So look at this. After all the attention Richard Warshak’s critics have received – including dominating Google searches – he finally addresses them – and completely misses the boat. His comments are indented and in italics. My responses are in between.
Parental Alienation: Impracticality & Impressions. Dr. Richard Warshak Answers Critics
Answering Critics by Dr. Richard Warshak
The many parents I have helped, women and men, express astonishment that some people demonize me, attempt to tarnish my reputation, and spread misleading and false information about my work and me. Although my supporters far outweigh my detractors, the people seeking to quiet my voice yell loudly and work hard to circulate their misinformation.
Your critics and critics of parental alienation have been out there for a very long time. What the most recent critics have been saying is nothing new. However, this is the first time they’ve found a real voice on the internet, and we can’t have that, can we?
Until now I have allowed the personal attacks and gross misrepresentations to go without answer.
Good. So you’re finally going to address the facts that parental alienation is not going to be in the DSM-V, that it has never been peer reviewed, that it is not accepted as a valid disorder in the general scientific, medical, psychological, and legal communities, that it has become a huge cottage industry that makes lots of money for the people who make a living using it in divorce and child custody cases, that the man who coined it (original term “parental alienation syndrome”) made statements supportive of incest and pedophilia (and he’s your mentor), that parental alienation does not meet Frye and Daubert standards for admissibility in court, and that it is the most common weapon used in court by abusive fathers to get custody of their children away from the mothers they’ve been threatening and abusing.
By the way, you did answer. You and the Huffington Post deleted most comments, most very well-thought out, reasonable, and backed up by research, that criticized you and parental alienation in your “Stop Divorce Poison” HuffPost article.
I understand the mentality of a true believer and realize that clarification of reality and objective evidence will hit the brick wall of a closed mind. For various reasons, these people want to hold on to their beliefs. They cling to misguided ideas rather than acknowledge the widespread mistreatment of children described in Divorce Poison and my other works. In some respects, they resemble people from earlier generations who refused to acknowledge the evidence of their senses that children were being physically and sexually abused with alarming frequency. Just as the professionals who first pointed an accusing finger at a society that tolerated such abuse were attacked, I suppose it is my fate to be the target of similar attacks.
Interesting statement there, since your mentor Dr. Richard Gardner, who created Parental Alienation Syndrome, was one of those people who refused to acknowledge that children were being physically and sexually abused with alarming frequency. He believed most allegations moms and children made of sexual abuse were false. He also claimed that 90% of his PAS caseload was mothers. People who fought for children’s welfare in the face of abuse were ridiculed as being “child savers” who were delusional. Fanatics. On a witch hunt. Demonizers. True believers. The same terms you are using to demean professionals and lay people who speak out against parental alienation and work to help abused mothers and children. Ironically, that’s the same language used by the false-acc witchhunt sex abuser defense crowd.
More below the fold.
And I continue with my response to Richard Warshak’s weak response to his critics. Warshak’s statements are indented and in italics. Mine are in between.
Defending myself against such attacks feels a bit undignified. It seems an unnecessary waste of time, and gives currency to a few fanatics who attempt to alienate my audience from me using the same tactics that some parents use to alienate their children from the other parent. Some of these extremists have lost custody of their children in a ruling that seeks to protect the children from severe doses of divorce poison. Rather than recognize the rationale for the court’s decision, these people believe that the judge either was biased or was foolishly taken in by the other parent’s allegations.
Smooth move, there. You just bashed and minimized abused women who criticized you. And you call yourself a friend of abused women!
Some of these people would have you believe that there is an epidemic of judges who take joy in placing children with parents who beat or sexually molest them. In fact, one website claims a conspiracy of Masonic judges who, in every family court across North America (I am not exaggerating), automatically give custody to pedophiliac fathers who in turn pimp their children to pedophiliac members of the Illuminati (the group profiled in Dan Brown’s novel Angels & Demons). I am not kidding. . . . Nor are they.
Now that’s a sleight-of-hand move! When I first read this paragraph I wondered what the hell was he talking about. I had to read it a couple of times to make sure I was reading it correctly. I’d never heard of any such thing. So I did a Google search. You found one – one – article by a woman and you try to paint all your critics as crazy fanatics. That article is not on a custody site. There is only one person I know of who believes all that, and she wasn’t one of the people commenting on your HuffPost article. I know of only one other person who believes something similar to what you say, minus all the Masonic and Illuminati stuff. The domestic violence community at large doesn’t believe any of that. But don’t let those facts get in your way of painting all domestic violence critics of you and parental alienation with a broad brush.
