Family Bridges: Facilitating Successful Re-unification Between Parents and Alienated Children

October 6, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Last time I cited a Tennessee appellate court’s decision that demonstrated its sensible and fact-based grasp of the concept of parental alienation. I pointed out that the opinion does a much better job of describing PA than any of the several articles I’ve written about that seek to cast doubt on the reality of PA.

The same holds true of the court’s understanding of the Family Bridges program that seeks to mend the rift between alienated kids and their targeted parents.

Family Bridges came to the trial court’s attention through Dr. [Thomas] Schacht’s description in his report of how “Option 4,” the intervention option eventually adopted by the trial court, would best be facilitated. Dr. Schacht stated in pertinent part:

[I]f the court selects this option, it would be wise to facilitate the transition with assistance from other professionals with specific expertise. As an initial step, the “Family Bridges” program would be worth considering. The ability of this program to facilitate successful re-unification of alienated children with parents has been documented with systematic follow-up data on a population of alienated children, all of whom previously had failed experiences of outpatient counseling prior to the Family Bridges experience.

So here we have a knowledgeable mental health professional being relied upon by the court to advise it about how best to deal with a case of severe parental alienation. Dr. Schacht is well enough versed in the literature and background of Family Bridges to let the court know that the program’s success rate has been documented with follow-up information. To my knowledge, no other parental alienation program can say that.

He further notes that Family Bridges has a track record of succeeding where other efforts at reunification have failed.

To many, those objective facts argue strongly in favor of the Family Bridges method of addressing severely alienated children. But of course, among those “many,” we don’t find the likes of Cara Tabachnick, who recently published a scurrilous, misinformed and misleading article on Family Bridges. Her goal was to sow distrust of the program among whoever was so gullible and incurious as to be swayed by her clearly biased account. In so doing, her article tends to promote the abuse of children by their parents that so many understand parental alienation to be.

Schacht went on:

Family Bridges Workshop is an intervention intended to facilitate reunification of alienated parents with alienated children. It occurs typically in the context of supportive court orders that are primarily designed to protect the context in which the intervention occurs and reduce the potential for sabotage.

The Workshop consists of a facilitative experience by professionals, who have specific training and experience in doing this, focused on a single family. It’s an intensive immersive experience. Occurs over multiple days in an environment that’s separate from the ordinary environment that the family is accustomed to.

[T]he premise of the Family Bridges intervention is that change requires disruption of the status quo and that, to the extent that the status quo is maintained by contact and communication and support between a parent who in one way or another has played a role in supporting the alienation, disruption of that is important. And so the Family Bridges program seeks to disrupt that cycle by asking for a court order that precludes contact between the alienated child and the parent who is supporting the alienation, for a period of time. And also by reversing the previous contingencies in the sense that, whereas in the past, bad behavior has gotten the child what they want, the reverse contingency is now good behavior gets what you want. So resumption of contact with the preferred parent is contingent on improvement in the relationship with the rejected parent.

In my conversations with Dierdre Rand who’s a principal part of the Family Bridges program, she emphasized to me that, in many (or most) cases, children sincerely desire a relationship with the targeted parent, but can’t pursue one while under the watchful eye of the alienator. So simply relocating away from the alienator’s presence and influence often works significant changes in the ability of the child to re-connect with the other parent.

Whatever the exact mechanisms of the Family Bridges approach, it appears to have a high rate of success. That’s something to celebrate, but sadly, those who are so opposed to children having meaningful relationships with their fathers seem bound and determined to interfere. My guess though is that they won’t have much success. As long as courts seek a way to ameliorate the horrible effects of parental alienation (and they will), they’ll turn to what’s proven to be effective. Family Bridges has done just that and no hateful efforts of naysayers like Tabachnick will stop it.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#parentalalienation, #childabuse, #FamilyBridges

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *