The show “Good Morning Croatia” on September 15, 2020 announced the 3rd European Conference with International Participation of EAPAP (European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners), which will be organized by the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center and held from 16 to 18 September 2020 in the form of a webinar. Representatives of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center were guests in the study: the director professor Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD; psychiatrist Vlatka Boričević Maršanić, PhD-MD and psychologist Ella Selak Bagarić.


Here is the information on the show published in HRT Magazine, written by Zineta Alibegić:

“3rd European Conference on the Alienation of a Child from Divorced Parents is being held in Zagreb from 16 to 18 September and can be followed online.

Unfortunately, the topic that is increasingly present in modern society – alienation of a child during divorce or after the divorce of parents is the topic of the 3rd European Conference held in Zagreb, but also throughout Europe because due to the epidemic most of the conference will be online.

In the show “Good morning, Croatia”, three experts announced this conference: Vlatka Boričević Maršanić, PhD-MD specialist psychiatrist, subspecialist in child and adolescent psychiatry, professor Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, director of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center and Ella Selak Bagarić, master of psychology.


More than 400 participants registered, the interest of experts is great, said one of the conference organizers professor Gordana Buljan Flander, who herself is educating in the region and in European countries on this topic – they did not want to give up of the conference, which was postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic. So many experts from the US and European countries will give their lectures online.

– American experts at this time would not travel and come to Zagreb like many from European countries. We got the world’s greatest experts on this issue to teach us what is happening in their countries and to harmonize practices. That’s really important, says Buljan Flander.


What is the narrower topic of the conference?

– The topic has been present lately – the divorce rate is growing, but so are the issues related to divorce, especially alienation. The topic is precisely the harmonization of clinical practices from diagnosis to treatment. The goal is the recovery of the child. These are the main topics we will deal with, said Vlatka Boričević Maršanić, PhD-MD.


It is important to listen to the profession

Professor Buljan Flander has worked on the education of other clinicians and Social Welfare Centers, as well as judges and lawyers. The experience of clinicians from the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center shows that the practice is still not a sufficiently uniform practice. These are topics that scientists have been talking about much more intensively in the last 10 years, said psychologist Ella Selak Bagarić.


– It is important to understand the basic terms that are used both among us clinicians and in court practice. This is also important for informing the public. The cases we work on to protect children are very often counterintuitive. It happens that the public does not understand the actions of experts who are very complex – they require complex diagnostics and multidisciplinary processing. The public then has no information about what is happening. Of course, we all have a need to protect children, she added.


What bothers children the most when it comes to divorce?

– Children are most troubled when parents remain in conflict and if they use the child for mutual reckoning. Unfortunately, this happens often. I have been working for a long time, I have had hundreds of such children. Their parents do not see them. They also become invisible in the system because they tell parents, “Make a deal.” If the parents could agree they would not be in the system. Very often it is not recognized that the one who alienates the child actually has some psychopathology and we do not treat them as a person with a problem. Not everyone is the same. Those who alienate a child from the other parent, who ask the child to give up the other parent, are actually asking the children to give up half of themselves. These children are sad, anxious, and unhappy, they are in conflict of loyalty. Very often they become a dad or mom to that parent, or a husband or wife to that parent. There is a complete change of roles, emphasizes professor Gordana Buljan Flander.


– These children become the ones who take care of their parents and no longer have their emotions. They completely merge with the parent who alienates them and then they seem to have a wonderful relationship. It is a psychopathological relationship. And the public, which often comments on such cases – does not know what is happening. Then by writing about it on social networks or portals – they further traumatize the child. The judiciary is very important to us. It is important to say that this is an emotional abuse of the child. Let’s not then let time solve the problem, she added.


Parents can divorce as a couple, but not as parents

We have several roles in life, one role is a partnership and the other is our profession. We can change in life, but parenting is a lifelong project, a calling, a role, said Vlatka Boričević Maršanić, PhD-MD.


– The number of divorces is growing not only in Croatia but all over the world. There are institutions, certain institutions and associations that have adapted to new trends and provided support to parents who are in the process of divorce. Family centers that are branches of the Center for Social Welfare and that have multidisciplinary teams should be highlighted. They can be a support to parents at any stage of their parenting, from preparation for parenthood to demanding divorce situations. There is also Brave Phone as an association that is known to both the public and professionals and that also provides a school for parents who are divorced, she added.


– Nothing can be done if the parents themselves are not motivated to work on themselves, said Vlatka Boričević Maršanić, PhD – MD.


Listen to the experts, don’t attack them

– We have a lot of involuntary clients in the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, because they are sent to us by the Centers for Social Welfare. It’s hard work because there’s too much passion among divorcing parents. When they don’t see the child, then you can think they will hear us experts. If we are not on their side, they immediately say – you are on the other side. I can’t understand that we are on the side of the child, said professor Gordana Buljan Flander.

– This job is so difficult and that is one of the topics of the conference – attacks on experts. When a parent sees that he has been recognized by an expert as one who alienates the child, turns anger, which was directed at ex-partner, to the expert, so we are the first to be hit. Due to the difficulty of the work, many professionals avoid doing this job. Therefore, this conference is important to us because our knowledge will protect us from being united, and not from avoiding dealing with this issue so that we would not be called out and called for lynching, she added.


What can parents in the divorce process do to facilitate the process?

– Research shows that children adapt to the new growing up conditions of divorce simply as when they adapt to starting a new school or the arrival of a new family member, brother or sister. What children cannot adapt to is constant conflict. We first warn about this when we see the parents who have started the separation. Parents must take care to see that child, to separate the partnership from parenthood. Someone may not have been an ideal partner, but a child needs both mom and dad, said Ella Selak Bagarić. ”


Source: HRT Magazine / link:


Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.   

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