As I say in the Afterword to the revised edition of my book, when my wife reads these vicious and absurd accounts, she shakes her head in disbelief at the raw animosity that greets the work I do on behalf of suffering families. She asks, “Don’t they know that you’ve devoted your career to the welfare of children?” The many women I have helped through my writing, consultations, and courtroom testimony cannot understand what motivates the detractors, who claim to be advocates for women.
It’s nice your wife supports you. That’s what wives are supposed to do. It’s also nice your have women who support you. However, your wife’s support and the support of some women isn’t what matters here. What experts have written about you and parental alienation does matter. See below:
The National Association Of Juvenile And Family Court Judges
A Judicial Guide To Safety In Child Custody Cases – see page 12.
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. (2006).
Navigating Custody & Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide (2nd edition)
“The discredited “diagnosis” of “PAS” (or allegation of “parental alienation”), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be “alienated” have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the children’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways toward the children themselves, or the children’s other parent. The task for the court is to distinguish between situations in which children are critical of one parent because they have been inappropriately manipulated by the other (taking care not to rely solely on subtle indications), and situations in which children have their own legitimate grounds for criticism or fear of a parent, which will likely be the case when that parent has perpetrated domestic violence. Those grounds do not become less legitimate because the abused parent shares them, and seeks to advocate for the children by voicing their concerns.” – page 24
American Psychological Association. (1996).
Report of the APA Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family
Noting that custody and visitation disputes appear to occur more frequently when there is a history of domestic violence. Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. In this context, the nonviolent parent may be at a disadvantage, and behavior that would seem reasonable as a protection from abuse may be misinterpreted as a sign of instability. Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women’s responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as `parental alienation’ may be used to blame the women for the children’s reasonable fear or anger toward their violent father.” (p. 100).
The American Psychological Association
Statement On Parental Alienation Syndrome
“The American Psychological Association (APA) believes that all mental health practitioners as well as law enforcement officials and the courts must take any reports of domestic violence in divorce and child custody cases seriously. An APA 1996 Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family noted the lack of data to support so-called “parental alienation syndrome”, and raised concern about the term’s use. However, we have no official position on the purported syndrome.”
Bruch, Carol S. Parental (2001).
Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Getting It Wrong in Child Custody Cases.
Family Law Quarterly, 35, 527
Meier, Joan S. (January 2009).
Parental Alienation Syndrome & Parental Alienation: Research Reviews.
VAWnet: The National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women.
Jennifer Hoult. (Spring 2006).
The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy
Children’s Legal Rights Journal
Court-Appointed Parenting Evaluators And Guardians Ad Litem:
Practical Realities And An Argument For Abolition
Margaret K. Dore, Esq.
Domestic Violence (DV) By Proxy: Why Terrorist Tactics Employed By Batterers Are Not “PAS”
The Leadership Council
A Critique of Richard Warshak’s book “Divorce Poison”
National District Attorneys Association
Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Professionals Need To Know – Part 1 of 2
Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Professionals Need To Know – Part 2 of 2
Justice For Children
Parental Alienation “Syndrome”
“It is the position of Justice For Children that PAS is junk science.”
In 1998, Jon Conte [Professor of Law University of the Pacific McGeorge School] wrote that Gardner’s Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale is “probably the most unscientific piece of garbage I’ve seen in the field in all my time. To base social policy on something as flimsy as this is exceedingly dangerous.” (Moss, 1988)
There are many more legitimate organizations that have come down over the years against Parental Alienation Syndrome and it’s watered-down cousin Parental Alienation (and Parental Alienation Disorder… how many times are you guys going to reinvent yourselves?). I’ve listed more than enough here to prove my point.
So why am I writing this article? It occurred to me that those who find value in my work might be confused by the drumbeat of misinformation. The downside of responding to critics is that it fuels their zeal and brings more attention to their smears. They live for the battle and are gratified when anyone takes them seriously. I would rather spend my time providing guidance on how to understand, prevent, and repair damaged parent-child relationships. But, for the sake of those who really want to know, here is some clarification.
So… when are you going to address parental alienation not being in the DSM-V, not being considered valid in the general scientific community, etc. … I’m waiting…
Are you really afraid your supporters will drop you like a hot potato because of the alleged “drumbeat of misinformation” and “smears”? Or are you really afraid that those who matter most – people in the legal, psychological, and medical communities – will read what has really been published lately about you and parental alienation, such as the statements above, and realize that parental alienation is junk science that is harmful for children and that it’s used as a weapon by abusive fathers? And therefore no longer recommend your Bridges program?
