Position Paper of the Commissioner for the Protection of Children´s Rights Regarding the Role of Competent Authorities when Parent- Child Communication Problems Occur, when Parents are Divorced or Separated PRESENTED BY:Maria Rossidou of the Commissioner for the Protection of Children´s Rights Office- CYPRUS
The Commissioner released this Position Paper As a result of the investigation of a series of similar complaints, which revealed the severity of the chronic problems caused by strong dysfunctionality of the relationship between parents after separation against the best interest of the child, Goal: to make recommendations that can be used as a useful tool in the effort of all competent bodies to safeguard the rights of children.
Examples of such problems is disruption between parents relationship, leading to chronic disobedience of court orders of child-parent communicationalong with: • Indications of marked psychopathology of one or both parents • allegations of sexual harassment/abuse of the child against one of the parents • transfer of the parent´s negative attitude to the child • intense mutual accusations of the parents • isolation of the child from relatives of the parent who does not live with the child • severe disruptions of the bond between child and parent • Refusal of both/one of the parents to cooperate with specialists • development of serious emotional/psychological problems caused by psychological violence from parents to their children Common features : • long judicial procedures for Child Custody cases • confined and inadequate role of SWS (Social Welfare Services)
Description of Research Submission of complaints to the Commissioner individualized investigation of each complaint, intervening to the Minister of Labour and Social Securities assessment of the handling of each case grouping complaints of a similar nature, aiming to draw spherical conclusions.
Legal Framework • CRC articles 3, 9 and 18 • the Recommendation CM/REC12 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on children’s rights and social services friendly to children and families, p.2,3,5,7 • Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on Child- Friendly Justice and Their Explanatory Memorandum, Part IV, sections 50 & 53 • Parent-Child Relations Act of 1990 to 1998, articles 17 and 18 of the The evaluation was based on:
Αrticles 17 and 18 of the Parent-Child Relations Act of1990 to 1998 Article 17: refers to the parent’s righttocommunicate and to have contactwith the child, when he/she does not live with thechild. In caseswhere parents are inconflict with each other and disagreeon communication and custody issues,these are determined by the Court, of course decides, aiming of safeguarding child´ s best interest. Article 18:specifies that if one of the parents abuses or fails to respond to his/her parental role, the other parent or the Director of SWS has the right to apply to the Court for removal of child custody. An important parameter is that the Court "may order any appropriate measure" . Removal of custody is sought if all other measures did not succeed or when it is decided that they are not satisfactory to protect the child from physical, mental or psychological harm.
Theoretical Background Parental Alienation Syndrome Arises in the context of child custody The result of brainwashing of one of the parents´ influence Considered as psychological abuse of the child & leads to its victimisation Subconscious factors within the preferred parent contribute to the parent´s influencing child´s alienation
D. Findings-Conclusions Lengthy judicial procedures and confined and insufficient role of the authorities resulting to: Further expansion and extension of the distance created between child and the parent In these cases, the longer the child remains with the alienating parent, the more it will resist moving to the other parent. the continuation of emotional violence inflicted upon the child discouragement and distress to parents who are willing to cooperate with the competent authorities The negative attitude of one parent towards the other Problemslimiting the role of SWS: and/or the adoption of these negative attitudes by the child against one of the parents
Procedures applied in child custody cases are particularly time consuming. • Parents either refuse cooperation or do not make use of the counseling offered by SWS • In cases where, either the family situation creates mental health problems to children, or when family disputes are due to parents mental health problems, they are not treated because of lack of cooperation with specialists. • Insufficient training of professionals • Insufficient frequency of cooperation • In most cases, recommendations submitted to the Court through child custody reports, do not make use of the provision of Article 18 of the Parent-Child Relations Act 1990 to 1998 to ask for mandatory cooperation with competent authorities or to ask for the removal of the child´s custody by the parent.
There is not an established and effective mechanism of coordination between services during both evaluation of family relations and parenting skills. • The absence of family support programs, parenting skills training programs and prevention programs for young parents, is a major gap in relation to the handling of these families.
E. Recommendations • Amendment of the Parent-Child Relations Act 1990 to 1998 so as to ensure: • speedy judicial proceedings • mandatory compliance with court decisions by parents, in cases of serious communication problems • mandatory participation of family members in therapeutic and/or family training programs, when appropriate • interdisciplinary collaboration between competent authorities • review the competence of SWS as to strengthen the role of social workers regarding the compliance with the Court Order. • Investigation on ways as to ensure early provision and availability of support programs, parenting skills training programs and prevention programs for young couples by SWS.
Ensure early identification of Parental Alienation Syndrome as well as improvement of Social Welfare Officers´ professional competence through continuous in-service training and educational programs. • Investigate ways on how to ensure active engagement of Mental Health Services both at the stage of evaluation and therapeutic intervention to the family in the context of establishing interdisciplinary approach. • Establish the use of Article 4 (1) (g) and (h) of the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child Act 2007 [N.74 (I)/ 2007], where there is a conflict of interest between the child and his parents in order to suggest legal representation of the child by the Commissioner. • Enactment of the law regarding Family Mediation. The legal regulation of the Family Mediation institution will lead to the prevention of problems discussed.
Commissioner´s Position Paper was sent to all competent authorities and Ministers involved. Under the Commissioner´s competence to monitor the effect of her recommendations, responses are expected by the competent authorities, as to the actions planned to be taken.