Example: Amending New York Child Abuse Reporting Laws

Inspired by the recent legislation filed in Florida (HB-1279 & SB-1432) that seeks to amend the child abuse reporting laws to specifically reference psychological child abuse as defined by the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA, I recently had a parent contact me requesting my help in making similar legislative changes in New York.

I thought my response to this parent might be more broadly helpful to other parents who are interested in pursuing this legislative solution approach to the attachment-related pathology of  “parental alienation,” so I am posting my response to this parent to my blog.

As I indicate in my opening sentence to this parent – I am a psychologist, not an attorney.  My comments are as a psychologist familiar with the pathology.  Nor am I a lobbyist familiar with the workings of state legislatures.  I’m a private practice psychologist in Southern California.  But to the extent that my input as a psychologist is helpful…


(Parent’s Name)

Let me be clear, I am a psychologist, not a lawyer.  So my input on this is as a psychologist, not a lawyer.

You’ll want to identify your specific state representative and your state senator and start with them. If your state representative or state senator agrees to take on the bill, they’ll probably bump you over to a staff member and you’ll be working with the staff member during the process.

Each state’s mandated reporting laws will be different, so the remedy to each state’s reporting laws will be different – yet the remedy will essentially revolve around the same theme of adding to the reporting law specific terminology that identifies the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting as warranting a diagnosis of child psychological abuse (or emotional abuse).

You will want to research the New York child abuse reporting laws more thoroughly than I did, but I did a quick google search and I believe a primary relevant law would be:

New York Family Court Act § 1012 Definitions

When used in this article and unless the specific context indicates otherwise:

(h) “Impairment of emotional health” and “impairment of mental or emotional condition” includes a state of substantially impaired or diminished psychological or intellectual functioning in relation to, but not limited to, such factors as failure to thrive, control of aggressive or self-destructive impulses, ability to think and reason, or acting out or misbehavior, including incorrigibility, ungovernability or habitual truancy;  provided, however, that such impairment must be clearly attributable to the unwillingness or inability of the respondent to exercise a minimum degree of care toward the child.

This particular law appears to cover the court’s removal of a child from an abusive parent, not mandated reporting (which appears to be covered by Social Services Law Section 412), but the Family Court Act would seem to be the primary statute that needs amendment.

The Family Court Act covers “parental alienation” under such terms as:

“control of aggressive… impulses”

“ability to think and reason”

“acting out or misbehavior”

“ungovernability”

The problem comes from the phrase,

“provided, however, that such impairment must be clearly attributable to the unwillingness or inability of the respondent to exercise a minimum degree of care toward the child”

This is the phrase that the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent will use to undermine the reporting by claiming that the child’s symptoms are the product of the poor parenting of the targeted-rejected parent.

Option 1: Amending the Definition of “Impairment of emotional health”

One approach to this would be to add a statement to Section (h) to specifically identify the terms “pathogenic caregiving” and the three diagnostic indicators as also representing “impairment of emotional health.”  This added sentence might be something like:

Pathogenic caregiving that creates significant developmental pathology, personality disorder pathology, and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child as diagnosed by a mental health professional would represent “impairment of emotional health” under this statute.

The term “pathogenic caregiving” establishes that it is the parenting practices of the parent that are causing the child’s symptoms, so it covers that element of the law.  Since the three diagnostic indicators represent additional symptoms and since they follow the prior list, this sets these three symptoms apart from the other symptoms as an additional definition of “impairment of emotional health.”  The phrase “as diagnosed by a mental health professional” is because these three symptoms are established forms of mental health pathology that are the domain of mental health assessment and diagnosis.  Our goal is to encourage mental health professionals to assess and diagnose this form of attachment-related pathology.  The addition of that sentence would solve things.

Furthermore, simply indicating these three symptoms clearly references an AB-PA definition of “parental alienation” so that all mental health professionals will become knowledgeable of AB-PA and their reporting obligations under the mandated reporting statute, thereby ending professional ignorance and incompetence.

Option 2:  New Section for Psychological Abuse

An alternative approach would be the addition of an entirely separate sub-section regarding psychological abuse (rather than simply modifying the definition of “impairment of emotional health”). This would have the additional clarity of organizing the effort around a specific construct; psychological child abuse.  The term “psychological abuse” would then become synonymous with the construct of “parental alienation” without having to make a directly explicit linkage.

The addition of the construct of “psychological abuse” would be supported by its inclusion in the DSM-5 as a diagnostic entity – V995.51 (p. 719).  Since the diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse is an established category in the DSM-5 but is not referenced and defined by the New York statutes, this provides the rationale for a new section specifically defining and referencing Child Psychological Abuse for mandated reporting purposes.

I think this represents an exceedingly strong argument for an amendment regarding the construct of “psychological abuse” – it would seemingly add distinctive clarity to the amendment effort (i.e., a law protecting children from psychological child abuse – a recognized DSM-5 pathology) – it would provide a clear conceptual linkage between “parental alienation” and child psychological abuse – and it would give the bill’s sponsor a feather in the cap feel-good type of legislation to protect children without ever having to get into the controversy of “parental alienation.”