One smear that has been making the rounds involves a case where I helped a mother whose children were irrationally alienated. Some important details I cannot divulge because they are not a matter of public record and I wish to protect the family’s privacy. Were these details known, domestic violence activists who criticize my involvement in this case would surely regret their words. They would think twice about circulating the innuendos and arguments raised by the father’s lawyer in his attempt to defeat the mother.
Parental alienation isn’t going to be in the DSM-V. It doesn’t meet accepted standards for allowing expert testimony in court. It has no known error rate. Abusive fathers have successfully used parental alienation to wrest child custody away from the abused mothers trying to protect their children. … Still waiting for you to address all this. I have a feeling I’m going to wait a very long time…
And why focus so much attention on this case when your critics have focused so much more on what I list in my previous paragraph? Is it because this case came out in your favor? One case doesn’t prove your program works. It only proves you have one happy customer.
Several mental health professionals concluded that the children’s estrangement from their mother was unreasonable. Even the father’s own expert witness recommended that the one child under the age of 18 be removed from the father’s home (but, for reasons unclear, not placed with his mother).
That’s not what the critics have been talking about with that case. They mention the cost – $40,000. For four days. I’ve seen a report of another case where the program cost $20,000. For four days. Also, critics have pointed out that the program is unproven and untested. We have only your word that it works and you’re biased in your own favor, of course.
The case was heard before an arbitrator. The arbitrator found that “the mother was the intentional victim of irrational alienation by her sons, designed and orchestrated by the father.” The decision awarded sole custody to the mother and gave her the authority to make decisions on behalf of her son including, at her discretion, enrolling him in my educational workshop. The Arbitrator’s decision was appealed to the Family Court. The Court did not dispute the findings of irrational alienation. But the judge did rule that the Arbitrator should have ordered another evaluation. In the decision the judge pointed out that I gave no recommendations because, as I made clear to the Arbitrator, I had not conducted a custody evaluation. The judge set aside the Arbitrator’s award and allowed the case to go to a new trial.
You never interviewed the two boys in question before recommending your Bridges Family workshop – at $40,000 for four days. How can you recommend your program when you don’t even know if it’s appropriate for the family in question? You haven’t mentioned the cost here at all.
Here is where the smears begin. The purpose of my testimony was to educate the court about general issues and the state of knowledge regarding parent-child conflicts and children’s rejection of a parent, and to describe various interventions for families in which the court finds that the children’s rejection of a parent is unjustified, irrational, disproportionate to the child’s experience of the parent, and not in the children’s best interests. An expert witness who testifies in this capacity is obliged to explain the limitations of his work in the case. As is my duty, I clarified the purpose of my testimony and volunteered the information that I had not conducted an evaluation and was not there to make a specific recommendation for this family.
You still haven’t addressed my concerns from the top of this article. Parental alienation isn’t accepted by the scientific community at large. It’s vague and untested. It won’t be in the DSM-V. You have a product to sell and you go to court to do that. Now you’re on the Huffington Post Divorce section doing just that – with a dangerous and unproven disorder that has been used by abusive dads in court against the moms they abuse.
Rather than point out that I had testified in a professionally ethical and objective manner and properly apprised the court of the scope of my work in the case, including limitations, some bloggers imply that the Family Court Judge “discovered” the limitations and that I then had to “admit” that I had not seen the children. This is not what happened. I never testified before the Family Court Judge. The Judge simply noted what I had volunteered in my testimony in the Arbitration. My professional colleagues understand that what I did was precisely in accord with professional ethics.
Now it gets interesting, and this is the part critics conceal from their blogs. This was not the conclusion of the case. A new custody assessment was conducted. The assessment results strongly supported the mother’s position, recommended giving her the authority to enroll her son in Family Bridges, and concluded that the workshop was the best option for this family.
So you win after all. Another $40,000 goes into your pocket. All for an unproven program.
The case did go to trial. But, on the eve of the trial, the father’s lawyer, in what appeared to me to be a desperate last-ditch attempt to try his case in the media when it was clear that the evidence favored the mother, submitted an article to Canada’s Law Times that attacked my workshop as unscientific. Fortunately, the editor recognized distortions in the lawyer’s submission and asked me to submit commentary to set the record straight. My article was published. It effectively refutes the lawyer’s arguments. You do not learn about my article by reading the advocate’s blog posts. (See The Slanted Truth for the use of such tactics by alienating parents.) It is as if it did not exist. You can read my article by clicking here.
I read that article. We have only your word that your program (which is similar to the same used by the debunked and abusive Rachel Foundation) has been subjected to peer review and passes Daubert standards. Richard Gardner said the same about Parental Alienation Syndrome, too, when nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t forget that Gardner had his own deprogramming program he called “threat therapy”, which was very similar to the Rachel Foundation program and Bridges. One child who refused to go committed suicide. That case made the news and tarnished Gardner’s reputation even further. He also claimed PAS had been peer reviewed, enjoyed general acceptance in the scientific community, and passed acceptance standards. None of this was true.
And here are statements by other custody evaluators who didn’t think very highly of your “The Warshak Parenting Questionnaire 2nd Edition” or “WPQ”:
“…We custody evaluators are appointed to do our own work, at least in interviewing and evaluating… I would think that part of my job would be to generate my OWN follow-up questions… don’t know how any computerized questionnaire can do that… also a little troubled by the intent that evaluators “cut and paste”… interpretive language of any kind… into their reports… what “follow up” questions will pop up based on the parent’s responses?… how would the evaluator-user justify, on the witness stand, why they chose to ask alienation questions… if neither parent has raised that as an allegation? …” (California Ph.D., September 10, 2006).
“…the section on “Differential Treatment of Parents” (about two-thirds through the sample report (at w w w. wpqonline.com), under “Symptoms of Possible Mental Health Problems”) seems to invite alienation claims if parent was not thinking of such claims, and seems to suggest strongly how to support such a claim if parent is thinking of it. It seems to me to be way too suggestive/leading. In effect: Now, parent, would you like to consider making a claim of PAS? If so, have you considered claiming that your child does X? How about claiming that your child does Y? And don’t forget Z, have you considered that as possibly supporting a PAS claim? (This is assuming that the questions posed to the parent closely parallel the topics covered in this section of the report, and I suppose I could be wrong in making that assumption.)” (Ohio Ph.D., February 22, 2007).
What you also never learn from reading the blogger’s accounts of this case is the ultimate outcome. Notwithstanding the father’s lawyer’s maneuvers, again, the mother prevailed on all counts. After hearing all the evidence, the judge concluded that “Mother should have sole legal and residential custody of [the child]. Mother shall have complete authority to make decisions regarding [the child’s] welfare. She is not required to consult with anyone before doing so; Mother is specifically authorized to obtain any treatment and/or intervention for [the child] as she, in her sole discretion, deems necessary and appropriate for [the child’s] best interests; Mother’s authority described above includes, but is not limited to `Family Bridges: A Workshop for Troubled and Alienated Parent-Child Relationships,’ to enable and assist [the child] in adjusting to living with her.”
The program remains unproven. You claim a high success rate. And it’s very expensive. Parents of lesser means who are having problems with alleged “alienation” are not able to afford you.
By selectively citing the earlier Family Court decision, and concealing the trial outcome, the bloggers leave the impression that the court was critical of Family Bridges and blocked the family from participating in the workshop. In the end, the truth is the exact opposite. (Selective attention is another tactic of alienating parents that critics adopt to try to alienate audiences from my work.)
Still waiting… parental alienation is not in the DSM… doesn’t meet scientific standards for admission into a courtroom … unknown error rate … untested … you aren’t going to address those criticisms, are you? You’re only going to claim your detractors are as alienated as your clients.
Here is what the judge wrote in her opinion: “This leaves the Workshop, coupled with a change in custody, as the only potential remedy with any chance of success in this difficult case. . . . The court is faced with compelling evidence that a change in custody, coupled with the Workshop is best for [the child]. . . . The Workshop is a last resort. Obviously it would have been better had these problems been identified and corrected early on. . . . Unfortunately, they were not. This leaves the Workshop as [the child’s] best last hope.” [Emphasis added.]
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Your program is the “last best hope”? The “only potential remedy”? Were other remedies even looked at?
I fully expect detractors to post other information attempting to cast doubt on the wisdom of the judge’s decision in this case (which was essentially identical to the arbitrator’s decision; that is, two different triers of fact, after hearing all the evidence, concluded that the mother should have custody and have the right to enroll her child in Family Bridges). I do not intend to respond to such posts.
The issue isn’t whether or not the mother should have custody. It’s that your program is a huge money-maker for you, it’s unproven, and it’s never been tested. All those questions of mine and others that you never answered have gone unanswered. Parental alienation is not regarded as a valid disorder in the general scientific community. It doesn’t meet Frye and Daubert standards. It has an unknown rate of error. It’s never been peer reviewed. It’s never been tested. It’s defined in layman’s terms you gleaned from the dictionary.
As rebuttal to any future innuendoes and misrepresentations, I can state the following. The mother has authorized me to state that she is very pleased with the ultimate outcome of her case. Her formerly alienated son, estranged for six years, participated in, and greatly benefitted from, the four day Family Bridges workshop. He rapidly restored his loving relationship with his mother and they now live happily together.
One case doesn’t make parental alienation valid, and we have only your word that your program works. It’s never been tested and its error rate is unknown. It’s very expensive. What about parents who can’t afford your services?
There are other cases involving reunification programs and parental alienation:
Son’s birthday pact with parents leads to ceasefire in bitter eight-year dispute
Yesterday, in a revealing conversation, P.F. criticized therapists and child welfare authorities in the case for clutching to pet theories about parental alienation syndrome. Under the controversial PAS diagnosis, children who are seen to have been systematically poisoned toward one parent by the other cannot evaluate their emotions accurately.
“I think they have done a lot more harm than good for our family,” P.F. said. “I think they were tilting the whole case in a direction that was more favourable to them, which was a more costly and stressful and damaging alternative for us. We don’t need all these people getting into our lives and directing the way things go.”
He also criticized the justice system for too easily sidelining children who are caught up in their parents’ warfare.
“Where people are making decisions, the kids should at least be heard and their opinions thoroughly considered; not interpreted or cast aside, as they were here,” he said. “When it is possible to simply walk up and say, ‘This kid is parentally alienated,’ that instantly takes away all their credibility. Our family made their minds up for themselves. In a way, we emancipated ourselves from these professionals that have been breathing down our necks the whole time.”
IN RE BIANCA H., On Appeal from the 254th Judicial District Court, Dallas County, Texas
Richard Warshak testified he is a clinical research psychologist. Alfano hired Warshak to evaluate Alfano’s case. Warshak has never met with Bianca, but has evaluated reports from other professionals and viewed a videotape of Bianca with Alfano. According to Warshak, Alfano is Bianca’s “psychological father,” and ceasing contact with him could be devastating to Bianca. Warshak admitted that the law does not recognize the concept of a “psychological parent.” He further acknowledged that another psychologist said Bianca’s attachment to Alfano was more like an attachment to an uncle or a grandfather.
Warshak testified that when conflict between “parents” causes a child distress, a court should order counseling and sanction the parent that instigated the conflict. Warshak believed any harm Bianca suffered because of the conflict would be less than the harm she would suffer if she lost Alfano. Indeed, Warshak testified the best way to remedy the conflict would be to increase Alfano’s access to the child.
After the testimony, the trial court stated that Alfano had been put in the position of an uncle since the child was twenty months old. The trial court noted that it had attempted to resolve the situation for four years with no progress. The trial court considered limited visitation, but determined that it would only put off the inevitable. Accordingly, the trial court terminated Alfano’s visitation rights.
In its findings of fact, the trial court found that (1) Alfano is not legally or biologically related to the child, (2) a great deal of conflict exists between Mother and Alfano, (3) the conflict was unlikely to abate in the future, (4) the conflict was injurious to the child’s best interest, (5) the circumstances of the child have materially and substantially changed since the date of the order sought to be modified, (6) the order has become unworkable and inappropriate under existing circumstances, and (7) modification would produce a positive improvement for and be in the best interest of the child. The trial court modified its prior order eliminating Alfano’s right to possession of and access to the child. This appeal followed.
Appellant raises six points of error. In the first five points of error, appellant asserts the trial court abused its discretion in modifying its prior order because the evidence is factually insufficient to support the trial court’s findings. In the sixth point of error, appellant asserts the trial court incorrectly applied the law in determining modification would be in the child’s best interest.
You never address the primary criticisms made by your critics. Parental alienation is an untested theory that has never been up for peer review. It’s not accepted by the legal, medical, scientific, and psychological community at large as valid. Parental alienation has been used by abusive fathers and their hired lawyers, evaluators, and psychs to wrest child custody away from mothers. Rather than point fingers at the Illuminati and one case supporting your Bridges program, and demonize your critics, you need to address your critic’s primary criticisms … which you haven’t done. And I’m not surprised.
Posted on December 3, 2010 at 12:12 PM | Permalink