June 23, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Continued from yesterday’s post about this article by Cara Tabachnick (Washington Post, 5/11/17).
Unlike writers like Marisa Endicott and Laurie Udesky, Tabachnick is relatively skilled at suggesting, rather than telling readers outright, that which is either false or misleading. Many of her words are plainly designed to get readers to believe a particular proposition without subjecting Tabachnick and the Washington Post to demands for a retraction and threats of lawsuits. She has a fairly high level of skill at that.
Still, Tabachnick has her moments.
What would an article about parental alienation be without at least one sideswipe at child custody practices?
There’s scant gold-standard scientific research to help practitioners determine the best custody arrangement.
Having read a fair amount of the scientific literature on that very subject and having recently returned from the International Conference on Shared Parenting in Boston, that claim got my attention. The weasel words of course are “gold-standard.” That can mean anything and Tabachnick can claim that the existing science, while overwhelming in its authority on shared parenting, simply doesn’t meet her definition – whatever it is – of the term.
But please. To toss aside all the science on shared parenting in a single sentence and then move on as if she’s addressed the topic is frankly absurd. When the most knowledgeable scientists in the world on the issue of children’s well-being and parenting time come together and declare that a legal presumption of equal parenting is now warranted and the burden of proving otherwise is now squarely on opponents of shared parenting, Tabachnick’s offhand remark is clearly made, not to inform but to mislead.
Her lengthy piece abounds in such intellectual legerdemain. Seemingly every paragraph has at least one example of claims that, while not overtly false, come close.
The only psychologist who has evaluated Family Bridges, for example, is Texas-based Richard Warshak, who helped develop the program, served as one of its trainers and has testified in custody cases in support of sending children to the workshops, where his DVDs and books are often required materials.
That strongly suggests that Warshak is using the Family Bridges reunification program for alienated kids and their targeted parents as simply a way to hustle some extra income through the sales of his “DVDs and books.” A fair conclusion from Tabachnick’s sentence would be that Warshak (a) helped develop the program and then (b) testifies in such a way as to convince judges to send kids to it where (c) they’re required to purchase his DVDs and books resulting in (d) income to him.
But of course nothing could be further from the truth. I spoke at length with Dr. Deirdre Rand who along with other professionals, conducts the Family Bridges program. She told me that they use one of Warshak’s DVDs in their presentations, but that they only have one that was purchased some years ago. And no parents or kids are required or even encouraged to purchase anything Warshak’s produced. Indeed, they’re not told of the possibility.
[W]hen an outside evaluation could not prove the efficacy of a program run by Overcoming Barriers, based in Massachusetts, the nonprofit decided to shutter its four-day workshop for high-conflict families.
A normal reader would probably conclude from that sentence that Overcoming Barriers fled the public spotlight by permanently closing its doors when “the efficacy of [its] program” was called into question. In the narrowest sense of the language used, that statement may be defensible in a court of law in the event of a defamation charge, but that’s the best I can say about it. In fact, Overcoming Barriers is very much alive and open for business as it has been since its inception. It took me about 15 seconds to Google “Overcoming Barriers” to find that out and another minute or so to read OB’s letter to the editor of the Washington Post protesting Tabachnick’s patently misleading claim.
While we opted not to run our family camp this year we have not shuttered our doors as Ms.Tabachnik notes.
In other words, OB decided to temporarily not operate just one of its several programs. That program will in fact be back up and running in 2018. Tabachnick’s iteration comes perilously close to defamation.
No piece like Tabachnick’s would be complete without the claim that parental alienation may not really exist at all, calling PA a “disputed disorder.” Of course anyone can call virtually anything “disputed.” After all, some people dispute the occurrence of the Holocaust. But the simple fact is that parental alienation is fairly commonplace and countless lawyers, judges and mental health professionals have had the misfortune to see it.
Tabachnick refers to one of the leading authorities on PA, Dr. William Bernet, but, in an effort to downplay the science on it, never mentions his massive book that includes scientific literature from 36 researchers around the world and some 700 case studies. Nor does she let readers know that many courts, using the restrictive Daubert standard, have admitted expert testimony on PA into evidence. Those authorities would have proven difficult for Tabachnick to fit with her narrative of PA as imaginary and reunification programs as “shams.” So she ignored them completely.
But stranger than that is the fact that she begins her article by describing the behavior of one teenage girl, Laura Jeu, that is classically that of an alienated child.
“I was shocked at how upset and stressed and irrational the children were, and Laura in particular kept yelling, ‘He’s going to kill me,’ ” said Jeff Milrod, a friend of Raphael’s from the Church of the Holy Spirit in Leesburg, Va. “I did not understand how she could say that,” added Milrod, who described Raphael as “a kind and loving man.”
The family Tabachnick chose to represent the non-existence of PA included at least one child who, according to her own description, looks very much like the alienated child the judge in the case, with the help of at least one mental health professional found her to be. To say the least, that’s an odd way for Tabachnick to make her case against PA.
But, as it seems always to be with these articles, the sleaze doesn’t stop there. More later.
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