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Showing posts with label PARENTING. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PARENTING. Show all posts

Monday, January 19, 2015


Sometimes I can get really snarky about other people.  Recently, I was sitting with a friend of mine, laughing and making fun of a mutual friend of ours.  This friend who majored in something like pottery making was now working for the state in an annoyingly lucrative position as what you might call a home visitor.  The source of our mirth was the fact that when she signed off on paperwork during the course of her duties, she was really proud to report to us that she was listed as a "clinician".  We were like what part of pottery making prepared her to be a so-called "clinician." I will admit there was a certain level of jealousy in our attitude.  I'd love to make oodles of money in a state job for which I am not in the least qualified!

On a similar note, I recently participated in a conference up in Boston where I sat at a table with a gentleman who identified himself as working in another state in a position as a psychologist.  Further into the conversation, I asked "So where did you get your Ph.D.?"  Oh, no, he was quick to correct me, I don't have a Ph.D., I just have a bachelor's degree in psychology--this is simply how the department identifies my position.  Oh well, I told myself, at least he didn't major in pottery making--he has some background in the field.

However, this does bring up an important subject--how the CT state government allows agencies funded by state and federal money to use deceptive job titles in order to obscure exactly what qualifications their workers actually have, and what services they are providing.  This is a form of fraud and it is exactly what Paul Boyne experienced in 2012 when he embarked upon what he understood to be reunification counseling with his children at the TIP program operated by Klingberg Family Center under the auspices of the CT Judicial Branch.

Paul Boyne was divorced in 2007 and his ex-wife was given sole custody of their three children as well as sole decision making in regard to when Paul could see the children.  As a consequence, Mr. Boyne did not see his children for several years until October 24, 2012, when Judge Gerald Adelman ordered him and the children to participate in reunification therapy with the Transitions in Parenting or TIP program.

The Access and Visitation Programs run by the CT Judicial Branch at the Klingberg Center have two separate parts:  1. The Supervised Visitation Program and 2. The TIP Program.

The first program, i.e. the Supervised Visitation Program provides a “safe, substance-free, closely-monitored and  controlled environment for children to have contact with their parent.   A Family Support Worker who is qualified on the bachelor's level supervises the non-custodial parent’s visits with the children.  In contrast, the Transitions in Parenting program provides "a master's level therapist" to deal with "the complex emotional issues involved when a parent re-enters a child's life after a long separation or enters the child's life for the first time."  The purpose of the program is to "set up the basis for a healthy, positive, and lasting parent-child relationship."  This is the program that the Court ordered Paul Boyne and his children to participate in.

Although Mr. Boyne felt initially enthusiastic about the program, before long he realized this was just another situation where family court was setting him up to fail.

For one thing, the Klingberg Center allowed the mother to play games and sabotage the TIP sessions.  For instance, on December 18, 2012 she cancelled a scheduled visit of father with the children the day before it was supposed to take place.  This made it difficult for Paul Boyne who lives in Virginia and has to make the long trip up to Connecticut when he wants to see his kids.  The Court Order required that the parties make accommodations for the fact that Mr. Boyne lived out of state which would, you would think, include providing sufficient advanced notice for appointments at the Klingberg Center.

A similar situation took place on January 4, 2012 when the mother refused to affirm or deny whether she intended to bring the children to Klingberg for the father's scheduled visit with them the next day.  Up to 3:30pm, she was still responding to the inquiry as to whether the kids would be there for the visit by saying mysteriously, "I'll get back to you."  This eventually prompted Mr. Boyne to file a motion with the court demanding she stop doing things like that, but, of course, knowing how the Court operates, this would make him appear to be the nuisance.  As one family court insider once put it, when it comes to family court, “You can’t stop a bully!”  Because family court seems to like bullies and allows them to carry on with their nonsense freely.

