"Children Taken By the Family Courts" Quilt Project

Battered Women, Abused Children, and Child Custody: A National Crisis

The Battered Mothers Custody Conference

Visit www.batteredmotherscustodyconference.org for additional information,hotel reservations, and conference registration.

"Children Taken By the Family Courts" Quilt Project

The Conference has hosted a community quilt entitled "Children Taken by the Family Courts" since 2007. A short news clip showing the quilt at the 2009 conference is available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_qh-jX9qGk .

The quilt is modeled after the AIDS quilt that was started in 1987 and that has since grown tremendously, gaining wide publicity for the cause of combating AIDS and HIV infection.

We are asking mothers who have lost physical custody of their children through family or divorce court proceedings to create a 1.5’ by 3’ fabric panel to commemorate their child(ren).  Panels can be made before the conference and brought or mailed for inclusion in the quilt (see address below).  We will be providing some sewing materials and other necessities so that mothers can work on their panels during the weekend of the conference. Mothers do NOT need to attend the conference in order to have their panel included in the quilt. Complete instructions for creating and mailing panels are below.

Please display the following on the front of your panel:

The first name(s) and last initial(s) of the child(ren) of whom you lost custody as a result of family or divorce court proceedings.

The child(ren)’s date of birth and the county and state of the court system through which you lost custody.

The month and year you lost custody of your child(ren).

Any drawings, artwork, or items that make the panel meaningful to you.

On the back of your finished (backed and hemmed) panel, in an inconspicuous place (one that does not show through to the front) please write YOUR name, phone number, and e-mail address. Please also safety-pin a note to the panel with this information.

Write a statement

Please also take the time to write a statement about your child(ren) and briefly describe how you lost custody. Please include your name, e-mail address and phone number on this statement.


Your design can be vertical or horizontal, but the finished, hemmed panel should be 1.5 feet by 3 feet (45 cm x 90 cm).

The fabric can be traditional quilting material found at any fabric or craft store, or can be made up of scraps pieced together to meet the size requirements.

Batting for the panels is not necessary, but backing made of sturdy fabric is needed to help keep panels clean when they are laid out on the ground. It also helps retain the shape of the fabric.

When you cut your 2 pieces of fabric (panel front and the backing), leave an extra 2 inches on each side for a hem. Please sew your panel and backing pieces together, seams inside (like you are making a pillow), or hem them so that there are no raw seams on the outside. Hand sewing is fine if you don’t have access to a sewing machine. Please just do whatever you are able to do.

You may use most techniques and or embellishments, as long as they are secured well, including but not limited to: appliqué, piecing, embroidery, fabric markers, fabric paints, stenciling, beading, ribbons, sequins, or buttons (see descriptions below). Remember that the quilt will be folded and unfolded every time it is displayed, so durability is crucial. Since glue deteriorates with time, it is best to sew things to the panel.

Appliqué: Sew fabric, letters and small mementos onto the background fabric. Do not rely on glue - it won't last.

Paint: Brush on textile paint or color-fast dye, or use an indelible ink pen. Please don't use "puffy" paint; it's too sticky.

Stencils: Trace your design onto the fabric with a pencil, lift the stencil, then use a brush to apply textile paint or indelible markers.

Collage: Make sure that whatever materials you add to the panel won't tear the fabric (avoid glass and sequins for this reason), and be sure to avoid very bulky objects.

Sending in your panel:

If you will be attending the Battered Mothers Custody Conference, you can work on your panel over the weekend of the conference.  Some guidance and materials will be provided; you also are encouraged to bring materials with you.

If you will not be attending the conference, please ship your finished panel (make sure to use adequate protective waterproof packing material) to:


26 Purtell Avenue

Latham, New York 12110

Contact: mhannah413@aol.com

Thank you!


Dr. Gardner's ghost still haunts Rhode Island -- The Father of Parental Alienation

Dr. Gardner's ghost still haunts Rhode Island

By Anne Grant (about the author)

Dr. Richard A. Gardner by CincinnatiPAS.com

As Judge Haiganush R. Bedrosian becomes Chief of Family Court, it is time we banished the ghost of Dr. Richard Gardner, whose coercive tactics in Rhode Island courtrooms have been haunting families traumatized by domestic abuse.

