International conference: "How to start a Family Justice Center" was held in the Royal Library in Brussels, Belgium on 1st of December 2017. Main hosts were Bert Groen, president of European Family Justice Center Alliance, and Pascale Franck, director of Family Justice Center in Antwerp, Belgium. The specific focus of the conference was development and support of integrated multidisciplinary centers and chain approach to create pathways to hope for victims of domestic violence and child abuse.
In July 2019, a lecture ”Understanding and working with children and families affected by parental alienation: hearing the authentic voice of the child and intervening to help recovery” was organised by Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center and Association of Youth Judges, Family Judges and Child and Youth Experts. The lecturers were Karen and Nick Woodall, internationally recognized authorities in area of alienation, partners in Family Separation Clinic in London, who, engaged in daily close cooperation with social welfare, health and justice systems, work on the issue of alienation.
The lecture was viewed in person, at the Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute of Public Health and via live stream video on Center’s Facebook and Youtube channel, by more than 3000 experts of different profiles, as well as interested laics. On the occasion of this lecture and on the occasion of World Health Organization accepting the plan for new edition of ICD (ICD-11) on 27th May, 2019, which contains the code for alienation QE.52 (under diagnostic category Caregiver-Child Relationship Problem), we form this document with main conclusions on alienation and suggestions for developing positive practice in Croatia. The conclusions are based on clinical practice, models of good practice in world and Europe and on results of more than a thousand of scientific papers.
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With signatories and lecturers Karen and Nick Woodall and organizers of the lecture, Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, Ph.D, and Lana Peto Kujundžić, Ph.D, we invite all experts who agree with presented conclusions to provide support to children in this area with their signature:
1. A child has the need for both parents and it is important to ensure involvement of both parents in a child’s life (unless this would be a threat to child’s life, health and/or safety; in following points this condition is implied).
2. It is in the best interest of the child to ensure approximately the same amount of involvement by both parents in child’s life and upbringing, which is not necessarily 50% of time with each of them – the assessment is made depending on the specific circumstances and needs of the individual child, estimated by the expert (social welfare system and/or health care system and/or justice system).
3. Gender or sex does not determine parental competence.
4. One of the main parenting competencies in cases of divorced parenting is the capacity of parents to actively strengthen the relationship of the child with the other parent.
5. Alienation is a public health problem and should be approached from the position of protecting child’s health and rights.
6. Alienation can, but it does not have to arise from a high-conflict divorce. In most cases, real alienation comes with alienated parent’s minimal influence potential.
7. Exposure of the child to a chronic and long-lasting parental conflict with or without established alienating behavior of parents represents emotional neglect and sometimes emotional abuse of a child.
8. Alienating behavior (any behavior, active or passive, that disturbs the relationship of a child with another parent) and the inability to separate parental and partner’s role represent inappropriate emotional pressure on the child.
9. Inappropriate emotional pressure on the child represents the risk of emotional abuse of the child; in case it is continuous and/or intense and is not corrected under the influence of an expert, it is emotional abuse of the child.
10. Every citizen of the Republic of Croatia is obliged to report suspicion of emotional abuse of the child, to the Social Welfare Center in charge, if necessary, to the police, promptly and without delay, which can be done anonymously.
11. Every expert that works with children is legally obliged to report suspicion of emotional abuse of a child, to the Social Welfare Center in charge, if necessary, to the police, promptly and without delay.
12. Alienation is emotional abuse of a child, regardless of whether it is currently mild, moderate or serious.
13. The main sign of alienation in a child is psychological splitting, that is, lack of ambivalence towards parents.
14. All experts working with children from all sectors are obliged to communicate and exchange information with each other in the interest of the protection of the child.
15. The right of the child to express his/her will, wish, and opinion (Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child) should be interpreted in a manner consistent with the General Commentary on Art. 12.
16. The direct question of a child with whom he/she wants to live is a form of emotionally abusive behaviors, no matter who it comes from.
17. What the child says is not necessarily the authentic will and wish of the child, which can be assessed by a specially educated mental health expert if needed.
18. All legal proceedings should be conducted as quickly as possible. On the circumstances of the case the child should be interviewed by as few as possible different experts, and as less often as possible on various occasions.
19. During the course of court proceedings, a temporary solution or temporary measure should be decided by the social welfare and justice system.
20. Intensive cooperation and communication of mental health experts, social welfare and justice systems during the course of court proceedings is necessary.
21. In cases of alienation, a judge should take away from parents the power of manipulating the child and the system. All parties involved, including other experts, should behave consistently and timely in accordance with the provisions of the court, otherwise they should be sanctioned.
22. Regarding alienation, especially in cases of more severe forms, it is necessary to temporarily interrupt any contact between the child and the alienating parent and to place the child with another parent, institution or foster family (depending on the social welfare system assessment).
23. Therapy for the child is contraindicated while he/she is in contact with alienating parent.
24. In alienation cases generic therapies are contraindicated because child abuse is still happening.
25. All family members in alienation cases should be included in therapeutic work in accordance with the health and social care guidelines.
26. Depending on progress in alienating parent and the child, health and welfare system propose re-establishing the contact of an alienated parent and the child.
27. All experts working with children and families are required to be permanently and systematically educated in the area of alienation and divorce.
28. Abuse is abuse – for the profession and the law. Personal and professional duty of all of us as experts and people is to protect the children. The rights of a child are beyond the rights of parents.
You can support these conclusions with your signature on the link: