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We could use your help. If you are interested in making a corporate donation for 2008, please e-mail Michael Robinson. As always, thank you for your generous support!

In the News

Monday, August 10, 2009

Update: California Parental Alienation Bill, AB 612

We want to apologize for this late update on AB 612, the California bill that was carried by Assemblyman Beall that would have prevented a court from considering evidence that a parent had deliberately engaged in tactics and behavior that intentionally estranges a Childs bond with their other parent.

Before we continue we want to pay special tribute to: The Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar (FLEXCOM) and The California Psychologist Association (CPA) for their outstanding work and help this year on making sure committee staff and members were better informed and educated on Parental Alienation.

As a result of all of the hard work that went into this bill, it was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee and because of the way the rules work the issue will not be able to be heard again until June 2010.

We want to encourage you to read both the Assembly Judiciary Committee Analysis and the Senate Judiciary Committee Analysis on the bill. After reading these analysis’s you will plainly see that the education that was done made a big impact. We are hopeful that legislators and staff have been well enough educated on the issue this time around that no reasonable person would even considering carrying another piece of legislation that would attempt to do what this was trying to do.

This was the third year in a row now that CAFC has had to deal with this issue and bill. You can read more about our past involvement here.

This year after early discussions with the lead persons for FLEXCOM and CPA handling the bill, it was agreed early on that stronger educating efforts for committee staff and members was need. Although our combined past efforts had included educating committee staff and members, this years efforts pulled out all stop to make sure that staff had the best and most accurate information on the issue. Some of this was covered in our earlier post here.

Additionally in our discussions with FLEXCOM and the CPA we all shared the concerns that this bill could have had the potential to turn into a debate about gender and take the focus off the merits and facts of the issue. As a result CAFC was asked to contact one of the prominent advocates for men and fathers, Glenn Sacks of Fathers & Family and making the difficult request that they not get involved or engage in the bill.

Too this end we want to thank both Glenn Sacks and Fathers & Family for not only agreeing to the request, but also understanding and honoring it. This is a very emotionally charged issue and we know how difficult it is to stay quit and not act sometimes. And we want to applaud Glenn and the folks at Fathers & Families for showing some real disciplined and mature restraint. We hope that if any of their members and readers who may have been upset understands that Glenn and Fathers and Families acted in your best interest. More importantly they acted in the best interest of children. The final results are proof of this.

We also want to acknowledge that some of the complaints that the sponsors of the bill have some merits also. Namely, the use of parental alienation being used as a tactical weapon in child custody cases. As we have stated before that this has and is occurring in some cases, and is being exploited in the same way some use restraining orders to gain a tactical advantage in a child custody case. Parents who intentional exploited either should be sanctioned heavily for using these tactics because of the harm it causes children.

It is of our opinion that the way forward to address everyone’s concern is through better education on the issue. And we are hoping that cool heads will prevail and any future debate and discussion on this and other family law matters can be done in a respectful way that produces sound policy that serves the best interest of 21st century children and future generations.

While we know that the current economy is making it hard for all of you, we ask that everyone do what they can to donate to help assure our continued operations. And we can not thank those of you who are already contributing enough. Also please tell friends and family about us.

We are all in this together and together we can fix the problems children and families are currently facing. We thank you in advance for your continued support and donations.

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CAFC Becomes Approved Continuing Education Units Provider:

Yes folks you read that right, CAFC is now the only non-profit organization nationally on this side of the debate on policy issues affecting families and children that is fully approved as a Continuing Education Provider for CEUs for Mental Health Practitioners, Batter Intervention Providers, Family Court Mediators & Evaluators, and Attorneys.

Our approval status as Continuing Education Units Course Providers was obtained a few months back and covers approvals from the California Psychologist Association for psychologists, the California Judicial Council, Administrative Office of the Courts, Children & Families Division, for mediators and evaluators and The State Bar of California for attorneys.

Also because of our affiliation with The Family Violence Treatment and Education Association (FAVTEA) and their Co-Sponsorship of our conferences we have been able to offer CEUs to MFTs &LCSWs, and Batterer Interventions Providers. CAFC is in the works of obtaining CEU provider status in this area as well under our own name.

What all of this mean to you is we can do training that no other group is, or can do, to meet the mandated ongoing annual education requirements that practitioners and treatment providers are require to do.

What this means is we are providing evidence-based educational materials to those who are possible decision makers that you may be affected by. In the end, the outcomes of you’re or future cases stand a better chance of producing better outcomes for you, your family and children if the education of the professionals is based on evidence-based research and treatment model rather than ideology.

While we know that the current economy is making it hard for all of you, we ask that everyone do what they can to donate to help assure our continued operations. And we can not thank those of you who are already contributing enough. Also please tell friends and family about us.

We are all in this together and together we can fix the problems children and families are currently facing. We thank you in advance for your continued support and donations.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Update: AB 612 Beall, Custody and visitation: nonscientific theories.

This is the third year in a row now that CAFC has had to deal with this issue and bill. You can read more about our past involvement here.

AB 612 was heard on 4/28/09 before the Assembly Judiciary Committee and contrary to other reports regarding the outcome of the bill passing as amended here, the bill was drastically amended in committee.

The amendments that were passed were not those of the authors, but rather the recommendations of the committee. The current amendments have yet to be posted on the legislature’s website, but you can see the markup of the bill here. (Update: The committee amendments were posted on 5/5/09 and can bee seen here)

Prior to the committee hearing the author of the bill, Assemblyman Beall had submitted yet other amendments just prior to the hearing on 4/18/09 and was received by the committee on 4/18/09. You can read the authors proposed amendments here or on the states website here. Again, these were not the amendments that were passed. Those in the markup were.

After reading the committee analysis its no wonder this bill was drastically amended. The sponsors of the bill and the bill’s author were asking the legislature to go way beyond reasonable common sense policy to protect children from abuse. They wanted the legislature to do something that has not been done in any state in the nation. And in fact, contrary to other states policy that recognize parental alienation and its serious life long damaging effects that harm children.

CAFC believes the markup of the bill does help children by re-instating the states policy to protect children from abusive parents, but still allows the court to consider all the evidence, including evidence that may show that a parent engaged in deliberate acts to sabotage or alienate a child’s bond and relationship with their other parent. The bill also provides for increased training for mental health professionals on the issue and we see this as a positive step as well.

CAFC does not disagree that in some parental alienations cases that mistakes may have occurred and a parent may have been erroneously labeled an alienating parent, and a child was given over to the custody of an abusive parent.

No matter how hard we try we can not expect to produce a perfect policy that works 100 percent of the time, but this cannot keep us from creating sound policy that does the greatest good for the majority of cases.

It is important to note that parental alienation cases represent a small percentage of the overall number of child custody cases moving through our courts. Also just because one parent is making a parental alienation claim does not mean that the courts always rule that alienation has occurred. Many parental alienation claims cases are denied by the courts because the evidence showed otherwise. Even with our family law court calendars overloaded we believe the experts and courts get it right in these cases far more often than an occasional error.

The sponsors and author of the bill want us all to believe that alienation is junk science and that it does not exist because it has not been recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM IV.

Over the years there have been many syndromes or disorders that had existed long before they were recognized in the DSM, such as Turrets Syndrome or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Still mental health experts recognized that those affected by Turrets or PTSD all had certain symptoms and displayed patterns of behavior that were consistent with the syndrome or disorder.

CAFC firmly believes that Parental Alienation and its harmful effects on children will also be recognized in the DSM one day, perhaps even in the next release of the DSM V. The recent longitudinal research and studies that have been coming out using the soundest scientific models for doing research are doing more to shore up the science of parental alienation existing than it not.

The research clearly shows that both mothers and fathers engage in alienating tactics and behavior, either intentional or as a result of a personality disorder. One of the most recent exhaustive studies was undertaken by Janet R. Johnson Ph.D, San Jose State University, along with Marjorie G. Walters Ph.D. and Nancy W. Olesen Ph.D.: “Is it Alienating Parenting, Role Reversal, or Child Abuse? A Study of Childrens Rejection of a Parent in Child Custody Disputes” (published in Journal of Emotional Abuse, (2005) Vol 4, No 4, 191-218). CAFC's position is that children need to be protected from the harmful effects of parental alienation, whether the offending parent is the mother or father, and the courts should have the discretion to examine all the evidence.

Ironically the sponsors and the author of the bill claim that they have creditable research to prove otherwise yet it has been withheld from the opposition or even given to the committee. What has been given over can hardly be considered creditable scientific research by even the lowest of standards.

Also over the last ten years or so many major network programs such as NBC DateLine and others have done documentaries on some high profile parental kidnapping cases where a child or children had been severely alienated and brainwashed into believing that the alienated parent did not love or care for them or that they were abusive. All of these cases had involved a high conflict custody battle. In some cases the kidnapping parent told the child[ren] that their other parent had died. The level of damage to these children in some cases took years to undo and only time will tell how it will impact their lives as adults when they get older.

Another relevant point that is rarely discussed or considered as a comparison to this issue it that of POW’s who have been brainwashed, and these are trained adult soldiers. Then think about how much more fragile the mind of a child is.

During 2001 we received a Canadian case review by Dr. Reena Sommer, Ph.D. You can read the case here. This case took many months to vet and over $50,000.00 in costs for investigation and therapy.

We will continue to keep you informed on this bill and we want to thank the Family Law Section of the State Bar, the California Psychologists Association, and others who have been working very hard to assure that any legislation passed on this issue is sound, and truly in the best interest of children.

CAFC also want to express our acknowledgment and thanks for the great display of courage that Assemblyman Mike Feuer, the committee chair, and his staff have shown. They have honorably shown that they will not be bullied with baseless political attacks, grandstanding or smear tactic claims of not caring about children’s safety and welfare. What Assemblyman Feuer and his committee staff have shown by the committees actions is that they truly care about the safety, health and care of all children, and it is evidenced in the committee bill language that was passed.

In closing we want to thank those of you who have donated to CAFC and those who make ongoing donations. Without your help we could not continue to be as effective as we are. Please spread the word about our work to others and encourage them to making a donation.

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