Even Abused Foster Children Do Not Reject a Parent

By Linda J. Gottlieb Kase, LMFT, LCSW-r

March 18, 2015

Research Observation:

Despite the abuse and neglect suffered by the 3000 foster care children who had been under my care, it was extremely uncommon for those children to refuse contact with a parent—even with an overtly abusive parent. Rather, abused children tend to protect and cling to the abusive parent. Moreover, in the rare cases in which that did appear to happen, there was always some evidence of indoctrination or programming (typically by foster parents who had the surreptitious goal of adopting the child).  Thus, it is counter-instinctual for a child to reject a parent—even an abusive parent.  When a professional observes a child strongly reject a parent in the absence of verified abuse, neglect or markedly deficient parenting skills—which should never be assumed based on the child’s self-reporting—one of the first thoughts should be that the other parent is an alienator.  Moreover, one should never assume that, because a child has rejected a parent, the parent must have done something to warrant it.

Having observed thousands of genuinely-abused children during a period of 24 years, I have concluded that a child’s innate desire to have a relationship with his or her parents is one of the most powerful of human instincts, surpassed only by the instinct for survival and the instinct to protect ones young; among normal children, in the absence of an alienating influence, that instinct is seldom suppressed because a parent exhibits relatively minor flaws, deficiencies, or idiosyncrasies.

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