Legal and Mental Health Conference Moving Upstream – Addressing the Problem of Parental Alienation in Europe was held in London, 30th & 31st August 2018 at Cavendish Conference Centre.

The conference brougth together world leading experts in the field of parental alienation to consider the legal and mental health interlock which is necessary to promote successful resolution in these difficult cases, with the interest of key legal people in the UK and contributions from around Europe. Parents  with experience of alienation also participated this event and had the opportunity to discuss and to express their opinions and needs related to the assistance and interventions in child protection system.

The key purpose was to make a powerful marker of change in the consciousness of everyone who works with children who resist or refuse a relationship with a once loved parent and the key message for the conference was that causing a child to use the infantile defence mechanism of psychological splitting, (also known as parental alienation) is a pernicious form of child abuse. This conference focused upon this reality and shifted the focus of this problem to right where it should be – child protection and mental health.

The conference speakers were Sir Paul Coleridge, Former High Court Judge in the Family Court and currently chairman of Marriage Foundation; Dr. Amy J. L. Baker, Vincent J. Fontana Centre For Child Protection;  Karen Woodall, Family Separation Clinic; Andrew Bridgen MP, Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire; Judge Dr. Sc. Lana Peto Kujundžić and Prof. Dr. Sc. Gordana Buljan Flander, Association of Family Judges, Croatia, Child And Youth Protection Centre of Zagreb; Dr. Sc. Simona Vlădică, Bucharest, Romania; Andrea Watts and Anna Mckenna, Family law barrister, 1KBW; Brian Ludmer Brian Ludmer, Ludmer Law, Toronto; Fran Wiley QCFrancesca Wiley QC, Family law barrister, 1 Garden Court; William Bernet M.D., Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt University and Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association; Dr. Steven G Miller, Harvard Medical School; Dr. Janine Braier, Dr Janine Braier, Independent Chartered Clinical Psychologist; Doc. Dr. Sc. Vlatka Boričević Maršanić director of Child and Youth Psychiatric Hospital; Dr. Jennifer Jill Harman, Associate professor of psychology at Colorado State University; Dr. Sietske Dijkstra, Bureau Dijkstra; Dr. Sc. Eric J. Green ,; Darren Spooner, The St. Giles Clinic; Linda Gottlieb, Family Therapist And Parental Alienation Specialist; Dr. Hamish Cameron, Consultant Child Psychiatrist (retired); Leilani Sinclair; Nick Woodall, Family Separation Clinic.

On day one, chaired by Sir Paul Coleridge, leading legal experts talked about how to manage such cases in court and experts in Croatia and Romania as well as the UK presented the best practice in legal management.  On day two programme focused on mental health management of parental alienation.  First day was attended by 140 delegates from eleven countries around the world, including Hong Kong, New Zealand, USA and several European countries.

The head of the worldwide Parental Alienation Study Group Professor Emeritus William Bernet M.D. who is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine introduced the conference to the significant scientific evidence which supports the need to intervene.

Director of Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb, professor Gordana Buljan Flander, gave two invited lectures. She stressed the importance of co-operation of health institutions involved in cases of alienation with the courts, as well as the prompt response of all institutions, because, for the child, time is enemy. She further stated that alienation is child emotional abuse and should be treated as any other form of abuse. Our director, Gordana Buljan Flander,  was also a panelist in the discussion Codifying best practice. Our Center proudly co-hosted this event together with European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners and the Family Separation Clinic. Judge Lana Peto Kujundzic, PhD, president of family judges association, and dr. Vlatka Boricević Maršanić, PhD, director of Child and Youth Psychiatric Hospital, also contributed this conference and presented the experiences and models from Croatia. Psychologists from our Center, Ana Raguž, Mia Roje and Ella Selak Bagarić, also participated the Conference.

We thank our dear friends and colleagues Karen Woodall and Nick Woodall for putting together this inspiring meeting.


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