By Richard A Warshack, Psychologist and expert on P.A.S. @richardwarshack
This post is in honor of Parental Alienation Awareness Day—April 25.
A boy wrote a letter to his mother telling her that she belonged in a mental institution, that she was nothing to him, that she was nothing but a screw-up, that she was sick, selfish, that he wanted to have nothing to do with her or any of her relatives, and that he hoped she died a horrible, painful death. In other words, this boy disowned his mother with the most aggressive, vile, and hateful language.
The father’s attorney attempted to minimize the child’s alienation by claiming that the boy merely loved his dad a lot more than he loved his mom.
Attorneys spin the facts to zealously advocate for their clients’ positions. We expect it.
But what excuse do others have for denying the reality that a child can become irrationally alienated from a good and formerly loved parent? And for denying the reality that the child’s unjustified rejection of one parent can be traced to the other parent’s relentless manipulations to drive a wedge between child and parent?
How could anyone who works in the family law system deny the reality — affirmed nearly unanimously by legal and mental health professionals — that children can be influenced by one parent to turn against the other parent?
Encouraging a child to align with one parent against the other, and teaching a child to hate a parent for no good reason, is cruel. If a teacher did this to a student, bad-mouthed a child’s parents and systematically undermined the child’s love and respect for her parents, that teacher would be out of a job.
“Stealing the soul,” is how I described this process in DIVORCE POISON—enlisting children as agents in their own deprivation and violating children’s trust.
Leading authorities on divorce agree. Dr. Joan Kelly and Dr. Janet Johnston held no punches: “Whether such parents are aware of the negative impact on the child, these behaviors of the aligned parent (and his or her supporters) constitute emotional abuse of the child.”
Society has a checkered track record in recognizing and protecting children from abuse. Denial and minimization intermittently subdue awareness and acknowledgment. It has been this way with physical abuse, with sexual abuse, and with psychological abuse. So we should not be surprised that a subculture of parents and professionals denies that children can be manipulated to reject a parent for no good reason—or that they go so far as to claim that most children will turn against the parent who is abusing them in these ways.
How do deniers rationalize their apparent blindness?
Here are five strategies.
1. Deflect attention from the reality of divorce poison and its destructive impact with debates about whether parental alienation constitutes a bona fide syndrome. The claim is that because the official manual of psychiatric diagnoses (DSM-5) does not include the term “parental alienation,” the problem must be bogus. You also will not find “reckless driving syndrome” in the DSM-5. But you would be wise to avoid getting in a car with a driver who has this problem. Children need protection from reckless, toxic parenting, regardless of how we label the parent’s behavior. Moreover, the DSM-5 does refer to the concept of irrational parental alienation. The diagnostic manual mentions “unwarranted feelings of estrangement” as an example of the diagnosis: Parent–Child Relational Problem.
To the parent who loses her child, or the child who loses a parent, it matters little whether we label the loss a syndrome, a disorder, a condition, or a problem. What matters is whether a child is suffering and whether a parent’s behavior contributes to a child’s suffering.
2. Claim that it is only a speculation, hypothesis, or theory that children can become alienated from one parent when exposed to the other parent’s negative influence. As I explained in my article, “Bringing Sense to Parental Alienation,” there is nothing theoretical or speculative about the existence of irrationally alienated children. These children can be directly observed by anyone willing to look.
3. Attribute unsupportable, fake positions to parental alienation studies, and then refute the fake positions—a tactic known as “attacking a straw man.” For instance, a recently published study claimed that “the alienation hypothesis” (see denial strategy #2 above) maintains that parental denigration is only unilateral, not reciprocal, and that all children exposed to parental denigration become alienated from the target of denigration. When the study found that a group of volunteer college students reported that both parents denigrated each other, and the children did not reject either parent, the authors of the study concluded that “the alienation hypothesis” was not supported and that parental denigration does not cause children to reject the parent who is denigrated.
The problem with this line of reasoning is that no scholar has claimed that parental denigration necessarily leads to a child rejecting the denigrated parent. Of course many children whose parents badmouth each other maintain relationships with both parents. Rejecting a parent is an extreme consequence, not a common one. Furthermore, anyone who has worked with irrationally alienated children knows that these children are reluctant to admit that their favored parent maligned their other parent— in fact, these children are reluctant to admit anything negative about the parent whom they favor.
Researchers who genuinely want to learn about the forces that lead children to irrationally reject a parent will begin by studying alienated children. Studying children who are not alienated merely makes the obvious point that their parents occasionally bad-mouth each other without alienating the children from either parent. This is the sort of “scholarship” that gives social science a bad odor because the study advocates for and confirms a bias against the existence of parental alienation.
4. Ignore studies that fail to support one’s pet theories. For example, while promoting skepticism about the notion that children can be manipulated by a parent to hate the other parent, the authors of the study mentioned above failed to cite the largest study, published by the American Bar Association, that explicitly attributed children’s problems to being brainwashed by one parent against the other. They also failed to cite the volume of scientific evidence about various mechanisms by which children’s attitudes can be influenced and by which negative stereotypes about a parent can be promulgated.
Children’s feelings and behavior toward each parent are influenced by the way their parents treat each other. Does any reasonable person seriously believe otherwise—that children are immune from a parent’s influence? If so, tell that to all the child psychologists and authors who study and write about how to raise smarter, healthier, happier, and better behaved children.
Ironically, one of the authors of the straw-man study, in a previous article, railed against scholars who selectively cite research that confirms their biases, a tactic he called “cherry picking” or “stacking the deck.” Pot, meet kettle.
5. Promulgate, or accept without investigation or critical scrutiny, dramatic and exaggerated claims that the evaluator, therapist, child representative, and judge in a case mistook a child’s justified rejection of a parent for unjustified alienation, or that children removed from toxic alienating environments have been abused by the family court system. Such claims are repeated without considering all the evidence weighed by the court in reaching its decision.
We have a lot to learn about the roots of parental alienation and about why some children become ensnared in a campaign of hatred toward a parent while others resist. And why some children draw closer to the target of bad-mouthing and reject the parent who dispenses divorce poison, a phenomenon called “blowback” in the video, WELCOME BACK, PLUTO: UNDERSTANDING, PREVENTING, AND OVERCOMING PARENTAL ALIENATION.
But the existence of parents who effectively teach their children to hate the other parent, and of children who absorb this lesson, is beyond dispute.
Exactly two weeks before Parental Alienation Awareness Day in 2017, British High Court Justice Russell delivered her judgment in a Liverpool family court case. She wrote, “By manipulating her children, [the mother] has achieved what she has always wanted and stopped contact with their father. She has done so either because she cannot help herself or because she had quite deliberately set out to expunge their father from their lives. These children have suffered significant emotional harm as a result of their mother’s manipulative actions.”
Do the deniers and skeptics think Justice Russell was deluded?
As journalist Kathleen Parker observed, “Anybody old enough to drink coffee knows that embittered divorcees can and do manipulate their children. Not just women, but men, too.”
We may not want to face the fact that some parents prey on the children in their charge—physically, sexually, or emotionally. Often these parents carefully groom children to engage in harmful acts that victimize children. Whether children are victims of sexual abuse or psychological abuse, we must not turn a blind eye to them.
The fact that some children are able to resist does not obscure the reality that such abuse exists. Professionals who feed denial and skepticism play into the hands of those who want us to look away.
Because deniers and skeptics contribute to a backlash against protecting psychologically abused children from efforts to alienate them from a parent, 13 years after it was introduced we still need Parental Alienation Awareness Day to shine a light on the plight of children and parents caught in this maelstrom, and to remind us that much work remains to be done.
And when it was my turn, there was nobody left to speak up for me…
I know this isn’t normally in line with my blog topic of Foster Care but it does relate to the interest of families all across our country.
So, please take a moment and help me get this message out.
I am going to tell you why i believe President Trumps’ idea to replace SNAP food stamps with boxes of food is a REALLY BAD IDEA.
But before i do, i have drafted a petition to President Trump on this issue that i am asking you to sign. I need 100,000 signatures in 30 days for it to reach the white house.
So even if you do not agree with me to sign the petition, please at least share my post, or the link to the petition, so it gets passed around. someone else might feel as strongly as I do on the topic and might want to include their signature. Thank you.
I must reach a goal of 100,000 signatures so that my petition makes it to the white house.
Even if you don’t agree with the current program of SNAP FOOD BENEFITS, that’s okay. This is about much more than that. If you value your FREEDOMS AS AMERICAN CITIZENS, please take a moment.
SNAP food stamps are NOT just for people who do not work. In fact, most employees of Walmart are on food stamps…(and incidentally spend them at Walmart…hrmmm).
For many families it is the difference between going HUNGRY OR having the ability to cook a real, heathy meal with meat and vegetables.
I’M NOT DEBATING WHETHER OR NOT SNAP IS necessary, or for who, or how much or for how long.
I do not even receive SNAP benefits, by the way .
I want to discuss the IMPLICATIONS of what The POTUS has proposed.
Trump wants to replace food stamps with boxes of government food.
THINK ABOUT THAT.
The government issued boxes of food Trump Is proposing for the future….
the bread lines of the past.
Once a month, poor families well be given their share of whatever food the GOVERNMENT THINKS they should get to eat.
Is this how things should be done in a “free” country? or is this ONE STEP CLOSER to repeating history?
This is AMERICA, LAND OF THE FREE, which includes the freedom to choose what we eat, when we eat, and how much.
AMERICA is NOT A COMMUNIST COUNTRY … government issued food boxes is one more freedom removed targeting the poor.
THAT’S A BIG DEAL.
There are too many ways the government can save money and make reforms to programs including SNAP food benefits
Please sign and pass along my petition at this site.
I need 100,000 signatures.
THOSE WHO DO NOT REMEMBER HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT.
HITLER WAS ELECTED. REMEMBER?
I wanted to run to you that day, In May.. … to follow you into the last wind. But I knew It wasn’t time for me to go… yet. It was YOUR name that was called into a new beginning…not mine.. So I wait…. Remembering.. another time, once before… when I would run to you. I was always full of smiles. My arms waved frantically to you in alliegence…I couldn’t wait. YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE I knew you would embrace me with your tenderness and you would always make me laugh with your silly wiles. Those were the innocent times… before my travels led me be too far away to come back home… I remember how you always waited with your arms outstretched, and your knees bent in an irresponsible crouch..you were always full of smiles. YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE You would catch me and my laughter and spin us around .. You made my ten year olds’ wishes come true in your magical arms … around and around.. yes, I remember … you always gave me love and so much happiness. Those were the innocent times … before I learned too many truths to believe… Before I lost so much hope, that I stopped making wishes… I would always run to you, Daddy, from the plane…. and find you there, waiting… YOU WERE ALWAYS THERE I would run to you now if I could, into the last wind… In memory of my father, Jack T. Akin Sr. who passed into another beginning on May 10, 2010.
Its Almost Tuesday will rarely, if ever, ask its readers for help monetarily. This situation is different. A family needs your help after a sudden and tragic loss.
In July 2011 , after a very trying time, I found myself homeless.
I had no place to go and somehow transplanted to fort worth, Texas and one of the first people I met was William Joseph Little Jr. We called him Joe Joe.
His girlfriend (at the time) and I became best friends and his father helped me with a place to live. His entire family accepted and helped me through one of the hardest times of my life.
For the next few years we all lived together in apartments motel rooms, and at v various members of his extended family’s houses and, of course went through allot together.
Joe Joe was the little brother I never had.
On May 3,2015, Joe Joe suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.
It’s been a hard hit.I still can’t believe it.
He was such a beautiful soul with kindness in his heart and a love for life
He was a hard worker a good friend and touched many lives.,,.I can’t express how badly he will be missed.
His family created this web page asking for help to pay for a funeral for him. He deserves it and their family does not have the funds needed to give him a funeral
Please take a moment to look at the page and.. if you can help …with any amount of a donation please do., he was only 29 years old.
DEATH MAKES ANGELS OF US ALL AND GIVES US WINGS WHERE WE ONCE HAD SHOULDERS SMOOTH AS RAVENS CLAWS. ~jim morrison
RIP Joe Joe Bear
I love you lil brother…
You will be sorely missed…..
please visit http://www.gofundme.com/tqgk6p8
for information on how you can help.
Her teardrops sting her face as the wind splashes them from her eyes across her cheeks.
His lips tells lies each time he smiles.
She is the shell of a woman, his mother, inconsolably weeping.
He was her child, interrupted.
Both of them have stood alone on an empty dock for almost two decades
They are both brow beaten with thickened tears that eventually have learned not to fall.
She has become a snake in the wild, that was once tame.
He is an untrained champion fighter, without gloves & his anger is unrestrained.
Her thoughts are stolen instruments that will never be played.
His wants are muted dub-step songs, quieted but so enraged
They both wander through their lives. -wondering-
What if it hadn’t happened that way.
She screams at night.
He dreams of ending life.
She is stalled. motionless, in her sentiment.
He is grown up.
Alienated- full of angst and discontent.
Each day they both live as detached from themselves as they can.
With cynical views of the world, they both see life through misanthropic eyes now.
They do not recognize how paralyzing their pain really is.
Or how paralleled an existence they both live … to each other.
their lives are mirrored …
yet each day is futile at best to them.
The future is merely a continuation of … or rather an extension of …
& LOVE carried over
from a place so deep inside
that they both helplessly stand,
alone, on their dock to
painfully remember the pain of not knowing, the uncertainty of the waiting & the illusions of false hope and wishing…
They both have one thought…
if only there were a bridge built for them to cross over
just one time
to reach each other again… What if…?
He does not know how she can still hear him cry and that she cries too.
All she wants is a chance to tell him how sorry she is that she couldn’t protect him –
And she wants him to know he is not motherless.
A loving father lost custody of his little girl last November in Austin, Tx, after he admitted to.smoking marijuana at night after he put his child down for bedtime.
The precious little girl was not ill, or harmed by her fathers nightcap, nor was she exposed to the marijuana he smoked, yet this loving parent had his two year old baby girl taken by CPS and placed in foster care last fall.
At visits, the father noticed bruises on his daughter, and voiced his concerns for the welfare of his little girl at the foster home she’d been placed in. Those concerns went ignored by CPS.
Now this beautiful baby girl was MURDERED in foster care by an abusive foster mom who was in it for the money! Below is an article where the woman admits, after changing her story a few times, that she slammed the little two year old girl down on her head at least two times before losing her grip the third time, dropping the girl on her head. Causing her death.
The foster mother was angry at the little girl for waking up hungry and getting herself something to eat and some water to drink out of the kitchen. So she killed her.
This child was removed from her natural home because of a father’s recreational marijuana use. The same natural herb that is rapidly being decriminalized in many other U.S. states!! Really.
As an advocate for the foster children and families torn apart wrongly by the system, I have stated before, my stance, on the issue of drug use and CPS. I strongly believe that absent evidence of abuse or neglect, and absent injury or harm to the child,there should be no reason for the removal of that child from their natural home solely because of a parents’ drug use and/or drug addiction particularly if there is no reason to believe that the drug was never used in the presence of the child. If the use of the marijuana was kept outside the child’s awareness, smoked after bedtime, I do not agree with the removal of that child solely due to that recreational marijuana use if it truly had no deleterious effect on the child, and where there is no other sign of abuse or neglect, and no injury to the child!
If the social worker truly believes a parent has a drug problem.. there are plenty of outpatient rehabilitation programs available for the parent to receive help that the CPS worker could refer the parent to, while keeping the family unit in-tact.
Had an approach such a that been utilized in this situation, this baby girl would not have suffered abuse by the FOSTER PARENT and would not have been brutally and senselessly murdered! I also question the worker monitoring the visits who failed to investigate the signs of abuse that the father pointed out with obvious concern. What happened there?
What this is .. is a child welfare system failure at its worst!
I hope this case grinds deep into the minds of every cps worker. I hope this reminds them to rethink when they begin to needlessly remove a child from an abuse-free/neglect-free home where other in-home services are available.
CHILDREN ARE NOT A SOURCE OF INCOME …. THIS WOMAN, when convicted (seems inevitable since she’s already confessed though, technically, she is still innocent til proven guilty in the court of law) (supposedly) SHE DESERVES DEATH…(and in my opinion,a slow painful death)
It should be recorded and televised for foster parents to-be to watch in training class. Then maybe the “monsters to-be” who are getting into foster parenting to “earn an income” like this monster did.. will reconsider fostering and go get a JOB away from our children if they saw something REAL AND JUST being done about those who abuse and kill foster children!
God be with this baby girls’ family in this time of grief.
I hope this tragic loss changes something in the system, for change is so drastically needed.
ROCKDALE POLICE: FOSTER MOTHER ADMITS SHE SLAMMED TWO YEAR OLD FOSTER CHILD ON HER HEAD
by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist ERIN COKER Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE
ROCKDALE, Texas — Tucked away behind the trees in Rockdale, Texas is a normally quiet neighborhood, but the peace has been shattered.
“It shocked me. It really did,” said Lois Rash, who lives in Rockdale.
“It’s a shame. Never should have happened,” added neighbor Larry McAdams.
Their neighbor, 54-year-old Sherill Small is now charged with the murder of her foster daughter Alexandria Hill, better known as Alex.
Monday night, police, fire and EMS crews were called out to the Small home. Small, who was the only person home at the time, called and said the two-year-old wasn’t breathing.
Alex was taken to the hospital, then airlifted to the children’s hospital in Temple. Alex’s biological parents rushed to her side.
“When I got there, it was about 1:00 in the morning and I found out that Alex was in a coma,” said her father Joshua Hill.
Wednesday night Hill and Alex’s mother decided to take her off life support.
“There’s not words to describe trying to make that decision,” said Hill.
Back in Rockdale, police say Small’s story about what happened kept changing.
“Originally, Mrs. Small reported that the child was running backwards and had fallen and this is how she had received the injuries. Later, it changed to kind of we were playing ring-around-the-rosy and I was swinging her and she fell,” said Rockdale Police Chief Thomas Harris. “And at some point somebody had gotten information that she was supposed to have been riding a bicycle and fallen off.”
Chief Harris said things just didn’t add up.
“I mean a two year old child doesn’t run backwards and fall hard enough to get this type of an injury,” explained Harris.
Doctors say Alex had hemorrhaging in her brain and eyes. An autopsy shows she had blunt force trauma to the head.
Harris says Thursday morning, Small finally told them the truth.
“She had evidently been frustrated with the child all day long. She had… the child… had evidently gotten up before the Small’s did and she had went and got into some food and some water,” said Harris. “That is what Mrs. Small was initially upset with her about…. had made her stand in a dark room, according to our reports, for at least three-to-four hours, wouldn’t let her sit or anything.”
Then around 7:00 that night, the young child, so full of life, was knocked unconscious.
“She actually admitted that she had slung the child down on the floor,” said Harris.
Small told investigators she raised the toddler over her head and slung her down toward the floor twice.
“On the third time down she said she lost her grip and dropped the child. Slammed the child down on the floor,” explained Harris.
Harris says Small’s husband, who wasn’t home when the incident happened, became emotional and even cried when talking to police. But not Small.
“I did not see a whole lot of remorse. I think it’s more like a lot of times these people’s, they’re sorry that they’re in trouble. This is the sense that I get. It’s still about them, it’s not really remorse about the child. I never got that feeling,” added Harris.
The Small’s had another foster child who is eight-months-old. That child has been removed.
Police say neither Small or her husband had jobs, but were instead planning to foster between five and six children as a source of income.
Small is in the Milam County Jail. Her bond has been set at $100,000.
(source: KETK News)
Aug 27, 2012 6:48 p.m.
We continue our coverage of the 2-year-old, Jacob Kimbley’s death. Investigation is still underway, as of now… autopsy results are still pending.
Justice of the Peace, Mitch Shamburger, tells KETK autopsy results will be in soon and that lab work is being done.
KETK follows up with Child Protective Services, Shari Pulliam, tells KETK that the five children have been separated in foster homes. Pulliam says, the children are talking and are healthy and have accepted what they have been told by Child Protective Services.
KETK asked Pulliam what the children’s physical condition was at the time of removal.
“They were quite dirty when we removed them from the home, the home conditions did concern us, so that’s why we did take them into foster care, so we can continue our investigation alongside law enforcement about what really happened out there that day when the 2-year- old child died, said Shari Pulliam.”
The condition of the home and kids were enough to remove them from the home.
CPS is working with law enforcement to determine whether the children will be released to the parents, but that action depends on the outcome of investigation.
Pulliam says, visits with the Kimbley children and their parents are set for a later date, and that visited will be supervised by the CPS office.
We will update as this case develops and when autopsy results are in.
1. Ask for the social workers business card. Have your attorney contact the worker on your behalf if the situation is hostile.
2. Find out the allegations before allowing the social worker access to your home or child.
3. Do not waive your rights to be protected from illegal search and seizures by allowing anyone in your home without a court order or warrant.
These rights are guaranteed under the 4th amendment of the US CONSTITUTION.
4. Insist on being present when your child is interviewed by the social worker.
5. Tell the social worker you will call them after consulting an attorney. Then call an attorney.
6. Ignore intimidations. Social workers are trained bluffers.
7. Offer supportive evidence-
~A dr.’s statement after exam of child.
~References from individuals vouching for your good parenting.~Photos or home videos exhibiting happy healthy children.
8. Bring a tape recorder or credible witnesses to all meetings. Limit discussions to allegations and try not to tell past family events beyond what they already know.
What you say can and will be used against you.
9. Avoid potential situations likely to lead to cps investigations-
~spank in public
~do not leave children home alone
~do not spank other people’s children.
10. Pray and elicit prayers and support of local church members.
“The Government’s interest in the welfare of children embraces not only protecting children from physical abuse but protecting childrens’ interest in the privacy and dignity of their homes and in the lawfully exercised authority of their parents.” Calabretta v. Floyd 189 F.3d (9th cir 1999)
Police say apparent murder-suicide occurred after judge awarded custody to father
Ellen Goldberg, NBC 5 News
Police say the apparent murder-suicide occurred shortly after a judge awarded custody to the boy’s father.
Officers forced their way into the home after hearing gunshots and found 43-year-old Karen Hayslett-McCall and 7-year-old Eryk Hayslett-McCall in an upstairs bedroom at about 10:30 a.m.
Sachse police were at the home in the 7100 block of Longmeadow Drive as a precaution when her estranged husband, Rodney McCall, arrived to pick up his son.
McCall had received sole custody of the child in a court hearing at 10 a.m.
“The father knocked on the front door,” Sachse police Chief Dennis Veach said. “We were simply standing by and at both front and rear of the house when we heard three shots from within the house.”
Veach said police had been to the home on several locations but there were not allegations of serious violence.
Police said Hayslett-McCall and her husband were in the midst of bitter divorce proceedings. Veach said police did not know why the father had been given sole custody of their son.
Hayslett-McCall had accused her husband of molesting their son last fall. A grand jury later found no evidence of a crime, and McCall was cleared.
But McCall had lost his job as a high school teacher.
McCall’s attorney told the Wylie school board in November that the case was “an allegation brought by a woman who is about to lose custody of her children,” the Wylie News reported.
He also told the board that Hayslett-McCall, a former police officer who has a doctorate in criminal justice and a master’s degree in psychology, knew how to manipulate the justice system, the newspaper reported.
The couple had been battling over custody of Eryk for more than a year.
They filed for divorce in Collin County in March 2010, and temporary custody orders were in place in April 2010. By November, an attorney was appointed for the child.
The judge ordered psychological evaluations in January 2011. Jurors were sworn in on Monday for opening statements, and McCall won custody of his son Friday.
Lt. Marty Cassidy said the officers were visibly shaken but did the best they could in a really bad situation.
“It’s a terribly, terribly sad, tragic event, you know, when one person makes a life decision for another who doesn’t have a vote in that decision,” Veach said.
Police said although other family members were at the residence, they were outside greeting police when the shooting happened.
Officials will work with the Collin County medical examiner to confirm the cause of death, but it appears the woman shot the child and then herself.
Hayslett-McCall was a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. UT Dallas released the following statement:
“The UT Dallas community is deeply saddened to learn of this tragic news. Our thoughts and concerns are with the family. Karen Hayslett-McCall left the university faculty in June 2011 and has had no official position with the university since then.”
NBC 5’s Kevin Cokely and Ellen Goldberg contributed to this report.
Was this custody battle worth it?