Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Personal and Professional Perspectives on Religious Child Maltreatment: Interview with Bethany Brittain and Ann Haralambie, JD, CWLS

[Episode 93] Today’s episode of the Social Work Podcast is on Religious Child Maltreatment. Longtime listeners of the podcast will remember that I first addressed this topic in 2012 when I interviewed Janet Heimlich about her book “Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment.” In episode 72, Janet explained that religious child maltreatment is any abuse or neglect that was done in the name of religion, or that was encouraged, condoned, or assumed as a necessary practice by a religious community. Parents are more likely to engage in religious child maltreatment when they are members of authoritarian religious communities. Janet’s book is a wonderful primer on the topic, and her interview was a treasure trove of information for social workers.

In today’s episode I spoke with two people who bring very different perspectives to this issue. Bethany Brittan is on the board of the Child Friendly Faith project and is a survivor of RCM. Ann Haralambie is a certified family law specialist and a certified child welfare law specialist practicing in Tucson Arizona. I had two goals for our interview. The first was to give voice to the experience of people who have survived RCM. To that end, I present Bethany’s story as un-interrupted tape. The second was to unpack some of the differences between the personal experience of RCM and the professional challenges associated with protecting children from religious maltreatment. You’ll hear Ann and me talk about legal, educational, and bureaucratic issues associated with child maltreatment. 

And now, without further ado, on to episode 93 of the Social Work Podcast: Personal and Professional Perspectives on Religious Child Maltreatment: Interview with Bethany Brittain and Ann Haralambie, JD.

Download MP3 [38:30]



Bios

Bethany Brittain grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and is a survivor of religious child maltreatment. As prescribed by church leaders, her parents used corporal punishment on Bethany and her three siblings starting in infancy, and frequent and severe beatings continued into their teen years. After having been home schooled in isolation and groomed to be a submissive wife, she left home in her late teens, obtained a college degree in instructional design, and transcended her abusive childhood. Today, Bethany creates training programs for corporations and specializes in adult learning. She is on the Board of Directors for the Child-Friendly Faith Project.

Ann M. Haralambie, JD, CWLS, is a certified family law attorney and certified child welfare law specialist in private practice in Tucson, Arizona, where she specializes in custody and child abuse cases. She is the former president of the National Association of Counsel for Children and a charter life member of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Ann is the principle author and co-editor of Child Welfare Law and Practice, the author of Child Sexual Abuse in Civil Cases, The Child’s Attorney, and the three-volume, annually supplemented treatise, Handling Child Custody, Abuse, and Adoption Cases. She is on the Board of Directors for the Child-Friendly Faith Project.

Transcript

Introduction

Today’s episode of the Social Work Podcast is on Religious Child Maltreatment. Longtime listeners of the podcast will remember that I first addressed this topic in 2012 when I interviewed Janet Heimlich about her book “Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment.” In episode 72, Janet explained that religious child maltreatment is any abuse or neglect that was done in the name of religion, or that was encouraged, condoned, or assumed as a necessary practice by a religious community. Parents are more likely to engage in religious child maltreatment when they are members of authoritarian religious communities. Janet’s book is a wonderful primer on the topic, and her interview was a treasure trove of information for social workers.

So, why am I revisiting the topic? It is pretty simple. Even though social workers are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect, social workers are not trained to consider the role of religion in child maltreatment. As you’ll in today’s episode, even if a social worker suspected and reported religiously motivated child maltreatment, any investigation would run into a number of road blocks, starting with one of our foundational principles – separation of church and state, and the freedom of religion. Quick legal history: A series of laws were passed in the 1960s and 1970s that gave child protection services the authority to intervene when a child was being abused or neglected. In 1993, the federal government passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which said that laws could not substantially burden a person's free exercise of religion. You’re spanking your child because it is a documented part of your religious beliefs? Telling you not to would be an unreasonable burden on your free exercise of religion. Although the federal law was struck down, 19 states have passed versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. These laws challenged CPS systems when it seems like they are interfering with people’s first amendment right to freedom of religion. Even if there was no constitutional issue, the investigation would still have to some proof that abuse or neglect was occurring. What do you do if the alleged victims deny, and the alleged perpetrators are held up as pillars in the community? Finally, if none of those are barriers, right, there is no legal barrier and there are victims willing to talk, you still have to have investigators who are trained in identifying and documenting religious child maltreatment. In most states, CPS systems are overburdended by limited resources, and high turnover. This perfect storm of issues is one of the reasons why I wanted to revisit this issue.

In today’s episode I spoke with two people who bring very different perspectives to this issue. Bethany Brittan is on the board of the Child Friendly Faith project and is a survivor of RCM. Ann Haralambieis a certified family law specialist and a certified child welfare law specialist practicing in Tucson Arizona. I had two goals for our interview. The first was to give voice to the experience of people who have survived RCM. To that end, I present Bethany’s story as un-interrupted tape. The second was to unpack some of the differences between the personal experience of RCM and the professional challenges associated with protecting children from religious maltreatment. You’ll hear Ann and me talk about legal, educational, and bureaucratic issues associated with child maltreatment. Today’s episode covers four broad themes. The first is called “cuddling in the name of the lord.” The second is, “who defines the line?” The third is called “random acts of kindness.” The last theme is called “Heal thyself.” At the end of the episode I’ll tell you about the Child Friendly Faith Project 2014 conference.

And now, without further ado, on to episode 93 of the Social Work Podcast: Personal and Professional Perspectives on Religious Child Maltreatment: Interview with Bethany Brittain and Ann Haralambie, JD.

Interviews (forthcoming)

References and Resources

Heimlich, J. (2011). Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project is a national, nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity that seeks to protect children from abuse and neglect enabled by religious, spiritual, and cultural ideologies. http://www.childfriendlyfaith.org

Child-Friendly Faith Face Book Group (Closed) https://www.facebook.com/groups/childfriendlyfaith/
Member requests are vetted. Group is closed so that members can post openly. Many group members are therapist who are well-versed in religiously motivated child maltreatment issues.

(Secret) Homeschoolers Anonymous
This is a wonderful resource for those of us who were home schooled and isolated. Conversations range from issues like how to date after being raised with the purity doctrine, how to do every day things like get a social security card, to read about news that touches issues that really matter. Younger members are often looking for support as they leave their families knowing that they're leaving younger siblings behind.

Quiverfull Sorority of Survivors (QFSOS)
This group is for women. [from Bethany: "I wasn't raised in the Quiverful movement but a movement that was an offshoot. The Jesus Movement of the 70s lead to the Shepherding Movement that turned out to be a disaster. It was discarded by Bob Mumford and four other men who had promoted the doctrine. There was a substantial amount of groups who kept the principles and went into isolation. My family was one such group. I love this group because I can post anything! These women understand the nuances of religious abuse and are very supportive."]


APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:

Singer, J. B. (Producer). (2014, November 25). #93 - Personal and professional perspectives on religious child maltreatment: Interview with Bethany Brittain and Ann Haralambie, JD, CWLS  [Audio Podcast]. Social Work Podcast. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkpodcast.com/2014/11/RCM.html

No comments: