well as possible.

But what happens when the child is separated from a parent and the separation lasts for a long time or becomes permanent? What happens if the child, separated from its mother or father, is influenced to reject the separated parent and the child starts its own campaigns of denigration of that parent? In these cases the child can develop a black and white way of thinking where also other family members and friends of the separated parent are included as black.

Such a behaviour, without justification in something bad the separated parent has done, with the other parent identified as one influencing the child was identified independently by at least six American mental health workers in the seventies/eighties. That was when the law changed and fathers could also be given custody after a divorce. One of them labelled the phenomenon they all observed, PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome). Other labels have been used such as PA, PAD or the alienated child.

I have in my investigations as an independent psychologist for 20 years identified 60 cases that I now in my research analyze. I shall give some glimpses from two cases. But first  what is the best interests of the child?

 

What is the child´s best interest according to national law and human rights?

 Swedish family law,  “Föräldrabalken,” Chapter 6 (Lag 2006:458)

2a§ 

The best interests of the child shall be decisive for all decisions regarding custody, living and visitation.

When judging what is in the best interest of the child special attention shall be taken to

  • the risk that the child or someone else in the family is abused or that the child without permission is taken away or is detained or in some other way is treated badly, and
  • the child´s need of a close and good contact with both parents.

The child´s will with reference to age and maturity must be considered.”

According to internationally binding human rights we first can look at the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948:

Article 16

(3)”The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

In The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

1950, it says:

Article 8:

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

 

In The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, it says in

Article 8:

  1. ”States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.
  2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.”

In The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, it says in

Article 9:

“1. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. Such determination may be necessary in a particular case such as one involving abuse or neglect of the child by the parents, or one where the parents are living separately and a decision must be made as to the child’s place of residence.

  1. In any proceedings pursuant toparagraph 1 of the present article, all interested parties shall be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings and make their views known.
  2. States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.
  3. Where such separation results from any action initiated by a State Party, such as the detention, imprisonment, exile, deportation or death (including death arising from any cause while the person is in the custody of the State) of one or both parents or of the child, that State Party shall, upon request, provide the parents, the child or, if appropriate, another member of the family with the essential information concerning the whereabouts of the absent member(s) of the family unless the provision of the information would be detrimental to the well-being of the child. States Parties shall further ensure that the submission of such a request shall of itself entail no adverse consequences for the person(s) concerned.”

The national family laws and the child´s human rights help us define the concept of the best interests of the child

 The best interests of the child can be defined as the child´s legal and human right to close contact with both its parents, the right to keep its identity through the family roots on both parents´ side,  the right not to be abused mentally or physically and the right to freely express own opinions.

Now two cases where the child´s rights have been violated.

A BOY LOOSES HIS MOTHER

Olle´s parents separate when Olle is 4 ½  years old.

Olle has an older half-brother William on his father´s side. When Olle is 6 years old his father meets a new woman who has several children. Life changes for both boys.

At that time Olle gets scratch marks during his week at his father´s. His mother takes Olle to the local doctor and the physical injuries are documented by photo. The medical journal reads:

Olle says that he has been hurt by his brother William whilst he was at his father´s

home.

Olle also says that he usually wets his pants

when he is at his father’s. He has also now

had to  give up his room to another child in

the family and when he is with his father he has to sleep alone on a mattress in the cellar.

Says that William is in the habit of pinching his

willie when he has clothes on, also

he grabs his bottom and

willie when he sleeps in the cellar. Olle

also says that his dad doesn´t listen when he

tells him, but just gets angry.”

The doctor and nurse reported to the social services their worries concerning Ollés conditions at his father´s home. But…the social services did not initiate an investigation.

Olle´s paternal grandfather was the former leader of the social services staff until quite recently.

This can be a reason that their objectivity was invalidated.

The shared custody and the divided living arrangements continue. Olle is  8  in 2005, the mother collects him from school on a Monday, the first day in her week. Olle has a new injury. In the medical notes the doctor wrote:

Older brother hit Olle on his nose with his fist. Started bleeding from the nose. Also has experienced bleeding during the night of

Monday the 3rd October at his father´s./…/

Cultivation showed growth of a staphylococcal infection.”

 

The mother reacts to the fact that the father has not taken Olle to medical care when he had been hit, she makes a report to the Social Services. An investigation starts.