The second thing Paul noticed is that he wasn't getting the program that he signed up for.  Writing to the program about his observations on the therapy and Ms. Kathy Service, the social worker in charge of his case, he stated, "The Transitions in Parenting (TIP) program is a "clinical intervention which is to identify and treat the underlying impasses that interfere with [father's] access to the children"  However, "Kath S[ervice] has failed to understand the State's requirement.  She has not provided any identification of the underlying impasse."  Not only that, Paul Boyne observed that "there is no protocol being applied and no evidence provided of any impasse related to the children."  As it turned out, the Klingberg Clinic was actually providing him supervised visitation, not the reunification therapy which was supposed to be provided through the TIP program he described and which had been court ordered by Judge Adelman.

One clue in to this was the fact that not long after starting at the Klingberg Center, Mr. Boyne received a copy of the Child Intake form which was alleged to reproduce in full and in detail the children making rude and insulting remarks about their father on the level of "We don't want to have anything to do with him" and showed very little indication that the therapist had attempted to assist the children in understanding how these attitudes came about.  This document was so upsetting that, in a later "Notice" to the court dated January 4, 2013, Paul Boyne identified the reported conversation as an indication of child abuse.  The point of the TIP program is supposed to be to rebuild the relationship between the parent and children, not to drive them further apart or create permanent, written barriers to their relationship.

In addition, Paul Boyne participated in two visits which were overseen by the TIP social worker, Ms. Kathy Service, but which didn't include any kind of psychotherapy.  In a later report on these visits, all Ms. Service did was describe what happened during the visits and reproduced what Mr. Boyne and the children said to each other, which is exactly what you would get if all that she was doing was supervised visitation.

Faced with this kind of ongoing obstruction coming directly from the Klingberg program which was supposed to be helping him, Paul Boyne investigated Ms. Kathy Service further and discovered that even though she had a masters in social work, she was not licensed in the State of Connecticut. Further, Paul Boyne reported, it turned out that Kathy Service had tried and failed to pass the licensing exam on at least three occasions and possibly up to five.  This did not bode well for the quality of professional providing services with the TIP program and, as far as Paul Boyne was concerned, possibly explained why his family was receiving less than competent services.

Like most people, he had assumed that any professional hired by the state and playing such a crucial role in the well being of his children would be licensed.  By law, a social worker  who does not have a license is not allowed to practice psychotherapy without proper supervision and while providing such services must be identified as a social worker intern.  Since, at that time, Paul believed that he was receiving therapy services from the TIP program he viewed this situation as a form of fraud.  As a result, Paul Boyne ultimately decided to file a complaint against Kathy Service with the Department of Public Health (DPH) on May 6, 2013.

At this point, Paul Boyne had no idea that what he had actually been given was supervised visitation, not reunification therapy as provided by the TIP program.  As stated before, supervised visitation does not require a license or even a master's degree.  The fact that the Klingberg Center pretended to Paul Boyne that he was getting therapy with the TIP program when all they were doing was supervised visitation, was highly deceitful.

Essentially, the Klingberg Center placed Paul Boyne and his family in a state of ongoing confusion, which I believe was deliberately created, regarding what Ms. Kathy Service was supposed to be doing based on Judge Adelman's Court Order, i.e. reunification therapy, versus what Mr. Boyne sensed that she was actually doing, which was supervised visitation.  I believe this was a purposeful strategy arising somewhere in the relationship between Hartford Family Court and the Klingberg Center.

The end result was that Paul Boyne got stuck in a maze of obfuscation which he had to battle his way out of.  I myself, as a member of the public, was completely mystified.  Just the Department of Public Health's internal documents alone are so full of complex bureaucratic language it is almost impossible to know what happened.  I believe the DPH and/or the Klingberg Center did this deliberately to avoid being held accountable.  Nonetheless, I will do my best to clarify what went on.

Once the Department of Public Health received Paul Boyne's complaint, it was assigned to one of their investigators, Mary Beth Mendes.  It was also referred to an outside consultant--Mr. Kurt Fuchs, a social worker practicing in Farmington, CT--for further investigation.  On September  4, 2013, Mr. Fuchs wrote a report with the underlying presumption that the TIP program had been applied in Paul Boyne's case.

Essentially, Mr. Fuchs' report absolved the TIP program and Ms. Kathy Service of any wrongdoing for practicing therapy without a license by stating that Ms. Service had not been providing therapy when she was working with the Boyne family because the TIP Program is not therapy.  As he stated, "The Transition in Parenting program . . . use[s] terms such as 'clinical, therapist, and therapy" in their description of the type of services provided and the qualifications of the program staff who are delivering said services.  A closer review of the documents reveals that these services do not meet the criteria of 'clinical social work'.  Further he stated, "While Ms. Service's report to the court identifies her as a "therapist," I found no evidence in the documents that Ms. Service was either expected to--or conducted--"therapy" or "clinical social work" that would have required the possession of a clinical license.

Yes, but she was pretending to do it while actually doing supervised visitation instead.  But wait a minute, what Mr. Fuchs is saying, is even if she had been applying the TIP program in Paul Boyne's case, that would not have been social work which required a license either.  So what we have is a deception underlying another deception.

In other words, just like my friend the pottery maker, Kathy Service was not a clinician.  But you see, this is the problem.  When you use such terms with the public, and the public associates such terms with the actual licensed practice of therapy or social work, they will actually believe that they are dealing with mental health professionals.  Using terminology deliberately which the TIP program and the DPH are well aware raises certain expectations, and using them in such a manner as to deceive, is essentially a form of fraud.

In her report on the investigation dated September 26, 2013, Mary Beth Mendes also acknowledged that the TIP program used terms that would raise the expectation that people like Paul Boyne would assume he was dealing with a qualified, licensed mental health professional and was receiving legitimate therapy.  However, according to Ms. Mendes, in fact he was not.  Going through the documents related to the program Ms. Mendes found the following:

1.  On the child intake form, Kathy Service was listed as a "therapist";

2.  On the client agreement form for the TIP program, Kathy Service was listed as a "therapist";

3.  On the fact sheet for Access and Visitation, Kathy Service is referred to as a "therapist";

4. On the Access and Visitation Program TIP sheet, Kathy Service is referred to as a "master's level therapist";

5. On a Staffing Pattern document Kathy Service is referred to as a "master's level therapist" who provides "individual and family therapy" in the TIP program;

6.  On a Staff Experience and Qualifications document it states that Kathy Service has been "providing therapeutic services to many clients in the TIP program";

7.  On a family relations report from Hartford Superior Court, Kathy Service was also referred to as a "therapist" throughout the report.

Analyzing the situation further Ms. Mendes stated, "On [Kathy Service's]reports of her meetings with [Paul Boyne] and his children, her observations are referred to as "Counselor's Observations".   Throughout these reports [Kathy Service] refers to herself as "this therapist".  Ms. Mendes also noted that "The descriptions of the services of the TIP Program and the qualifications of the program staff who are delivering these services include the terms "clinical", "therapist" and "therapy".

So how does a program sponsored by the CT Judicial Branch and operated by the highly regarded Klingberg Center get away with implying that they are providing mental health care and using staff that are licensed social workers when, in fact, they are not?

The explanation that Mary Beth Mendes gave was that the Klingberg Center can do it because terms such as "clinical", "therapist", and "therapy" are not protected terms under Connecticut General Statutes, which means that pretty much anybody can use these terms as they please.  In other words, my friend the pottery maker who styles herself a clinician is no more a clinician than I am, yet because there is no law to prevent her from using the term exactly as she pleases, she can use any one of those terms to refer to herself, as could I if I chose to.  Right now, I could hang a sign right outside my house stating "psychotherapist" and no one could stop me.  And, when it comes to my pottery making friend, in terms of her own employment, the State of Connecticut is allowing her to do just that when she signs her name next to the word clinician without have a single qualification that would justify her doing so.

The question is, however, why would the State of Connecticut allow its own employees who are supposed to be serving the public to exercise these kinds of deceptions on Connecticut citizens.  Further, why would the Klingberg Center even consider acting this way, particularly when trust is essential to achieving success when it comes to working with families?

