Skip to comments.The Dark Side of 'Christian' Family Counselors
Posted on 04/22/2018 11:48:52 AM PDT by Hostage
A male friend from my community has a shared custody arrangement of his son who at 10 years old is similar in age to my own son. The father and I have known each other for seven years and we have developed a friendship.
This is a summary of events the father has shared with me over the past several years. He is pretty closed lip but knows I can be trusted to keep his personal matters private. We share a lot as our boys are often in the same activities together like baseball, karate, biking. I try to be helpful where I can.
As a Christian, he was distressed by a long divorce process that left him shaken by the court system and by the power of Child Protective Services (CPS) which at one time his ex-wife had called in to investigate him on false charges as a ploy to get full custody. This is I think a fairly typical story but later circumstances involving a counseling network and CPS appear unique or at least not part of my knowledge base.
He seemed particularly fearful of CPS and the damage they could do to innocent parents. He survived CPS but came away wanting to avoid them in any way possible. He said they have no duty to families or to truth-seeking, only to the state statutes that govern them. I would not expect it to be different.
He had wanted to relocate but the joint custody order would not allow either parent to have the child removed from the county, even temporarily for visitation, without the court's permission. He was as fearful of the family court system as he was of CPS. He felt he had received a good deal in comparison to other fathers and didn't wish to press his luck. So he was stuck.
His ex-wife found a boyfriend that she moved in with. During initial periods of visitation with the mother, the child appeared to be fine with the arrangement, happy to have attention showered on him in both households.
After a time, the mother's boyfriend became hostile toward the child leaving the child not wanting to go see his mother. This left the father in a crisis because he could not violate the parenting court order and yet his child was begging to not go see the mother.
The father who is a capable individual and fairly strong in demeanor becomes cowed at the prospect of going to family court. He becomes a different sort of man when matters of family court occupy his thoughts. He changes from a strong male to a cowering wimp. He will not directly talk to his ex-wife. He communicates with her only by email so as to leave a record should it ever be necessary to appear in family court. In each email response, he says he measures every word he writes knowing that the emails can appear as exhibits in court motions. To that, I have to say he is smart. From his private conversations with me, I heard he at one time had a very capable attorney which I imagine helped him stay out of trouble.
He persuaded his son to visit his mother if he could somehow shorten the visits. The father says he was able to shorten the visits by agreement with the mother based on the child's activity schedule; sports, camps, etc.
But over the course of about a year, the hostility of the ex-wife's boyfriend turned to abuse. The abuse was both psychological and physical. For example, the father says his son was told to stay in his room an entire day with nothing to read or look at because he had apparently not shown the proper level of respect to the mother's boyfriend. The father says at one point the boyfriend allegedly lifted him up by his neck to tell him eye-to-eye that if he ever looked showed disrespect again, that the boyfriend would kill him. But no visible marks remained after alleged incidents of physical abuse. According to the father, his son trembled with fear at the prospect of returning to his mother's for visitation. At one point there was an argument between the mother and the boyfriend that resulted in a 911 call. This was, according to the father, hard evidence that he could use in court to show an unsafe environment existed at the residence of the mother.
But this story is not so much about problems in a divorced family as it is about how family counseling and the state can make a bad situation worse.
My friend felt strongly but reluctantly that he had to go to court and bring this to the court's attention but he was still fearful. I admired his facing the responsibility to stand up for his son. He asked me for feedback. I told him he might need to consider a third-party evaluation of his son to obtain objective evidence for the court to weigh. He said that was what he would do.
A few weeks later I saw him at baseball practice where our sons were on the same team. I asked him how things were going and he told me that things were awful and that he was keeping a low profile everywhere he went. He wouldn't answer his phone, he wouldn't answer his door, he had to screen most everything. He said he was fearful even to bring his son to baseball practice.
He had a hired a 'Christian Family Counselor' to hear his son give testimony about the mother's boyfriend. He wanted to have a record for the court of the counseling testimony and if necessary, he might need the counselor to appear in court to testify. According to him, things started out very well with the family counselor as a clear understanding was reached for the purpose of the counseling (court case evidence). He told me the counselor was young but very positive and seemingly competent. He said his son was very happy with the counselor and was thankful to his father for bringing him to the counseling sessions.
The clinic was a part of a Christian counseling network. The father told me he thought that a Christian clinic would be less inclined to heighten conflicts like some attorney firms would do in order to churn out more billable hours. Using a Christian network, he thought the process would somehow be more gentle.
On the second visit to the counselor, he told me the counselor concluded the session with his son and came to the lobby to tell the father to meet him in his office. In the office, the father was told that the counselor had obtained from his son a record of alleged abuse and that he had a duty, that he was required by the state to report to the state's CPS that child abuse was occurring in the mother's home. The counselor said he would need the child's social security number and his date of birth. The father said he didn't know his son's SSN off hand. The father hurriedly left the counseling clinic after promising he would email that information.
Then the father went quiet. He never emailed the information to the counselor and left an after-hours message to the counselor that he wasn't happy with the counseling rendered and would be seeking a different counselor.
He told me that CPS has no duty to God, their only duty is to the State. He said he was appalled that a HIPAA regulated service such as family counseling would inflame a family conflict thereby possibly rendering a delicate situation into a monstrous spectacle. All he wanted was an evaluation letter from the counselor, not an intervention by CPS.
I asked him why he thought CPS could not be trusted to investigate the mother's boyfriend.
Apparently, CPS interviews all parties during an investigation and treats all parties as suspects.
The father told me he simply couldn't take the risk. He said the risk was high that CPS would turn his life and the life of his son upside down. Unlike dealing with law enforcement, there is not a clear right to have an attorney present when talking with CPS investigators. Actually, there is a means for legal representation, but it's not generally known or manageable as CPS has authority beyond law enforcement to take a child in the 'interest' of the child, without a clear warrant.
I didn't know family counselors, especially Christian family counselors, had a duty to report to the state.
To the great mothers out there, this is not a male v. female thing as the genders in the above story could be reversed and the point would remain the same, that a counseling clinic can call in an aggressive CPS investigation that could go off the rails.
I also point out that it is strange to think that a 'Christian' service has a duty to the state first before having a duty to a family in a Christian setting. This puzzles me. I don't have any good answers.
He should’ve asked the counselor if reporting to the state was required by law. I would suspect it is these days. If the counselor KNOWS that child abuse is occurring/has occurred in a home, & they do nothing, they could be liable if something happens in the future.
The father initiated a course of action. He should follow through on it.
You can’t tell me the SS# is required. I have reported child abuse and had no earthly clue what the SS# was. Plus, either the reporting is mandatory or it’s not. Do you imagine the statute reads, ‘Must report provided the parent divulges the SS#; otherwise, no responsibility to reort.’
Please. This thing stinks to high heaven. Prayers for the father and his son.
“He asked me for feedback. I told him he might need to consider a third-party evaluation of his son to obtain objective evidence for the court to weigh.”
You caused it.
SSN and DOB were needed to report so that the child was identifiable in the state database. The father didn’t provide it.
When I was a kid, kids didn’t need an SSN until they were old enough to work for wages.
Can’t disagree that I played a factor.
Question is if one wants to avoid a CPS investigation and obtain a third-party record for the court, how can that be done?
This is certainly a horrible predicament, & I have no trust in the child welfare folks or even the police to do the right thing anymore. The SS# isn’t anything to get hung up about. We get asked for that number for any irrelevant thing these days. If the son is experiencing abuse at the hands of the mother’s boyfriend - to the point of trembling at the prospect of being sent to his home - someone needs to intervene. The father can’t do that himself now. That means going to the authorities who have the ability to terminate custodial rights.
I will most certainly pray for the father & child.
“But over the course of about a year, the hostility of the ex-wife’s boyfriend turned to abuse.”
This is about where my blood reached billing level. People would start disappearing. Just vanishing.
Boiling level! Sorry, on the phone.
So the state has it set up so that all a parent has to do to avoid a child abuse report is to withhold two pieces of information.
I am 100% biased. I am a deeply, profoundly committed Christian, but I have experienced the absolute worst of ‘Christian’ Counseling. The only help I ever received was from a secular counselor after ***innumerable*** attempts at ‘Christian,’ Counseling had progressively made the situation exponentially worse.
The abuse can be reported but unless there is identifying information on the child, there is no way that CPS can know what child they are supposed to be attaching an investigation to.
So the father paid via cash, no check/address involved?
Reading this narrative reminded me to a large degree of my own experience. I do not know what jurisdiction your friend lives in, but in mine, there are restrictions on live-ins being around during night time hours when the child is present. I would NEVER hire a counselor or psychologist without advice of Counsel. And I would certainly follow my Counsels recommendation on a plan of action to address any abuse. I am not familiar with family law, but it is my understanding that any allegation of sexual abuse of a child MUST be reported. Not reporting is an offense. Making a false report is an offense. Get with a good attorney an make a plan to address the problem. Dad is at fault if he does nothing and his child gets hurt.
Sorry, but grow a set and take action. Be prayerful. If CPS must do an investigation, keep witnesses and your attorney on call.
He had no idea that a ‘Christian’ clinic was regulated by the state. To him, it was no different than going to his priest, only he needed a legal record to take to the court.
He wanted to file a motion with the court to restrict visitation to the mother unless there was monitoring. He had no idea that CPS could be brought in. He had zero trust for CPS.
My take is that CPS is a necessary agency but they seem to be feared because they treat all parties as suspects and they end up taking over a child’s life away from both ‘bad’ parents even if one parent is responsible and not at fault.
IOW, CPS like a lot of government agencies have no means to temper a situation with best practices because if they get it wrong, they can be blamed, whereas going tyrannical is not as risky for them.
I don’t know. When we take the boys for pizza, he uses a card.
He’s probably painted a target on himself by lying to, and playing games with, the counselor.
Until he pulled that stunt, it sounds like he was playing a smart, defensive, game.
I asked him why he doesn’t trust CPS to do the right thing, but his experience says they don’t have the means to do the right thing. It’s less risky for them to come down on all sides equally, at least at the start.
I believe he’s getting a lawyer.
I know nothing of the circumstances but if a boyfriend living with my ex is abusing my son I would hot foot it down to a lawyer worth his hire. By doing nothing I would consider myself guilty of neglect of my son. Should be noted that in this case it appears the son is appealing to his father.Time to bite the bullet.
Had the counselor been honest he’d have leveled with the dad up front. As in, ‘If I find evidence of abuse I’ll have to report it.’
But then he might not have gotten the gig. Better to wait until later to spill the beans.
(Alternately, had the counselor been honest from the get go, he might have both secured the client and the reporting. People appreciate honesty and integrity.)
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.