The event centered on the theme “Fatherhood in Society: Issues and Solutions” and the discussions focused on the absence of legislation governing parental kidnapping and parental alienation.
Gregoire-Roopchan said the authority also does psycho-social intervention to restore the child’s functioning and this focuses heavily on co-parent intervention so that the parents become aware of how their behaviour impacts on the child and make progressive steps to being the child back into focus.
One of the highlights of the session was input from Scott Berne of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, described as a survivor of parental kidnapping.
Speaking via Skype, he told participants he was abducted by his mother after the bitter divorce of his parents.
He said he was nine years old when his parents divorced and he was placed in the custody of his father.
However, on their first unsupervised visit together, his mother abducted him.
He told the meeting of two years of brainwashing, during which his mother changed his name and warned him against talking to the police if he was stopped. He said he was brainwashed by his mother to the extent that he believed that his father was dead. He said he was kept out of school for two years, had no friends and did not even know his own name.
He said that he was forced to move from place to place at short notice and even when she was caught, his mother did not surrender and had to be arrested and jailed.
Berne said he was placed in “Juvenile Hall” and his recovery was long and hard and it took him a long time to move from being a victim to a survivor.
President of the association Rhondall Feeles said parental kidnapping is an offence against a child and most children who go through parental kidnapping suffer as Berne did. He asked why parents would commit such an offence against their own child. Saying it was an act of domestic abuse, he insisted that there should be deterrence and consequences in local legislation.
Also addressing the gathering was Jennifer Alleyne of National Family Services. She said that the kidnapping of children is not the only abuse they suffer.
She said sometimes one parent wants to leave a dysfunctional relationship and may remove the child or children from the home, taking them to some other relative.
She said the parent might migrate to the United States with the promise of sending for the children at a later date.
Alleyne said children in such situations suffer loss of identity, wondering about who they are, and where their mothers were.
She advised parents to be very careful when making decisions about their children.