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Collaborative Community-Based Support Strategies
- Symptoms of HAP

- Underlying causes of HAP

- Observable effects from
  exposure to HAP

- Severe HAP

- Addressing & dealing with HAP

- Role of the community

- Sanctions for HAP

- How to help

- HAP documentation (PDF)
Hostile-aggressive parents generally try to keep their pattern of behaviour from being noticed by friends and others in the community such as schools and day care providers. Most of the time HAP parents they know that what they are doing to their children is wrong but do not want to be embarrassed for what they know most people in the community would consider to be bad parenting behaviour. These HAP parents continuously hide the truth behind a wall of deception and over a period of time become quite skilled at deceiving others. Often HAP parents may threaten and intimidate children to remain silent about abuse, causing children to be terrified of saying anything about their abusive parentís behaviour.

Members of the community can play a vital role in eliminating the harm done by hostile-aggressive parents. By learning to identify the presence of HAP and refusing to participate in a hostileaggressive parentís campaign of abuse against a child, people in the community can help to protect the child and help to make the community a better and more caring place for all to live.

Schools, child care agencies and their workers

Schools and child care agencies are often on the front line when it comes to dealing with the problems associated with families in conflict as a result of separation and divorce. Many teachers and school officials will undoubtedly have to deal with children from broken homes where parental conflict is high and where HAP is noticeably present. Through their extensive day-to-day involvement with children, teachers and early childhood educators may often be in a position where they are exposed to the behaviour of hostile-aggressive parents or may observe the effects of HAP with children they teach or care for.

Quite often, HAP parents (usually custodial) will attempt to drag the school into the conflict and will attempt to mislead school officials to take sides against the other parent, often against the wishes and preferences of the child. By large, the most common problem that school officials face is the situation where the custodial HAP parent will attempt to have school officials restrict the other parentís access to the chid while the child is at school. The custodial parent will advise school officials (usually the principal or the childís teacher) and advise principal and/or staff that they are the custodial parent and that the other parent cannot contact the child except during the other parentís access time. The most common things that an HAP parent may do to involve school officials in their campaign against the other parent are:

  • Advise school staff of the other parentís court Ordered access times and attempt to mislead school officials into believing that the court Order is to be interpreted as meaning that the other parent cannot see or be with the child at any other time than the times scheduled in the court Order.

  • Advise school staff that the other parent is not allowed to take the child out to lunch or to be at the school at times which are not specified on the court Order.

  • Tell staff that if the other parent shows up to school that the custodial parent should be notified immediately.

  • Tell staff that the other parent should not be allowed to participate in school activities with the child such as helping the teacher or attending school outings, etc.
Unfortunately, school officials are to often misled by HAP parents and end up causing harm to the child by becoming active participants of the HAP parentís campaign to exercise power and control over the non-custodial parent.

At any time, should a parent request school officials to take an action that would appear to unfairly advantage one parent or contradict a childís reasonable wishes and preferences, the school should become highly suspicious of this parentís request as chances are it is not in the best interest of the child. Children affected by HAP should perceive the school as a safe haven for them where they are free from parents harassing or intimidating them while on school property. If a child indicates that they do not feel comfortable with a particular parent coming to the school and there would appear to be reasonable reason for this, then school officials should respect the childís wishes by keeping that parent from coming on school property.

Schools and day care facilities need to have appropriate policies regarding children who are being exposed to abuse by a HAP parent. Schools should also develop protocols when abuse by an HAP parent is suspected.

Some of the things that schools and child care agencies and their workers can do to help protect children are as follows:

  • Ensure that all workers working with children are educated about Hostile-Aggressive parenting and its solutions as part of their training.

  • Before accepting children into a child daycare facility, providers should ideally meet both parents before agreeing to provide day care services or at the very least provide both parents the equal opportunity to meet with providers. Make parents aware right up front that there will be no discrimination against either parent.

  • At all times, schools and day care facilities should provide both parents with the same level of service, courtesy and access to information unless a clear court Order indicates otherwise. Schools especially, should be wary of discriminating against parents as this may violate constitutional laws and result in an expensive and messy lawsuit. Schools and daycare facilities must send a clear message to those children affected by separation and divorce that schools and daycare facilities are a safe place for children and that Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviour will not be tolerated.

  • School officials should be willing to speak to the child and to be aware of the childís wishes and preferences if requested to do so. Quite often, children will report abuse to teachers they trust before they will report it to strangers such as child welfare protection workers. Again, school officials must make themselves aware of the possibility of parental coaching of young children and know how to question children appropriately. In all instances children must be interviewed outside the presence of either of the parents either inside or even outside of the room. Children who have not been coached by a parent should be able to clearly articulate their wishes and preferences and provide clear reasons to support their wishes.

  • Never interfere with one parentís access to services based on the request of only one parent. Should one parent try to interfere with the childís relationship with another parent or with one parentís relationship with the school or day care facility or any worker, then insist that the parent present a court order requires the school or day care facility to comply with these demands or at the very least, provide reasonable third party information, in writing, to support the parentís claims. Claims by HAP parents often begin to fall apart when they are asked for credible evidence to support their claims.

  • In all cases where parents are requesting school officials to take some form of action which they claim is to protect the child, then some sort of evidence, in writing, should be provided to school officials to support a parentís requests. If a parentís complaints appear to be valid, then school officials should advise the parent to obtain a court Order specifically outlining what the other parentís restrictions at the childís school are. If the parentís concerns are valid, then that parent will have no problem in obtaining a court Order in a reasonable period of time. Refuse to become a collaborator to child abuse by not being a part of a parentís campaign to abuse the child and/or the other parent unless the parent can provide you with evidence, in writing, to support their allegations.

  • Studies show that the involvement of non-custodial parents in their childís education can have a positive impact on the childís learning experience at the school so parental involvement at school should be encouraged whenever possible. The best interest of the child must take president over the wishes of a hostile-aggressive parent who in most cases want to keep the other parent from involving themselves with the childís school.

  • At the first sign of conflict between parents, insist that the parties use a neutral third party for communication. Insist that parents not involve teachers or daycare providers in their personal issues and instead have parents use a neutral third party appointed to deal with issues between parents. The third party can then communicate with school or daycare facility regarding any issues which may affect workers with these agencies. Should a parent not be willing to have a third party get involved then suspect that parentís motives. HAP parents generally want to have full control of the situation and generally do not want neutral third parties helping in the conflict.

  • Have those working with the children maintain proper records and logs whenever hostileaggressive parenting is observed or if the child exhibits signs that could indicate abuse. Such signs may be the childís sadness about not seeing one parent or about reporting abuse by a hostile parent. Remember, Hostile-Aggressive Parenting is child abuse and will likely affect the child in some manner at school.

  • Be ready and willing to report Hostile-Aggressive Parenting and to provide reliable testimony to the court if be requested by the parents. Exposing HAP parents and supporting children who are victims of the actions of HAP parents is one of the best ways to control and eliminate this serious form of child abuse.

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Extended family, friends & community

Unfortunately, too often, friends and family tend to support those who are part of their family or group of friends without questioning how their support for the parent they know may be affecting the child. This approach can often be wrong and have devastating negative effect on a child. Many times, family members end up supporting the HAP parent without knowing it.

Friends, family and neighbours should be cautious in believing negative comments from one parent about the other, even if it is their own family member who is giving them information. People in the community whose support is being sought by a parent should take the time to make themselves of the issues before providing their blind support. They should be especially cautious when it would appear that their support is sought to support what are considered as Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviours by one of the parents such as trying to restrict the childís access to the other parent. If it would appear that any parent is exhibiting any of the HAP behaviours listed in this document, then extreme caution must be exercised in supporting this parent. People in the community must do what is right for the child and to be careful not to cause further harm to the child by providing support to the HAP parent.

When extended family members and other people in a community refuse to support parents who abuse their children through HAP behaviours, then those parents harming their child by HAP will more than likely change the way they parent their children. The concept that, ďit takes a village to raise a childĒ is still a concept that has worked for many generations in the past and still works today. A community that stands united against Hostile-Aggressive Parenting, will help to send a strong message to parents who may be harming their children that this is not acceptable behaviour. Only when the community stands up can we hope to eliminate this most serious form of child abuse.

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Health care professionals

Health care professionals in the community such as doctors and nurses should be very careful that they do get themselves involved in the hostilities in a manner that hurts the child. Hostileaggressive parents will often present themselves quite well to professionals such as doctors, nurses, police officers, etc. and are often masters of deception. HAP parents will often feed misleading and one-sided information to health care professionals for the purpose of extracting opinion or recommendation letters from these professionals which favour the HAP parentís position in court. Often the HAP parent will use these letters to block the other parentís access time with the child or use the letters in court against the other parent at some time in the future. In most cases, however, when professionals do look into matters more closely and seek information from the other side before writing such letters, they find that they have been duped by the HAP parent. Under such circumstances, many professionals can find themselves the subject of a disciplinary hearing or civil lawsuit. Any professional who is requesting by a parent to support any action which would be appear to be a hostile-aggressive action or a violation of the childís rights, should carefully and fully review the circumstances before taking action for one parent. Taking the time to speak to the other parent is usually one of the best things to do to protect both the professional and the child who may be under the control of a HAP parent.

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Police and child welfare protection workers

Law enforcement and child welfare protection agencies in the community must also very careful that they do not involve themselves in a manner that end up hurting the child and benefiting the HAP parent. Failure to identify and effectively deal with an HAP parent can have a devastating effect on the child.

HAP parents will often attempt to use the police or child welfare protection agencies as a tool in their campaign to destroy their childís relationship with the other parent. The most common thing that an HAP parent will do to involve the police or child welfare protection agencies will be to allege that the other parent has assaulted, stalked or threatened them or has physically or sexually assaulted the child. The HAP parent tries to get police to lay charges as once charges are laid, then the court or child welfare protection workers will likely prevent the other parent from having contact with the child. Even if the parent is found innocent, the effect that the HAP parent wanted would have been achieved. HAP parents are masterminds of deception and can often spin a good story when it comes to making false allegations against their former partner. The problem is that with the Zero Tolerance policies in many areas, the false allegations often achieve the desired result of interfering with the childís relationship with the other parent for a long period of time.

Police and child welfare protection agencies must be very diligent in investigating such allegations and to see if the behaviours of the accuser categorize them as an HAP parent, then police should be very careful to get involved unless there is clear and convincing evidence that would show that the allegations are legitimate. Police and child welfare protection agencies should carefully interview all collateral witnessed and should never lay charges or take a child away from one of the parents based on just the allegations of the accuser. Allegations must be supported by reasonable collateral evidence.

Failure by authorities to properly investigate allegations made by HAP parents will ultimately result in the loss of respect of the authorities by people in the community. Children who have had their relationship damaged by the HAP parent with the help of local authorities will likely grow up with a strong dislike of local authorities. This is not good for these agencies which rely on support from the community. Agencies should encourage the involvement of other family member using ďFamily Group ConferencingĒ strategies before using the criminal justice system to intervene in these types of family matters when the risk to a child may be small, however, where serious risk to a child may be a potential possibility, or where a child is expressing fear and anxiety of the HAP parent, authorities must move quickly to remove the child for an interim period of time from the care and control of the HAP parent.

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