The 13th Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference
BMCC XIII: Custody Litigation, Trauma, and Recovery
May 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2018
The Radisson Hotel, 205 Wolf Road, Albany, New York 12205
Battered Women, Abused Children, and Child Custody:
"A National Crisis"
BMCC XII 2016 DETAILED SCHEDULE
In the lobby throughout the weekend. . .
Silent Auction: Please consider donating an item and purchasing tickets to win something!
Book table with book signings by the many BMCC XII presenters who have authored books on these topics.
Family Court Crisis Slideshow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Y0lm_DGb3A
Friday Morning, May 6th
8:00 a.m. – Registration begins and runs throughout the day
MAIN SESSION 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
10:00 – 10:30 Lee Barnett The Real Story of a Fugitive
Lee is a protective mother who fled the U.S. to keep her child safe from abuse. She will share details of her life on the run and the many obstacles she confronted as she reinvented herself, remarried, and led a normal, productive life for many years. She also will discuss her experiences getting caught and imprisoned, how she was treated by the federal court system, her life as a felon, and how she is working to bring awareness to the epidemic that is still rampant in the U.S. today.
10:30 – 11:15 Toby Kleinman Topic TBA
11:15 – 12:00 Keith Harmon Snow Topic TBA
12:00 - 1:30 Lunch with Ben Atherton-Zeman Topic TBA
(lunch included in registration fee)
Friday Afternoon, May 6th
1:30 – 2:00 Free time to meet and network
2:00 – 3:15 Barry Goldstein, Mo Hannah, and Dianne Bartlow: How to Use DVAC-2 in Handling Child Custody Cases
For the first volume of our book, Mo Hannah and Barry Goldstein brought together many of the leading experts from the US and Canada to write about the problems with the custody court response to DV. We hoped that by bringing all the important research together in one volume it would make it easier for court professionals to access the research and create the needed reforms. For our second volume we added additional research and also offer some groundbreaking new research. Dr. Dianne Bartlow wrote two chapters following-up on findings about 175 children murdered by fathers involved in contested custody. Camille Cooper helps explain why child sexual abuse is so widespread as law enforcement and others fail to take sexual abuse seriously when the offender is a close relative. Barry Goldstein updated the original Quincy Model with important research like ACE and Saunders to demonstrate that DV crime can be prevented and the U.S. would save $500 billion by doing so.
3:15 – 3:30 Break
3:30 - 4:30 Concurrent Workshops Session 1
1. Deanne Upson Family Court Economics: Transparency and Accountability
The Family Court Economics session will first reflect on economic research, studies, and concepts that have already been published. Additionally, the presentation will overview what government (federal, state, local) and nonprofit data does and doesn’t exist. The presentation then will recharge based on gathering new economic data, including an anonymous database collected from battered mothers and children. The presentation will regroup by focusing on strategies for recovering economically from the family court experience. The presentation will cover traditional economic and socio-economic issues. The audience will be asked to provide input on economic issues and parameters, including providing anonymous economic data.
2. Renee Mazer How Judges Get Away with Stealing Kids for Pay
You walk into custody court with a slam dunk case. Your ex is a documented batterer. Your kids prefer you and see their dad as a scary, control freak, abusive, nightmare. Your ex previously showed no interest in the children. You are still not sure why he even wants custody. Every custody factor is in your favor. You believe there is a U.S. Constitution and parenting is an inalienable right.
You walk out of custody court hysterical. You lost your kids. Next you discover all your efforts to get them back are in vain. And slowly, but surely, the court plunders your assets as you are forced to pay for kids you are not allowed to see and for court appointed "professionals" whose purpose seems to be getting you diagnosed as mentally ill, uncooperative or alienating so the Judge has something to hang his unsafe and inhumane custody decisions on.
Renee Mazer, Esq. will be exploring the Injustice System - Family Court in America. She will focus on why judges are getting away with tyranny - the nefarious Judicial Immunity Doctrine, the absurd Abuse of Discretion Standard, a silent media, and virtually no judicial oversight including feckless/complicit conduct boards. She will also rant about her experiences with the mercenary monsters (often AFCC trained "professionals") assigned by our courts to take her money and keep her child locked up, miserable and motherless.
3. Stormy Hayes The Stories Don’t Make Sense Until You Try To Leave
I thought I had prepared for my divorce, I was mistaken. I could see the handwriting on the wall; it was just a matter of when I would make my exit. There was absolutely no one I could trust; I mistakenly trusted the wrong people, and it cost me dearly. They try to break you, control you and destroy your dreams. I’m here to try to help you avoid the hell I have endured, to help law enforcement and medical personnel recognize the abuse and help the courts give the victims the justice they deserve instead of re-victimizing them. I didn’t need psychological help in the ways they think and wanted to give it. I needed and quite frankly, still need, justice and someone to listen to the how and whys. When the places that are supposed to protect you don’t and people are on the take; when people you have had associations with are working on a project to capitalize on you, your ideas, your life, or your property; or to cover up abuse of a co-worker, friend, or relative, finding someone to turn to can feel almost impossible. Let’s change that for others, we shouldn’t have to keep quiet about abuse.
4:30 – 5:30 Concurrent Workshops Session 2
1. Barry Goldstein, Melanie Blow, and Andrew Willis The Safe Child Act is THE SOLUTION
The Safe Child Act is a state legislative proposal created by Barry Goldstein as a comprehensive reform to the broken custody court system. It is evidence- based, trauma- informed and introduces a multi-disciplinary approach, three things missing from present practices. The Safe Child Act requires the health and safety of children to be the first priority in all custody and visitation decisions. It requires integration of valid scientific research like ACE and Saunders, and forbids the use of bogus theories like PAS. The Stop Abuse Campaign is the champion of this legislation. Barry Goldstein, Melanie Blow and Andrew Willis will explain why we are so confident the Safe Child Act will protect children and finally create the needed reforms in Family Courts. We will then discuss how protective mothers and their supporters can help bring this legislation to their states. The Battered Mothers Custody Conference supports the Safe Child Act because it will provide the relief protective mothers and their children have been denied for so long.
2. Lisa Tieszen Self-Care Lisa Tieszen’s workshop is made possible by a Technical and Training Grant from the federal Office of Victims of Crime.
Self-Care for Those Who Don’t Have Time for It:
Sustaining Ourselves While We are Advocating for Ourselves & Others
The World Health Organization defines self-care as “what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness.” It is important to recognize that self-care is basic to all, encompassing, hygiene, nutrition, exercise, as well as one’s environment. Yet, advocating for oneself and others due to abuse and trauma can absorb all of one’s time and energy, leaving little or no time to focus on taking care of oneself. In fact, self-care may seem selfish, even unnecessary in the face of all that needs to be done in the world. Yet, the traumatic stress experienced by all of us can powerfully impact our health and well-being. If we don’t start taking better care of ourselves, we won’t be able to help anyone.
3. Anne Stevenson How to Create Press for Change
4. Anita Tarnai The Digital Archive and Museum of Personal Accounts With the Judicial System
This workshop is about an online project and non-profit organization. The mission of the Project is to provide a forum for family court litigants where they can share their encounter with the judicial system and tell of the impact litigation had on their lives. The Archive collects artwork (literature, art, music, film and mixed media) and personal narratives/witness accounts in an effort to document personal encounters with the courts, provide a forum for self-expression, facilitate the process of healing through the arts, and generate social discourse on issues related to the judicial system in a non-adversarial/non-political manner. Implied in the project is the desire to help de-stigmatize litigants en masse by showing their (anonymous) work that speaks in numbers and to the humaneness and “normality” of the litigants rarely acknowledged at the courts, where litigants are subject to ruthless character assassination and other forms of systemic violence targeting their dignity and lives. The purpose of this workshop is to:
• Introduce the activities of the Archive and showcase some of its collection
• Discuss examples of other projects in which artwork (visual witness accounts) and/or personal narratives/oral history have been used with success to promote social discourse and advocacy (explore their strategies and results)
• Invite those present at the conference to partake in the growth of the Archive, explore available options and interest
• Reach out to other organizations, present at the conference, and explore the possibility of collaboration
• Possibly set up a booth/table for handouts and other informational material (i.e. sign-up sheets for project submissions, volunteer opportunities, etc.)
5. Micaela Deming Know the Players, Know the Game
Identifying each of the players in a domestic violence case with sexual abuse of a child is difficult enough. But you must be able to not only identify the players, but also understand what information they have, what roles they play, and how they can be used to help or to hurt your case and, ultimately, your family. The courts and the players rely on each other to fulfill certain roles and to have specific knowledge that many of the players do not actually have. It is in the understanding of the players and how they interact that you can begin to better know the game and how to play it to keep yourself and your family safer. The players in your case may include - Guardians ad litem, attorneys, judges, attorney advocates, law enforcement, forensic interviewers (child advocacy centers), therapists, doctors, children services intake and caseworkers, psychologists, custody evaluators, mediators, parenting coordinators, etc.
5:30 – 7:00 Dinner on own
7:00 p.m. Friday night
Special extended workshop with Lundy Bancroft and Patrice Lenowitz
Building an Organized Movement to Fight for the Post-Separation Rights
of Abused Women and Their Children
There have been numerous efforts over the past 15 years to build organizations and networks to fight for the custody and safety rights of abused women and their children in the family law system. There have been important successes, but the kind of unified and powerful movement that so many of us crave has not coalesced. Patrice and Lundy will lay out the key principles that activists in our cause can follow to geometrically expand the size, influence, unity, and impact of our movement, so that by 2020 we will be in a dramatically different position than we find ourselves facing today.
Saturday Morning, May 7th
MAIN SESSION 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
9:00 – 9:30 Greetings and Awards
9:30 – 10:30 Nancy S. Erickson and Dorchen Leinholdt Walking Safely Through the Landmines
To abused mothers in custody/visitation battles, it often seems like they are walking blindfolded through territories filled with hidden landmines. Two very experienced family law attorneys will try to remove the blindfolds and guide mothers safely through family court to the best outcomes that can be achieved under the circumstances. Topics to be covered include how to establish good relationships with the important players, how to avoid being viewed as “unfriendly” to the father, compromises that might be necessary, and how to prepare for a custody evaluation.
10:30 – 10:45 Break
10:45 – 11:30 Garland Waller Media's Silence and Family Court Failures: The Connection
When the movie Spotlight won an Oscar, people cheered. Good for the newspaper for exposing pedophile priests and the corrupt system that protected them! But it was also true that the media is sat on that story for several years. Today the mainstream media is doing the same thing – sitting on a story – basically failing to expose another national scandal – the one happening in the family courts. Garland will discuss the patterns, the similarities, and what can be to shine a “spotlight” on the failures of the family courts.
11:30 – 12:15 Keynote: Wendy Murphy Being Heard When Nobody is Listening: Finding Justice Beyond the Courtroom
12:15 – 1:15 Lunch
Saturday afternoon, May 7th
MAIN SESSION 1:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
1:15 – 2:00 Maralee McLean "Prosecuted But Not Silenced" A short synopsis of what I experienced and if anything has changed in the last 25 years of good loving moms trying to protect their children. The "Empowerment" to move forward and bring about change so that Women and Children's Humanity Rights are not denied. Safety of Our Children First.
2:00 – 2:45 Phyllis Chesler The History of Our Mothers' Movement: 1975 -2016 and Counting A video presentation of the 1986 Speak Out BY Mothers ON Losing Custody
2:45 – 3:00 Break
3:00 – 4:00 Concurrent Workshops Session 3
1. Connie Valentine Staying Sane During Insane Times
This presentation will provide practical information on staying balanced and working toward healing during a time when your world has been turned upside down by forces far beyond your control.
