THE BATTERER IN CUSTODY AND VISITATION DISPUTES

 

If you are involved in a custody battle with your abuser, this article is a must-read.  I have included below only the topics and first paragraph of each, click on the topic to read the entire article.

UNDERSTANDING THE BATTERER IN CUSTODY AND VISITATION DISPUTES

by R. Lundy Bancroft c 1998

A sophisticated understanding of the mind of the abuser, his style as a parent, and of the tactics that he most commonly employs during separation and divorce, are essential to anyone making custody recommendations or working to design visitation plans that are safe for the children and their mother. Contrary to popular belief, children of batterers can be at just as much risk psychologically, sexually, and even physically after the couple splits up as they were when the family was still together. In fact, many children experience the most damaging victimization from the abuser at this point. A genuine batterer can be difficult to distinguish from one who is unfairly accused, and batterers who will be a grave risk to their children during unsupervised visitation can be hard to separate from those who can visit safely. The insights and expertise of those service providers who have extensive experience working directly with abusers needs to be drawn from, and the level of contribution from victims themselves to policy design also needs to be greatly increased. Custody and visitation battles amidst allegations of domestic violence require policies and interveners (judges, mediators, and Guardians Ad Litem) based in the most detailed knowledge, experience, sensitivity, and integrity. The stakes for children are very high.

This article is drawn largely from the author’s ten years of experience working as a counselor and supervisor in programs for abusive men, involving contact with some 1500 abusers, and hundreds of their victims, over that period. During the first few years of this period I worked almost exclusively with voluntary clients, and during the latter period worked primarily with court-mandated ones. The characteristics of the clients changed remarkably little during that shift. In the late 1980’s, professionals in batterer programs began paying particular attention to the behavior of clients with respect to probate processes, and we began asking victims more questions about the man’s conduct with respect to visitation and custody. Since leaving direct work with batterers, I have served with increasing frequency as a custody evaluator (both as Guardian ad Litem and as Care and Protection Investigator), and have worked closely with child protective services. I also have drawn from numerous published studies, several of which are listed in the back of this article. [I have chosen for reasons of ease to refer to the abuser as “he” and the victim as “she,” but I am aware that there is a small percentage of cases of domestic violence to which this language does not apply.]

PROFILE OF THE BATTERER  (view article)

Generalizations about batterers have to be made with caution. Batterers come from all socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of education. They have the full range of personality types, from mild and mousy to loud and aggressive. They are difficult to profile psychologically; they frequently fare well in psychological testing, often better than their victims do. People outside of a batterer’s immediate family do not generally perceive him as an abusive person, or even as an especially angry one. They are as likely to be very popular as they are to be “losers,” and they may be visible in their communities for their  rofessional success and for their civic involvement. Most friends, family, and associates in a batterer’s life find it jarring when they hear what he has done, and may deny that he is capable of those acts.The partner and children of a batterer will, however, experience generalizable characteristics, though he may conceal these aspects of his attitude and behavior when other people are present:

BATTERERS’ STYLE IN MEDIATION OR CUSTODY EVALUATION (view article)

Batterers naturally strive to turn mediation and GAL processes to their advantage, through the use of various tactics. Perhaps the most common is to adopt the role of a hurt, sensitive man who doesn’t understand how things got so bad and just wants to work it all out “for the good of the children.” He may cry in front of the mediator or GAL and use language that demonstrates considerable insight into his own feelings. He is likely to be skilled at explaining how other people have turned the victim against him, and how she is denying him access to the children as a form of revenge, “even though she knows full well that I would never do anything to hurt them.” He commonly accuses her of having mental health problems, and may state that her family and friends agree with him. The two most common negative characterizations he will use are that she is hysterical and that she is promiscuous. The abuser tends to be comfortable lying, having years of practice, and so can sound believable when making baseless statements. The abuser benefits to the detriment of his children if the court representative fails to look closely at the evidence – or ignores it – because of his charm. He also benefits when professionals believe that they can “just tell” who is lying and who is telling the truth, and so fail to adequately investigate. Because of the effects of trauma, the victim of battering will often seem hostile, disjointed, and agitated, while the abuser appears friendly, articulate, and calm. Evaluators are thus tempted to conclude that the victim is the source of the problems in the relationship.

WHY CHILD ABUSE MAY BE REPORTED AT SEPARATION/DIVORCE FOR THE FIRST TIME (view article)

Allegations of child abuse that arise during custody and visitation conflicts are treated with similar skepticism by court personnel and service providers. A large-scale national study found that the rate of false child sexual abuse allegations does not increase at this time, contrary to popular belief (Thoennes and Tjaden). As with domestic violence allegations, there is no substitute for careful and unbiased examination of the evidence. Batterers who do abuse their children can be convincing at portraying themselves as victims of a deliberate strategy on the part of the victim in order to derail proper investigating. There are two salient reasons why child abuse reports may first arise at separation or divorce. First, children may disclose abuse at this time that is longstanding. The awareness of the custody battle can make the children afraid of being placed in the abuser’s custody, or of being forced to spend increased time with him without the protective presence of the other parent. This fear can lead children to make the frightening leap involved in discussing the abuse. After separation, children may begin spending extended unsupervised time with the abuser for the first time ever, so that the abuse escalates or they fear that it will. Increased visitation may cause panic in a victim of child abuse; a case of mine illustrated this point, with a child disclosing a detailed history of sexual abuse immediately after her visitation with her father was increased from one night every other weekend to two. Finally, children are known to be more likely to disclose abuse in the midst of any disruption or major change in their lives. (See MacFarlane et. al. on the above points.)

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN BATTERING AND CHILD ABUSE (view article)

Batterers are several times as likely as non-batterers to abuse children, and this risk appears to increase rather than decrease when the couple separates. Multiple studies have shown that 50% to 70% of men who use violence against their intimate partners are physically abusive to their children as well. A batterer is seven times more likely than a non-batterer to frequently beat his children (Straus). A batterer is at least four times more likely than a non-batterer to be an incest perpetrator. (Herman 1991, McCLoskey et. al.) Psychological abuse to the children is almost always present where there is domestic violence; in fact, the abuse towards their primary caretaker is itself a form of emotional abuse of the children, as numerous studies now document. It is true that battered women are also more likely to abuse children than non-battered women are, but unlike with batterers, those levels decline rapidly once the relationship separates(Edleson and Schecter).

JANET JOHNSTON’S TYPOLOGY OF BATTERERS AND THE AFCC RISK ASSESSMENT:THE QUEST FOR SIMPLE SOLUTIONS (view article)

Efforts are underway nationally to ease the complexity of assessing risk to children from visitation with batterers by placing batterers into distinct types, based largely on the work of Janet Johnston. For example, a risk assessment distributed nationally by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) draws heavily from Johnston’s work. The types Johnston posits are as follows:

Type A: “Ongoing or Episodic Male Battering”

Type B: “Female-Initiated Violence”

Type C: “Male Controlled Interactive Violence”

Type D: “Separation and Postdivorce Violence”

Type E: “Psychotic and Paranoid Reactions”

ASSESSMENT OF RISK TO CHILDREN FROM VISITATION WITH A BATTERER (view article)

Assessing the safety of children with batterers during unsupervised visitation requires careful examination of all available evidence, with as few preconceptions as possible about the credibility of either party. Even a highly skilled service provider cannot “just tell” that an alleged abuser is telling the truth or is not dangerous, even after several hours of interviews and even with the assistance of psychological testing. These can be important sources of information, but careful assessment of the alleged victim’s version of events, comparison with outside sources (to assess credibility), examination of court records, and confrontation of the alleged abuser to assess his reactions are all essential to an evaluation.

(view article)

Parental Alienation, the Courts, and Emotional Distress


What is Parental Alienation?

The intentional alienation of a child’s affections with his or her parent without cause.

The tactics used after methodical and calculated acts of child abuse which can result in severe consequences. The alienated child an targeted patterns can suffer irrepairable harm. 

Even if the child and the targeted parent once had a close, loving relationship before the alienation began, in severe cases, they can lose any existence of a relationship as the direct result of the alienation.

The “alienator” is not always a parent, it can be anyone in the child’s life that has the control and opportunity to influence the child. 

The alienation also oftentimes extends to the child’s friends and extended family members.

While family courts recognize that parental alienation happens, (especially in high conflict divorces with child custody disputes), allegations of domestic violence can create an atmosphere of improper justification for the tactics used in alienation.

Daniel G. Saunders, Ph.D.,  Kathleen C. Faller, Ph.D. and Richard M. Tolman, Ph.D. or the University of Michigan, School of Social Work, submitted a research report to the U.S. Department of Justice which analyzed parental alienation in the family court system.

In their findings, it was concluded that the Judges, private attorneys, and custody evaluators were more likely than domestic violence workers and legal aid attorneys to believe that mothers make false allegations of abuse. This position creates a difficulty for a battered spouse to protect themselves and the child from abuse as they are labeled as an alienator.

This can have catastrophic consequences when “parental alienation syndrome” is brought up by the abuser to counter an allegations of domestic violence. The. battered spouse can even lose custody to their abuser and be erased from the childs life.. 

In a 2002 case in Nassau County,  a trial court found that in cases where parental alienation is alleged, “the court has the duty to become aware of and seek out every bit of relevant evidence and advice on the custody issues before it”, which included a forensic evaluation. (Zafran v. Zafran, 740 NYS2d 596).

This can be achieved by a forensic custody evaluation, home study, or in cases where conflicting testimony is present, the court has the authority to use is an “in camera” interview (also called a Lincoln hearing) with the child.

The judge will interview the child in the absence of the parents and their attorneys, having only the child’s attorney present. The judge has the discretion to do an “in camera”, usually making this determination by assessing several factors. These factors include the facts of the case, the age and maturity of the child and the need to protect the child from the adversarial proceeding. The judge will conduct an “in camera” if they hear conflicting testimony or if one of the attorneys make the request. A lot of judges are partial to getting children directly involved in child custody or visitation cases and will therefore only conduct an “in camera” when it is absolutely necessary.

Parental Alienation as Form of Emotional Distress Tort Claim

Divorce lawyers see quite a bit of parental alienation in its various forms.

Some cases are severe, like the Tsimhoni case from Waterford & Clarkston, while other cases are mild.

An interesting case, Fukimaki v Ichikawa, decided in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court makes the Tsimhoni case look like a pro confesso divorce proceeding.

One particularly unusual aspect of the case is that the ex-husband filed a brand new case against his ex-wife in the court of general jurisdiction more than a decade after his divorce was completed in the family court.

The basis of the new case: tort claims for “alienation of parental affection” and “intentional infliction of emotional distress”.

The trial court judge dismissed the action on the grounds Michigan does not recognize the parental alienation tort claim and that the emotional distress claim was time-barred.

Not so fast, says the Michigan Court of Appeals. While the appellate court agreed that there is no cause of action for parental alienation, it held that the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim did not accrue until the mother began preventing parenting time with the father.

The trial court selected a much earlier date to begin running the “statute of limitations” clock: the date mother was awarded sole physical and legal custody of the child.

To establish the intentional infliction of emotional distress, the appellate court held that plaintiff must demonstrate that a defendant’s conduct was, “so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.

In sum, the courts have held that to be actionable, the defendant’s conduct must be so severe and shocking that a community member is compelled to shout, “Outrageous!”

In his complaint, father sets forth the following allegations:

  • Mother was twice held in contempt of the family court for disallowing father’s parenting time with the child;
  • Mother arranged for the child’s teacher to keep the child while she served a stint in the county jail following her second contempt of court ruling;
  • Mother sent father letters promising that she was committed and determined to completely destroy father’s relationship with the child;
  • Mother denied father parenting time for 22 consecutive weeks, and
  • Mother conspired with the child’s school to exclude father from all school-related events.

Based on these facts, if proven by a preponderance of the evidence,  would constitute “Outrageous!” acts of conduct.

The case now goes back to the Washtenaw County Circuit Court where this father gets the opportunity to establish the elements of an intentional infliction of emotion distress claim; not an easy thing to do.

Father will have to prove extreme and outrageous conduct that is intentionally designed to cause severe emotional distress.

Although rare, torts can be filed against one’s spouse or former spouse, just like any other named defendant.

Recognizing Parental Alienation

Parental Alienation can be difficult to detect, largely because it may not be intentional. Yet whether the alienating parent intends to disrupt the relationship between the targeted parent and the child, the damage is the same.

In extreme situations, the alienating parent may relocate the child without the targeted parent’s knowledge or permission. Generally,  alienating parents feel they are doing the right thing.Fortunately, courts have jurisdiction over most cases; the relocating parent must obtain leave from the court to move out-of-state or more than 100-miles from the child’s established custodial environment.

Sources:

Clarkston Legal

Parental Alienation Awareness

Smith County: Newborn Baby Missing After Mother Ran From CPS

Authorities are asking for information on the whereabouts of one-month-old Gatlyn Baker and his parents, Kenny and Chelsea Baker.((Source: Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services))

By Lane Luckie
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 7:03 PM PDT|Updated: 12 hours ago


View the original article here

SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) – The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is asking for the public’s help in locating a one-month-old boy who was last seen in Smith County.

According to DFPS, the state was granted custody Tuesday of Gatlyn Baker, who was born on July 8, by Henderson County Family Court Judge Nancy Adams Perryman.

When the Department attempted to execute the removal of Gatlyn, the mother, Chelsea Baker ran with him,”

DFPS said the infant is believed to be with his parents, Kenny and Chelsea Baker, who were last seen in the Flint area. The couple were driving a black 2005 Chevy Tahoe with Texas license plate number MWF 2406.

Anyone with information on their whereabouts is asked to contact Child Protective Investigations Amanda Prewitt at (903) 368-0064.

(Audio) Imagine THIS Conversation being one of the last times you spoke to your child

It was 4 days before Christmas, 2004, when I arrived at my scheduled visit with my 8 year old son. The visitation center was getting ready to be closed until after the new year. I waited, and waited. I had driven over two hours in sleet and snow with an arm full of presents to give him for the holiday.

After about a half hour or so, the Director of Collin County CPS, Claudia King, came in to inform me that there would be no visit that day. When I asked why, she told me he “forgot” it was visitation day. I knew that could not be true.

When she proceeded to tell me it would be after the New Year before I could reschedule, I threw a fit and threatened to file emergency court papers if I did not get to see my son that week, before Christmas. She finally agreed to reschedule for the following day. Her reluctance was a red flag to me so I came the next day with a tape recorder and camera.

When my son arrived the following day, he was scantily clothed in a pair of shorts and a cut off red t shirt that had no sleeves. He wore no socks, and no jacket, and it was snowing that day. He had a pair of mittens on, pink girl mittens. His shirt had blood all over it. He had dried up blood in his nose. His eye was freshly cut, near his brow, and blood filed the whites of his eyeball.

The following are notes from that visit and the audio can be downloaded here.

I had only one more visit with him after that – a few months later.

It would be more than ten years before I was able to see him, or talk to him again. Once he was an adult.  It was more than a decade after this and one other visit before I was allowed to see so much as a photograph of my son.

It was this visit that uncovered the abuse he suffered in that home. It was this visit that haunted me and became the story, “It’s Almost Tuesday”

I tell every family involved in the system that my advice, most of all, is to record as much as you can. Record everything!

