NEWS 31 MAY 2019



Missing Children Europe conference in Ghent

Nick Woodall, psychotherapist and partner at the Family Separation Clinic, gave a presentation entitled ‘Working with post-separation pathological splitting in children’ at the Missing Children Europe conference in Ghent on 31 May 2019.


The conference 'Hear me out!' The voice of the child in international abduction cases' was the final conference of the European VOICE project which aims to ensure a more child-friendly legal system by involving children in international child abduction cases and other international family disputes by offering them the opportunity to be heard and to take their interests into account. Within the project, attention is paid on the one hand to child-friendly methods for hearing children in international child abduction cases and on the other hand to child-friendly ways of incorporating the child's voice in cross-border family mediation. The conference produced recommendations for hearing the child in international child abduction cases.


Nick’s presentation focussed on the care that must be taken in listening to the voice of the child and, in particular, the problem of defensive splitting in children who have become alienated from one of their parents. He provided the conference with the theoretical framework within which to understand parental alienation, along with explanations about the kinds of diagnostic tools that can help courts and practitioners to differentiate between psychologically split and alienated children, and those that may have suffered harm at the hands of the parent that they are rejecting.


The conference also heard testimony from Geike Hoebanx who was abducted as a child. Other presentations included The Impact of family resiliency on the wellbeing of children in cases of international child abduction - Professor Dr. Koen Ponnet, University of Ghent; Child participation as a tool to create best practices for return - Eveline Vlassenroot, University of Ghent and Sara Lembrechts, University of Antwerp; Hearing children in International child abduction cases: Engaging with the children - Blrgitte Beelen, SYNTAGMA; Good practice in hearing children in International abduction cases - Adrienn Varges-Jeges (Hungary), Boriana Musseva (Bulgaria) and H.M. Boone, Guardian ad litem (Netherlands); Brussels lla recast - Prof. Thalia Kruger, University of Antwerp; and The hearing of the child and deontology - Prof. Giacomo Biagioni, University of Cagliari.


The conference was sponsored by the European Union, Ghent University, the University of Antwerp, the University of Genoa, MKK and the International Child Abduction Centre.