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Showing posts with label MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. Show all posts

Saturday, November 7, 2015


It was six months into my divorce when I finally realized that my attorney was acting in a way that was seriously incompetent.  As a result, I recognized that I had to find a new attorney and so I started the process of interviewing attorneys to see who would be a good replacement.  

It was then that I ran into Attorney James T. Flaherty who immediately asked me for a copy of my parenting plan. "Parenting Plan, I responded, "I don't have a parenting plan!"  Apparently, the fact that I had no parenting plan was extraordinary and Attorney Flaherty seemed truly surprised that I didn't have one. Why was Flaherty surprised?  Well, that was a bit of play acting, but more on that just a bit later.   

Apparently, in December 2002, the Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children came out.  This report was the basis for major statutory changes in the way divorces are supposed to be handled in the State of Connecticut.  Included in these changes was the requirement that divorcing couples submit a parenting plan to the Court within the early weeks of the divorce and obey a list of automatic orders which assures that the parties don't dissipate the marital assets, among other things.  

Nonetheless, as you can see, I soon learned that it was standard for attorneys to blow off parenting plans and allow their clients to violate the automatic orders at will. Attorneys did this intentionally to gain advantage in the case, to generally disrupt the process, and get as much money as possible from their clients.

In spite of that, if you then asked such attorneys, why do we have so many problems with family court, they'd never mention the ignored Connecticut Statutes I just talked about. Instead they'd blame the mentally ill--as per usual.  So goes the politics of mental illness within the Judicial Branch, i.e. if under fire, or facing criticism, put the responsibility on the shoulders of the "crazy people." This approach is, as we will see, a fundamentally feminist issue.

If you look at the discussion which preceded the results of the Commission Report--i.e. the Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children of December 2002--the Commission placed responsibility for the problems of Family Court squarely on the shoulders of "a small minority of parents [who] engage in persistent conflict because of anger, characterological or mental health problems."  

Twelve years later, another group gathered together to investigate problems with Family Court in Connecticut, i.e. the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children of 2014.  This Task Force published an additional report.  

Hearing about this Task Force, dozens of citizens came forward to provide their testimony in person during Task Force hearings while many others wrote letters and sent emails contributing information regarding their personal experiences of Family Court.  

However, instead of addressing the concerns these citizens spoke about, the Task Force Report  simply borrowed a lengthy quotation from the 2002 Commission Report in place of a discussion. The authors of the Report apparently did not even think to add one single bit of additional insight they might have acquired from lessons learned in the twelve years since the prior report.  Even worse, in a terribly short sighted manner, the particular section the report quoted was the one that put the blame on people with mental illness.

The fact that those responsible for writing the 2014 Task Force Report were so lazy they had not a single original idea to put into a discussion says boatloads about the lack of commitment of those individuals to the process of investigation that they were involved in.  

In that regard, I would like folks to recall that when the two co-chairs were appointed--Attorney Sue Cousineau and Attorney Sharon Dornfeld--there was widespread discontent with these appointments, but the legislators responsible didn't want to hear about it.  Thus, the careless,  derivative, negligent, and divisive report that the Task Force of 2014 ultimately produced is the outcome of these legislators' poor choices.  

Mental illness, the spotlight of both reports, is a feminist issue given that Family Court uses accusations of mental illness as a means to deny mothers custody.  Thus, another aspect of the original Commission Report of 2002 and the Task Force of 2014 which I find quite striking is how both are weighted to benefit the father's rights agenda.  

The Members of the Governor's Commission is practically a who's who of father's rights people.  Both Thomas C. Foley and Mr. Pat D'Angelo are long time father's rights people.  I believe Pat D'Angelo was among the original founders of the Divorced Men's Association of Connecticut. Other people such as Dr. Kenneth Robson, Judge Lynda B. Munro, Dr. Sidney Horowitz, and Judge Herbert Gruendel are notorious for their stands in opposition to mothers.  

Likewise, in the Task Force of 2014, members Jennifer Verraneault and retired Judge Thomas Weissmuller are both father's rights advocates.  I don't believe there is an abusive father that Dr. Elizabeth Thayer won't embrace. You have Stephen Grant in the Commission of 2002 and Joseph DiTunno in the Task Force of 2014 both responsible for the distribution of federal government fatherhood initiative money within the CT Judicial Branch.  We can assume they both support fathers in that role.  