After the social workers had talked to Olle´s father they wrote :

”The father says that Olle has told him

that his mother is happy if he says that William

has done bad things to him.

The father thinks that Olle has learned what to say

to make his mother happy.”

(From the Social services case-book about Olle 2006-05-02 )

 

The father´s view of Olle´s mother- as a mother who puts Olle under pressure to say that bad things happened when he is at  his father´s – also becomes the view of the Social Services…

The social workers decide to put Olle, his father, his half-brother William and the father´s new wife and one of her sons in a special investigation home for six weeks. Their parental ability was to be investigated, according to the Social Services.The longest time Olle had been apart from his mother and his dog was two weeks, and now he would be away from his mum and his dog for as much as 6 weeks. This –as it turns out – is the beginning of a total separation of Olle from his mother.

 

Olle´s maternal grandmother had died just before Olle had to stay in the institution with his father. When his mother came to take Olle to grandma´s funeral Olle repeatedly said ´don´t want,´ and sat crying in his mother´s lap.One of the staff  reacted when his mother  took Olle with her to grandma´s funeral as agreed on beforehand. This staff member reported  Olle´s mother to the Social Services for not listening to Olle and for pressuring Olle.

The Social Services then decided that Olle

would only be allowed to see his mother under

supervision when she came to the

investigation home.

A very experienced member of the staff stated  in court on three occasions  that there was a good loving relationship between Olle and his mother. She was with them for the three days Olle and his mother were allowed to be together. On the fourth day, July 17 2006,  Olle wanted to go swimming with his mother as he had done the three days before

But Olle and his mother were not allowed to go swimming as there was no member of staff who  could accompany them, the young stand-in staff say. When the mother still wanted to go swimming with Olle, the staff took Olle away from his mother into an office . The mother left and waited for a call from the division leader. She wanted to discuss

why they had introduced such curious restrictions…Why was she not even allowed to go swimming with her own son in his summer holiday ? The division leader didn´t  call, but rather informed the mother  by SMS text that Olle had been taken into forced custody, and had been placed with his father.

This division leader wrote in her memorandum, the foundation for the decision to take Olle into forced custody and place him in his father´s home:

”Olle lives in a very exposed situation,

where he is expected to say negative things

about his father and the father´s new family

in order to make  his mother stop pressuring him.

With the knowledge I have of the mother´s

attitude towards Olle´s father and the father´s new partner

I judge that Olle needs the protection through the law to

be able to  be placed with his father.”

This unfounded decision that was not based on facts was invalidated by the administrative court of appeal only 17 days thereafter.

(From the verdict 2006-08-04 in the Administrative court of appeal)

”The Administrative court of appeal orders

that the decision by the social welfare board

of instant forced custody  from now on is invalid.”

At that point it was Mother´s week for Olle. Despite that, Olle was kept at his father´s, with support from the Social Services.  A not graduated social worker who worked in the investigating home talked to Olle on August 16 2006, after he had been isolated from every kind of contact with his mother   at that time one month:

” A staff member at the investigation institution

has met Olle today. She tells that he is very anxious.

He knows that it will be decided on August 18 if he is

to start living with his mother again.

He tells her that he absolutely does not want that,

and that he will kill himself if the adults decide that he is

has to go back to his mother.”

(From the Social services case-book about Olle 2006-08-16)

 

Olle´s father has since then said that Olle doesn´t want to have any contact with his mother.
Today  /2010/ more than 4  years have passed.Olle has still not had any contact at all with his mother. Olle has not been allowed to receive any phone calls or letters from his mother. He has not met his uncles on his mother´s side, nor his cousins, or once visited his friends living close to his mother.

Note in 2016

After 9  years and 4 months when Olle was 18 years his mother put in her monthly financial support that she has payed since July 2006 on an account that was Olle´s own (on her intiative). Olle then realized that his mother was not a mother who did not care at all about Olle as his father has told Olle all these years. By time Olle and his mother have  reconnected. It is like a miracle.

 

TWO GIRLS AND ONE BOY LOOSE THEIR FATHER 

On the 5th of March 1992 the childrens’ parents separated after having had, as they both said, a troublesome relationship for nearly five years.

The oldest girl Eva was at that time nearly 4 years old and Lena was 2 ½ years. The son Kalle had just been born.

