The case in question involved a pre-adolescent boy who rejected his father following family breakdown. He was displaying marked anxiety and disturbance in his social and educational functioning. He previously had a close, loving relationship and secure attachment with his father. The mother is known to have alienated the child from the father and she eventually admitted that she had, albeit unwittingly. My recommendation was the immediate restoration of contact with father, rapidly increasing to whole day and weekend staying contact. In the event that the mother did not facilitate this I recommended change of residence to the father. There were no safeguarding risks in relation to him. An attempt was made at direct contact, supervised by the social worker. This is the only case I have ever been involved with where a child was unable to tolerate contact with the rejected parent. Upon arriving at the contact centre the child was hysterical and inconsolable and the contact was aborted. The social worker drew the conclusion that the child was suffering from deep trauma related to his father.
The Court was so concerned about the child that it issued an Interim Care Order, of its own volition, with the child remaining in the mother’s care. Within a short space of time the mother asked the social worker to arrange another contact session. On this occasion the child demonstrated only mild, transient trepidation leading up to contact. He immediately engaged with his father and within a few minutes he had restored his relationship with him. At the end of the contact the child was very positive about seeing his father again. On the next contact he ran to his father and hugged him. Contact rapidly increased, the child was reunited with the paternal side of the family and the final order was made for shared residence.
What was unique about this case was how powerful the mother’s influence was in both alienating the child and enabling reconciliation, but she only chose the latter following a robust intervention from the Court.