The end result, of course, were reports on Family Court that largely support policies and programs that benefit the interests of men.  

For instance, in the Task Force of 2014 there is an extended section on how the CT State Legislature could establish a policy of shared parenting in this state. Shared parenting would be an absolute disaster for the women of the State of Connecticut, particularly those who are victims of domestic violence.  

It is typical of father's rights people that even though so many of the citizens who demanded a hearing on the abuses of family court and who came to testify were women, this Task Force, weighted with father's rights activists, simply took advantage of the political influence these women provided them and pushed forward a father's rights agenda in their final report, thus stabbing those women in the back.  

But this is not my primary point.  I want to address the issue that has now come up in two reports -- this business of blaming people with mental illness for the problem of Family Court abuse.  Can you imagine for a minute if these reports had said something like, the problems of family court arise because of the various character flaws of African-Americans (or whichever minority group is currently unpopular--the Jews, the Hispanics, the Muslims).  

If any group tried to publish a report blaming a particular group based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, class etc.  they would be stopped immediately.  So, why is it acceptable for these reports to make unfounded accusations at folks labeled with mental illness? Somehow this is acceptable?  Isn't this just like the whole gun discussion.  We know that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators, and yet all these conversations in the media about stopping gun violence are all about taking civil rights from people diagnosed with mental illness, even though it has been proven that mental illness is not a decisive factor.  

I'd like to dig in a little deeper here:  who do we mean when we talk about parties who have mental illness? Aren't we really talking about women?  As you know, in our society where gender discrimination and oppression remain rampant, women have many more mental health difficulties than men, particularly depression as the result of the ongoing deprivation of rights and the disrespectful manner in which they are treated.  Not only that, women are far more willing to get the help that they need from mental health professionals because they feel more comfortable with caretaking and helping types of professionals.  

As a result, when women walk into Family Court, they are considerably more likely to have documented mental health histories than men are.  These histories are immediately used against women in family court when custody is under dispute.  

So what these two reports are saying--the Commission Report of 2002 and the Task Force Report of 2014--is that the problem isn't just folks with mental illness; it's those crazy women.  

Such attitudes accord well with what we know about the influence that the massive influx of fatherhood initiative money into Connecticut was having starting in 1996.  This money would have been flowing into Connecticut in a very healthy manner by 2002, just in time for the Commission report.  

But again, this is still not my entire point.  Ok, so the problem is this difficulty with all these women who have mental illness.  Here is what bothers me.   What this really means is that the CT Judicial Branch has no intention of adjusting its methods to address the needs of this very special population--cultural sensitivity be damned.  Instead, it prefers to exploit prejudice and social stigma and declare itself helpless to deal with this group, even though there is every evidence that with the proper accommodations and protections against discrimination, the outcome of legal proceedings can be quite successful with folks who have mental health challenges.

Instead, the way members of the Commission and the Task Force reported it, the Judicial Branch is helpless against this enormous, impenetrable monolith of mental illness that resists any and all attempts the Family Court system implements to address it.  

Based upon this bigoted attitude towards mental illness--in other words, that it is unchangeable and always a negative, family court has used mental health diagnosis as a litmus test for who should get custody, i.e. the fathers.  

But why?  Why this presumption of hopelessness?

Even the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has adopted the recovery model in the work it does here in Connecticut with people who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems.  This means that they operate with the underlying assumption that people can change and that they can improve.  

Unfortunately, the Connecticut Judicial Branch is far from having that approach. The Branch prefers to maintain this hopeless view of people with mental illness so they can use it to advantage in custody switching schemes perpetrated against women. The only reason that Family Court in the State of Connecticut orders psychological evaluations of parties in family court is so that they can find some kind of damning diagnosis (usually for a mother) so that diagnosis can be used to deny custody. For example, a fabricated diagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) usually does the trick!

The Connecticut Judicial Branch maintains a policy of discriminating against people with mental health disabilities because it works to their advantage in their war against women.  For years the record shows that the Branch has been rigorous in refusing to comply with the Americans With Disability Act, and particularly disregards its prohibitions against discriminating against people who have disabilities.  This means that people with mental health disabilities who face legal proceedings in custody matters routinely do not receive the accommodations they require under the ADA in order to access those proceedings.  The majority of these people are mothers who are essentially excluded from the process.  