Eight weeks after the father had moved out, the mother was advised to consult the child psychiatry unit, by the lawyer she had consulted concerning the division of the joint property, as the children´s grandmother and now also the mother said they had started suspecting the father of having sexually abused the two daughters.

The mother requested an emergency consultation at the child psychiatry unit.According to the notes made by the child psychiatrist the mother said on this first consultation, that the father was mentally ill, and that one of the daughters had had treatment in a specialist child clinic on several occasions due to genital infections.The chief BUP physician did not check any of the information given by the mother, yet she wrote in her notes from this first meeting:

“the  most important thing for the moment

is that the children are protected from their biological father.” “As he is

mentally ill he ought not have

charge of the children

at all as far as

I can see.”

 

When checking the facts I found out that the father had occasionally had mood problems, and that the child had never had genital infections.

The first psychologist given the task to investigate the case, was working in the child psychiatry unit. She was a member of the same   consulting group as the  chief physician, the police, the prosecutor, and the social workers. She came to the same conclusion as the chief physician from the child psychiatry unit,  the social workers, the prosecutor and the police: the children had been sexually abused by their father and ought to be protected from him.They all had one common source – the mother.

 

The prosecutor revoked the prosecution against the father, after a new independent investigation had been made (by me).The father called for a verdict of not guilty, something he also got.

But in spite of this verdict of acquittal the children were not allowed to see their dad.

Their mum said then and keeps saying after more than 18 years that the children are afraid of their dad.

 

When three years had passed, at which time the mother and children were visited by a child psychiatrist,

who had been appointed by the district court to investigate the preconditions for the girls to see their father, this expert wrote:

that the girls had

developed such a fear of

their father that their facial expressions and words demonstrate discomfort and

hatred at every mention

of him, and so become

extremely panicked in

situations that might result

 in them having any form of

contact with him, for example having

a chance to see him.”

 

He recommended that the girls needed to be “protected against a potential risk

of abuse.”

 

Today /2010/more than 18 years have passed. Eva and Lena still have not seen their father.

 

From a meeting with Lena on February 4, 2010

LHS: I am thankful that you have agreed to see me and tell me about how you today look upon what has happened since you were a child.

Lena:

  • I have had a totally normal life, have lived with my mum and my siblings. And then suddenly when I was 16 the door bell rang. There he was with flowers and a package. He said: I am your dad. I said: I don´t want to speak with you. We only fainted. I felt very bad and sad. I asked a social worker I have kept in contact with since I was little, and who knows Per, to speak with him and tell him that I didn´t want any contact.
  • In spite of that he wrote sms, I answered: Per I don´t want to have anything to do with you. Then he sent lots of sms: Why don´t you want to speak with me, I haven´t done anything to you, you shouldn´t listen to all stories from other people, you should listen to my story. Then I thought, you stupid bastard, what is that about other person´s stories, I have a story of my own to tell, I have my own memories.
  • I prefer not to talk about Per. The only person I´d like to talk to about him is Eve, my elder sister, but she absolutely refuses to talk about Per. She thinks it´s very hard.

LHS: When you will have children of your own they will ask about their maternal grandpa, what do you think regarding that?

Lena:

  • Then I hope that mum will have a new husband who can become grandpa. I´d never let my children see Per alone. Never in my whole life.

LHS: So you plan never to have any contact with him?

Lena:

  • No … I don´t.

LHS: You don´t feel any loss?

Lena:

  • What I feel when I think about Per is that I pity him. Because in fact he ought to be helped.

LHS: Are you certain that your picture is the right one?

Lena:

  • He really hasn´t done anything for me to have a better picture of him.

LHS: If you were to have had a better picture, what ought he had done?

Lena:

  • Firstly he should not have made contact. If he should have done that he ought to have done it in a normal way. I don´t think that Per has any right to be in our life because of what he has done and because he is as he is. Strange. Mentally ill.

LHS: But you know that he was found not guilty?

Lena:

  • Yes, and that disturbs me very much. I am gathering force to go to hypnosis, I want to get things into light. Frankly what I really want is to nail him. I want him to have help. I don´t want him in prison, I want him to have help, treatment, so that he understands that he is ill, so that people understand that he is ill, so that he gets treatment, and so that he cannot hurt anyone else.

LHS: You know that you can believe that you remember, that you can have what is called false memories?

Lena:

  • I stand here. I know what has happened. I have the memories I have. They are in my brain, they are there. I know what has happened to me…I am still very afraid of saunas and so.

LHS: Do you remember anything that was not negative with your dad?

Lena:

  • I have repressed all memories of Per. I cannot even think Per and remember anything that I have done with Per. I have repressed everything, I cannot even remember what he looked like when I was little.

LHS: Do you feel sad about that?

Lena:

  • What I really think is strange is that he is not even in my brain. I have no memory of Per. I don´t know why I have repressed everything but I really have repressed everything. It is not there.

 

Note in 2016

Kalle was allowed by his controlling mother to meet with his  father  from about the age of 2 until the age of 7, and after that no more. But in 2016, as an adult Kalle  has called his father on the phone – after 14 years of no contact –  and they have been out eating once and Kalle wants to see his father again. That is another miracle.

 

 

 

Conclusions

 

To separate a child from a loved parent and influence,

or support the influence of that child, to reject the

separated parent is to punish the child.

It can result in severe damaging consequences

for the child´s health and development.

It is a violation of the child´s legal and human

rights to family life.

Thus alienation of a child ought to be seen

as a crime. /In Brasil a new law regulating

sanctions for this crime was taken on August 27, in  2010./

 

If social workers, mental health and legal professionals learn about parental alienation and how it effects children, harms them and violates their rights, then hopefully practice can be changed.

 

Added information:

Sweden. The alienation process in high conflict custody cases has been described by psychologists (Öberg 1992, Hellblom Sjögren 1997) and a child psychiatrist (Kihlbom 1998). Legal professionals, social workers and a psychologist have observed, lectured  and written about PAS. Lena Hellblom Sjögren, Ph.D has practiced as an investigative psychologist giving testimony about PAS in family and criminal court cases  in Sweden and Norway since the beginning of the nineties. She is also a researcher, now analyzing how the children´s human rights and their best interests are effected in 60 cases where she has identified  PAS. She has reported her work including cases in which the PAS was brought about by child welfare workers.  In a book chapter, Sjögren wrote, “The purpose of this article is to describe the alienation process in five Swedish cases where children have developed PAS after having been influenced to reject their mothers by local social welfare agencies.  It is concluded that children and their parents are best served if PAS can be recognized, and efforts made to educate professionals about how harmful it can be” (Sjögren, 2006, page 131).

Öberg, B., Öberg, G.: Father, see me! About rejected children and powerless fathers (Pappa, se mig! Om förnekade barn och maktlösa fäder), Förlagshuset Gothia, Stockholm 1992.

Kihlbom, M.: The relation to the parents – the foundation for the child´s mental development, in The child´s right to both parents (Barnets rätt till båda föräldrarna) Save the children (Rädda Barnen), 1998.

Norway. Dr Terje Torgersen, a psychiatrist in Oslo is the main founder of “The organization 2 parents (Foreningen 2 Foreldre), established 1985.” He contributed to a debate about PAS in 1995 when a professor Jan Brögger, a well known anthropologist, had introduced PAS in Norway (Brögger 1995). Torgersen wrote, “ If a residence parent frightens the child to reject contact with the other parent although he/she has visiting rights, this strategy will often be successful. As long as our politicians do not realize how serious the situation is, there is little hope for  changes of the law (sole custody is still the norm).” Programming of a child to reject a parent without justified cause in connection with PAS has been described in a book about being a part time parent, (Thuen, 2004, page 91-121)

Brögger,J.: When children develop a sick hate towards a parent (Når barn utvikler sykelig hat mot foreldre) in Aftenposten January 21 1995

Thuen, F.: The life as a part time parent (Livet som deltidsforeldre) , Fagbokforlaget 2004.

Denmark. A Danish judge, Svend Danielsen has written about PAS in his book from 2004, Parents´duties children´s rights (Foreldres pligter börns rettigheder, page 210-211)

The Danish “Organization Father in Support for Parents and Children,” founded in 1977  published a report after a conference held 2002 about parental alienation. The introduction is written by the director Erik Kofod. After the first International Conference on PAS in Frankfurt 2002 this organization published reports from that conference.

 

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