This leads us to our next question:  Is this true?  Is it true that the TIP program does not constitute social work?  Or is this explanation that Kurt Fuchs provided simply an elaborately staged fraud constructed as a means to allow the DPH to avoid holding the Klingberg Center accountable for providing mental health counseling using personnel who are unlicensed?  Let's look at this issue for a moment.

Again, the Transitions in Parenting program brochure states that it provides "a master's level therapist" to deal with "the complex emotional issues involved when a parent re-enters a child's life after a long separation or enters the child's life for the first time."  Again, the purpose of the program is to "set up the basis for a healthy, positive, and lasting parent-child relationship."

Doesn't this sound like therapy to the average person--learning to deal with complex emotional issues, changing behavior so that a once damaged relationship can be re-established on a more positive level?

According to social worker Kurt Fuchs social work only occurs when "biopsychosocial assessments are conducted, psychiatric diagnoses formulated, and theories of behavior, behavior change, psychological processes, psychopathology, etc. are deliberately applied to fundamentally change levels of emotional function (anxiety, depression, etc.), individual behaviors and/or interpersonal/familial relations."  But how many of us have undergone therapy with a licensed social worker where there was no biopsychosocial assessment or treatment plans whatsoever--marriage counseling comes to mind for instance--but still there was an expectation that therapy was taking place with the understanding that a fundamental change in behavior would occur?

Further, it would be impossible to see a difference between social work as Kurt Fuchs describes it in his report versus how the Klingberg Center describes its own services.  For instance, take one excerpt from a letter the program wrote to Pamela Sarno of the CT Judicial Branch.  "Klingberg will operate a therapeutic, supervised reunification program called Transition in Parenting which will provide guidance and therapeutic support for children and their parents during the process of establishing or re-building contact between the child and his or her estranged parent."  In other words, "fundamentally change the levels of emotional function" between parents and children, what essentially adds up to social work!

In its application for funding from the CT Judicial Branch, Klingberg describes the TIP program further:  "The purpose of the Transitions in parenting Program has been to provide individual therapy, family therapy, and sibling therapy as indicated to families referred to this program."  The intention of the program is to "help reduce anger or communication problems between the parents, and to help parents objectively focus on the best interests of the child."  Again, this appears to me to be an exact definition of social work.

Who provides these services?  According to Klingberg, "Services are provided by a Masters Level Marriage and Family Therapist and/or a Master's Level Social Worker."  So they go to all the trouble of hiring a person who has a master's degree, but they make sure that none of the "therapy" they provide actually constitutes social work?  How likely is that?

At the very least, such wording raises the expectation among administrators and potential clients that the services the Klingberg will provide constitutes social work.  And if that is not Klingberg's intention, then such languaging is deliberately deceptive and constitutes fraud.

It is also worth taking a look at whether those who denied that the TIP program was social work took any decisive actions based on their conclusions.  For example, in his letter to the DPH, Mr. Kurt Fuchs stated that the CSSD and Klingberg created confusion by their use of the terms "clinical, therapist, and therapy."  Did he recommend they stop that?  No.  Is there any indication that the DPH advised them to stop doing that for the sake of honesty and transparency towards their clients?  No.  Has either the CSSD or Klingberg corrected any of their pamphlets or information sheets so as to avoid misleading future clients the way that they allegedly confused Paul Boyne?  No.  Perhaps this is because the explanation they provided was simply concocted as a means to shut Paul Boyne up and has no actual basis in fact.

Attorneys, Judges, members of the 2014 task force on custody have speculated that the problems in family court arise from the fact that a small minority of litigants have mental health problems.  In reality, the problem is that agencies such as the CSSD, the Klingberg Center, and the Department of Public health chose to carry out such a complex scheme to undercut Paul Boyne's ability to reestablish his relationship with his children.  That's enough to drive any person, no matter how stable, right over the edge!  Wouldn't it be much more fair to state that Paul Boyne is the "identified patient" trapped in a sick relationship with deeply dysfunctional state agencies (as I would suggest most family court victims are)?

