Pennsylvania Capital Event to address 'Horrific" Parental Alienation Crisis
National Parents Organization of Pennsylvania Recognizes Parental Alienation Awareness Day
Amid local and global concerns surrounding the devastating impact of parental alienation, National Parents Organization of Pennsylvania is organizing a rally on Parental Alienation Awareness Day – April 25 – at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.
The National Parents Organization event is happening at a time when Pennsylvania legislators are considering two bills – HB 443 and HB 1349– both bills are supportive of shared parenting after separation or divorce and could combat parental alienation.
Before the bills were introduced, the Pennsylvania Bipartisan House Children and Youth Committee held a hearing on how parental alienation is affecting families. During the hearing, Dr. Craig Childress, a licensed psychologist from California specializing in children and families, educated the committee on parental alienation – when one parent essentially erases the other parent from the child’s life, he explained, by turning the child against that parent.
“It is a horrific, intense conflict that moves through the child and destroys the family,” Dr. Childress said, adding that it is tantamount to child abuse. “And no one is doing anything about it.”
Stephen Meehan, Chair of National Parents Organization of Pennsylvania, said: “It is difficult for anyone to turn a child against a fit and loving parent who plays an active role in a child’s life. Shared parenting can prevent attempts to alienate a child from a fit parent. However, far too often, the courts order sole custody to one parent after a bitter, winner-take-all custody battle instead of insuring children have both loving, fit parents in their lives. Often, a non-custodial parent has so little time with the child, the winning parent is empowered to knowingly or unknowingly marginalize the child from a fit and loving parent, creating heartbreak for child and parent. The marginalization alienates children and the parents.”
The capitol rally is set for April 25 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the State Capitol Rotunda. Effected family members are invited to prepare a 3-minute testimony and bring empty shoes representing alienated children.
“We know no one is doing anything about parental alienation, and the rally is all about taking action to stop taking children away from a fit parent. It hurts children,” Meehan said. If Pennsylvania passes laws supportive of shared parenting legislation, the state would be responding to overwhelming research showing shared parenting works in the best interest of children (see “Recent Research” section below).
The Washington Post reports 25 states have considered legislation within the past year that encourages shared parenting so children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent. A number of states have supported shared parenting for years. In recent years, Kentucky, Utah, South Dakota, Missouri and Minnesota have enacted the reform. And this action is not unique to the United Sates. Authorities in other areas of the world are proactively working to fight parental alienation.
In the U.K., the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) revealed a new, groundbreaking policy: Parents who actively alienate another parent face losing some to all time with their children. “We’ve long known that shared parenting gives children what they most want and need following separation or divorce – two loving parents actively involved in their lives. And now we also know that if a judge orders the more harmonious two-parent model, the pain of alienating children and parents can often be avoided,” Meehan said. “My hope is that we can make shared parenting the norm in Pennsylvania, so we can unite more children and parents and erase parental alienation.”
RECENT RESEARCH: SHARED PARENTING VERSUS SINGLE PARENTING
Shared Parenting Data
- In September 2017, Acta Paediatrica, a peer-reviewed medical journal in the field of pediatrics, published a paper by Swedish Malin Bergstrom of the Karolinska Institute titled “Preschool children living in joint physical custody arrangements show less psychological symptoms than those living mostly or only with one parent” – it concluded the mental health of children ages three to five with shared parenting is better on average than the mental health of those in the care of a single parent.
- The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “... shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”
- In 2016, Dr. Warshak wrote, “Two years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak consensus report remain supported by science.” He also wrote, “The paper has been translated into at least eighteen languages and has informed legislative deliberations throughout the U.S. and parliamentary deliberations in several countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Finland, Romania, Croatia, and Sweden. Two years after its publication, the consensus report continues to be one of the most downloaded papers from the journal’s website.” He added, “The list of endorsers and their stature and accomplishments reflect the field’s general acceptance of the consensus report’s findings as rooted in settled science from more than four decades of research directly relevant to this topic, including seminal studies by many of the endorsers."
- The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.
- The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”
- In December, 2016, The American Psychological Association published research by William V. Fabricius of Arizona State University in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law entitled, “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data.” Prof Fabricius’ findings provide “… strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time [up to and including 50/50 overnights –Ed] for infants and toddlers [even younger than one year –Ed], because the benefits [for children-Ed] associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections.” Fabricius shared details on his findings during the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, a May 29-30, 2017 event in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by National Parents Organization and the International Council on Shared Parenting.
Single Parenting Data According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:
- 63% of teen suicides;
- 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
- 71% of high school drop-outs;
- 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
- 85% of those in prison;
- 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
- 90% of homeless and runaway children.