Parents who are estranged, alienated and separated from the loving relationship they once had with their children (and desperately want again), often describe the feeling as worse than a bereavement. That’s perhaps hard to understand if you haven’t spent a day in their shoes but have some understanding of what it’s like to permanently lose someone who has passed away.
Well, imagine, if you can, what it feels like to be separated from a loved one so you can’t meet, talk to or/and embrace them. Yet they’re still alive and often not that far away.
You may even see them heading to school or out at play, on the bus or in the supermarket.
Now imagine the lingering hope that you nurture that this disconnect is just a phase and that, one day, any day, perhaps today as a result of your next call or email, you’ll see, hear and hold them again……only for that hope to be snuffed out, snatched away, destroyed hour after hour, day after day, week after week….. and to know that someone you once loved is probably the cause of the pain.
Before long, it’s the hope that extends the claws that rake constantly at your heart, dragging you to the shadows.
One of the important roles that family reunification specialists can play is to keep the darker times at bay by bringing hope and practical support. And the best way of cultivating that spark of light in others is to look back, together, on the results of work undertaken to overcome and reverse the chilling impact of separation and to gain confidence from the positive results that encourage us all to persist when the road of trials is long and hard.
For those who need it, including members of our extended network, our cntacts and associates, here are (almost) 48 reasons to be cheerful (names and details removed to protect their privacy).
Perhaps you’ll be the 50th?
RESTORATION OF PARENT – CHILD RELATIONSHIP:
CASE EXAMPLES – Where systemic co-parenting family therapy and therapeutic reunification has been successful.
1. 2017, SE England, boy aged 9: alienated from father. We provided social work and systemic co-parenting family therapy for co-parents, as well as some direct work with the boy. Shared parenting now in place.
2. 2017, SE England, court ordered expert for boy aged 13, girl aged 12: finding of parental alienation, reunification plan for the children since reunited with their father.
3. 2017, SE Englang: court ordered expert for boy aged 9 years:, resist/refuse dynamic, parental alienation behaviours. Provided systemic co-parenting conciliation session to parents. Shared parenting now in place.
4. 2017, High Court, court ordered systemic family therapy for parents and girl aged, 9 years: Child abducted by father. Some restoration of the mother – daughter relationship but alienating behaviours evidenced. Recommendation for change of residence. Daughter now living with mother and father having supervised contact.
5. 2018 boy aged 7, Wales: hostile and violent reaction to mother. No contact with mother for over 18 months. Reunification within two residential weekends. Shared parenting in place. Offered 8 follow up therapeutic parenting sessions to mother and Guardian reported at the Final hearing, ‘the outcome exceeded all professional’s expectations’. Mother reported she continues to be grateful for the therapeutic sessions provided.
6. 2018, SE England: girl aged 10, aligned and enmeshed with mother and hostile to father following 7 years of litigation: Girl emotionally damaged due to ‘splitting’ and ‘conflict loyalty’. Case referred by solicitor to CPM for systemic co-parenting family work with a view to restoring father – daughter relationship. Took 6 months but successful co-parenting alliance forged. Facilitated meeting with father and son at daughter’s request following individual . Quality of father and daughter relationship greatly improved. Both parents stated they were really pleased with the changes.
7. 2018 – 2019, South England, girl aged 8, estranged from mother: Voluntary referral, systemic co-parenting therapy sessions offered to parents, individual one to one child therapy with the girl. Facilitated parent – child session with the mother and daughter. Relationship restored and mother and daughter enjoying time together.
2018 – 2019, SE England: twin girls aged 17, voluntary referral recommended by family mediator, estranged from father following high conflict between parents throughout their life: Systemic co-parenting sessions offered to parents, individual psychotherapy to each of the twins, facilitated parent – child sessions offered to each of the twins with their father, relationship repaired with the father and girls now have a meaningful relationship.
9. South East England, 2018, parents, two children, girl, aged 7, boy aged 5: Therapeutic support offered to work towards the ending of the relationship. Child therapy with the girl who was displaying separation anxiety from mother and oppositional defiant behaviour.
10. 2019, SE England: girl aged 1, court appointed expert: Father, some learning difficulties not having contact, assessment and additional support services provided, shared parenting in place and going well.
11. 2019, East England:, girl 10, boy 14, resisting – refusing contact with father: Court order by consent, systemic co-parenting sessions offered to parents, separated child therapy sessions with the children, facilitated parent – child sessions with each of the children with their father, relationships restored, shared parenting in place and going well.