The bottom line is that the Klingberg Center, for whatever the reason, had no intention of providing reunification therapy to Paul Boyne; they simply wanted to get rid of him.  So Instead, they provided supervised visitation which they anticipated would be deeply aggravating to him.

Thus, in her letter to Kathy Service dated November 5, 2014 informing her that the DPH has found no violations in the case, Kathleen Boulware stated, "Your monitoring of Mr. Boyne and his minor children relating to their reunification did not constitute the practice of social work."  Oh, so that is what she was doing; she was "monitoring" not "dealing with complex emotional issues" related to reunifying a parent with his children.  No wonder, as Ms. Boulware continued on to state to Ms. Kathy Service, "your responsibilities in the "Transition in Parenting" program do not constitute clinical social work and you were therefore not required to have a license at the time."  Of course, you weren't, because what you were doing was supervised visitation!

So to Paul who thought he was getting the TIP Program, the DPH said, the service provided was not social work, but to Ms. Kathy Service who knew very well what she was doing, Kathleen Boulware said the service you provided was only supervised visitation, so you are not liable.  This left Paul Boyne with the impression that reunification therapy is not counseling, when the reality is that he never got counseling; he only obtained supervised visitation.  This was a very slick way to avoid accountability, and it was basically unanswerable because Paul didn't know what was going on.

On November 5, the same day that she sent a letter to Ms. Kathy Service, Kathleen Boulware sent another letter directly to Paul Boyne stating, "the Department has concluded that no violations of the statutes governing social work practice have been identified."  This was actually a full year after Mary Beth Mendes had submitted the results of her investigation to the department, which meant that the Department of Public Health simply sat on the results before sending them out.  Why?  Just so they could hold Paul Boyne in suspense and hold out the hope that he would eventually receive some satisfaction, when in reality they fully intended to continue to obstruct him.

Meanwhile, Paul Boyne had to spend his time at the beginning of 2013 filing motions to prevent the work Kathy Service did at the Klingberg from being used against him in court since their contents arose from an incomplete course of treatment and therefore misrepresented what was actually going on in his relationship with his children.  So then he looked silly.  "Isn't this a program that he wanted?" the Court might say.  With the kind of convoluted and deceptive explanations the DPH provided, it would be very difficult for Paul to explain how Klingberg sabotaged his efforts to reengage with his children.

As I see it, when Hartford Family Court sent Paul Boyne to the Klingberg Center--of course you can never know what were the originating sources of the problem, but they are there--he was set up by being placed in the supervised visitation program instead of in the TIP counseling program as he expected--a course of action that was very disruptive to the entire process, and deliberately so.

One of the criteria the Court considered when deciding whether  Paul  Boyne could see his children again was the ability he had to work productively with the staff at Klingberg in pursuit of reunification.  However, after being harassed by his ex-wife and not having any recourse, after having to read the extended negative comments about him his children were reputed to have said on an Agency intake form, and then receiving improper treatment, Mr. Boyne was simply unable to do it.  The way the Klingberg Center carried out their form of reunification therapy, the price of the restoration of Paul Boyne's right to parent was the ability he had to accept humiliation and abuse without complaint--we've all been there!--and clearly, as a result of all the harassment, he failed to have the emotional reserves to do it.

Aside from very real human rights violations, the Klingberg Center was in contempt for violating a very clear order from Judge Adelman indicating that Paul Boyne was supposed to be in the TIP program, not the supervised visitation program.   But  with the collusion of the DPH, the Center will never be held accountable.

What is the bottom line? Paul's hopes for a reunification with his children were dashed and he was back at square one after all that investment of time and energy.  My friend the pottery maker is still out there providing services for people who think she is a "clinician."  There are unlicensed mental health professionals out there working for the state and providing therapy for clients who are unaware that they are not licensed.  But should they ever figure it out, they will be told the therapy they received was not actually therapy.  The Klingberg Center provides both supervised visitation and the TIP Program interchangeably as it pleases, depending on whether they want to harass people or not.  And the Department of Public Health continues to allow places like the Klingberg Center to defraud citizens like Paul as well as the general public.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


The issue is heating up again for the legal profession.  What kinds of questions in regard to candidates' mental health treatment can the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee ask of fledgling attorneys applying for admission to the bar?