If I hadn’t recorded this visit, I wouldn’t have been able to go back and listen to what he was telling me. I wouldn’t have had the proof of the abuse which my lawyer had to leverage good release from foster care.

Unfortunately my was released into the custody of our abuser and the parental alienation and brainwashing was set in motion.  Our sacred mother/child bond was severed and our lives destroyed. my relationship with my son – as it stands today- (almost 2 decades later) is, I am almost certain, beyond repair.  Barring a miracle.

Regardless, my child in these audio recordings was taken from me and forever gone. Nothing can give back that time. No amount of money, apologies, sanctions, not God, not Satan, not a judge, social worker- not a single person or thing can give back my little boy.

The best I got back was an adult version of my son, who is as broken as I am. Or more broken as I am. I don’t know hope broken he really is, and I may never know.

That haunts me every single day of my existence.

As for me, I was murdered in cold blood, just because I haven’t taken my final breath yet does not mean I was not murdered.

He was 8 years old in the following three audio recordings.

: Part 1

: Part 2

: Part 3


Below are notes from the transcript of these audio recordings.

The time stamps are the markers for each note.

Thank you for your support over the years.


4:25 my child tells me that he was not there the day before this visit.
he was told that i never showed up the day before which was not
true. I was there the day before to visit him and had been lied to
by the director, Claudia King when she told me the day before that my son “forgot” that he had a visit.

5:30 my son describes the 3 of the other foster kids ganging up on him
and the incident that occurred when they threw rocks at him in
front of the foster mother

6:20 my son says “i’ve learned how to control my anger” he says – who has told him he needs to learn how to control his anger? That means to me that he’s getting angry and someone’s saying “You need to learn to control your anger!”

7:10 He asks “what sister?” . henn i ask about his visit and he tells
me he sprained his ankle playing dodge ball at PE – Was he taken
to the doctor?

7:56 I’m really ja…. piped up right now” he says … sounded like he
was gonna say “jacked up” but he said “piped up” where did he
learn those words?

8:39 – describes how they gave him pills he’s not supposed to take because they “forgot” and how it triggers his muscles and he can’t control his hands, and how it keeps him “going and going and going” and how its a “good thing” – is he being told in there that making my son a drug addict is a good thing?

14:28 I tell him to wear more clothes than sleeveless top and wet pants in the snow – he says that’s all the clothes he has, the rest are in the wash.

15:10 he shows me the camera he bought with a $50 gift card from a party (a party??)

The caseworker takes photos with the camera – I would
like to have a copy of all pictures taken with that camera.

16:50 talks about being afraid to plug things in since being at his
cousins… and cuts off into totally separate topics, obvious
effect from the drugs of “speeding”

22:20 Argues with me about playing with fake guns and talks about the target his foster father set up and how his foster brother can shoot it “in the heart” over and over again. He says “everybody plays with fake guns”

24:30 mentions how foster parents don’t have much money. He said he got his foster sister to take pictures of his eye when he got beat up
… who is the foster sister? where are the pictures?

he says the foster mother doesn’t look at the pictures they take.

25:15 He says he’s got a cold (did he go to the doctor?)

25:52 he says “I just want to hug you” and says “I only have a few more
months until I’m out of foster care” he tells me that he won’t
have to stay more than a year to a year and 1/2. Who is telling
him this?? He says he worries that it’ll be too long before he
gets out that they’re tearing apart his life.

26.55 his Daddy (stepfather) calls, and they won’t allow him to say
Merry Christmas, even supervised. Ryan gets upset and starts crying. I tell Ryan his daddy misses him and he says “I miss him too”.

28:08 hear people crying in the background.

28:27 I tell him to be strong and tell him that alot of people love him.

28:29 Everything time I go home from a visit i just scream at my foster mom
Cuz each time she walks in, it’s not you.

20:55 You okay?
What are you thinking I’ll give you a penny for your thought?

He said I don’t know what I’m thinking – – well, i’ve been having visions. he talks about “visions” he’s been having, like the kind of visions Jesus Christ has.

Why was my child dressed in army clothes for a visit? I will never know.

Learn more about parental alienation and obsessed alienation and how it effects the child and the targeted parent.

P.A.S.: What Grief Does to the Body & What it did to mine (warning: graphic picture)

Parent Alienation Is An Unresolved Loss

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome or P.A.S. ?

Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a term introduced by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985 to describe a distinctive suite of behaviors in children that includes showing extreme but unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent.

Parental alienation is the intentional targeting of a parent by the other parent, but it also can be done by another non-parent adult in the child’s life. 

In its severe form it is referred to as”obsessed alienation”.

Parental Alienation Syndrome has been described as the brainwashing of the child’s mind much like a cult leader would brainwash the cult members.

It is an intentional act with the goal being the interference with the relationship and affections between a child and the targeted parent. The longer the alienation is allowed to continue the more damaging the long term effects will be.

If the alienation is allowed to continue uninterrupted for too long, the relationship can become so damaged it is irreparable.  Without strict intervention the parent/child bond will be unfixable. The bond will be forever severed.

In my case, the alienation began when my son turned 8 in 2004.

I became the targeted parent in an unnatural campaign of hate by my own mother.  She was bitterly angry at me for reasons that had nothing to do with my son, so she teamed up with my ex-husband (despite knowledge that he was under investigation for multiple sex crimes against children). The two of them ABDUCTED my son from church on mother’s day.

When court ordered by the judge to return my son to me, they voluntarily placed my son in foster care to keep him from coming home.  He was abused in foster care.

As a defense, my mother and ex made false allegations of horrific acts of child abuse against me. The claims of abuse were brutal. Those allegations of abuse against me were never substantiated. 

Had they been true, I would have been a monster to ever do anything to my child. I didn’t even believe in spanking my children. If anything, I was overprotective.  

In retrospect, my  (fatal) mistake was a belief that if i was truly innocent (which I was), then the system would not wrongly convict me. 

I believed that without concrete proof of abuse, they would not take away my parental rights. I was a good, loving, attentive parent.

In other words, I believed in the system.

I believed in the United States Constitution and the rights of families to raise our children free of government interference.

I believed the government protected those rights.

I believed in the law.

I believed that cases were judged by their merit and on the weight of the evidence presented.

I had been foolishly NAIVE.

I learned the hard way that merit had nothing to do with it. 

Until I saw for myself, first hand, I would have never known how crooked and corrupt the system can be. I had no idea how flawed the sudden really is.
By the time I figured all that out, it was too late.

Nevertheless the entire process of losing my son, and the campaign of alienation was so strong (see obsessed alienation) it extended into my entire family.

My family, two brothers who are attorneys, another brother and a sister and all of their spouses, ALL failed to intervene or attempt to stop the tactics my mother and ex employed. 

All of the members of my family knew the allegations against me were false and that my ex was under investigation for sex crimes.

It was over ten years before I saw or talked to my son again. I still have no contact whatever with any of my family. They are all in my son’s life though and I am not.

By the time I saw my son again- it was at my father’s wake. My father passed away in May of 2010- 5 years later – my son was not my little boy anymore but the shell of a damaged young man.


He has been on a self destructive path ever since.

What Is An Ambiguous Loss?

The grief associated with the loss of a child to P.A.S. is an experience so painful and deep. The loss is called ambiguous or unresolved.

This type of loss is often described as an “ambiguous loss,” which is a term used to describe the nature of trauma, grief or mourning people endure when they have experienced a loss that is open-ended. (Boss, 1990).

Targeted Parents encountering alienation from their children are experiencing an open-ended loss.  This type of loss is often times more difficult to come to terms with than the grief of morning a death. 

When someone we love passes, the absence of the person is final  and the mourner recognizes this finality.

In dealing with my grief, I have said many times that if my son had died, I could have layed him to rest, and grieved. I could have moved on, with a place to visit him, at his grave.

Of course I have heard the argument that as long as he is still alive, he is somewhere out there in the world. There is hope of a future in that. But is there?


At first, i believed that one day it would happen.

I visualized it.

We would embrace.

We would talk through the night, tell each other our stories and life experiences while we had been apart.

We would compare notes and both understand what happened to us.

We would hug and cry and get to know each other again. Then, one day, it happened.

I did reunite with my son. It was, to me, glorious, but not at all as I imagined.

He refused to talk about what happened, so I never have been able to tell him my side of things.

Instead he spoke of tall tales. Experiences that he has had that I can’t imagine could have been real.

He didn’t engage me, but talked over me and through me. He told me things almost to see if he could shock me.

He was a stranger.

It was only after that first reunification, that I saw how the years of brainwashing he endured (and STILL endures) have damaged him. Our bond that was once so close, was gone.

 In fact, the harm done was so incredibly deep that I am struggling to accept that my years of hope had been nothing more than an illusion.

Is this really what my mother wanted to do to us? Did my family really think we deserve this pain?

Finding my son again only led to me losing him again.

It has been almost 17 years since our loss and I am grieving today, as deep, if not deeper than the day he went to church and never came home.

I lost him. 

To learn more about ambiguous loss and ambiguous reunification, click here.


The physical effects of Grief

range of studies reveal the powerful effects grief can have on the body.

Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you may already have- and cause new problems. It also batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection.

The following two pictures are of me before I lost my son, and during the initial months after he had been taken. In the moment of the most stressful times. (Warning, that picture is graphic, but an honest representation of the whole body response to stress and grief).

Photo taken before my son was abducted

I was so affected by the loss of my son, my friends described me as “disconnected” when they talked to meI spent the first few months writing over 1500 letters to anyone I could think of desperately begging for help. I would not allow myself even a moment to rest. I felt like I didn’t deserve to rest while my son was locked away in foster care.

The stress from the grief quickly landed me in a hospital having emergency surgery. The doctors had to drain an antibiotic-resistant infection from my eye socket and nasal cavities. The doctors said if it had reached my brain, it would have killed me. They said I was hours away from deaths door by the time I got to the emergency room. 

It took almost a year before the scars on my face faded and I could bear to look in the mirror again.

Photo taken of me in the hospital while my son was in foster care

I never was the same again. You can see it in the after picture below, I was dead inside.

I became someone new.

I became a mother, murdered.
I became “she”.

A photo after I lost all hope of a reunification with my son

Broken heart syndrome

The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Intense grief can alter the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome,” a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.


Stress: What is it, exactly?

Stress links the emotional and physical aspects of grief.

The systems in the body that process physical and emotional stress overlap, and emotional stress can activate the nervous system as easily as physical threats can.

When stress becomes chronic, increased adrenaline and blood pressure can contribute to chronic medical conditions.

Research shows that emotional pain activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain. This may be why painkilling drugs ranging from opioids to  Tylenol have been shown to ease emotional pain.


Depression is a mood disorder, not a normal part of grief

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive  disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Depression is not a normal part of grief, but a complication of grief.

Depression also raises the risk of health complications and often, requires treatment to resolve. Therefore, it is important to know how to recognize its symptoms.

Sidney Zisook, MD, a grief researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, says people can distinguish normal grief from depression by looking for specific emotional patterns.

“In normal grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite, as opposed to the more persistent low mood and agony of major depressive disorder,” Zisook says.

He says people usually retain “self-esteem, a sense of humor, and the capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain” in normal grief, while people who are depressed struggle with feelings of guilt and feeling worthless.

They also feel a limited ability “to experience or anticipate any pleasure or joy.”

Complicated grief differs from  both depression and normal grief. M. Katherine Shear, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s School of Social Work and director of its Center for Complicated Grief, defines complicated grief as
a form of persistent, pervasive grief” that does not get better naturally.

It happens when “some of the natural thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that occur during acute grief gain a foothold and interfere with the ability to accept the reality of the loss.”


What are the Symptoms of Complicated Grief?

Symptoms of complicated grief include persistent efforts to ignore the grief and deny or “rewrite” what happened.

Complicated grief increases the risk of physical and mental health problems like depression, anxietysleep issues, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and physical illness.


Rumination

Margaret Stroebe, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of clinical psychology at Utrecht University, says that recent research has shed light on many of “the cognitive and emotional processes underlying complications in grieving, particularly rumination.”

Research shows that rumination, or a repetitive, negative, self-focused thought, is actually a way to avoid problems.

People who ruminate shift attention away from painful truths by focusing on negative material that is less threatening than the truths they want to avoid.

This pattern of thinking is strongly associated with depression.

Rumination and other forms of avoidance demand energy and block the natural abilities of the body and mind to integrate new realities and heal. 

Enduring the experience of parental alienation is also a profound psychological trauma experienced by the targeted parents. It is both acute and chronic, and externally inflicted. It is thus a type of domestic violence directed at the target parent. The fact that children witness such abuse of a parent also makes alienation a form of child abuse. The events that plunge a parent into the role of an alienated, targeted parent is especially damaging to those who are closely attached to their children and were actively involved in their lives.

Research by Stroebe, and others  show that avoidance behavior makes depression, complicated grief, and the physical health problems that go with them more likely. Efforts to avoid the reality of loss can cause fatigue, weaken your immune system, increase inflammation, and prolong other ailments.


A Vicious Cycle of Passing on Childhood Traumas

Parental alienation is also a form of complex trauma. It is no coincidence that the pathology of the parent who engages in alienation is often born in complex trauma from the childhood of that parent, and that the current processes of attachment-based parental alienation are transferring onto the targeted parent a form of complex trauma. From a psychodynamic perspective, the processes of parental alienation represent a reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the alienating parent into the current family relationships.

When my mother was, herself, a child, she endured the loss of both parents. As an infant, her father passed away from a plane crash which decapitated him at the young age of 30.

My grandfather was the pilot of the plane that went down, killing him and leaving three young children without a father. The time period was the early 1930’s. It was a difficult time with WWI ending and with third Reich and Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Regime rising power in Germany.

The youngest of three children, my mother didn’t remember losing her father, but was only told about his death by her paternal grandmother. She had taken the three children following her son’s death, and kept them hidden away from their widowed mother who eventually died of cancer at age 39. In effect, my mother never knew either one of her parents, and developed psychiatric malformaties from the attachment traumas resulting from the loss of both parents in her own childhood.  

Understanding that, I can understand where her own twisted justifications came from for taking my child. My mother is an extremely damaged woman as the direct result of being orphaned as a child.  Still, knowing doesn’t make it less painful, heal it or make it any easier to come to terms with.

In fact, it’s the opposite. It is exactly her sad history of own traumatic childhood experiences that make it obvious to anyone looking in who knows her (such as my three older brothers and my older adopted sister) . They all know that what she’s done to me is wrong and she should have been forced to get help for her own issues rather than to be allowed to transfer them onto me via alienating my son from me. They know her family history. There is no excuse that any of them did nothing to stop her.

in my opinion, they are even more guilty of the P.A.S. abuse, as she is obviously sick and so sick, as a matter of fact, that she doesn’t even see it. A true indication it’s mental illness.  My siblings, though, can all see it. They all know all too well how broken and mentally disturbed she is.

My father took care of her until his death, even though they were divorced, because, as he’d say, “I take care of her because I can remember her before she was so crazy”.

If any of them had stopped her, I might still have a relationship with my son. If any one of them had stopped her my son might have been able to grow up without being abused and traumatized by her. 

I have heard from people who knew our family say that ‘if it weren’t for your mother, you might have actually had a good life.” and “She ruined your life, and you had such potential.” and “How sad it is what she did to you and your children”

I can’t count the times I’ve heard people say things like that.

