I wish this was the beginning of a bad joke, but it is not. I wish it was the beginning of an article informing it’s readers of some good news, regarding our movement’s battle against parental alienation. But unfortunately, it is not this either.
I have now not seen my alienated children since the summer of 2016 due to parental alienation. For those readers unfamiliar with the term parental alienation, please see here.
This is an ongoing and relentless battle against a flawed system that enables my ex-partner to continue to deny me any contact with my children, with no legal consequences against her.
“How many social workers does it take to protect a child from parental alienation? Clearly seven social workers is not enough!”
Since 2016 I have seen and been in contact with the following professionals and government departments: Seven social workers, (yes you heard that right the first time, seven social workers!) Two of which are in senior management positions within Cafcass. I have also spoken to a clinical psychologist, my local Member of Parliament and have also been in touch with the Ministry of Justice. I have also spoken to numerous support workers that deal in supporting families after divorce. I have even been ordered by the local family court to attend a co-parenting course, despite being prevented by my ex the chance to co-parent!
So with the above information in mind I would like to return to the question; How many social workers does it take to protect a child from parental alienation? Clearly seven social workers is not enough!
So in attempting to answer this question lets first explore the media’s discussion and presentation of this form of child abuse within the public domain.
“I think the way you treat your children after a relationship has broken up is just as powerful a public health issue as smoking or drinking.”
Cafcass social workers are not permitted to use the term parental alienation, as this form of abuse is not officially recognised by any government body within the UK. However Anthony Douglas the Chief Executive of Cafcass has publicly contradicted this in an interview he gave to The Telegraph on 12th February 2017. The article is entitled ‘Divorced parents who pit children against former partners ‘guilty of abuse’. In this interview he stated “it’s undoubtedly a form of neglect or child abuse in terms of the impact it can have,” said Mr Douglas. “I think the way you treat your children after a relationship has broken up is just as powerful a public health issue as smoking or drinking.”
In the same article it is also stated that “according to Cafcass, parental alienation is responsible for around 80 per cent of the most difficult cases that come before the family courts.” So it begs the question, why is this form of abuse not being recognised by the sheer number of social workers that can potentially be involved in such cases?
In order to explore this further we need to understand the psychological profile of those parents that severely alienate their children against the other parent. Statistically the proponents of severe parental alienation normally have some kind of underlying undiagnosed personality disorder. This theory is explored in more detail in a previous article of mine entitled Parental Alienation, Good Versus Evil.
In terms of my case, the mother of my children presents with a number of Cluster A presonality traits, which came from the findings of a psychological assessment. According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) this cluster is known as the odd and eccentric cluster. It includes Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders. These disorders are dominated by distorted thinking.
Paranoid Personality Disorder
This disorder is characterised by a pervasive suspiciousness and distrust of others.
- People with this disorder assume that others are out to take advantage of them, harm them, or humiliate them in some way.
- Such individuals put a lot of effort into protecting themselves and keeping their distance from others.
- Individuals with this disorder are known to preemptively attack others whom they feel threatened by.
- Such individuals tend to hold grudges, are litigious, and display pathological jealously.
- Distorted thinking is highly evident in this presentation. They do not confide in others and do not allow themselves to develop close relationships.
- Their emotional life tends to be dominated by distrust and hostility.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
This particular presentation is characterised by a pervasive pattern of social detachment and a restricted range of emotional expression. Therefore such individuals with this disorder tend to be socially isolated. They don’t seem to seek out or enjoy close relationships.
- Such individuals almost always choose solitary activities. They also seem to take little pleasure in life.
- These “loners” often prefer activities that involve little human interaction and appear indifferent to both criticism and praise.
- Emotionally, they seem aloof, detached, and cold.
- Such individuals present as oblivious to social nuances and social cues causing them to appear socially inept and superficial.
- Their restricted emotional range and failure to reciprocate gestures or facial expressions (such a smiles or nods of agreement) cause them to appear rather dull, bland, or inattentive.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Individuals that present with this disorder are characterised by a pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal limitations. They have a reduced capacity for close relationships and experience acute discomfort in social settings. As such, these individuals tend to be socially isolated, reserved, and distant from those around them.
- Unlike the Schizoid Personality Disorder, they also experience perceptual and cognitive distortions and/or eccentric behaviour. For example perceptual abnormalities may include noticing flashes of light no one else can see, or seeing objects or shadows in the corner of their eyes and then realising that nothing is there.
- Individuals with this type of Personality Disorder have odd beliefs, for instance, they may believe they can read other people’s thoughts, or that that their own thoughts have been stolen from their heads.
- Schizotypal Personality Disorder tends to be found more frequently in families where someone has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
So in the previous paragraphs we have explored Cafcass’ contradictory public statements regarding parental alienation. We have also explored Cluster A personality traits. So are we any closer to answering the question, how many social workers does it take to protect a child from parental alienation?
I feel we are, please allow me to explain. I am a mental health nurse. I work on an acute admissions ward within a local psychiatric hospital. A large proportion of the patients we admit, assess and attempt to treat are individuals with personality disorders.
“Not even one of our assessing team members is a social worker. And this is my point.”
We are a nurse-run team. We are all qualified and experienced in the field of mental health. We are equipped with the relevant skills and clinical knowledge. And along with the use of evidence based practice we are able, as a team to assess and diagnose a broad range of mental health issues and disorders. And this is where I lead up to what I feel is a pertinent point. Not even one member of our assessing team is a social worker. And this is my point.
My aim is to not belittle or undermine the important role social workers have within their field of expertise. However my argument is social workers simply do not have the clinical experience or expertise to recognise and identify personality disorders, particularly within the context of parental alienation.
At the beginning of my case, back in 2016 I attempted to highlight my concerns of a possible personality disorder presentation, regarding my ex-partners emotional abuse of our children. But Cafcass (who are essentially social workers) dismissed my theory.
So to conclude, I now need to present the reader with the answer to the question: How many social workers does it take to protect a child from parental alienation?
My argument, in answering the above question is influenced by several factors. My role as a father and my own experiences within this previous relationship. Also relevant and influential are the many months I have navigated my way through the failed system that is child protection. However I feel the most significant influence is my role as a mental health professional.
So therefore my answer is as follows: It is irrelevant whether a suspected case of parental alienation involves seven or seventy social workers. My argument is that none of them, within their remit of social work, have the clinical experience or expertise to recognise, assess and highlight a severely alienating parent that may be presenting with certain personality traits. Social workers will all too often describe contact denial (which is arguably parental alienation) as a child custody issue. They do not recognise such issues as child protection cases. And even when they do, such as in my case, the damage has already been done.
I would like to close this article with two quotes. The first is from my Cafcass Case Manager back in 2016. I was trying to get the point across to him that my ex-partner’s presentation was indicative of an individual with a possible personality disorder, that he himself had failed to identify. He dismissed my argument and simply stated “trust me, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been doing this job for many years.”
The second quote is from William Robertson Davies, the Canadian novelist, playwright, journalist, and professor, who once said “the eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”
I am an alienated parent of three. Part-time psychiatric nurse, part-time writer. I am also an online activist against parental alienation. I use my knowledge of mental health and lived experience of parental alienation to promote awareness of parental alienation.