Another Attempt to Impugn Family Bridges Goes Awry

November 8, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As hit pieces that target the Family Bridges program go, this is one of the most benign and professional (NBC Bay Area, 11/2/18).  Don’t get me wrong, its anti-FB biases are abundantly clear and it’s scandalously badly researched (if it’s researched at all), but even so it’s better than the others.  For example, it quotes Linda Gottlieb who’s that rarest of birds in articles of this type, an expert who actually knows what she’s talking about.  That alone puts it a cut above the other nonsense we read.

The NBC Bay Area piece takes a strange tack in its assault on Family Bridges.  The writers (yes, there are five of them) first located three kids who were deemed alienated by the judges in their parents’ custody cases, went through the FB workshop and are willing to say negative and in some cases untrue things about it.  Much of the piece then consists of quotations from the three who are all now young adults.  For example,

“I do not want this to happen to a single other person,” said Arianna, a 19-year-old from Seattle…

“This is the first time I’ve had a voice,” said Leo, a 24-year-old from Toronto…

“I haven’t been the same since that program,” said Samantha, a 19-year-old from Saskatoon in Canada…

“I feel like I was robbed of all of my childhood when I was 12,” Leo said…

“You can’t force somebody into a relationship,” said Arianna. “You just can’t.”   

And on and on in the same vein.  The statements are generally unconnected to any larger point the article attempts to make.  They sort of float in space, suggesting certain things without actually saying them.  Did Leo not “have a voice” in the FB program?  Of course he did, as anyone who knows about the program can affirm.  So why does he say the NBC piece is his first opportunity to express himself?  The article doesn’t say, likely because it can’t do so without revealing that kids in the program have ample opportunity to express their feelings, opinions, etc.

That body of short, declarative sentences, made by the Samantha, Arianna and Leo, make up one side of the article’s teeter-totter.  Because they’re young adults with no apparent understanding of the FB program, and because their statements are never allowed to make a larger point, the article generally fails in its mission to cast aspersions on FB.

The other side of the teeter-totter is Gottlieb and Samantha’s father who’d been alienated from her by her mother.  Reading the piece that careens from the kids’ remarks to those of a qualified and knowledgeable expert who provides actual scientific information about the program tends to give the reader a touch of mental whiplash.

So, Samantha offers this gem:

“These programs the way they are right now do not, do not work,” Samantha said.

And Gottlieb says this about Turning Point, a program that’s similar to FB:

Gottlieb has collected data from the 40 children who have gone through her program. Her data shows (sic) 32 of those 40 children remain connected to their so-called estranged parent after completing the program. Nine children have a relationship with both parents since completing the program. Gottlieb says the children who failed to remain connected with their so-called estranged parent are those cases where the 90-day no contact period was lifted and the so-called alienating parent was still “engaging in alienating strategies.”

That last of course is a common way in which children who’ve gone through the FB program relapse: they return too early to the alienating parent who resumes his/her alienating behavior.

Then there’s Scott, Samantha’s father.

Samantha’s father Scott contacted NBC Bay Area and said he believes Family Bridges worked to re-connect him with his son, but indicated they are not a cure-all for everyone. 

“These programs are the last option. Everything else has been tried and failed. There is nothing else left to try. It is drastic and tough. It’s better than the alternative. I’ve lived both. I’m convinced I would not have any relationship with my kids at all if not for that program,” Scott said. “It breaks my heart it didn’t work for Sam but it worked for my son.”

Yes, it worked for Scott’s son, but NBC only managed to contact his daughter for whom the program didn’t succeed.  Funny how that works.  Five people contributed to this article and not one of them managed to contact the son.  Indeed, not one of them managed to contact any of the countless kids for whom FB has been a miracle-worker.

More telling is the fact that they never managed to locate Dr. Richard Warshak’s two studies of Family Bridges outcomes, both of which find it to be a resounding, if not perfect, success. 

In short, the NBC article is a more professional job of journalism than the other hit-pieces on FB we’ve seen.  The problem is that that sets the bar far too low.  The others were disgracefully bad; this one’s just bad.

This isn’t the last I’ll write about the article though.  Stay tuned.

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