A public lecture for experts on Understanding and Working with Children and Families Affected by Parental Alienation was held by Karen Woodall and Nick Woodall on 10 July 2019 in Zagreb. It was organised by by the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Centre and the Association of Judges for Youth, Family Judges and Experts for Children and Youth at the Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute of Public Health.
More than 200 participants from various childcare sectors – health, social welfare, police, judiciary, education and non-governmental organisations – gathered in the hall of Andrija Štampar Teaching Institute of Public Health. Given the great interest of the public, the lecture was broadcasted live to the Institute’s library. We are grateful to Institute’s staff and Direcor, Dr. Zvonimir Sostar, for constant cooperation and support. There was a great interest for additional seats, so many followed the lecture, commented and asked questions on Facebook.
The Centre’s Director, Gordana Buljan Flander, Ph.D. and the President of the Juvenile Department of the County Court in Zagreb, Lana Petö Kujundžić, Ph.D., opened the lecture with a minute of silence in honor of tragically murdered social worker Blaženka Poplašen. A video clip of a clinical interview with an alienated mother (hidden identity of the mother and child) was presented as an introduction to the subject. Tatjana Katkić Stanić, representing Ministry of demography, family, youth and social politic, has also welcomed the participants and supported the initiative for having this lecture. Karen and Nick Woodall then held the lecture.
The main conclusions addressed by the lecturers relates to the observation of alienation as emotional abuse, the public health problem and the issue of child protection, with emphasis on the necessity of the joint action of various sectors, in particular the judiciary, social welfare and health care systems. The lecturers paid special attention to the possible abuse of Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and explicitly emphasised that the direct question to the child with whom he wants to live and accepting the child’s response as a final decision, is a violation of the child’s rights and participation in the emotional abuse of the child.
At the end of the lecture, discussion developed and the audience posed a lot of interesting questions to the lecturers, both in person and over social networks. Through the discussion of Croatian and international participants with the lecturers, the judge Lana Petö Kujundžić, Ph.D and Center’s psychologist Mia Roje Đapić have come up with concrete proposals for improving work in alienation cases. Karen and Nick Woodall thanked the Centre’s Director, Gordana Buljan Flander, Ph.D., for inviting them and co-operating and announced the conference on the subject of alienation in Central Europe. This way, the Centre once again thanks them for every moment of devoted work in the field of child protection.
The lecture, which focussed on alienation as a child abuse issue, led to the development of a protocol based on clinical practice, models of good practice in Europe and around the world, and on the findings of more than a thousand scientific papers. The document, titled Experts Protecting Children From Emotional Abuse In Divorce: Establishing Good Practice In Croatia was signed by over 800 practitioners. It declares that ‘alienation is a public health problem and should be approached from the position of protecting child’s health and rights.’