trauma informed

The ACE Cluster in High Conflict Family Court

What Oprah said on 60 minutes that will help end family court trauma.

Adverse Childhood Experience (ACES) cluster around the underlying pathology of the parent who displays abusive patterns of behavior such as a lack of empathy, and someone who exploits others for personal gain. 

1. Living with a mentally impaired parent

2. Witnessing domestic violence in the form of coercive control.

3. Psychological/emotional abuse

4. Psychological/emotional neglect

5. High-conflict family court

6. Loss of a parent from estrangement.

Please comment below and be sure to join the National Alliance for Targeted Parents www.targetedparent.com.

 

Call To Action

January 2018: Call to Action

Please watch this video.

 

Here are three easy things that YOU can do right NOW

to help end family court trauma!

1. Sign Dr. Childress’ petition to the American Psychological Association (APA). 

The Petition to the APA is on Change.org.

2. Support Ginger Gentile’s Documentary Erasing Family.

Tomorrow, January 10th,  add the frame #erased to your profile picture on facebook--it's easy.

  1. Go to Erased Family Facebook and “like” their page.
  2. Go to your facebook and click on “update profile picture,” and frames will come up.
  3. Select the frame #erased.

3. Support House Resolution 443. 

Here is a summary of the bill:

HR 443 recognizes the importance, effectiveness, and need for trauma-informed care among existing federal programs and agencies. (Trauma-informed care takes into account a patient's history of trauma in the design of the patient's treatment.) Encourages the use of trauma-informed care within the federal government.

Expresses support for the designation of National Trauma Awareness Month and National Trauma-Informed Awareness Day.

Here is what to do:

Call, write, email or visit your state representative in Congress (your opinion will probably be taken by an aid who will relay whatever you tell him or her).  They are paid to listen and relay you message.  Tell them how law enforcement, child protective services and/or family court has ripped apart the bonds between you and your children because they are not trauma informed. 

Believe me, they will listen!   The aid that I talked to has a degree in psychology and worked at a psychiatric hospital!  She was very empathetic and understanding.  

If family court and/or child protective services become trauma-informed, it would end the nightmare!

OR

Contact Congressman Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin and Congressman Danny Davis from Illinois at 202-224-3121.  Thank them for co-sponsoring the bill.  Be sure to tell them where you are from.

Currently 14 Representatives from 9 states have signed on as co-sponsors for this bill.  If you are from on of these states please call the representative and thank them for co-sponsoring this bill.  If you are from another state, please call your representative and urge them to sponsor this bill.

  • Rep. Davis, Danny K. [D-IL-7]*,
  • Rep. Duffy, Sean P. [R-WI-7]
  • Rep. Napolitano, Grace F. [D-CA-32]
  • Rep. Kind, Ron [D-WI-3]
  • Rep. Grothman, Glenn [R-WI-6]
  • Rep. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [R-WI-5]
  • Rep. Pocan, Mark [D-WI-2]
  • Rep. Moore, Gwen [D-WI-4]
  • Rep. Bacon, Don [R-NE-2]
  • Rep. Kelly, Trent [R-MS-1]
  • Rep. Comstock, Barbara [R-VA-10]
  • Rep. Hanabusa, Colleen [D-HI-1]
  • Rep. Love, Mia B. [R-UT-4]
  • Rep. Delaney, John K. [D-MD-6]

Boom! Your Done!

I thank you, we thank you, our children thank you!

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

I'm sorry this isn't a video blog, but my house is getting new windows and it's 90 degrees ( feels like 120 with the humidity) and I'm self conscious enough,  thank you. 

But there are many experts that we need to be listening to and one of them is Nadine Burke.  In this widely popular TED talk, Dr. Burke a pediatrician and public health expert,  describes the staggering "big picture" of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).   She represents just one of the professional domains who are quickly coming on board with the trauma-informed movement. 

ACEs and the Trauma informed movement is not a fad.  It is a paradigm shift in the way we address the toxic environments our children are being raised in.  This is a national scientific, child centered paradigm shift, not something we need the from the American Psychological Association (who didn't discuss our petition at their board meeting).  This movement dwarfs our petition and the APA.

Targeted parents are the perfect ambassadors to carry this movement into every community in America.  We are trauma survivors(or recovering)  and soon to be trauma informed.   As a brief and powerful introduction to the mission that awaits us, please watch "How Adverse Childhood Experiences Affect Children Over Their Lifespan".   And as you do, keep in mind that our children have ACE scores of 7-8+: highlighting for everyone to see, that our children are at the GREATEST RISK for mental health and physical problems. 

We are working hard on developing the very best presentation for targeted parents to take into their children's school system.  Partnering with educators is the fastest way to move this battleship.  While the APA is "discussing" what to do, we will be doing it. 

They can lead, follow or get out of our way.

(did I say that out loud?)

 

 

You Don't Have to Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

Healthy skepticism encourages us to check our assumptions, recognize the limitations of our methods, and proceed thoughtfully. When skepticism and controversy about a concept or label still remains as an obstacle, after decades of work to validate it in the eyes of mainstream science, then the validity of the skepticism must be examined.

 

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When all efforts to get society, especially the mental health and legal professional to recognize parental alienation as a legitimate crisis in science and health have failed, then the problem is not on “them;" it is on us.   How can we expect "them" to adopt a concept when we ourselves cannot even define it?     Regardless of the inherent controversy with the term parental alienation, it is short sighted to think that the mental health and legal professions are going to fully embrace a problem that doesn't have a clear, stable definition.  Is it a dynamic?  Is it a mental illness?  Is it child abuse?  No one, outside of our elite little PA community is going to take us seriously until we resolve the confusion about what parental alienation is. 

Recently, a member of the Parental Alienation Study Group (PASG), proposed a far reaching position statement to its members for their feedback and adoption.  The position statement strongly supports using more widely accepted and less controversial terms like "coercive control" and "child psychological abuse" in place of “parental alienation”; recognizing that the controversy about "parental alienation" is more about the term than about the actual phenomenon.

Adopting this position statement (or an amended version) could bring this international group of authors and researches in line with the largest, most powerful organizations and agencies in the world working to change the outcomes for families struggling with child psychological abuse.  PASG could then network with established change agents such as; childhood attachment trauma, psychological maltreatment,   domestic violence association, developmental and personality psychology and a plethora of others, all fighting to stop psychological abuse.

The biggest problem associated with shifting our perception is that many of us are invested and comfortable with using this term.  But, we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater!  Simply put,  parental alienation is not the whole enchilada but a specific set of abusive strategiesor a pattern of abusive behaviors by one parent to alienate children from their other parent. 

Parental Alienation is a set of abusive strategies (or a pattern of abusive behaviors) that a narcissistic/borderline parent uses to exile the other parent from their children’s lives.

It is a subtle but significant difference.  The abusive acts of alienating a parentcannot be separated from the abuser's reenactment of their childhood trauma, or their narcissistic/borderline personality disorder.  

  Below is a diagram of the chronology of how attachment trauma impacts the development of narcissistic/borderline personality disorder and how that disorder plays out in family situations.  The hallmark of these parents is that they are abusive to their family and escalate conflict whenever possible. Most of these families breakdown under the unrelenting stress, which triggers the unstable parent to reenact his or her childhood trauma based on distorted and disorganized memories stored in their internal working model.   During this reenactment period the narcissistic/borderline parent engages in and escalates specific strategies meant to alienate a child from his or her parent.  

       

 

 

 

 The sooner we stop calling psychological abuse parental alienation, the sooner we can engage in meaningful and effective intervention and prevention.

But this is up to us.

 

 

 

 

Courts That Care?

As we begin to talk about trauma, I thought it would be good to re-post this blog from last February.  The newest addition in the library section of this website now contains the protocol manual being used for family courts to become trauma informed.   Every targeted parent in family court must be aware of the official, professional movement to make family courts trauma informed and use their personal cases as avenues to protect their children while pushing the movement forward.    We are traumatized and our children are traumatized.  We need courts that are trauma informed! 

According to the protocol manual for developing trauma informed courts, "Juvenile and family judges and courts are in a unique position to promote healing and prevent future trauma.  In 2013, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) undertook development of a court trauma consultation protocol in response to an increase in requests for assistance from courts seeking to become trauma-informed. the NCJFCJ and organizations such as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) have an extensive history of providing training and technical assistance to courts on traumatic stress."