In this case, a new definition sub-section would be added following the definition of “impairment of emotional health”

New York Family Court Act § 1012 Definitions

When used in this article and unless the specific context indicates otherwise:

(i) “psychological abuse” includes but is not limited to, pathogenic caregiving that creates significant developmental pathology, personality disorder pathology, and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child as diagnosed by a mental health professional.

Then the term “psychological abuse” would need to be added to the definition of “abused child” used earlier in the statute:

(e) “Abused child” means a child less than eighteen years of age whose parent or other person legally responsible for his care

(i) inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon such child physical injury by other than accidental means which causes or creates a substantial risk of death, or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health or psychological abuse, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ, or

(ii) creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical injury to such child by other than accidental means which would be likely to cause death or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health or psychological abuse, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ, or

You’ll want to read the surrounding Sections of New York Family Court Act (§ 1011: Purpose) to see if there are any additional tweaks that would need to be addressed.

Of the two alternatives (Option 1: adding a few words to the existing definition of “impairment of emotional health,” or Option 2: creating a new and distinct sub-section covering psychological child abuse, I’d probably recommend Option 2: proposing a new section for psychological child abuse.  Either approach will effectively solve the pathology of “parental alienation.”  The separate subsection for psychological child abuse approach just offers greater clarity of focus.

Mandated Reporting Laws

In addition to what I just described, there also appear to be a set of laws governing the mandated reporting of child abuse.  It appears that the mandated reporting of child abuse in New York is addressed by Social Services Law Section 412.  This law defines “abused child” by referencing the Family Court Act, so changes to the Family Court Act that address definitions of child abuse would then seemingly roll over to cover the mandated reporting of child abuse as well.

SOS – Social Services
Article 6 – CHILDREN
Title 6- (411 – 428) CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES

412 – General definitions

1.  An abused child means a child under eighteen year of age and who is defined as an abused child by the family court act;

So, based on my reading of New York law, and I’m a psychologist not an attorney, the Family Court Act is where you want to focus.  Think this over, read the relevant laws, identify your state representative and state senator, and decide if you want to go with the minor wording change to “impairment of emotional health” or whether you want to go for the addition of a sub-section defining “psychological abuse.”  If you have any allies, talk it over with them.

Then, if you want a letter from me supporting a proposed legislative change to the Family Court Act as I’ve outlined above, email me back and I’ll put something together for you.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

5 thoughts on “Example: Amending New York Child Abuse Reporting Laws”

  1. I just emailed my State Senator and Assemblyman requesting meetings on this topic.

    Thank you for providing a road map for this. The Florida effort serves as an excellent example.

    I will report back on any contact with my legislators. I would be happy to discuss this with any other impacted parents in NY.

  2. I have been working on this in NC for several months. If you would like the info I have been giving out and the responses I have been getting- let me know. I have several representatives interested.

  3. And here in Boston, we are looking forward, Dr. Childress, to the May 31st briefing scheduled at the State House. 200 legislators and their aides will be invited and it was very generous of you to accept our request to fill the legal side in on what you’re trying to accomplish in the psychology world. The Middlesex County chapter of Alienated Grandparents Anonymous will be sending out an email to 200 Councils on Aging in Mass, asking seniors to urge their own representative to attend that meeting.
    Thank you again, Dr. Childress for your passion, dedication and above all, clarity, in steering us through this tragic situation. If we succeed, many hearts will heal.

    Nicola Cataldo

    1. I appreciate the invitation and your work in making this briefing happen. This is all about the children. Love is always a good thing. Children flourish with love. Abundant love is always a good thing.

      Children belong to two families. It’s part of the very fabric of their identity. It is never a good thing to lose half of one’s identity. Love is always a good thing. Abundant love is always a good thing.

      It’s all about the kids.

      Craig Childress, Psy.D.
      Psychologist, PSY 18857

      1. Dear Dr. Childress, I felt the “special population” of alienated children and parents should understand the legal culture of positive and negative rights. I’ve had to discover all of these issues without formal legal training. Please share Tamar Ezer’s treatment A Positive Right to Protection for Children (2004, Yale University). http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1041&context=yhrdlj

        As a US citizen in eastern central Europe, I’ve had to grapple with The Red Pill as it is applied in the Poland which does not follow the general EU mode of protection.
        http://theredpillmovie.com/

        Professor Michael Parenti cited a balanced feminist that describes labor care and genders roles in which I feel is a compelling argument for positive human rights. Unfortunately, negative human rights are enshrined to the exclusion of human dignity of children.

        On top of all of this, we have an inverted totalitarian state so eloquently described by Chris Hedges. I think you should share this information with everyone as it affects all of us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLaoJrg80JQ

        Parental alienation is a symptom of societal pathology.

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