Mayor, Cllr Brian Tierney and Rachael Ferguson of the Alliance Party, with Julie Smyth and Donna-Maria Logue at the 'United As One' International conference held last week.
La Dolce Vita Project, a Derry charity, last week hosted some of the world’s most renowned international experts on Parental Alienation, in an historic conference, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
LDVP, in association with Parental Alienation Europe, who are based in Dublin, co-hosted an historic and long-awaited ‘United as One’ International Conference” via Zoom from Holywell Trust on Thursday past.
Originally set to be hosted in the city back in April, the conference was postponed because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The conference reiterated the commitment from both sides of the border to promote awareness and understanding of Parental Alienation among professionals in the areas of mental health, legal, social care and government regarding the damage that it causes not only to children and targeted parents, but to society as a whole.
During the conference, Professor William Bernet, described parental alienation as: "A child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict separation or divorce, allies strongly with one parent (the preferred parent) and rejects a relationship with the other parent (the alienated parent) without legitimate justification.”
Speaking at the conference, Donna-Maria Logue asked: "Why in 2020 should any person feel ashamed to share their experiences, to talk openly on how they live without their children, without society’s judgements or professional judgements?
“Why should a mother or any parent, grandparent feel that their experiences are not real, if we continue to say parental alienation does not exist? By denying the reality of those who live this, Is this not a form of abuse in itself? We formally recognise Gas-lighting when a person is forced to deny their own reality. By denying people's realities, and the existence of parental alienation more harm will be done.”
‘My Family Matters’
Donna-Maria Logue (Founder & Director of Services) and Julie Smyth (Chairperson) co-created the ‘My Family Matters Program’.
“This was designed by reflecting on what can we do as a charity to protect children from child maltreatment and abuse,” she explained.
“The heart of this program is children. The My Family Matters Program, is an opportunity for services to be educated, to support early intervention plans that will prioritise and improve children’s well-being. It also aims to prevent the possibility of harm escalating as well as identifying, addressing and supporting child parent relationship problems, and to bring to parents awareness of their roles in doing all they can to ensure the protection and safety of their children’s well-being. For more information on “My Family Matters Program” please do reach out an speak to us, we are here to help, assist and support you.”
The conference featured renowned speakers such as Professor Bernet, Dr. Steve Millar, Brendan Guildea, Mandy Matthewson, Judge Philip Marcus, Shaun Wygant, Brian O’Sullivan and Derry’s own Rory O’Connor.
Julie Smyth explained that the conference provided a key platform for the many voices in the area of Parental Alienation.
“As a charity, our focus has always been to support and protect the rights and best interests of children and families impacted by domestic violence,” she stated.
“The conference provided a platform for many of the voices in the area of parental alienation, from prolific international experts to local and national voices and researchers in the field to share knowledge and raise public awareness.
“It served to remind us how real and damaging parental alienation is. That it is not and cannot be dismissed as 'junk science'. It is in fact abusive to each and every child, however it is caused.
“This cannot be ignored. It is the severest form of emotional and psychological harm caused to our children, resulting in dire and adverse consequences for our children and ultimately society as a whole.
“The conference represented a milestone in the protection of children- adjusting the focus to that of child protection and mental health.”
A key aspect of the conference were the real life shared experiences of those who have suffered as a result of Parental Alienation, which showed just how much devastation has been caused in families, not only locally, but throughout the country.
Julie continued: “The compelling lived experiences recounted, the cases cited and the active research which is ongoing highlights the urgency to recognise this silent epidemic, the harm it is causing and the importance of helping alienated children find their way home.
“Our belief is that the conference has brought further recognition to this pressing issue and has triggered informed discussion and debate. This can only be viewed as positive and we look forward towards collective resolution.
“We were greatly encouraged by both the attendance and the feedback and our wish is that this conference has acted as a compelling and potent catalyst for change in the consciousness of every single individual who works with children in this situation.”
‘So many unanswered questions’
University of Glasgow professor Rory O’Connor, originally from Derry, gave a presentation on links between Parental Alienation and suicide.
Having published extensively in the field of suicide and self-harm, he has recently been elected as the President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, a role he will take up in January 2021.
“I was pleased to contribute to the parental alienation conference,” he said.
“This was such an important forum to highlight the potential negative impact of parental alienation on children and adults. but there are so many unanswered questions about the nature and extent of the relationship between parental alienation and suicide risk that need to be urgently investigated.”
Thursday’s event was attended by local councillor Rachael Ferguson, from the Alliance Party, who congratulated Donna Maria, Julie and the team at La Dolce Vita on its success.
“The conference highlighted many different experts on Parental Alienation and its impact on children.
“I am grateful to have attended and enjoyed hearing from many of the panelists, especially our own Dr Rory O’Connor. I had the pleasure of seeing Rory at last year’s Suicide Prevention Conference in the Millennium Forum.
“It was great to hear his vast knowledge around the Impact of Childhood Trauma and how Parental Alienation could fit into his current research.”
Roisin McLaughlin, Manager North West Community Network, was also in attendance on the day.
“It was a very informative conference,” she said. “Congratulations to La Dolce Vita Project for organising such a worthwhile event and bringing together experts on parental alienation, a very pertinent topic. We need more conversations and discussions like this.”
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said the conference explored some important areas.
"Parental alienation is an issue that causes a lot of pain and hurt for parents and children, and it's vitally important that we explore this topic and educate ourselves on it.
"Having two loving and supportive parents is always to the benefit of the child, so parents have to work together to show their child that they are both there for them.
"La Dolce Vita Project is a therapeutic counselling, support charity providing a vital community service within our city and district.
"By hosting this virtual conference, they are opening up the conversation and allowing people to hear from the experts and those with experience on the dangers of parental alienation and what can be done to prevent it."
Julie concluded by promising that La Dolce Vita Project would continue its journey towards ensuring that families are protected from the psychological and emotional harm caused by parental alienation.
“Pursuant to the conference, in terms of legacy, our commitment as a charity is towards the delivery of services to support families affected by parental alienation and our hope is to provide the necessary education and support programmes which will enable our city and beyond to act on the consciousness awakened and knowledge acquired.
“We extend huge gratitude to the mayor of our city, Brian Tierney and those within Derry City and Strabane District Council who have pledged their continuing support for the work we are doing, recognising the importance of tackling this issue and prioritising the protection of children.”
Closing the conference, Donna-Maria said: “This conference is not only a professional achievement but a very personal achievement close to my heart. I hope you all understand, that we all have a responsibility to ensure, that we do all that we can to protect all from harm and do no harm.”
Contact La Dolce Vita Project - Telephone 02871377272 Facebook: La Dolce Vita Project Twitter: @projecLa - LInkedIN: La Dolce Vita Project
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