People THAT KNEW HER.

Truth is, she murdered me with the full assistance of my brothers and sister.

Particularly me oldest brother, who actively funded and facilitated her murdering me. I may still be breathing but what she did, with my brother’s help, absolutely killed me.

If I could, I wouldd have them charged with the crime of murder.

It is vital for targeted parents to find ways of coping with the attachment-based complex trauma of parental alienation

They must strive to achieve the triumph of light over the darkness of trauma, and find their way out of the trauma experience being inflicted upon them. They must free themselves from the imposed trauma experience, restoring their psychological health within the immense emotional trauma of their grief and loss.

As much as targeted parents desperately want to save their children, they cannot rescue their children from the quicksand by jumping into the quicksand with them. If they do, they will both perish. 

Before I lost my son
After I lost my son

Who Am I now?

When i first lost my son, I was obsessively dedicated to fighting the system that allowed for him to be taken.

I spent thousands of dollars and worked tirelessly to file pleadings, write letters, join causes and support groups. You name it, I tried it.

In my obsession, I would say, “my son, [his name], repeatedly emphasising that he was MY SON, MY son. MY SON.

After some time, when the realizations began that said he wouldn’t be coming home .. he became my son (less his name), to my boy, the boy, the child.

I began to de-sensitive myself from being a mother of a child would never be coming home.

When [you lose] someone close to you – or someone close to you dies, your social role changes, too. This can affect your sense of meaning and sense of self.

Caregivers face especially complicated role adjustments. The physical and emotional demands of caregiving can leave them feeling depleted even before a loved one dies, and losing the person they took care of can leave them with a lost sense of purpose.

“Research shows that during intense caregiving periods, caregivers not only experience high levels of stress, they also cannot find the time and energy to look after their own health,” says Kathrin Boerner, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

This can result in the emergence of new or the reemergence of existing ‘dormant’ health problems after the death of the care recipient. These health issues may or may not be directly related to the caregiver’s grief experience, but they are likely related to the life situation that was created through the demands of caregiving,” Boerner says.

It can be hard to make life work again after a close family member dies. Losing a partner can mean having to move out of a shared home or having to reach out to other loved ones for help, which can further increase emotional stress and worry.

Strobe says the stress of adjusting to changes in life and health during and after a loss can “increase vulnerability and reduce adaptive reserves for coping with bereavement.”

Emotional and physical self-care are essential ways to ease complications of grief and boost recovery. 

Exercisingspending time in nature, getting enough sleep, and talking to loved ones can help with physical and mental health.

“Most often, normal grief does not require professional intervention,” says Zisook.

“Grief is a natural, instinctive response to loss, adaptation occurs naturally, and healing is the natural outcome,” especially with “time and the support of loved ones and friends.”

Grief researchers emphasize that social support, self-acceptance, and good self-care usually help people get through normal grief. Shear encourages people to “plan small rewarding activities and try to enjoy them as much as possible.”

But the researchers say people need professional help to heal from complicated grief and depression.

“The thing about grief and depression and sorrow and being suicidal is that you can’t reach out.

For many people going through a hard time, reaching out is impossible. If your friend is in grief, reach out to them. Do the legwork. They’re too exhausted!”

P.A.S.: What Grief Does to the Body & What it did to mine (warning: graphic picture)

Parent Alienation Is An Unresolved Loss

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome or P.A.S. ?

Parental alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a controversial term introduced by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985 to describe a distinctive suite of behaviors in children that includes – showing extreme, but unwarranted, fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent.

Parental alienation is the intentional targeting of a parent by the other parent to interfere in the parent/child relationship. This can also be perpetrated by another non-parent adult or caregiver who is present in the child’s life. 

In its severest form it is referred to as”obsessed alienation”.

Parental Alienation Syndrome has been described as the brainwashing of the child’s mind, much like a cult leader would brainwash the cult members.

It is an intentional act with the goal being the interference with the relationship and affections between a child and the targeted parent.

This is a progressive unhinging of the affections, and an ongoing abuse that is difficult to detect. The longer the alienation is allowed to continue, the more damaging the long term effects will be.

If the alienation is allowed to continue uninterrupted for too long, the relationship can become so damaged it is irreparable

Without strict intervention the parent/child bond will be unfixable. The bond will be forever severed.

In my case, the alienation began when my son turned 8 and we had been forced to move back to the same state my family lived in after my husband and I separated in 2003.

I became the targeted parent in 2004 in an unnatural campaign of hate by my own mother.  She was, and still is, bitterly angry at me for reasons that had nothing to do with my son.

She also has unresolved issues from her own childhood.

Additionally, my older brothers, (two of which are successful attorneys in Texas) enabled her.

They continue to enable her to this very day.

She teamed up with my ex-husband and abuser, despite full knowledge that he was under investigation for multiple sex crimes against children. She partnered up with him, knowing I had a domestic violence permanent protective order against him to protect me and my son from being abused by him again.

The two of them – my own birth mother and my abuser ( let that sink in) worked together, and conspired and planned for several years, to ABDUCT my son, which they did on May 2, 2004.

They took him from church on mother’s day.

Again, think about that and let that sink in.

Imagine as a mother, having your 8 year old child, whom you’ve protected for those 8 years from an abusive man, taken from CHURCH ON MOTHER’S DAY, never to return home again...

The trauma is unbelievable.

The anger at God for failing to protect my child in His house of worship, and at my own blood family who stood idly by and allowed it to happen, is unquenchable.

Particularly because, as attorneys, I know they were able to stop it, but they didn’t.

In fact, since the day he was taken my three brothers and sister have not spoken one word to me . I became, effectively, erased.

I’ve spent years wondering why they didn’t stop her. Why I am so disposable to them..?

Big brothers are supposed to protect their baby sisters.

Right? So where were my brothers when I needed them?

When court ordered by the judge to return my son to me, they voluntarily placed my son in foster care to keep him from coming home.

  He was abused in foster care.

As a defense, my mother and ex made false allegations of horrific acts of child abuse against me. The claims of abuse were brutal. Those allegations of abuse against me were never substantiated. 

Had they been true, I would have been a monster to ever do anything to my child. I didn’t even believe in spanking my children. If anything, I was overprotective.  

In retrospect, my  (fatal) mistake was a belief that if i was truly innocent (which I was), then the system would not wrongly convict me. 

I believed that without concrete proof of abuse, they would not take away my parental rights. I was a good, loving, attentive parent.

In other words, I believed in the system.

I believed in the United States Constitution and the rights of families to raise our children free of government interference.

I believed the government protected those rights.

I believed in the law.

I believed that cases were judged by their merit and on the weight of the evidence presented.

I had been foolishly NAIVE.

I learned the hard way that merit had nothing to do with it. 

Until I saw for myself, first hand, I would have never known how crooked and corrupt the system can be.

I had no idea how flawed the family court system really is.


By the time I figured all of that out, it was too late.

Nevertheless the entire process of losing my son, and the campaign of alienation was so strong and severe (see obsessed alienation) it extended into my entire family.

My two brothers who are attorneys, my other brother and my sister, and all of their spouses, ALL failed to intervene . None of them attempted to stop the tactics my mother and ex had employed. 

All of the members of my family knew the allegations against me were false and that my ex was under investigation for sex crimes.

It was over ten years before I saw or talked to my son again. I still have no contact whatever with any of my family. They are all in my son’s life though and I am not.

By the time I saw my son again- it was at my father’s wake. My father passed away in May of 2010- 5 years later – my son was not my little boy anymore but the shell of a damaged young man.


He has been on a self destructive path ever since.

What Is An Ambiguous Loss?

The grief associated with the loss of a child to P.A.S. is an experience so painful and deep. The loss is called ambiguous or an unresolved loss.

This type of loss is often described as an “ambiguous loss,” which is a term used to describe the nature of trauma, grief or mourning people endure when they have experienced a loss that is open-ended. (Boss, 1990).

Targeted Parents encountering alienation from their children are experiencing an open-ended loss.  This type of loss is often times more difficult to come to terms with than the grief of morning a death. 

When someone we love passes, the absence of the person is final  and the mourner recognizes this finality.

In dealing with my grief, I have said many times that if my son had died, I could have layed him to rest, and grieved. I could have moved on, with a place to visit him, at his grave.

Of course I have heard the argument that as long as he is still alive, he is somewhere out there in the world. There is hope of a future in that. But is there?


At first, i believed that one day it would happen.

I visualized it.

We would embrace.

We would talk through the night, tell each other our stories and life experiences while we had been apart.

We would compare notes and both understand what happened to us.

We would hug and cry and get to know each other again. Then, one day, it happened.

I did reunite with my son. It was, to me, glorious, but not at all as I imagined.

He refused to talk about what happened, so I never have been able to tell him my side of things.

Instead he spoke of tall tales. Experiences that he has had that I can’t imagine could have been real.

He didn’t engage me, but talked over me and through me. He told me things almost to see if he could shock me.

He was a stranger.

It was only after that first reunification, that I saw how the years of brainwashing he endured (and STILL endures) have damaged him. Our bond that was once so close, was gone.

 In fact, the harm done was so incredibly deep that I am struggling to accept that my years of hope had been nothing more than an illusion.

Is this really what my mother wanted to do to us? Did my family really think we deserve this pain?

Finding my son again only led to me losing him again.

It has been almost 17 years since our loss and I am grieving today, as deep, if not deeper than the day he went to church and never came home.

I lost him. 

To learn more about ambiguous loss and ambiguous reunification, click here.


The physical effects of Grief

range of studies reveal the powerful effects grief can have on the body.

Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you may already have- and cause new problems. It also batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection.

The following two pictures are of me before I lost my son, and during the initial months after he had been taken. In the moment of the most stressful times. (Warning, that picture is graphic, but an honest representation of the whole body response to stress and grief).

Photo taken before my son was abducted

I was so affected by the loss of my son, my friends described me as “disconnected” when they talked to meI spent the first few months writing over 1500 letters to anyone I could think of desperately begging for help. I would not allow myself even a moment to rest. I felt like I didn’t deserve to rest while my son was locked away in foster care.

The stress from the grief quickly landed me in a hospital having emergency surgery. The doctors had to drain an antibiotic-resistant infection from my eye socket and nasal cavities. The doctors said if it had reached my brain, it would have killed me. They said I was hours away from deaths door by the time I got to the emergency room. 

It took almost a year before the scars on my face faded and I could bear to look in the mirror again.

Photo taken of me in the hospital while my son was in foster care

I never was the same again. You can see it in the after picture below, I was dead inside.

I became someone new.

I became a mother, murdered.
I became “she”.

A photo after I lost all hope of a reunification with my son

Broken heart syndrome

The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Intense grief can alter the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome,” a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.


Stress: What is it, exactly?

Stress links the emotional and physical aspects of grief.

The systems in the body that process physical and emotional stress overlap, and emotional stress can activate the nervous system as easily as physical threats can.

When stress becomes chronic, increased adrenaline and blood pressure can contribute to chronic medical conditions.

Research shows that emotional pain activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain. This may be why painkilling drugs ranging from opioids to  Tylenol have been shown to ease emotional pain.


Depression is a mood disorder, not a normal part of grief

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive  disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Depression is not a normal part of grief, but a complication of grief.

Depression also raises the risk of health complications and often, requires treatment to resolve. Therefore, it is important to know how to recognize its symptoms.

Sidney Zisook, MD, a grief researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, says people can distinguish normal grief from depression by looking for specific emotional patterns.

“In normal grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite, as opposed to the more persistent low mood and agony of major depressive disorder,” Zisook says.

He says people usually retain “self-esteem, a sense of humor, and the capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain” in normal grief, while people who are depressed struggle with feelings of guilt and feeling worthless.

They also feel a limited ability “to experience or anticipate any pleasure or joy.”

Complicated grief differs from  both depression and normal grief. M. Katherine Shear, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s School of Social Work and director of its Center for Complicated Grief, defines complicated grief as
a form of persistent, pervasive grief” that does not get better naturally.

It happens when “some of the natural thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that occur during acute grief gain a foothold and interfere with the ability to accept the reality of the loss.”


What are the Symptoms of Complicated Grief?

Symptoms of complicated grief include persistent efforts to ignore the grief and deny or “rewrite” what happened.

Complicated grief increases the risk of physical and mental health problems like depression, anxietysleep issues, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and physical illness.


Rumination

Margaret Stroebe, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of clinical psychology at Utrecht University, says that recent research has shed light on many of “the cognitive and emotional processes underlying complications in grieving, particularly rumination.”

Research shows that rumination, or a repetitive, negative, self-focused thought, is actually a way to avoid problems.

People who ruminate shift attention away from painful truths by focusing on negative material that is less threatening than the truths they want to avoid.

This pattern of thinking is strongly associated with depression.

Rumination and other forms of avoidance demand energy and block the natural abilities of the body and mind to integrate new realities and heal. 

Enduring the experience of parental alienation is also a profound psychological trauma experienced by the targeted parents. It is both acute and chronic, and externally inflicted. It is thus a type of domestic violence directed at the target parent. The fact that children witness such abuse of a parent also makes alienation a form of child abuse. The events that plunge a parent into the role of an alienated, targeted parent is especially damaging to those who are closely attached to their children and were actively involved in their lives.

Research by Stroebe, and others  show that avoidance behavior makes depression, complicated grief, and the physical health problems that go with them more likely. Efforts to avoid the reality of loss can cause fatigue, weaken your immune system, increase inflammation, and prolong other ailments.


A Vicious Cycle of Passing on Childhood Traumas

Parental alienation is also a form of complex trauma. It is no coincidence that the pathology of the parent who engages in alienation is often born in complex trauma from the childhood of that parent, and that the current processes of attachment-based parental alienation are transferring onto the targeted parent a form of complex trauma. From a psychodynamic perspective, the processes of parental alienation represent a reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the alienating parent into the current family relationships.

When my mother was, herself, a child, she endured the loss of both parents. As an infant, her father passed away from a plane crash which decapitated him at the young age of 30.

My grandfather was the pilot of the plane that went down, killing him and leaving three young children without a father. The time period was the early 1930’s. It was a difficult time with WWI ending and with third Reich and Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Regime rising power in Germany.

The youngest of three children, my mother didn’t remember losing her father, but was only told about his death by her paternal grandmother. She had taken the three children following her son’s death, and kept them hidden away from their widowed mother who eventually died of cancer at age 39. In effect, my mother never knew either one of her parents, and developed psychiatric malformaties from the attachment traumas resulting from the loss of both parents in her own childhood.  

Understanding that, I can understand where her own twisted justifications came from for taking my child. My mother is an extremely damaged woman as the direct result of being orphaned as a child.  Still, knowing doesn’t make it less painful, heal it or make it any easier to come to terms with.

In fact, it’s the opposite. It is exactly her sad history of own traumatic childhood experiences that make it obvious to anyone looking in who knows her (such as my three older brothers and my older adopted sister) . They all know that what she’s done to me is wrong and she should have been forced to get help for her own issues rather than to be allowed to transfer them onto me via alienating my son from me. They know her family history. There is no excuse that any of them did nothing to stop her.

in my opinion, they are even more guilty of the P.A.S. abuse, as she is obviously sick and so sick, as a matter of fact, that she doesn’t even see it. A true indication it’s mental illness.  My siblings, though, can all see it. They all know all too well how broken and mentally disturbed she is.

My father took care of her until his death, even though they were divorced, because, as he’d say, “I take care of her because I can remember her before she was so crazy”.

If any of them had stopped her, I might still have a relationship with my son. If any one of them had stopped her my son might have been able to grow up without being abused and traumatized by her. 

I have heard from people who knew our family say that ‘if it weren’t for your mother, you might have actually had a good life.” and “She ruined your life, and you had such potential.” and “How sad it is what she did to you and your children”

I can’t count the times I’ve heard people say things like that.

People THAT KNEW HER.

Truth is, she murdered me with the full assistance of my brothers and sister.

Particularly me oldest brother, who actively funded and facilitated her murdering me. I may still be breathing but what she did, with my brother’s help, absolutely killed me.

If I could, I wouldd have them charged with the crime of murder.

It is vital for targeted parents to find ways of coping with the attachment-based complex trauma of parental alienation

They must strive to achieve the triumph of light over the darkness of trauma, and find their way out of the trauma experience being inflicted upon them. They must free themselves from the imposed trauma experience, restoring their psychological health within the immense emotional trauma of their grief and loss.

As much as targeted parents desperately want to save their children, they cannot rescue their children from the quicksand by jumping into the quicksand with them. If they do, they will both perish. 

Before I lost my son
After I lost my son

Who Am I now?

When i first lost my son, I was obsessively dedicated to fighting the system that allowed for him to be taken.

I spent thousands of dollars and worked tirelessly to file pleadings, write letters, join causes and support groups. You name it, I tried it.

In my obsession, I would say, “my son, [his name], repeatedly emphasising that he was MY SON, MY son. MY SON.

After some time, when the realizations began that said he wouldn’t be coming home .. he became my son (less his name), to my boy, the boy, the child.

I began to de-sensitive myself from being a mother of a child would never be coming home.

When [you lose] someone close to you – or someone close to you dies, your social role changes, too. This can affect your sense of meaning and sense of self.

Caregivers face especially complicated role adjustments. The physical and emotional demands of caregiving can leave them feeling depleted even before a loved one dies, and losing the person they took care of can leave them with a lost sense of purpose.

“Research shows that during intense caregiving periods, caregivers not only experience high levels of stress, they also cannot find the time and energy to look after their own health,” says Kathrin Boerner, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

This can result in the emergence of new or the reemergence of existing ‘dormant’ health problems after the death of the care recipient. These health issues may or may not be directly related to the caregiver’s grief experience, but they are likely related to the life situation that was created through the demands of caregiving,” Boerner says.

It can be hard to make life work again after a close family member dies. Losing a partner can mean having to move out of a shared home or having to reach out to other loved ones for help, which can further increase emotional stress and worry.

Strobe says the stress of adjusting to changes in life and health during and after a loss can “increase vulnerability and reduce adaptive reserves for coping with bereavement.”

Emotional and physical self-care are essential ways to ease complications of grief and boost recovery. 

Exercisingspending time in nature, getting enough sleep, and talking to loved ones can help with physical and mental health.

“Most often, normal grief does not require professional intervention,” says Zisook.

“Grief is a natural, instinctive response to loss, adaptation occurs naturally, and healing is the natural outcome,” especially with “time and the support of loved ones and friends.”

Grief researchers emphasize that social support, self-acceptance, and good self-care usually help people get through normal grief. Shear encourages people to “plan small rewarding activities and try to enjoy them as much as possible.”

But the researchers say people need professional help to heal from complicated grief and depression.

“The thing about grief and depression and sorrow and being suicidal is that you can’t reach out.

For many people going through a hard time, reaching out is impossible. If your friend is in grief, reach out to them. Do the legwork. They’re too exhausted!”

A Child’s Life Matters

I want to say something to the people I’m the United States of America, and everywhere else, to Americans.

We have been attacked with a virus and police brutality, and protests, more violence, and lockdowns and misinformation.

Stop, please. Step back and take a breath and a good look around at the chaos, losses and uncertainties.

Take a look. Is that really how you want to live? There are agendas, no matter what you believe or don’t, that there are people trying to divide us- by race, gender, preferences, religions, political party etc.

By class… Is more like it.

Them… And us. The elite, and the rest of us.

So just stop.

They want us to fight because together we stand, decided we fall.

Please, stop fighting.

There are children whose futures depend on it…

And a child’s life matters.

Thank you.

Parental Alienation Taints Relationships and is Abuse

When Ties to a Parent Are Cut by the Other

Amy J. L. Baker, left, at the Englewood Public Library. She chronicled the stories of 40 adults who as children were turned against a parent.

Credit…Sylwia Kapuscinski for The New York Times
By Michael Winerip
Sept. 23, 2007

THIS is a nice moment in Joe Rabiega’s life. At 31, he has a good job as a research coordinator for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is happily married and feels blessed that his wife of five years, Tiffany, is pregnant with their first child.

His hope is to give that child a happier upbringing than the one he had. Mr. Rabiega’s parents divorced when he was 8, and though they were supposed to share custody, he said, his father, a truck driver with a drinking problem, did everything possible to turn him against his mother and eventually kept him from seeing her.

“He bullied my mother into giving up custody,” Mr. Rabiega said. When he was still allowed to visit his mother, he’d have to stay by the phone to take a call from his father at 4 every afternoon and 8 each evening. He said his father trained him to spy on his mother’s socializing and spending habits.

“His ability to manipulate her was so lopsided, it never got to the point where a court heard it,” he said in a phone interview. “His threats of violence made it clear she’d never get me.”

Continue reading the main story
For several years, he said, until his late teens, he didn’t see his mother and believed everything his father said about her.

“He took me to the police station and told them my mother abandoned me, even though it was completely not true,”

Mr. Rabiega said. “He had the entire neighborhood convinced that my mother no longer wanted me.

“He had me convinced without him, I had nobody,” Mr. Rabiega said. “When he’d been drinking, he’d get out his gun and threaten to kill himself if I left him.”

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It wasn’t until Mr. Rabiega was an adult that he began to see his mother in a different light, he said. “She was a seamstress in a garment factory who didn’t graduate from high school. She was weak, no one to guide her, no money, no education, no resources to fight for me.” At one point, he said, she attempted suicide.


Mr. Rabiega is one of 40 research subjects in a new book by Amy J. L. Baker, about parents who turn a child against the other parent, “Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome.” Dr. Baker, the research director of the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection at the New York Foundling, does not identify the subjects by their real names, but Mr. Rabiega (called Jonah in the book) agreed to let his name be used for this column. “If this can help people, it’s worth it,” he said. “I really compare what I went through to people who are kidnapped and brainwashed.”

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Most people would agree that one parent has the power to turn a child against the other parent; however, classifying the behavior as a mental health syndrome, as Dr. Baker does, has met with considerable criticism in the past.

“It’s been a very controversial area,” said Dr. Baker, 48, who lives in Teaneck, N.J., and has a doctorate in psychology from Teachers College at Columbia.

Dr. Baker’s book is written in an academic style and sticks closely to the stories of the 40 adult subjects, ages 19 to 67, who describe being wrongfully manipulated by a parent.

It is an attempt to take the sensationalism out of the subject. Accusations of such manipulation have been an issue during high-profile celebrity custody battles, like the ones involving Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

There is none of that in Dr. Baker’s book, which includes a seven-page bibliography of scholarly research. Instead, she tells the stories of ordinary people like Mr. Rabiega, struggling into their adult years with the damage they describe from having been manipulated into hating a parent.

While most research has focused on children, Dr. Baker looks at these children once they’ve become adults. A key question she set out to answer: Do any of these kids grow up and figure it out? “That I can answer yes,” she said. “I can’t say how prevalent it is, but I have found lots of people.”

Some of what she found undercut earlier research. When therapists first described the behavior in the 1980s, they talked about it as manipulation by mothers to punish fathers. This drew criticism from some women’s groups, who dismissed the syndrome as something concocted by lawyers for abusive fathers trying to improve their custody chances.

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Dr. Baker said her research — both for the book and with several hundred subjects over the last five years — indicates a mother or father is equally likely to do the manipulating. It is “truly 50-50,” she said.

Other patterns emerged from her 40 subjects: 75 percent were the products of divorce, and 58 percent were divorced themselves;

70 percent suffered depression; 35 percent developed problems with drugs or alcohol.

And perhaps the saddest: Half of the 28 who had children said they were estranged from their own children.

Dr. Baker believes the behavior is prevalent enough to qualify as a syndrome in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of the American Psychiatric Association. While that’s not going to happen soon — the manual won’t be revised again until 2012 — she hopes her research might cause social workers and therapists who investigate custody cases to be more aware.

“If you believe it’s possible for a child to be brainwashed by one parent, the job of a custody evaluator is a lot harder,” she said.

The challenges in such cases can be daunting. How do you know if the scorned parent is being unfairly victimized or if that parent is abusive and deserves to be scorned? “It’s a lot of investigating, and there’s no one definitive tool,” Dr. Baker said.


Some of that investigative muscle is missing from her own research. Dr. Baker did not interview parents for their version of events, nor did she cite independent sources like court records that could corroborate the stories.

“I did what I could,” she said. “This is just one study. It’s a very new field and there’s little research. The point is to give voice to these people who have not been heard.”

It is also hard to get people to talk publicly about family dysfunction. Mr. Rabiega was willing to speak partly because both his parents are dead.

He said that when he was in his 20s, he again developed a relationship with his mother, but that his father’s “brainwashing” had been so strong, he couldn’t entirely overcome it.

“It was hard for me to fully love my mom,” he said. “If she needed me to do something or needed money, I didn’t want to and I’d get angry. My father implanted a disgust and disdain in me for my mother that wouldn’t go away and tainted our relationship.”

Ten years of therapy helped, he said, as did his wife and finding religion. “It helped when I reconnected with my mom, she held nothing against me,” he said. “She reiterated it was my father’s fault, and I had no choice.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “I realized a lot after my mother died.”

Big news!! Trump signs executive order strengthening the CHILD welfare system


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Trump acted to strengthen America’s child welfare system by signing a historic Executive Order (EO) aimed at improving outcomes for children and families. This EO focuses on three key areas of action: improving partnerships, improving resources, and improving oversight.

“President Trump’s executive order demonstrates how his administration has prioritized placing each of America’s foster kids with the loving, permanent family they deserve,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. 

“Since the President took office, we have focused on promoting adoption unlike any previous administration, and we’ve begun to see results. The President’s executive order lays out bold reforms for our work with states, communities, and faith-based partners to build a brighter future for American kids who are in foster care or in crisis.”

“Our number one goal is to help our children and youth by making improvements to our child welfare system, and I’m incredibly grateful to President Trump for taking this monumental action today,” said the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson.

“These strong actions support vulnerable children and youth nationwide by advancing measures to reduce child abuse and neglect, encouraging family preservation, and strengthening adoption and other forms of permanency for America’s kids.”

Background

Currently, there are approximately 430,000 children in the foster care system. Of those 430,000 children, there are nearly 124,000 children in foster care who have a plan for adoption, but have not yet achieved the permanency of a forever family. Each year, close to 20,000 youth age out of care without the support of a loving, permanent family. Many of these young men and women will experience higher rates of homelessness, incarceration, and unemployment after they leave foster care. Through three key reforms to the child welfare system outlined in the Executive Order, this Administration is standing up for vulnerable children and families, pursuing child safety, as well as permanency and child and family well-being.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), ACF received and distributed $45 million in grants to states, territories, and tribes to support the child welfare needs of families during this crisis, and to help keep families together. In addition, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is anticipated to add $300 million in federal resources in fiscal year 2020 to support children in foster care, as well as children formerly in foster care now living with adoptive parents or legal guardians.

ACF has worked tirelessly in aiding efforts to reduce the number of children entering the foster care system. Through proactive primary prevention efforts and a focus on providing services to keep children safely at home, ACF—with partners at all levels of government and in the not-for-profit sector—has been able to keep more children safely out of foster care. This progress can be seen in the data. The number of children/youth entering care in recent years has declined, with a preliminary estimate of 250,000 children/youth entering care in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. This is a five percent decline from FY 2018, and a nine percent decline from FY 2016.

The Executive Order on Strengthening Foster Care for America’s Children

The EO builds upon that success by offering three key reforms that will strengthen the child welfare system and promote permanency for children in the foster care system nationwide.

The first reform aims at creating robust partnerships between state agencies and public, private, faith-based and community organizations. To accomplish this, the EO empowers HHS to collect and publish localized data that can be used to aid in the development of community-based prevention and family support services and in the recruitment of foster and adoptive families; to hold states accountable for recruiting an adequate number of foster and adoptive families for all children; and to develop guidance for states on best practices for effective partnering with faith-based and community organizations, aimed at improving outcomes for children and families.

The second reform seeks to improve resources provided to caregivers and those in care. To accomplish this, HHS will increase the availability of trauma-informed training, support guardianship through funding and grants, and enhance support for kinship care and for youth exiting foster care by evaluating barriers to federal assistance.

The third reform would improve federal oversight over key statutory child welfare requirements. To accomplish this, the EO requires the Title IV-E Reviews and the Child and Family Services Reviews to strengthen the assessments of these critical requirements and directs HHS to provide guidance to states regarding flexibility in the use of federal funds to support and encourage high-quality legal representation for parents and children.

Deliberate reforms of the child welfare system will bring change to the foster care system to improve the lives of many vulnerable children and families. ACF looks forward to implementing these changes to prevent child maltreatment, keep families together whenever safely possible, and achieve timely permanency for the thousands of children waiting in the system.

Source:

All ACF press releases, fact sheets and other materials are available on the ACF media page. Follow ACF on Twitter Visit disclaimer page for more updates.

Quick Facts

Currently, there are approximately 430,000 children in the foster care system. Of those 430,000 children, there are nearly 124,000 children in foster care who have a plan for adoption, but have not yet achieved the permanency of a forever family.

Each year, close to 20,000 youth age out of care without the support of a loving, permanent family.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), ACF received and distributed $45 million in grants to states, territories, and tribes to support the child welfare needs of families during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is anticipated to add $300 million in federal resources in fiscal year 2020 to support children in foster care, as well as children formerly in foster care now living with adoptive parents or legal guardians.

The number of children/youth entering care in recent years has declined, with a preliminary estimate of 250,000 children/youth entering care in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019. This is a five percent decline from FY 2018, and a nine percent decline from FY 2016.

Quotes

“President Trump’s executive order demonstrates how his administration has prioritized placing each of America’s foster kids with the loving, permanent family they deserve. Since the President took office, we have focused on promoting adoption unlike any previous administration, and we’ve begun to see results. The President’s executive order lays out bold reforms for our work with states, communities, and faith-based partners to build a brighter future for American kids who are in foster care or in crisis.”— Alex Azar, HHS Secretary

“Our number one goal is to help our children and youth by making improvements to our child welfare system, and I’m incredibly grateful to President Trump for taking this monumental action today. These strong actions support vulnerable children and youth nationwide by advancing measures to reduce child abuse and neglect, encouraging family preservation, and strengthening adoption and other forms of permanency for America’s kids.”— Lynn Johnson, ACF Assistant Secretary

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