Victims of terror do not present well in court. They are tense, emotional and understandably outraged. On the opposing side, tyrannical controllers can be calm and charming litigants, confident in the damage they have inflicted. Their lawyers, who are often accomplished bullies in their own right, tell astounding lies calculated to trigger a full display of symptoms in the victims.

Psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner designed a stealth weapon in 1985 that he called "Parental Alienation Syndrome." A domestic-violence-denier, Gardner testified for hundreds of fathers and argued that mothers had "alienated" their children against them. Gardner also wrote that sexual relations between parents and children were natural. He told filmmaker Garland Waller that children who report abuse by their fathers should be threatened with a beating. He committed suicide in 2003, but his ghost still haunts our courtrooms. Here are three examples from cases I have been following:

In 2004, Warwick police charged a Family Court deputy sheriff with felony domestic violence when they found his girlfriend handcuffed in their kitchen with a broken jaw and eye socket. Already entrenched in litigation, the deputy sheriff was an often-unruly defendant in the same courtroom where he once kept order. He demanded custody of his ten-year-old daughter, who was terrified of him.

In the corridor during a break, David M. Tassoni, assistant to Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah, Jr., told me he was searching for a psychologist who "understood parental alienation." Tassoni found Lori Meyerson, PhD, in a cramped country office and invited her to serve at Family Court, where she testified that the deputy sheriff was a "happy, calm and level person." She had never visited either parent's home when she recommended giving the father sole custody. General Magistrate John J. O'Brien, Jr., praised Meyerson's work and declared this case to be "as close as you can get to parental alienation."

Tassoni told me he was working with Judge Bedrosian and a joint committee from the Court and the Bar Association on a training program to qualify guardians ad litem.  Their 2004 course and manual devoted an entire section to Gardner's theory of parental alienation.

Attorney Lise M. Iwon, who is now president of the Rhode Island Bar Association, helped teach that course, though she did not follow its guidelines in writing her report as guardian ad litem in another case. A three-and-a-half-year-old had protested behavior she described as her father's "sausage games" on days they spent alone. A pediatrician's office reported this to DCYF, who ordered the father out of the home. A few months later, the mother filed for divorce.

I asked why Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch had failed to convene a grand jury. He considered the child too young to be believed. Neither DCYF nor the AG used available technology to record this child's "excited utterances" in order to meet standards of evidence. They made no video of her reportedly vivid "reenactment" of an assault. No jury saw the graphic portrait she drew of her father.

Iwon succeeded in getting the girl and her older sister removed from an excellent mother and home. After sixteen months in state custody, the court gave the younger girl to her father and moved the older one from a shelter to a foster home, all at state expense. Iwon's course of action suggested that a Gardner-defense was underway. Like Tassoni's efforts on behalf of the deputy sheriff, Iwon sought psychiatric examiners, and found a pliable group in Massachusetts, where psychologist Bernice Kelly, PsyD, wrote that Iwon, herself, had suggested the possibility of "parental alienation."

In 2007, Kelly's report to the court listed Gardner's "eight symptoms" of alienation. She seemed unaware that the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges had identified this as "junk science" the year before. NCJFCJ had warned judges to strike any report referring to parental alienation from the record because it failed to meet standards of evidence.

This year, as the American Psychological Association prepares to publish the Fifth Edition of itsDiagnostic and Statistical Manual, its committee has steadfastly resisted pressure to elevate "parental alienation" to scientific credibility.

Yet Blue Cross and Blue Shield apparently reimburses providers for parental alienation "therapy." In 2007, psychologist Peter J. Kosseff, PhD, testified in Rhode Island that his court-ordered efforts to forcibly "reconcile" two teenagers with their father were not what Kosseff considered "therapeutic." Nevertheless, he billed Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut for "miscellaneous medical service" and got paid for those sessions--though they ended badly when the 14-year-old daughter suffered a breakdown and spent ten days at Bradley Hospital, costing the insurer many thousands more.

How long will the ghost of Dr. Gardner haunt Rhode Island's children? I am confident that Chief Judge Bedrosian does not share Gardner's pro-pedophile views. She is now in a position to end his ghostly reign in Rhode Island and to promote the highest standards of evidence in Family Court's handling of custody cases.

But one branch of government is not enough. Will Governor Lincoln Chafee demand thorough reform at the Department of Children, Youth and Families? The General Assembly has mandated that DCYF must, in 2011, start the process toward accreditation.

Will Attorney General Peter Kilmartin use technology and convene grand juries to examine evidence of sex crimes by family members against young children? (Two of the fathers above acknowledged that they were sexually assaulted in childhood, one by his father and the other by his grandfather.)

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At 64, I spend my life with my best friend, Phil West. (When marriage can be this good, why isn't it legal for everyone?) We are both retired United Methodist pastors who value what we learned in the Church and have moved on to new kinds of (more...)

Children who have suffered from domestic abuse need all three branches of government to work together and unequivocally banish Dr. Gardner's ghost from Rhode Island. 

Anne Grant was executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children from 1988 to 1996. There she learned how family court helps batterers control their families after divorce. She writes several blogs on domestic abuse custody cases, and contributed a chapter on Rhode Island to Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues(Civic Research Institute, 2010).


Woman punched unconscious during child custody dispute


WALNUT CREEK -- Police Tasered a man who allegedly punched his ex-wife in the face during a child custody exchange and then fought officers who tried to arrest him.

Don West, 50, of Walnut Creek, was booked at the County Jail in Martinez on suspicion of domestic violence and making criminal threats after being evaluated at a hospital.

The assault took place at 5:50 p.m. in a municipal parking lot near a pub in the 1500 block of North Broadway, police Sgt. Lanny Edwards said.

Several people called 911 after seeing West argue with the victim over the custody exchange of two children, before knocking her unconscious with a punch.

West ran away, but returned later, police said. When officers tried to arrest him, he fought back and resisted arrest.

The victim was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Roman Gokhman covers public safety. Contact him at 925-945-4780. Follow him at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.



I received this letter last night…

Dear Virginia,

I am writing to you to let you know that Santa is not ignoring your most fervent request this Christmas, nor has Santa ignored these same requests for the past years. It’s simply that Santa can not give you what you want, because Family law and the Judges who govern these courts have deemed that your daddy does have the right to abuse you.  He is allowed to beat you, break your bones, torture, have sex with you, sodomize, molest or do anything else that he wants.

Please Virginia, don’t be angry or hate your mommy because she is not protecting you.  For the same rules and judges that allow your father to abuse you will force your mother out of your life if she objects.  So, your mommy can do nothing but hold your hand, wipe your tears and cry silently by herself while she sits helplessly by as your daddy continues to hurt you.  For, if she does object the chances are good that a Family Court Judge will deem her unfit or crazy and force her into only seeing you under supervised conditions.  During this time you will live with your daddy and he will have carte blanche to continue his abuse.  I repeat, Virginia, it is the Family Court system and the judges who govern over them that allow these atrocities to be committed against the children.

Also, Virginia, do not feel guilty when you are forced to lie to these same judges and claim that your mommy is a bad person.  Mommy and Santa understand that you have no choice.  For these same judges will send you home with daddy after you testify or talk to them and mommy and Santa know what daddy will do if you were to tell the truth.  Mommy and Santa understand that you are just trying to survive this horrible childhood of abuse and we still believe that you are a good girl.

Virginia, Santa is so sorry that he can not help you.  Perhaps next year, you should send your letter to the leader of an influential government and ask that he, or she, take a dramatic step in making changes in the Family Court system. Ask that these same judges that are sending countless numbers of children to live with fathers who abuse, beat, rape, sodomize and even kill them to be held accountable.  Ask that when a protective parent fights for their child’s safety that they not be automatically deemed an alienator.  Ask that the judges be forced to recognize that when an abusive parent/father fights for sole custody that they will win in approximately 70% of the cases.  Ask that when pictures and statements of abuse are provided that the family court judges be forced to acknowledge this evidence, instead of refusing to as they send the children to live in horrific circumstances.  For it is clear to Santa that these judges do not care that an average of 2 children a week are being murdered while many more are being subjugated to unspeakable abuse.

So, Virginia, in closing, Santa says that he is so sorry that he can not give you the gift that you most desire.  However, Santa will pray for year in this coming year.  Santa will pray that you receive one less beating, that you have one less broken bone, that Daddy visits your bedroom at night at least one less time in 2011. Finally, Santa will pray that you live to see the next year, because Santa knows that many children will not live to see 2012, for their daddy’s will kill them.

I am so sorry,

Santa Claus