2. Doreen Ludwig Implications of the Research
Doreen Ludwig will expand upon research contained in her book “Motherless America: Confronting Welfare’s Fatherhood Custody Program.” Doreen will discuss federal government reports and documents that show courts have “partnerships” with fatherhood programs and contracts to increase custody while ignoring sexual abuse of children, battering, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, and anger. Doreen will explain the domestic violence “classification of abuse” system, the implications of its use, and Lundy Bancroft’s assessment of problems. The workshop will conclude with a discussion of action items.
3. Nancy S. Erickson, Esq. Call for Action: Let’s Get Rid of Bad Custody Evaluators!
Many moms who have lost custody had a custody evaluator who recommended that the abuser get custody. The evaluator didn’t believe abuse, accusing the mom of “alienating” the child from the father, or opined that the mother had some kind of mental illness, substance abuse, or other problem that made her a bad mother.
What can we do to get rid of bad custody evaluators, so that we can stop them from harming additional mothers and children? In this workshop, we will focus on filing formal complaints against unethical forensic practitioners with state licensing boards. Come to this workshop and start writing a complaint against your evaluator.
4. Kayte Thomas Recognizing and Coping with Trauma Response in Contested Custody Battles
This workshop will educate custodially challenged mothers on common symptoms of traumatic stress and teach ways to understand the sense of loss that mothers may experience when separated from their children. Participants will learn how to identify triggers, manage stress, and process emotional reactions experienced during and after custody battles. Each attendee will complete a personalized self care plan to take home with them by the end of the workshop.
5. Holly Collins Battered Mother, Protective Parent, Alleged Kidnapper
Holly will discuss her 18 years on the run with her children to protect them from abuse. As she feels comfortable, more details are emerging on how Holly managed to elude the authorities and flee the United States with her 3 young children. Although we do not advocate for anyone to violate the law, Holly and her now adult children still believe that these drastic measures were necessary to save their lives. All three of the Collins children, now adults often refer to their mother as a hero.
Let me tell you about my child. Hear me cry and cry with me! In the second half of the workshop, Holly invites other battered mothers and protective parents to bring a picture of your child and come join a round table to share personal and heartwarming details about the child(ren) you are fighting to protect (not your court case!) Advocates are invited to offer support. * WARNING! – this event is expected to be emotional and may trigger PTSD responses in abuse victims. Holly, Jennifer and volunteer advocates will stay after to comfort to those who need it.
4:00 – 5:00 Concurrent Workshops Session 4
1. Dara Carlin, M.A. What To Expect When You're Expecting: the Family Court Experience Version
Survivor moms have a different way of marking our children’s birthdays; instead of wishing for delays we end up praying for quick passages, and while the majority of mothers are waving good-bye to their children at 18, we’re standing at windows, doors or by phones for the anticipated moment when our “child” can finally, freely come home to us – this moment, however, is NOT turning out to be the “Hallmark moment” we’ve envisioned. This workshop will talk about homecomings: what to expect, what to anticipate and what to brace for.
2. Elsa Newman How Not to Become a Prisoner of the System When you are a party in a divorce or similar family court battle, you wait--for lawyers, for hearings and rulings, for interviews with myriad court-related personnel--while the life you lead diminishes. The waiting is hard and much worse than going to the dentist. While waiting, you tolerate intrusions. Strangers take a place in your living room yet you may find your dreams for your family are not important to anyone but you. You are facing an almost insurmountable task of eliciting a divorce and keeping your children and yourself safe from sly predators. It may be a long, lonely journey. In this workshop, you will find and keep new resources to withstand the endless court invasions. One of the best resources you have lies within you. You can get advice from the best but, in the end, your own ability to discern options and cope with all that will be thrown at you is the most trustworthy asset. It is possible to continually preserve, support, and enhance that asset. This workshop offers somewhat unconventional methods, including some craftwork and simple movement, to keep you standing tall in your journey.
3. Lisa Mehos Yoga to Survive & Thrive Yoga is a unique and powerful way for mothers of any age and fitness level to recharge & reconnect with their inner warrior. The session will include trauma-sensitive Yoga that builds resilience and strength to confront loss, injustice, and the trauma of domestic and litigation abuse. The goal is to empower mothers to survive and thrive, amidst seemingly hopeless situations. Body awareness and movement in Yoga reduce/eliminate anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and other PTSD symptoms. Yoga is effective in regulating emotions; erasing the lingering trauma from abusive experiences; and invigorating body and mind to help overcome obstacles.
4. Elizabeth Richter Incorporating Blogging and Social Media Into A Grassroots Campaign to Support Battered Mothers and Their Children
This presentation will provide an overview of how to integrate blogging with social media and use it to generate social change in support of protective mothers. It will explain how to communicate your mission to others via the blog, how to obtain appropriate content for your blog, and how to prevent opponents from subverting your message. The presentation will also define the nature of a grassroots campaign, and indicate how blogging can be used to facilitate it. Finally, it will link blogging to a national strategy for judicial reform to restore justice to battered mothers and their children.
5:00 – 6:00 Concurrent Workshops Session 5
1. Dana Hanuszczak and Hope Newton, Voice of Women Organizing Project
Healing Through Activism, Advocacy and Organizing
Healing Through Activism, Advocacy and Organizing workshop was developed in response to what we have seen over the years---a drift from advocating to a more professionalization and service provision/social services for victims of domestic violence. We do believe that direct services remain vital to helping victims leave abusive relationships. This workshop educates service providers and advocates on how to effectively organize survivors of domestic violence to affect systemic policy change in their community. It is an in-depth exploration on how we are currently or could mobilize those most impacted, survivors of domestic violence, what needs to change in our programs to allow us to do this, and what survivors might need in order to get involved. Our workshop encourages programs to step back and reflect on how they implement advocacy in their work and discuss the possibility of changing some of their policies and practices in order to strengthen how they advocate for victims of domestic violence. A key component of the workshop is survivors of domestic violence discussing, educating and passing along tools to participants so that they are able to engage those impacted by violence in advocating/organizing for systemic change.
2. Liane Leedom, M.D. Recover: The fourth R (Reflect, Recharge, Regroup and Recover) To recover means a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. This presentation will describe and discuss recovery strategies for survivors of abuse for the benefit of both survivors and those who seek to assist them. Although the government has spent millions promoting and mandating screening for domestic violence, few studies have examined how to help victims heal. “Ok she’s out of the relationship…now what?” The presenter, a psychiatrist, will discuss what she has learned about recovery through her research with victims seeking to recover.
3. Patricia Mitchell Parents as Targets and Children as Currency: Who Does Child Protective Services Really Protect?
This workshop will provide you with the tools and knowledge to empower and protect yourself and your children. I will go over some of the more common tactics CPS has used to favor the wrong people, as understanding who the real predators are is often half the battle. You will learn about custody and other CPS-related laws from a mother’s (and non-lawyer's) perspective, receiving insider information about which keywords and communication skills will work most to your advantage. We will also engage in powerful spiritual exercises that allow women to become more grounded in the midst of anxiety and chaos, balancing our bodies, minds, and souls, resulting in a shield that will protect our children and ourselves.
4. Barry Goldstein, Kathleen Russell, Melanie Blow, and Andrew Willis
For Mothers Who Want to Change the Courts and the World
There comes a moment when those impacted by custody courts are shocked to learn they routinely protect abusers instead of children. We believe each victim must decide how to respond to the trauma and promote self-healing. Many find that working to create the needed social change is both healthy and rewarding. Barry Goldstein, Kathleen Russell, Melanie Blow and Andrew Willis use their skills and training in lobbying, media and promotion in seeking the needed reforms. This is an exciting time as it appears the media is starting to gain interest and the Safe Child Act was recently introduced in Hawaii. This workshop will provide a discussion of how activists can use information and practices designed to bring the needed reforms to your community. If you decide to be an activist we hope to make you the best possible reformer.