12. 2019, SE England: girl 11, girl 7, resisting – refusing contact with father: Systemic co parenting family therapy sessions offered, father daughter relationships restored, residence order to father, mother has child arrangements order.
13. 2019 – 2020, South England: court appointed expert, boy aged 9 with some special needs, father had no contact for 2 years, therapeutic systemic co-parenting family therapy with co-parents for 9 months, some direct work with the boy, therapeutic parenting support sessions with each parent as needed, contact resumed, relationship between father and son flourishing, shared parenting in place.
14. 2019 – 2020, SE England, girl aged 9, voluntary referral, estranged from father for a year: Separated child therapy sessions offered, systemic co-parenting family therapy sessions delivered to parents, facilitated parent – child therapy sessions offered and girl now has a meaningful relationship with her father.
15. 2020, SE England, court ordered expert therapist, boy aged 14, girl aged 12 and girl aged 9, estranged from father: systemic co-parenting family therapy sessions with parents, one to one therapy sessions with each of the children, facilitated parent – child therapy sessions with father and each of the children, family therapy, relationships restored.
16. 2020, North England, girl aged 16, court ordered expert therapist, alleged parental alienation: reunited with father she had no contact with for 2 years following individual one to one work with the father and the daughter and a facilitated parent – child session. Going smoothly so far.
17. 2020, South England, court ordered expert assessment, parental alienation, boy aged 17, boy aged 15 and girl aged 9. Assessment with reunification plan intervention ongoing.
18. 2020, SE England: girl 12, girl 10, court ordered expert therapist, parental alienation: systemic co-parenting family therapy offered to parents, individual therapeutic parenting support sessions offered to the children, shared parenting in place. Following 12 weeks work recommendation for change of residence to the father.
19. 2020, South England:, boy aged 15, court ordered expert therapist; finding of parental alienation, reunification therapy offered with child and mother, therapeutic parenting support sessions with mother, individual parenting sessions with father on breaches to parent – child relationship. Mother – son relationship greatly improved.
20. 2020, South England:, voluntary referral via solicitor, boy aged 18 and girl aged 14, no contact with father: Offered 4 months of systemic co-parenting family therapy to parents, individual child therapy sessions for the son and daughter, therapeutic parenting support sessions to each parent, facilitated parent child sessions with father and son and father and daughter. Contact resumed and quality of father – son and father – daughter relationship described “better than it’s been for years”.
21. 2020, South England:, court ordered expert, 5 children, twin boys aged 13, boy aged 11, girl aged 9 and boy aged 4: Assessment of each child separately, assessment of attachments of each child to each parent, assessment of sibling bonds and attachments children have with each other, recommendations on restoring and re establishing parent child relationship between father and the children and contact with the father.
22. 2020, SE England, court ordered expert therapist, boy aged 15, girl aged 13, girl aged 11, children aligned with resident parent: specialist bespoke reunification family therapy, child therapy with each child separately, and therapeutic parenting work with resident parent and non-resident parent. Restoration of the breaches in the child parent – relationship.
23. 2020, SE England, court ordered high conflict specialist family therapist, girl aged 13, offering specialist high conflict family therapy intervention: one to one child therapy sessions, individual parenting support sessions to mother who is estranged from her daughter and psycho-educative, solution focused intervention with father to support the restoration of the mother – daughter relationship.
24. 2020, SW England: court ordered Section 7 assessment, 3 children, boy aged 10, boy aged 7 girl aged 5, high conflict with parenting behaviour aligning the two boys with their mother: Step-parent work with father’s partner. Resist – refuse dynamics with the 10 year old boy. Therapeutic plan recommended and accepted. Parents offered weekly high conflict specialist systemic family therapy, children offered sibling group work and individual one to work with a trauma based approach. Individual PACE therapeutic parenting support sessions offered to mother, father and stepparent on the confusion caused by different parenting styles. Reduction in levels of conflict, resist – refuse dynamic with 10 year old boy have diminished.
25. 2020, South England: court ordered systemic family therapy, boy aged 10 years, no contact with father for 2 years: Boy estranged from father. Child therapy sessions offered to boy, parenting sessions offered to mother to support reunification process with the father. Parenting sessions offered to father, father – son facilitated sessions offered to father and son. Relationship restored, father and son enjoying meaningful time and contact.
26. 2020, South England: court ordered systemic family therapy, girl aged 16 years, damaged mother – daughter relationships due to many years of acrimony and high conflict: Individual parenting sessions offered to each parent and each stepparent, child therapy sessions offered to 16 year old girl and facilitated mother – daughter sessions offered to mother and daughter. Mother and daughter relationship has greatly improved and agreements reached that daughter can choose the time she spends with her mother.
27. 2020, South, England: LA agreed therapeutic work, girl aged 6 and girl aged 8 years. Resist – refuse dynamic between daughters and father: Alleged parental alienation. Systemic co-parenting family therapy offered. Some progress but not enough in the children’s time frames. Recommendation for change of residence.
28. 2020, SE England: court ordered systemic family therapy, ongoing high conflict boy aged 14 years, girl aged 11 years, with special needs, lives with father estranged from mother, girl aged 13 years, lives with mother estranged from father: Provided trauma therapy for mother, therapeutic parenting support sessions for both parents, systemic co-parenting family therapy for both co-parents together, individual therapy sessions for each of the children and facilitated parent – child restoration sessions between each of the children with the parent they were estranged from.
29. 2020, SE England: court ordered systemic therapeutic tailor made for boy aged 14 years alienated from his mother: Restoration of the parent – child relationship between mother and son. Targeted psycho-educative work with the alienating behaviour’s identified in the father. Professional liaison with Head Teacher, DSL and pastoral care department creating a ‘team around the child’ with a unified and integrated approach to supporting the boy at his boarding school.
30. 2020, Midlands: court ordered Section 7 report, boy aged 18 months abducted, father has not seen his son since March 2020: Assessment of the father and eventual identification of the mother’s postal address, assessment of the mother and observation of the mother and the baby. Recommendation for adult psychiatric assessment of the mother and father. Supervised contact with the father pending psychiatric assessment of parents and fact finding hearing in relation to allegations made by the mother.
31. 2021, SE ENgland: girl aged 13 months had not seen her father for 18 months: Single SJE whole family assessment undertaken and individual one to one work with father and daughter co-parenting work with both parents, some work with two other adult children. Relationship between father and daughter was gradually restored.
32. 2021, SE England:, girl aged 11, girl aged 9 fact finding hearing of parental alienation:. 3 months specialist systemic family therapy work resulting in recommendation for change of residence for the daughters to be transferred into the care of the father with the father having a child arrangements order to facilitate contact with the mother as the mother had not made enough progress in her therapy at that time.
33. 2021, South England:, 2 children – one 14, one 12. Finding of high conflict leading to parental alienation: Individual work with each parent, co-parenting systemic family therapy sessions with both parents together, individual sessions with each of the sons, whole family therapy meetings with both parents and both sons once a month, fathers relationship with his sons has restored from indirect contact to direct contact to weekends to overnight contact and relationship greatly improved between both co parents.
34. 2021, East England: 2 girls, 10 year old and 12 year old had not had contact with their father following the Court applying a two year restraining order against the father as a result of previous domestic abuse: Individual therapy with the father for 6 months prior to initiating co-parenting communication between the mother and the father via Our Family Wizard, individual sessions with each of the children on 3 occasions with a view to considering supervised contact work ongoing.
35. 2021, Midlandss: girl 13. Allegations by the mother of parental alienation: Recommendation for specialist systemic family therapy work. Individual work undertaken with each parent, systemic co-parenting family therapy work with parent’s together and weekly sessions with the child. Parental alienation not found and parenting issues resulted in justified rejection of the mother by the child. Child has a residence order with the father and mother has contact with her daughter on a child arrangements order which the father facilitates.
36. 2021, SE England, 4 children, aged 8, 10, 13 and 14. High conflict between the parents: Financial remedies hearing had not yet taken place which interfered with the specialist systemic family therapy work. Individual parenting support sessions with each parent. Individual sessions with the children. Parents disengaged due to financial constraints.
37. 2021, South, 2 children, boy aged 13, boy aged 9. Parents in high conflict for over 4 years and had not had any engagement in developing co-parenting work, co-parenting alliance: No communication in relation to children. Fortnightly systemic family therapy sessions offered and relationships between the parents have improved with a corresponding improvement in the relationships the children have with both parents.
38. 2021, South, boy aged 9. Fact finding hearing of parental alienation against the mother.: Individual therapy with the mother over a 4 month period. Reports provided to the Court. Meetings with the Guardian and the Advocates and supervised contact offered once weekly for 8 weeks for 2 hours a week, leading to 2 months supervised contact in the community. Child has been placed with the father on a residence order and the father has been facilitating contact on a child arrangements order.
39. 2021, Midlands:, 2 boys aged 11 and 13: Recommendation for specialist systemic family therapy work due to 4 years high conflict. Queries parental alienation by the father against the mother, father disengaged from the therapy when challenged in relation to promoting the mothers relationships with their sons. Case moved to the High Court.
40. 2021, SE ENgland: girl 14, boy 11. High conflict for 4 years resulting in both children rejecting contact with their father: individual weekly sessions offered to each parent, specialist systemic family therapy sessions offered to both parents each week, children restored indirect contact and then direct contact during FaceTime. The rebuilding of the relationships continues.
41. 2021, SE ENgland, 3 children, boy 15, boy 11 and boy 7. High conflict detigous case in and out of Court for 4 years: The father had no contact with the 15 year old for 4 years. Individual work with each parent each week, specialist systemic family therapy work with both parents together each week, individual one to one therapy sessions with each of the boys once a month, breach of the father son relationship has been repaired. The son now 15 goes cycling with his father and they have spent time walking together, having meals together, work on going to ensure that over the next tranche of 12 weeks work that any residual facilitated father son sessions support the strengthening of the relationship and the prior attachment that the father and son had. Monthly child therapy with the other 2 children, work with the parents reduced to once a fortnight and 2 family therapy meeting with the whole family together scheduled towards the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 to try and heal the rifts in relation to the family narrative that may have been internalised by all 3 children.
42. 2021, SE England, 2 children, girl 13, girl 9. Fact finding hearing of parental alienation against the mother: Court approved appointment of TBR as the systemic family therapist to work with each parent separately. Both parents together and the 2 children separately. Following a delay in the appointment of a follow up experts assessment the case was returned to Court and a hearing is scheduled in relation to progress to date for which a report is being prepared for the Court.
43. 2021, SE England: boy aged 13, twin boys aged 9: Mother made emergency application to Court to prevent one of the twins having contact with their father due to allegations of insensitive parenting. His twin had neuro developmental disabilities and a possible learning disability although presented atypically. Assessment undertaken recommending a neuro developmental psychiatric assessment, contact resumed following recommendation to the Court with the twin who had not seen his father for 6 months.
44. 2021, boy 14, girl 13, girl 11: Instruction to provide specialist systemic family therapy to family members. This was elected by the family rather than a fact finding hearing. Individual one to one sessions offered to each parent each week, systemic co-parenting family therapy sessions offered to both parents together each week, individual therapy sessions offered to each of the children once a fortnight. Due to the inability of one of the parents to put to one side the previous allegations these interfered with the progress of the systemic family therapy work. Following 6 months work, the case was returned to Court for a fact finding hearing.
45. 2021, SE England, girl aged 9: Father had no direct or indirect contact with his daughter for over a year following an argument between the parents. SJE appointed recommended that contact between the father and his daughter was resumed as there were no safeguarding concerns and that both parents engage in family therapy.
46. 2021,SE England;, boy aged 11, boy aged 9, boy aged 4: High conflict case in litigation proceedings for 3½ years. Instructed to provide specialist systemic family therapy and individual sessions offered to each of the parents, weekly systemic co-parenting family therapy sessions offered to both parents together and monthly therapy sessions offered to each of the children. The eldest boy lives with the father and hasn’t seen his mother for 3½ years. There is 50 – 50 shared parenting of the other 2 boys between each of the parents. Work is focusing on building a co-parenting framework and alliance whereby the issue of how to repair and restore the breach in the mother son relationship can be addressed. Work ongoing in this case.
47. 2021, SE England: 2 children, girl aged 13, boy aged 11: 11 year old boy resisting and refusing contact with his mother for a year. 13 year old girl sees her mother for 2 hours a week. Recommendations that supervised contact between the mother and her son is initiated with a gradual reintroduction of unsupervised contact leading to overnight contact while the parents engage in their own family therapy work to find better ways of working together in the best interests of the children.
48. 2021, 11 year old boy, SE England, , 6 year old girl: Boy resisting contact with his mother. Boy displaying manifestations and signs of parental alienation. Boy has psychologically split the father into all good, mother into all bad, has no guilt or remorse. Has displayed frivolous reasons for rejecting his mother and has also rejected the rest of his maternal family. Girl is having contact with both parents. Recommendations for a fact finding hearing so the family narrative the father has about the mother can begin to be worked upon with a view to providing a framework for a specialist systemic family therapy intervention with both parents and children and to restore the relationship between the mother and son.