A recent article by Jay Stapleton of "The Connecticut Law Tribune" gives you a taste of the kinds of questions the Bar is currently asking.  According to Stapleton, the recent application for admission to the bar asked the question, "During the past five years, have you engaged in conduct or behavior which caused you to be  voluntarily or involuntarily treated for...disorders [such as] schizophrenia, bipolar or major depressive mood disorder, drug or alcohol abuse, impulse control disorder, kleptomania, pyromania, explosive disorder, pathological or compulsive gambling."  

(Personally, I think if they are interested, they should really check out narcissistic personality disorder as well since, as I understand it, a good majority of lawyers have that disorder.) 

What will be done if the candidate responds in the affirmative?  Apparently, "If the applicant does have a relevant history, they are required to turn over mental health records, for the CBEC to review." 

Attorneys who have been subjected to such inquiries speak about them as being degrading, humiliating, and traumatic.   

Let me reach across the great divide and embrace my brother and sister attorneys for understanding what we parents in CT Family Court have been saying ever since mental health professionals started to make their way into the court system and began their reign of terror on us.  You are absolutely correct.  Inquiries in regard to our mental health as parents has no bearing on the legal proceedings in family court, or our ability as parents, any more that such inquiries have relevance in regard to how an attorney practices law. 

As parents who have been discriminated against, stigmatized, scrutinized, labeled and subjected to the worst kind of invasion of privacy based upon our mental health history, or the fabricated reports generated by the courts once we arrived, let us say to you our brother and sister attorneys who are stuck in the same exact boat, we share your pain. 

Attorney Kathleen Flaherty's story is a case in point.  According to an article published in "The New York Times" on August 5, 2013 by Melody Moezzi, Attorney Flaherty is a CT attorney who graduated from Harvard Law School and who has bipolar disorder.  She was a member of the Massachusetts and New York bars.  Then in 1990, she applied for admission to the Connecticut Bar and was denied.  Upon appeal, she had to endure a year of hearings regarding her mental health which, according to Moezzi, "one questioner characterized as torture." 

Ultimately, Attorney Flaherty was granted conditional admission which required her to provide "a doctor's report and affidavit semi-annually" confirming she was fit to practice for a period of nine years.  According to Moezi, "No one should have to experience such humiliation.  Not just because such mental health inquiries are irrelevant and unethical, but also because they can be illegal.  The regulations implementing Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act forbid public entities to administer licensing programs that discriminate against qualified candidates on the basis of disability." 

Eureka!  Just fabulous!  Again, we are on the same ground.  Because you see, my attorney friends, and now compatriots and soulmates, (let me kiss your cheeks!) the Americans With Disabilities Act also forbids public entities such as the Connecticut Judicial Branch from discriminating against litigants on the basis of disability, which includes in its definition, "mental health disability." 

For those who need clarification, in essence, Title II of the ADA provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12132. 

The issue of mental health inquiries on the application to the bar has been boiling for over a decade.  In 2006, it became particularly  relevant when  the CBEC included depression as part of their general inquiry regarding mental health treatment.  This significantly extended the net in terms of people who would be identified and subjected to increased scrutiny. 

The spotlight again shone on this issue when Dr. Michael J. Herkov, a mental health consultant with the Forida State Board of Bar Examiners, published an article entitled "Mental Illness and the Practice of Law" in the March 2013 edition of "The Bar Examiner" 

In this article, Dr. Herkov attempted to provide some guidelines for when it would make sense to investigate a candidate further before allowing him or her to proceed with practicing law.  This article prompted a written response in a Letter to the Editor of "The Bar Examiner" signed by 43 "lawyers with mental health conditions, mental health experts, and disability civil rights practitioners" who protested the presumptions behind Dr. Herkov's attempt to establish some guidelines for screening applicants to the bar who have mental health disabilities. 

What this does, states this letter to the editor, is create "a rebuttable presumption that mental illness may equal an incapacity to practice law unless and until "proven" otherwise.  These are the very prejudices and stereotypes that the ADA prohibits and is designed to eliminate." 

Yes, yes, I agree.  In the same way, attempts to screen parents in CT Family Court in order to determine whether they should be allowed to be parents creates a very similar rebuttable presumption regarding parenting, and it is just as wrong to do that to parents as it is to do that to attorneys! 

The letter continues on to say, "we contend that the bar's goal of protecting the public against unfit practitioners and preserving the integrity of the profession is best served by targeting questions to a person's behaviors and conduct." 

This makes absolute sense to me in regard to my parenting.  What difference does it make what diagnosis I have if I feed my children three meals a day, provide them with a roof over their heads and beds to sleep in, pay their basic expenses, make sure they are clothed and have their books when they board the bus for school, and stand there waiting when they get off the bus. If I have a record of getting my children to all their after school activities and doctor's appointments in a responsible manner, why do you need to put me through a psychological examination, when it is what I have done to further my children's best interests that matters, not what labels you can slap on me. 

Seriously, in the scheme of things, if you have full information regarding what I have done with my children, what difference does a label make? 

The letter continues on to say, it is a well-established fact "that a mental health condition or history of treatment does not in itself preclude one from a successful, productive, responsible life as an attorney." 

Likewise, the same material does not, "in itself preclude one from" having a successful, productive, and responsible life as a Mom or Dad. 

That is the bottom line. 

The letter continues on to say more.  Apparently, Dr. Herkov wrote extensively about what he saw as the correlation between mental health diagnosis and good character.  The signers of the letter to the editor, however, find this correlation completely offensive stating, "The empirical evidence for this kind of prediction is notoriously limited, and, thus, when used in this way, in many contexts, legally impermissible and ethically approaching what many would deem as unconscionable." 

Unconscionable.  Unconscionable.  That is what I call the behavior of judges in CT Family Court who point their fingers at litigants and accuse them of having mental health disorders without any kind of testimonial or documentary evidence. 

That is what I call it when judges and attorneys deny litigants their rights to due process as well as their human, constitutional and parental rights based upon a mental health diagnosis or history. 

Further, the writers of this letter state, "no evidence indicates that mental health providers or bar examiners can predict inappropriate behavior on the basis of a person's mental health history.  What the evidence does show is that past behavior and not mental health condition is the most reliable predictor of future behavior." 

Right, that is exactly right.  This is why assigning psychiatrists to do custody evaluations and ordering psychological evaluations are completely irrelevant, because the ability to parent, in the same way as the ability practice law, has nothing to do with a mental health label, and everything to do with a persons behavior up to that time. 

Finally, the letter states that assessments in regard to a candidate's fitness to work as an attorney "should comply with the ADA's mandate that persons with disabilities, including mental disabilities, be assessed as to their abilities, not disabilities." 

Parents, also, should be assessed in regard to their parenting based upon their abilities, not their disabilities. 

I couldn't agree more. 

More recently, on January 31, 2014, Attorney David McGuire and Sandra Staub of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut sent a letter to retired Judge Anne Dranginis, Chair of the CBEC asking the Committee to remove these questions in regard to mental health background from the applications to the Bar. 

In addition, recently the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that states which inquire into mental health condition or treatment when assessing a candidate's fitness to practice law are in violation of Title II of the ADA. 

Samuel Bagenatos, a University of Michigan professor and disability law expert agrees that under Title II of Federal ADA law, the focus should be on what people are capable of doing, not on their medical condition.  And further Bagenatos stated, "That is the law, plain and simple.  As the gatekeepers to the legal profession, the bar should know and follow the law." 