You would think, under the circumstances, that mental health professionals could bring some equity to the situation, but this is not the case.  This is because a good many of these diagnoses are fabricated and pinned on mothers as part of custody switching schemes to transfer custody to abusive fathers.   But there are other reasons as well.

The Commission Report includes some of the history of custody and divorce in Connecticut and mentions how starting in the late 1950s, the Judicial Branch began to bring mental health professionals into the Branch to assist the Courts in custody matters.  This is also when the family services unit of the court was established.  

If mental illness were the problem, you would think that the influx of all these  mental health professionals into the process would eliminate that supposed group with mental illness that is causing the big problem.  However, this is not the case.  

Often, psychologists or psychiatrists hired to do this work produce lengthy and detailed investigative reports full of unsupported gossip and innuendo that simply adds another layer of lies and inaccuracies to the entire proceedings.  Since many of these mental health professionals are adherents of the father's rights movement or receiving father's rights money to write these reports, they are again, frequently weighted against the mothers and used to deny mothers custody.  

What is interesting is that no one tracks what these mental health professionals are doing and holds them accountable.  How can it be that even judges are subjected to performance evaluations, but not mental health professionals?  Is there any evidence at all, anything beyond an intuitive assumption, to indicate that the involvement of mental health professionals in divorce improves outcomes?  Where is the data?  

One guess I would like to venture, however, prior to any such investigation, is that the outcome will show that for the better part, particularly since the influx of fatherhood initiative funding into the family courts, Judges have used older, white male psychologists or psychiatrists such as Dr. Kenneth Robson, men in their 60s and 70s to trash women and transfer custody to the fathers.  

These women who lose custody are the "mentally ill" of the two reports, because, as we all know, mothers will fight for their children to the bitter end and thus "inconvenience" the Court.  Of course, those mothers have to be crazy.  

What this means is that when the two reports talk about people with mental illness causing the problems in family court, they are really talking about mothers.  But what these reports do is describe them in code language that professional insiders within Family Court immediately recognize.  Essentially, this means that women haven't benefited from either of these two investigations into family court abuse.  As per usual, our voices and our life experiences remain absent from the public discussion, as we are labeled as mentally ill and not considered worthy of consideration.  The time has come to change that dynamic.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


In the course of human events, it periodically proves necessary for oppressed people to dissolve the political ties that connect them with the majority culture. So entrenched are the dominant viewpoints, that repeated appeals to reason and conscience prove futile, whereas harms and grievances mount exponentially. At some point, it becomes clear that the respect, dignity and worth that is a common birthright as human beings will never be freely given.  -  It must simply declared and taken.

Accordingly, we hold these truths to be self-evident:

1. Everyone is created equal in rights and dignity. We are all, without exception, endowed with reason and conscience. Consistent with the rights of others, we are all entitled to create meaning and pursue happiness in our own way.

2. We live in a world where there can be no experts as to subjective matters affecting another person’s life, liberty or pursuit of happiness. To the contrary, practically the only certainties of the human condition are uncertainty, loss and death. Other claims at certainty are at best 'probabilities'  -  which, by their nature, admit exception in individual cases. We therefore reject any claim by those with political, organizational, institutional or family power to pass judgment on the subjective experience of other human beings  (including the meaning of personal thoughts, feelings or actions) under color of law or majority approval.

3. Such substituted judgments are in direct contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and its spirit. This includes any rules or claimed authority that (1) fail to recognize any and all human beings as endowed with reason and conscience; (2) purport to relieve any person, organization, or community of its obligation to afford everyone, without exception, equal rights and dignity; and (3) privilege some people or groups to treat others as less than full and equal members of the human family.

4. As human beings, we have the right to treat each other first and foremost as members of a human family, and to be treated by others as such. This includes recognizing each other’s shared and equal birthright to all the blessings of liberty, and supporting each other's access to all things necessary for human functioning, growth and development.  This is the right of human beings.  No political, institutional, business, industry or guild interest can legitimately deprive anyone of such rights.   

To this end:

1. We proclaim and reclaim our birthright to respect, dignity, reason, conscience and equal rights on a par with all other members of the human family.

2. We refuse to recognize as valid any exceptions made by any person or entity to these fundamental obligations between human beings.

3. We deem null and void any human law, rule or regulation that violates this fundamental code.

4. We refuse to recognize the legitimacy of human-made rules or hierarchies that seek to substitute their guild, business or group interests for the human regard that is owed by one human being to another. These include the laws, regulations, policies, codes and ethics adopted by legislatures, agencies, corporations, organizations, businesses, institutions, professions – or anyone else who claims the right to make decisions that seek to exempt their members from the fundamental obligations of human beings to regard each other with reason, conscience and in the spirit of human family.

Therefore: In accordance with the intent and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and the numerous International Human Rights efforts that have since followed, we hereby liberate ourselves and each other to act in accordance with our human duty and birthright of reason, conscience and equal membership the world family of human beings.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Reform Complaint Procedure for Mental Health Professionals in CT

"We are petitioning the respondents to create a Task Force to study the current process employed by the DPH in the review of complaints against mental health professionals in the State of CT and to allow public input in the review of this process and in development of any recommendations for improvement.
There are many issues with the current complaint process including but not limited to the following:

1.  DPH will routinely dismiss a complaint made by a non-custodial parent saying that the CGS does not give non-cusotdial parents access to mental health records.  However, that is not the case.  It is within the DPH's purview to subpoena those records if a legitimate concern has been raised.

2.  Once the DPH has accepted a complaint for further investigation, it will languish waiting for an outside consultant to perform the necessary standard of care review.  Many complaints will languish for years.

3.  Also, when an outside consultant is obtained to perform the investigation, these outside consultants are, in many instances, colleagues of the professional who is being investigated. It is reasonable to question whether the consultant can perform an objective investigation under those circumstances.

4.  Persons entrenched in the industry and make their livelihood from family court are involved in the complaint process and similarly calls into question the objectivity of reviews. This past year many persons testified about issues in the Family Court system of CT.  The focus was mainly on the role of GAL's.  However, these GAL's needed the assistance of mental health professionals in many instances.  These mental health professionals routinely did not follow industry standards in the performance of their duties.

Misconduct in the mental health profession with respect to family court cases has been brought to the attention of the legislature in numerous testimonies given at public hearings.  This has prompted some affected persons to pursue criminal investigations, and Federal and Malpractice Lawsuits in others.

This misconduct is not exclusive to Connecticut.  Divorce Corp, the movie clearly illustrated how pervasive this problem is nationwide.  At least one website has sprouted to help educate the public of the abuses occuring.  Please visit the following link ...

The inherent difficulties of making accurate assessments and analysis of situations is not being minimized.  This is compounded by the uncertainties associated with assessing the emotional well-being of an individual under adverse conditions associated with contentious divorces and custody battles.

However, there are clear cut industry standards of care for the mental health assessment of adults and children, especially in divorce situations.  These professionals routinely take advantage of the public's ignorance of the process and industry standard of care of such evaluations and assessments to engage in negligent conduct.  In one case, the trained mental health professional involved testified under oath that he can perform an assessment in under 3 minutes.  There are no 3 minute diagnosis standards.

These standards may include but not limited to the following :

1.  DSM-V

2. American Psychological Association Standards such as:

    a.  Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings;

    b.  Guidelines for Psychological Evaluations in Child Protection Matters;

   c.  Guidelines for Assessment of and and Intervention with Persons with Disabilities;

   d.  Family Evaluation in Custody Litigation: Reducing Risks of Ethical Infractions and Malpractice;

3.  and others ...

Many times, these so-called assessments do not reference the standards with which they are suposed to use to make a true and accurate assessment.

Several advocates for Family Court reform have brought to the attention of the legislature in past testimony the need to include in the current Practice Book that will put into place safeguards against the abuse of mental health professionals in Family Courts. 

However, an impartial and honest process for processing complaints against these professionals must exist to ensure quality care is provided.

We therefore ask the respondent parties to reform the complaint process within the DPH to allow for a timely, accurate and impartial assessment of violations of industry standard of care in all disciplinary procedures.  It is crucial that a message be sent to mental health professionals, that although their charge is a difficult one, slip shod or negligent conduct is not acceptable.

Although there are many instances of misconduct by certain mental health professionals, much like recent GAL reform, it is important to note that this petition isn't an indictment of every professional but those who chose to engage in unethical behavior.  Many choose to avoid cases involving the court system to avoid being placed in a position in which their impartiality may be compromised."

To sign the petition, please click on the link below: