Children come first

Philip Marcus*, a retired Family Court Judge from Jerusalem, reports:
I am working  in Israel with an initiative called ”Children Come First”. The aims of the organization include protecting children as far as possible from the negative effects of divorce and parental separation. We are hoping to embark on a three part programme, which I am scheduled to present, together with Dr Tirtsa Joels of Haifa University, at the AFCC Conference in Washington DC in June this year.
The programme involves these main components:
  • Primary prevention: This includes raising public awareness of the existence of contact failure arising from parental alienation and maladaptive gatekeeping , and their effects on children, and on adults who, as children, were subjected to  parental alienation . This will, we hope, include working with schools and youth movements to include age-appropriate content in their programmes, and also preparing material to be used by those who prepare couples for marriage and long term relationships. The focus will be on parental  responsibilities, not rights, and especially the responsibility of parents to show children good examples of communication and problem solving techniques when there are disagreements. In addition each parent has a responsibility to enable the child to be raised by both parents, and to love and be loved by both families, even when, or especially when, the parents separate.
  •  Early identification of distress and immediate referral to intervention. This will involve teaching medical staff, education workers, social workers and others who come into professional contact with children about the damage caused by improper acts of parents in the course of and after separation. We hope to develop protocols for spotting those children who exhibit signs of distress, and show how to go about inviting parents to discuss how to deal with the situation, and insisting that they get professional help. This requires that appropriate services be made available for immediate intervention, since it is exceptionally difficult to rejoin a child with a parent if the child has been out of contact for three months.
  • Educating the social services, including child protection workers, that  maladaptive gatekeeping and  parental alienation are child abuse, and courts and lawyers that cases where there is a risk of contact failure are urgent. This also involves making immediate, detailed contact orders with sanctions against a recalcitrant parent , including fines, compensation, and imprisonment for contempt of court, for failure to comply.

Added information by Lena Hellblom Sjögren, Ph.D., Licensed psychologist 2018-03-05:

  • Philip Marcus has presented a very interesting new paradigm; instead of formulating conventions on children´s rights we ought to regulate the parents responsibilities to fulfill the children’s need of their parents loving care (or those who are there for the child during the child’s upbringing as parents). See his two articles:
  • Philip Marcus 82017): Parental responsibilities: Reformulating the paradigm for parent-child relationships Part 1: What is wrong with the ways in which we deal with the children of separated parents and how to put them right? Journal of Child Custody, DOI:10.1080/153794182017.1369920
  • Philip Marcus (2017): Parental  responsibilities: Reformulating the paradigm for parent-child relationships Part 2: Who has responsibilities to children and what are these responsibilities? Journal of Child Custody, DOI: 10.1080/15379418.2017.1370407


It was after I ,on February 19, 2018, had for the first time, been a guest speaker for FAMILY ACCESS CALL, a very inspiring initiative by Elaine Cobb, a targeted grandmother,  that I was contacted by Philip Marcus (my talk two hours was about Children’s Human Rights and Parental Alienation).

The program CHILDREN COME FIRST will be presented at the 55th Annual Conference of AFCC, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts: Compassionate Family Court Systems: The Role of Trauma-Informed Jurisprudence, June 6-9, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The biggest trauma for a child is to be separated from a loved and loving parent. To also be influenced, without any justification, to reject that parent is child abuse.

In 2010, the 48th AFCC Annual Conference was about this growing family violence of our time called PARENTAL ALIENATION. It was a conference I participated in together with Cecilia Granberg, a social worker from Sweden, who has given up to try to work within the social services to help children and families.