Likewise, litigants in CT Family Court think that Family Court should obey the law as well.  For once, we all have common ground.  It seems no one likes to be bullied, harassed, stigmatized or discriminated against based upon a label, particularly when it is against the law.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


One of the most difficult aspects of co-parenting with an abusive X is that every encounter with your X, every phone call, every conversation, is an opportunity for your X to create a problem.  The second most difficult aspect is the fact that an abusive X will use the tasks of co-parenting as a means to create chaos--changing his mind, switching schedules around, making plans and then reneging on those plans, and just generally overstepping his boundaries in every way possible.  For those of you, and there are many, who know what I am talking about, there is a possible solution.  It is a website called:  Our Family Wizard and can be accessed at:

Our Family Wizard is an online website developed by Paul and Dara Volker of Minneapolis, MN who developed it in response to the problems they were having with their exes, so the program evolved from their real life experiences. 

The program is primarily geared towards parents and assists them in working together on a variety of custody issues such as developing and coordinating visitation schedules, keeping track of parent time trades and keeping one another informed about the children's after school activities as well as medical and dental care.  You can keep up to date health records on the website including immunization histories as well as school information. 

Also, parents can email each other on the site through family wizard's secure email system and thereby keep track of their conversations about the children so there won't be any misunderstandings.  There is also a section for journaling, so if a parent wants to write reflectively on any particular situations that have arisen, that parent can do so.  The children can also maintain their own limited access accounts allowing them to see their schedules, and giving them to opportunity to email or journal as they wish.  There are also third party accounts for grandparents, step-parents, and mental health professionals. 

Mental health professionals can become involved in the oversight of the accounts and assist in facilitating the process of using the accounts.  At the same time, the interactions that have taken place between the parents is all on record so that attorneys, mental health professionals, or a judge can review the record in order to resolve any disputes that arise.  An extra benefit is that the account can generate reports to document and summarize what has been going on and to assess whether both parties have been obeying court orders. 

If the material is going to end up in court, and you want to get those reports to present to the judge, the attorney's have to send a subpoena to family wizard in order to get official copies.  There is a discussion on the website regarding how you go about getting that done. 

There is a whole lot more to ourfamilywizard than I can actually document here on this blog, so it would benefit you to take a look at it yourself.  Also, I have never had an account there myself, so I am really speaking second hand.  I'd really appreciate it if any of you readers who have used family wizard could comment about what it is like.

Some of what I can observe as an outsider are that, as the website states, this computer program should be really helpful in reducing the children's role as messagers between warring parents.  Also, it does the job of documenting accurately what has been going on when it comes to a particular custody dispute. It should help avoid confusion and the accusation that a particular dispute is simply a matter of "he said, she said".  That should reduce a substantial amount of frustration and annoyance for most of us, as well as reduce potential expensive litigation.  Even if you do have to return to court, everything that has gone on in regard to a particular dispute will have been fully documented.  As a result, your attorney can feel confident when he or she argues on your behalf because the material is more objective and thus more reliable.  Also, if a mental health professional has been involved, the attorney can obtain an assessment of what has been going on from that professional much more quickly, efficiently, and accurately. 

The downside of this kind of approach is the fact that you are always on the record when you use the program, everything you say and do on the program can end up in a court of law, and if your X manipulates you into an outburst online, or draws you into a very damaging interaction on the record, you could end up compromising yourself.  Only you personally can assess what the odds are of that happening and determine if ourfamilywizard is right for you.  My experience has been that I had to have all communications on the record in order to ensure that my X stood by his agreements.  And my experience has been that being on the record generally benefits the person who is doing the right things.

The family wizard program is now widely mandated in approximately 44 states around the U.S. as well as in five Canadian provinces, according to their website.  Once you sign up for the program, there is help available by phone twelve hours a day Monday through Thursday, for ten hours on Friday, and then solely by email over the weekend.  The cost of the program is $99.00 per parent per year and $179.00 per parent for two years.  You can also pay on behalf of the other parent if you so choose (ok, ok, try not to laugh!).  If you are an attorney, you can buy less expensive memberships in bulk and then make them available to clients for free on your retainer agreement.  There is a sliding scale for those in economic need, and there is a 30 day guarantee. 

Finally, if you think this approach may be right for you, remember to include a provision requiring it in your custody agreement and once you have that in place restrict all interactions with your X to the family wizard.  Otherwise, you pretty much negate much of the purpose of the program.