Published February 10, 2016

Recently, The Honorable Marshall Murray, a respected and experienced Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee County, co-authored a blog with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) in which he sounded more like a caring parent than a Judge.  It was the first time I heard a Judge express sadness at seeing so many abused children in his court.  It was also the first time I had heard anyone defend judges for being concerned that courts make the right decisions in cases involving abuse.

“One of the most important duties for any court system

is to ensure that youth in the community

are protected.” 

                                         -Judge Marshall Murray (2016)

One point that Judge Murray discusses is that in order for judges to make the right decisions when ruling on cases involving children and youth, they must be able to recognize how trauma affects behavior. He specifically mentioned trauma from emotional and verbal abuse, recognizing that psychological maltreatment (emotional abuse and neglect) is the most prevalent and damaging type of child abuse, causing a lifetime of problems for these victims.  The blog that Judge Murray wrote focuses on teen dating violence, but I found that his sentiments reflected a fundamental problem for Judges presiding over high conflict custody cases in family courts.

For decades, Family Court Judges have misinterpreted the expression of trauma in most of the high conflict custody cases.  This misinterpretation continues to lead Family Court Judges to make inaccurate assumptions about the parents and children.  Their mistaken assumptions are the basis for placing children with the abusive parent.  Thus, Family Courts directly contribute to severe adverse childhood experiences and the escalation of intimate partner violence.  The travesty of Family Courts abandoning children to their abusive parent is so common that it appears as if the Judges are intentionally colluding with the abusers.  As it stands today, a Family Court Judge could throw a dart at both parents in high conflict custody disputes, and at least then, they would make the right decision at least 50% of the time.   

It is hard to imagine that Family Court Judges care about families, abuse or even the job they do because I see no indication that family courts are trying to improve their longstanding abysmal record of making family situations worse for the “high conflict” families they serve.  As a self-regulating profession, this lack of care, due process or competence is inexcusable and begs external oversight if not remedied.

While the majority of families can manage custody issues without assertive court intervention, a significant and growing population of parents cannot.  These “high conflict” custody cases take up a disproportional amount of family court dockets because one parent has a personality disorder in which he or she is manipulating the court and escalating conflict.  All the while, he or she continues to psychologically abuse the family causing extreme ongoing chaos and stress.  In the pure sense, these cases aren’t “custody” cases; they are cases of child abuse and domestic violence and need immediate court ordered protection.

High conflict custody cases have been particularly troublesome for family court because the origin and nature of the problem lies in the abusive relational pathology of a narcissistic and /or borderline personality disordered parent who is a master at manipulation and exploitation.   By the time the family gets to court, the abuser has seriously wounded the children and the non-abusive parent and they present with extreme and misleading symptoms of trauma.  Comparatively, the abuser appears calm and confident as if he or she were innocent.

To add more confusion to the decision, narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents have a well-developed social persona where they can mirror appropriate responses appearing sincere, charming and caring.  The abusive parent stays hidden behind this persona while covertly escalating conflict, exploiting the expressed trauma of the non-abusive parent and the children, making false allegations of abuse or fitness, manipulating the Judiciary, sabotaging treatment plans and lying through their teeth.  

Narcissistic and/or borderline parents will not admit that they have a personality disorder, even if they have been diagnosed, however once Family Court Judges are cued into looking for a handful of specific personality disorder traits, they will see that narcissistic/borderline abusers present as predictable as a March snowstorm in Wisconsin, and are just as easy to spot. 

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Family court judges are not psychologist, nor should they be.  However, the fact remains that family courts have become the roosting site for narcissistic and/or borderline personality disordered parents and they are manipulating the court into making decisions that are extremely harmful to children and the non-abusive parent.  Assertive court intervention is necessary because these abusers cannot and will not change or follow any orders by the court unless the court will enforce sanctions for violations.   

The good news is that under a caring family court judge, trained to recognize the psychological manipulation of a narcissistic/borderline abuser and to spot trauma, family courts can stop being part of the problem of child abuse and domestic violence and become a big part of THE solution.  If these high conflict abuse cases can be stopped when they get to family court, the children and parents can recover and learn how to protect themselves from being psychologically abused so that the children can still have a relationship with both parents.  Just as important, Family Courts can lead the way in breaking the cycle of narcissistic/borderline abuse by preventing it from being expressed in the next generation of families who are lucky enough to have found their way into a court that is concerned about making the right decisions.