How Can Organisations Help?

Parents have primary responsibility but it takes a village to raise a child and the community has a part to play to help separating families reduce conflict.

Early intervention leads to better outcomes for children and significantly reduces the long-term support required. Help by:

  • Recognising having a relationship with both parents, where safe, is important for a child’s long-term wellbeing and prospects.
  • Stay neutral. Both parents have a right to be informed about their child’s progress and be involved in making important decisions about their welfare. Only a court order can limit parental responsibility.
  • Don’t assume a child’s poor behaviour is due to neurological reasons. Children adapt their attachment style based on the situation they are in.
  • Don’t assume a child who is doing well at school is doing ok emotionally. Sometimes, the only way they can cope with feelings of loss, is through compulsive performance.
  • Publish a Separated Parent Policy to aid parents and staff. Follow government guidelines relating to parental responsibility.
  • Improve communication systems to include all those with parental responsibility.
  • Ensure a child’s right to their identity is maintained. Nobody can change their name without the permission of everyone with parental responsibility or a court order.
  • Educate teens on the signs of toxic relationships. Talk about the impacts of parental separation on children.
  • Don’t assume if contact between parent/child is in place, that child psychological abuse isn’t occurring. Coercive and controlling behaviour is often employed both prior to parental separation and a child’s emotional cutoff. Assessment and intervention is still required.
  • In Family Court, robust case management is needed. A judge can:
  • Request assessment of the family by a suitably experienced and skilled expert who can diagnose the problem and develop a treatment plan.
  • Enforce orders where arrangements have been broken. Increasing contact can help reduce the risk of emotional cutoff.
  • In severe cases, use child protection measures to temporarily or permanently transfer residence of the child to the rejected parent, whilst allowing therapeutic support to cultivate a child’s relationship with both parents.
  • Avoid orders for supervised or indirect contact to maintain a relationship between a “good enough” parent and child. It adds unnecessary emotional and financial burden. The child needs direct contact to experience the parent as a caregiver. There is no evidence indirect contact resolves attachment malfunction.
  • Recommend the right interventions. Don’t make things worse e.g. asking a parent to apologise to the child for something they haven’t done, reducing contact or waiting for the child to be ready. This furthers abuse of the target parent, increases likelihood of emotional cutoff and impacts on the success of appropriate interventions.
  • Report concerns a child is experiencing emotional harm as a result of parental separation to social services. It is a child protection matter.
  • Keep and use statistics about services users and outcomes. This helps to inform policies and improve services for children.
  • Share this leaflet with staff that work with children.
  • Canvas your MP for change across government services in order to develop solutions for the UK.
  • Protect family relationships in line with human rights. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights gives people the “right to enjoy family relationships without interference from government. This includes the right to live with your family and, where this is not possible, the right to regular contact…’ Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child advises ‘States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.’