|P.A.S. the word on
|A website for parents struggling with parental alienation syndrome
(A lot of information, you don't have to read it all, but perhaps it is interesting to know...)
In the 1970's the phenomenon of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was already identified, but it took another 2 decades before this phenomenon would be named: "Parental Alienation Syndrome". This has been a growing concern since the late 20th century. More than 25 000 children are placed under the care of the Dutch Children's Aid Society. (Central Bureau for Statistics, 2018). This is an enormous percentage of the Dutch population, in comparison to other West-European countries. (The population in the Netherlands is currently about 16 million). The amount of children that are placed under the authority of Children's Aid has been increasing: in 2015 9,700 compared to 10,800 children in 2018. Children from divorced homes run a greater risk for being placed out of the home as a result of hostility between the parents. It is estimated that 1 out of every 5 divorces can be termed as a 'Hostile-divorce'. This was the conclusion drawn by a study conducted in 2015 by the "United Family-Justice Lawyers Association" in the Netherlands. Compared to the statistics published by the Children's ombudsman in 2013, this shows an increase in hostile divorces of 10 to 20% of all divorces.
Various experts estimate that between 15, 000 and 20, 000 children suffer from PAS every year as a result of loyalty demands made by a parent caught in a 'fighting' (or hostile) divorce situation. Both parents could be taking part, and even extended family members can and sometimes do become involved.
While exact numbers are hard to prove, one thing can be concluded without any hesitation: open hostility within the family is increasing. Divorces are often accompanied by plainly expressed emotions such as revenge, anger and hate. Furthermore, our individualistic way of life has a built- in weakness: raising children is no longer a community affair. Every "nuclear family" is an island unto itself; no one will concern themselves or "mind anybody else's business" anymore, as a matter of decorum. If one or both of the parents become disabled or preoccupied in whatever way (including mental/emotional state of mind), it is difficult for that family to reach out to the community for help at that point because of 'traditional individualistic distance'. As a result the child has a very fragile base to grow up in. Children are immediately immersed in an atmosphere of hostility, with little or no other alternatives.
In March 2014, a Parliamentary debate had been held to discuss the increase in problems related to hostile divorces and the dire consequences for the children concerned. One of the catalysts for this debate was the shocking history of a father who murdered his own 2 sons and shortly thereafter committed suicide after receiving word that he was no longer allowed to see his children following accusations and demands made by his ex-wife to the Dutch Children's Aid in 2013. He is not alone; fathers of 4 other children were driven to these desperate measures in the same year after being caught in an ongoing battle over the custody of their children with their ex-wives. While the act of taking someone's life is in no way acceptable as an answer in these situations, it is understandable that all of these fathers were driven to an extreme state of mind by a situation created with no other apparent solution or support. Although fathers are more often the losers in custody battles, mothers can also suffer at the hands of their ex- husbands and lose contact with their children as a result of loyalty- conflicts. In an interview published in the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper of March 31, 2014, a mother tells the interviewer about her sudden loss of contact with her daughters and the helplessness and inadequacy of the Family- Help Organizations. "The Dutch Children's Aid society is not equipped with enough knowledge or authority to handle hostile divorces and break the deadlock" she says.
This was not the first time that the Dutch government has grappled with the growing social problem of hostile divorces and the costs for the children involved. The 'Children's Ombudsman' was asked to write a report in 2013 about the serious problems children face as a result of hostile divorce. Children's Protection Agencies and judges were called to work together to improve co-ordination and support of children by all agencies concerned, and critically asses the effectiveness of placing children in foster care or supervision in such cases.
Following Parliamentary debates in 2014 (which promised improvements such as a mandatory counsellor and mentor for problematic divorces and that more money would be made available to fund a country-wide publicity campaign to promote awareness of the dangers of PAS) some steps have been taken in the right direction. More awareness among the Family Support agencies has been created. There is even currently a petition running in the Netherlands to make Parental Alienation a punishable crime. There are some groundbreaking programs being developed and implemented by (among others) foster parent agency Horizon in the Netherlands. This program is based on bringing ex-partners together on neutral ground, assisted by a mentor. Then they can make solid, realistic decisions about parenting the children together and sticking to the agreements made. Following this program can be made mandatory for ex-partners serving "sentence requirements" pronounced by a judge in a custodial battle. The Dutch Counsel for the Protection of Children will increasingly advise the speedy return of the care of the children to both parents concerned, with support if necessary. Children need both of their parents to be there for them in a positive, constructive way to become healthy adults. In one court case (verdict pronounced on 19th of June 2012; http://jure.nl/BW8796 ), the judge decided that the children would be placed out of the home of the mother (who was the primary caregiver at the time) to prevent further psychological damage being suffered by the children. Years of intervention and support were to no avail, the mother of the children persisted in turning the children against their father. Placing children in foster- care is an undesirable last resort. In this case, however, the judge deemed the damage inflicted as a result of years of being exposed to PAS and the consequences thereof would be even worse than the trauma of permanent foster care.
Although the above-mentioned initiatives are promising, there is still a long way to go. Public awareness of this threat needs to be greatly increased. Insight and understanding of this Syndrome is sometimes shockingly basic, or, in some cases, even nonexistent. Some Children's Aid Societies will even (unwittingly) induce Parental Alienation Syndrome themselves against the natural parents of children placed in foster care. Children's Aid will sometimes refuse to re-evaluate their original decision to take children out of their home for fear of being accused of making judgment errors which could result in lawsuits, even if accumulated evidence overwhelmingly disproves the instigating accusations made by the ex-partner. As Dr. Childress (American Developmental Psychotherapist, specialist on PAS) states on his website (American Developmental Psychotherapist, specialist on PA): "It is absurd that targeted parents need to educate mental health professionals regarding the nature of mental health pathology. Unfortunately, the current state of professional psychology is so ignorant and medieval that this is the case; the patient must educate the professional." Hopefully, Chilrens' Aid organizations will become increasingly aware of this and will work together with parents in the future, and recognize every complaint lodged by one of the parents in a divorce situation as a red-flag to do more research and ask more questions from both parties involved before disastrous decisions are made.