5. Jennifer Collins, Courageous Kids Network They Say Kidnapping is Bad for You
22 years after she was kidnapped the verdict is finally in on the damage that was (or was not) done to Jennifer Collins resulting from her mother kidnapping rescuing her from an abusive father and fleeing from the United States of America
to protect her from abuse. As an adult survivor of severe childhood abuse Jennifer Collins will take a lighthearted, direct and humorous approach to illustrate how resilient children can be if they know they have support from at least one loving parent. She will look back at what things her mother did that helped her and what you can do to let your child know that even when physically absent you are still there for them.
6:00 – 7:30 Dinner on own
7:30 p.m. Special extended workshop with Maralee McLean
Media and the Grassroots Efforts Maralee will show a video that entails extensive News Media, and a grassroots rally with incredible footage of the champions of our cause the late Joan Pennington,Esq., head of the National Center for Protective Parents, a domestic violence victim, and Louise Armstrong speaking in the video is one of our first feminist and author of, "Kiss Daddy Goodnight" a survivor and a staunch feminist for two decades. Gloria Steinem speech is read. Mothers traveling from every state to speak at this Rally. Reviewing the News Media. Best practices for getting media attention. Speaking about the ways to connect with media and how to get this in the spotlight.
Sunday Morning, May 8th
MAIN SESSION 8:30 - NOON
8:00 – 9:30 a.m. Coffee, tea, bagels, and danish
8:30 – 8:45 Maude Gorman, Miss Massachusetts World
8:45 – 9:15 Rhonda Lee Case Free To Tell: Sharing The legacy of Louis Raymond Case Debruge (1997-2014) to Shine a Light on Child Abuse, Addiction and Our Shattered Family Court System
A protective mother turned community activist shares the project & resources she created after the death of her only child. When Louie ended his life in 2014 at age 17, he left behind a truly remarkable collection of music and writing. Free to Tell was created to bring Lou’s story of childhood abuse and addiction to light through his own powerful words and songs. The CD and Book are a unique and invaluable educational and therapeutic resource. The project’s goals are (1) to inspire other survivors of childhood trauma, especially male survivors of sexual violence, to tell their own stories as a way of finding strength, healing and power for their journey and (2) to allow Lou’s story to shine light on the dark suffering endured in silence by the victims of an oppressive and abusive family court system. Melanie Blow and Andrew Willis of the Stop Abuse Campaign, Neal Lemery J.D., and Randy Ellison (author of Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse) are among the authors who contributed essays as “Other Voices” in the book. Copies of Free As The Sun: Lou’s Songs of Life (CD © 2015 Produced by Marv Ross) available for purchase at the Conference. www.freeasthesun.com
9:15 – 9:45 Betsy Keller How Protective Mothers Can Raise Awareness - quietly - using Public Relations and Social Media Tactics
Betsy Keller, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian with a background in Nutrition and Health Communications as well as experience implementing public relations campaigns for a spectrum of national and local clients. She has planned and implemented PR campaigns for international healthcare companies such as Hoffman-La Roche and Bristol Myers Squibb and has non-profit communications expertise engaging national and local target audiences. Most recent projects include a social media sleep awareness campaign for teenagers, raising awareness of family reform court issues in Connecticut and launching a regional diaper bank for families in need. Betsy is also a freelance writer with expertise in nutrition, food, health, sustainability and Domestic Violence issues.
9:45 – 10:30 Dara Carlin Been There, Done That: Thoughts, Ideas and Considerations Moving Forward
A panel discussion of domestic violence survivor moms who’ve survived years in the family court system. Tips, suggestions and strategies for how they survived, what they’re doing to survive and how they’ve helped their children to survive.
10:30 – 10:45 Break
10:45 – 11:45 Tom Shanahan, Esq.
Massacre of a Good Mother: Mehos v. Mehos, A Case Study and The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Getting the Kids Back - Successful Case Studies.
In the lobby throughout the weekend. . .
Silent Auction: Please consider donating an item and purchasing tickets to win something!
Book table with book signings by the many BMCC XII presenters who have authored books on these topics.
Family Court Crisis Slideshow: