Advocates

May 25th Is National Missing Children’s Day: Help Stop Child Abduction

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Today commemorates the 30th International Missing Children’s Day. All children who are missing: parentally kidnapped or abducted by a stranger or who disappear in a world of billions are always at grave risk. Today we acknowledge the large number of children and their families who went missing and who are no longer with us, as the tragedies they experienced nor our sympathy ever adequately expressed. On behalf of the entire I CARE Foundation family and in the name of those children and their families who faced the unthinkable of having a child missing, snatched, abducted, kidnapped, held hostage, or used as a pawn as part of a deplorable scheme, we take today to honor those who have had to endure so much as we affirm our commitment to assisting families in crisis due to abduction.

Today, May 25th, 2013 marks the 30th International Missing Children’s Day. First proclaimed by United States President Ronald Reagan as an American day of recognition over the epidemic number of missing children in the United States that has been observed by every administration since, the worldwide pandemic that impacts countries around the world is now recognized as a day to remember innocent children now gone, while reminding parents, guardians, and society as a whole of the major responsibility to make child safety a priority while raising awareness that abduction of children must be stopped at all costs.

The I CARE Foundation is committed to stopping child abduction and human trafficking. All forms of abduction, no matter who is kidnapping a child, places the child’s life in grave risk.

In the spirit of today, I ask that you please consider sharing on your various social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and any blog you administer the following essay focused on how summer is the time of year the vast majority of children are kidnapped, and what parents can do to protect them.  One thing is certain: there is no coincidence that since the I CARE Foundation launched a grassroots campaign to raise awareness of abduction, outbound kidnappings have declined by 15% the last 2 years after 30 years of growth.

As a parent of a child who was once abducted, I can’t thank you in advance enough for your support as we move forward in further protecting children.

It is estimated that at least 8 million children worldwide go missing each year or 22,000 a day. The majority of these child-victim disappearances, abductions and kidnappings could have been avoided if society was more proactive in protecting innocence.

Unfortunately, many countries do not view protecting children as a priority and thus don’t have appropriate mechanisms in place to recover missing children who are at high risk of being exploited into trafficking, prostitution, and parental abduction.

Today we ask all of our friends to take a few minutes out of your day and share the following two articles via your social media networks because, if history repeats itself, this information will reach a family at risk of abduction today.

Summer Vacations And International Parental Child Abduction

Protecting Against International Child Abduction: Dual Citizenship and Two Passports

Thank you in advance for your help!

On behalf of the I CARE Foundation family –

Peter Thomas Senese

How To Prevent Child Abduction When Dealing With Dual Citizenship And Two Passports


I CARE Foundation Director Peter Thomas Senese Speaks About 
Dual Citizenship And International Child Abduction

Many U.S. citizen children who fall victim to international parental abduction possess dual nationality. Being aware of the child’s other parent’s possession of a secondary passport issued from that parent’s country of origin is critical in preventing abduction because children abducted abroad usually travel outside of the country on their foreign passport. Preventing the issuance of your child’s secondary passport to a foreign country is possible, but not guaranteed, based upon the country of origin of the child’s other parent and their laws. Nevertheless, it is important to strongly note the majority of international parental child abductions that occur are carefully planned schemes that attempt to catch the targeted parent off guard. A parent intending to snatch a child may use an assortment of reasons in order to obtain the secondary passport. Certain countries require signatures of both of the child’s parents, while many require only the signature of the parent that possesses citizenship to that country.

In scenarios where only the parent who possesses citizenship to the country the child has a right to secondary citizenship to can apply for their child’s passport, the grave risk and reality is that if abduction is planned, the abducting parent will attempt to conceal the existence of the secondary passport from the other parent. Additionally, in cases where dual signatures are required, it is possible that the taking parent can fraudulently submit the other parent’s signature to the passport bureau of the other country as generally there are limited documentation controls in place set up to validate the application request.

Of troubling concern is the fact that the United States does not possess border exit controls, thus there are limited ways to ensure that a child departing the country is doing so without violating a custody order. Granted, there are certain government programs that exist that have worked extremely well, such as the Prevent Departure Program; however, there are restrictions to such programs such as the Prevent Departure Program, including that a person considered to be a high-abduction risk cannot possess a right of American citizenship. Thus, if a parent who is planning to abduct a child possess dual citizenship, they cannot be placed on the secure screening list established to protect against international kidnapping. Additional difficulties abound, including the reality that a U.S. court has limited authority in obtaining records from a foreign embassy or consulate to determine if a parent has requested or obtained secondary passports for a child.

While the Department of State will make every effort to avoid issuing a U.S. passport if the custodial parent has provided a custody decree, the Department cannot prevent embassies and consulates of other countries in the United States from issuing their passports to children who are also their nationals.

All is not lost if you act thoughtfully. For example, you can ask a foreign embassy or consulate not to issue a passport to your child. On numerous occasions, I, or one of the attorneys associated with the I CARE Foundation, have accompanied a targeted parent and personally visited a foreign embassy or consulate and requested that a secondary passport not be issued in the name of the child due to an abduction threat.

If traveling to an embassy or consulate is not a possibility, I suggest you contact the consulate, locate a supervisor who oversees their passport issuance program, and speak to them about your concern for abduction and specifically state you do not want that country to issue a passport. Immediately after that telephone call, you must submit a written request, along with certified complete copies of any court orders addressing custody or the overseas travel of your child you have. From experience, I strongly suggest you also include your marriage certificate, your child’s birth certificate, and any other relevant documentation that establishes your marriage or legal partnership and establishes that you are the parent of the child or children. In your letter, inform them that you are sending a copy of this request to the U.S. Department of State.

If your child is only a U.S. citizen, you can request that no visa for that country be issued in his or her U.S. passport. No international law requires compliance with such requests, but some countries will comply voluntarily.

With respect to your requests to a foreign country, there is one thing I would like to share from experience: you are likely to get more cooperation at times if you or your legal representative schedule an appointment in person. This is something I have seen first-hand in my capacity as a director of the I CARE Foundation.

But what is dual nationality?

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Intent can be shown by the person’s statements or conduct.The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there.Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship.Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.

Information on losing foreign citizenship can be obtained from the foreign country’s embassy and consulates in the United States. Americans can renounce U.S. citizenship in the proper form at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport

As stated earlier, The United States does not have exit controls on its borders for holders of a valid passport. This makes preventing a passport from being issued to your child without your consent very important. Generally, if your child has a passport, it can be difficult to prevent the other parent from removing the child to another country without your permission.

U.S. law requires the signature of both parents, or the child’s legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16. To obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians. If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport).

EXCEPTIONS:

The law does provide two exceptions to this requirement: (1) for exigent circumstances, such as those involving the health or welfare of he child, or (2) when the Secretary of State determines that issuance of a passport is warranted by special family circumstances.

Prevent Departure Program

Since 2003, United States citizens have had available a very effective international child abduction prevention tool called ‘The Prevent Departure Program’. Unfortunately, many parents at risk of having their child internationally abducted are not aware that this incredibly useful tool is available to them.

In the aftermath of 911, the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Prevent Departure Program’ was created to stop non-U.S. citizens from departing the country. The program applies to non-US citizens physically located in America considered individuals at risk of child abduction. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees this program and it is monitored 24 hours a day.

What the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ does is provide immediate information to the transportation industry, including all air, land, and sea channels a single point of contact at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and provides a comprehensive database of individuals the United States believes may immediately depart to a foreign country.

The program only applies to aliens, and is not available to stop U.S. citizens or dual U.S./foreign citizens from leaving the country.

Under Section 215 of the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ (8 U.S.C. 1185) and it’s implementing regulations (8 CFR Part 215 and 22 CFR Part 46), it authorizes departure-control officers to prevent an alien’s departure from the United States if the alien’s departure would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States. These regulations include would-be abductions of U.S. citizens in accordance to court orders originating from the child’s court of habitual residency.

If the abductor and child are identified, they will be denied boarding. In order to detain them after boarding is denied, there must be a court order prohibiting the child’s removal or providing for the child’s pick-up, or a warrant for the abductor.

In order for an at risk parent to participate in the program, all of the following must be demonstrated:

  1. Subject may NOT be a US citizen; and,
  2. The nomination must include a law enforcement agency contact with 24/7 coverage; and,
  3. There must be a court order showing which parent has been awarded custody or shows that the Subject is restrained from removing his/her minor child from certain counties, the state or the U.S.; and,
  4. The Subject must be in the US; and,
  5. There must be some likelihood that the Subject will attempt to depart in the immediate future.

With respect to the established guidelines listed above, note that in order to request the listing of the other parent, that person must be an alien of the United States. The program does not apply to US citizens at risk of leaving the country.

The second mandate states a request to place an individual’s name on the Prevent Departure Program must include support by a law enforcement agency or from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, which has the authority of requesting for the Department of Homeland Security to list a suspected child abductor on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’.

The third criteria: possessing a custodial order, is essential. Regardless if the other parent has joint custody or rights of visitation, critically, you must make sure that there are injunction orders in place prohibiting the child from being removed from the jurisdiction of habitual residency. Unfortunately, many international parental child abductions are well planned out in advance of the actual abduction, and the targeted parent has no idea that an abduction is in progress until it is too late. This is why it is essential for parents in partnership with non-nationals to be fully aware of the warning signs associated with a potential international child abduction.

The fourth criteria states the obvious: in order to prevent an alien-parent suspected of abducting a child on U.S. soil, that parent must be on U.S. soil.

The fifth criteria requests that the applying parent demonstrate that the alien-parent has demonstrated the likelihood of abducting the child across international borders in the immediate future. Remember – you need to document and record as much evidence as possible.

For many parents who face the risk of having their child abducted and removed across international borders, the nightmare that both targeted parent and victimized child face is unbearable.

The Prevent Departure Program is not for everyone and should not be abused; however, in situations where an abduction threat is real and the targeting parent intent on abducting a child is a non-US citizen possessing the capacity to breach court orders and abduct a child of a relationship, the Prevent Departure Program may be a useful tool.

Be aware that if a person has a right of U.S. citizenship, including possessing sole American citizenship or dual citizenship, they cannot be placed on the Prevent Departure Program (The I CARE Foundation is hoping to have the government change that policy since individuals who possess singular citizenship do abduct children abroad).

Conclusion

The I CARE Foundation has assisted many families in crisis who are at risk of having a child internationally abducted from the child’s country of jurisdiction based upon one of the child’s parent’s scheme to remove the child by obtaining a secondary passport. In many of these cases, the targeted parent did not know that the other parent already possessed a secondary passport for their child. In certain situations the parent possessing a right of citizenship to another country did not need the other parent’s signature, and in other cases, a passport signature of the targeted parent was forged on the foreign passport application for the child.

Targeted parents and attorneys overseeing an abduction prevention case need to be aware that when there is an abductin concern that they should immediately contact the consulate where the child’s other parent is a national of and request if a passport has been issued in the child’s name. There are times when the consulate or embassy may provide this information. Often this is not the case.

In all cases where a secondary passport is a concern, one of the legal strategies the attorneys associated with the I CARE Foundation have successfully implemented is to seek an emergency order from the court possessing jurisdiction of the child whereas, the petition requests that ‘responding parent’ (parent believed to planning an abduction) provide formal documentation from the consulate or embassy of their country of origin that grants the consulate or embassy permission to answer a court subpeona concerning the issuance of a passport (the consulate or embassy is not required to do so even if a subpeona is issued), or, that the court order the responding parent to provide an official letter from their country of origin stating that neither a passport for the child has been issued from that country and no application for a passport has been submitted.

During the emergency application, the targeted parent (the ‘applicant’) has sought a host of measures, including seeking for the court or the applicant to take possession of the child’s American passports; and, for the child being placed on the United States Passport Issuance Alert Program; and, for either removal of child access or limited, supervised access of the targeted child by the parent suspected of child snatching. If the Prevent Departure Program is applicable, attorneys have previously sought for the court to request that the U.S. Department of State petition the U.S. Department of Homeland Security place a person considered a high-risk child abductor on the secure screening list to ensure that person does not travel outside of the country with the child unless permitted to do so by court order.

Obviously there are many other steps that can be taken, but one I think worth sharing is the concern that a parent traveling by land or sea across international adjacent borders (For the United States this means travel to Canada, Mexico, or certain Caribbean island-nations) with a minor under 16 years of age does not need to present a valid passport for their child at the border-crossing (valid passports are required for all travelers regardless of age only when traveling abroad by aircraft) as established by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Thus, a parent planning to abduct a child could do so by boarding a closed circuit cruise, or by simply driving across the border. It is critical that an attorney attempting to prevent abduction familiarize themselves with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative loopholes and present these issues to the court they are litigating over. One other good idea is that they present to the court the statistical realities of child abduction return, including whether a country that appears to be a likly inbound country is a member of the Hague Convention, and whether or not they are a complying country. Of course, that’s not all that should be presented to the court. A few other important issues include the potential for severe abuse to the child; and, the severe abuse to the targeted parent, the cost to litigate; and, the ability for the taking parent to disappear abroad, including departing the country they initially ‘landed’ in, and travel to another country; and finally, the likelyhood that a child will be returned.

I invite you to read Summer Vacations and International Parental Child Abduction and to visit the official website of the U.S. Department of StateI CARE Foundation and Chasing The Cyclone for more information about abduction.

One little word of advice: the majority of parents who have had their child abducted never saw it coming. Do not stick your head in the ground and think this cannot happen to you. Educate yourself.

– Peter Thomas Senese –
Founding Director – The I CARE Foundation

I CARE Foundation: Protecting Innocent Children From Abduction

icarelogocalltoarmsThe I CARE Foundation has had a busier week than usual trying to assist targeted parents in preventing the abduction of their children.  In fact, Friday alone included three separate international parental child abduction prevention cases that we directly were involved in litigation with, and one case where we provided important counsel and advice.

The reality is, none of these cases are easy. All of them however have two elements that keeps us focused on why we advocate the way we do: the innocence of children is worth protecting at all costs, and, when a war called international parental child abduction can be averted, we know first-hand that all parties involved will be spared significant casualties.

On a personal note, I am very pleased to have been able to help a wonderful parent and an incredible family yesterday who was gravely concerned about an abduction threat.  Seeing my  friend hold his children in his arms made all the personal sacrifice required this week well worth it. Words cannot express the joy I felt yesterday walking in my friend’s home . . . with his children.

And should my friend who I accompanied yesterday ever read this, I want you to know how proud I am of you.

On a separate but relevant note, the first quarter of 2013 is shaping up to be a very busy one with respect to international parental child abduction prevention cases.  The I CARE Foundation’s intake of prevention cases is at 40% of the 2012 case load: clearly more parents are acting in preemptive ways in order to stop an international kidnapping before it happens.  This is very important news as it may represent – I hope – that the number of reported abductions may drop again this year the way it declined in 2012 (A 15.3% decline in reported cases during 2012).

There is no question that the I CARE Foundation’s along with other organizations’ messages concerning international parental child abduction prevention is working. The number of reported kidnappings is dropping while the number of abduction prevention cases is increasing.

Step by step, we are making a difference.

Best regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese

Author – Chasing The Cyclone

Parental Abduction: A Life Destroyed In Less Than 24 Hours

How easy is it for an abducting parent to legally remove a child from one country to another without the child’s other parent consenting to such move?

How does evil fill the hearts of an abductor, who only seeks to have an outcome they desire, no matter what the emotional, spiritual, and financial costs involved for the targeted parent and the children?

How extensive is the malice?

What I am about to share in the shortest detail demonstrates the sociopath behavior and pure malice of a parent who knows how to utilize the legal system to legally remove a child from one country to another without the other parent’s consent, and then further remove that parent’s access rights all because the taking parent no longer desires to live in the country of the child or children’s habitual residence.

Now imagine having every part of your life destroyed in less than 24 hours. Think it can’t happen? You are wrong!

So Much For The Wedding Vow – I Will Destroy Your Life – And This Is How
(Based Upon A Real Life Scenario)
  • American male citizen marries French female citizen in the US three years ago.
  • American citizen is a young attorney.
  • French citizen does not work.
  • The couple has two children, both born in the United States and under the age of 2.
  • Father, though practicing law, works from home on most days in order to provide care for children.
  • Mother is unhappy living in the United States and states that she wants to return to France with children.  Father wants to remain in United States, where children have lived, and where he is a practicing attorney.
  • Father compromises and travels for month-long visit to France with wife and children in hope that continued access to wife’s country of origin will satisfy her.
  • Mother makes numerous threats that she is going to take children and move to France without Father.
  • Father fears that children will be removed from America without his consent.
  • Mother has financial wherewith all and support system to relocate to France without children’s father.
  • Father discovers that children’s mother has been investigating how to remove children from America (abduction).
  • Father discovers that children’s mother has a large amount of concealed money in Europe he was previously not aware of.
  • Mother hides children’s US passports from father.
  • Mother escalates threats to children’s father that she is leaving for France with children, stating
    there is nothing father can do about it (all while living together. No divorce
    proceedings at this time).
  • Father discovers children’s mother has been in contact with French embassy. Father’s concern that mother is in possession of French passports
    for children that he did not authorize or sign for increases significantly based on direct statements of mother that it does not matter if father has American passports and that nothing he can legally do will stop her from leaving America with children.
  • At no time have there been any claims of accusations that father has made any verbal threats or acted in any capacity of abuse; whereas, mother has made numerous threats of abduction and has demonstrated a violent temper in front of friends and family of couple.
  • Father discovers children’s mother has a second phone which he was not aware of, providing mother with ability to communicate with others without father knowing.
  • Then late yesterday —– Thursday —— Mother threatens that she is taking children and moving to France immediately. Father informs wife he is going to file for divorce and seek court to ensure children are not illegally removed.
  • Hours later, mother makes police report against children’s father claiming that father made dangerous threats against her and
    children and that she fears for her safety.
  • Father becomes aware of wife’s deceitful plot and that she is at police station.
  • Mother makes late afternoon police complaint against husband.
  • Mother tries to lure father back to house in order to have him
    arrested. Unknown to wife, father is able to see police car at house waiting for him to come back via video security system.
  • Mother’s FALSE claim of domestic abuse sets up a 13B Hague Defense should
    she abduct.
  • Clear intent by mother to have father arrested today by police.
  • While father is arrested for domestic threats, wife, who is in possession of French
    passports can legally departs for France with children as father sits in jail
    cell.
  • While in jail, mother has the opportunity to clear out all finances of
    partnership.
  • Mother, who has means to disappear with children in France and Europe
    creates legal defense to have French courts sanction abduction under best
    interest of child due to father’s arrest.
  • Father faces major legal fight to reunite with children, which will take a significant toll on his  professional life.

In essence, by making a false police report and seeking for her husband’s arrest on a Friday with hope that her husband will be detained over the weekend, the children’s mother, who is in possession of French passports could depart the United States legally with her children since there is no court order restricting her or the children’s departure. In addition, the claim of domestic abuse toward her and/or her children provide mother to seek new jurisdiction of children and their custody in France.

Tragically, what you have read above is not an isolated act, nor do false claims of abuse occur solely by women against men. In the world of international parental child abduction, it is the norm for an abductor to make false claims against a targeted parent.

If you noticed in the brief scenario described above, the abductor had planned her scheme carefully – from moving money to Europe, to concealed phone calls, to illegally obtained passports, to a malicious scheme that would prevent her husband to file any court action to restrain her from leaving the United States by making a false police report in hope he would be arrested and detained long enough for her to get to an airport and depart with the children of the marriage.

And in the meantime, the targeted parent has been arrested, had his children taken from him, had his assets taken, and is now Chasing The Cyclone of abduction. All in less than 24 hours.

The only thing that is a bit different about what I described above is that in the scenario shared above, the abductor did not plan into their illicit scheme on obstacle: THE I CARE FOUNDATION and the organization’s understanding of abduction, and how to stop it.

And so on this day, there was no abduction though clearly there was an long-planned, well thought out scheme to do so.   And today there was no arrest based upon a false complaint.  And today, two young children have not been tossed into the storms of international abduction. And an innocent parent who loves his children did not sit in a jail cell saying to himself that his biggest nightmare came true. And most of all, children who were about to be put into imminent danger . . . were not in good part because of the I CARE Foundation and one really good parent who was willing to do what was necessary so his children would not be used as pawns in some horrible scheme.

It is days like today, when your actions and all you have experienced actually help another parent that makes it worth continuing the good fight.

For more information about international parental child abduction, please visit the I CARE Foundation website and the official website of Chasing The Cyclone.

Respectfully,

Peter Thomas Senese

The I CARE Foundation

Today’s Heroes – The Remarkable, Inspiring Author and Advocate Elisabeth Hirsch

Today’s Hero – The Remarkable, Inspiring Author and Advocate Elisabeth Hirsch

Okay, I am a true fan of my friend Elisabeth Hirsch for she represents all the good things I believe in: a tremendous parent, incredible storyteller, active advocate, and philanthropist who has used her voice to help enrich the human condition while assisting others who might have lost their sight of life’s magic.

Elisabeth inspires me.  And though she may not have realized the magnitude of the words I am now sharing, Elisabeth put a unique fire in me a year ago to fight for children in crisis: that fire leading to the accomplishments of the I CARE Foundation, and the organizations various
accomplishments protecting children around the world from abduction.

For those of you who do not know Elisabeth Hirsch, she is best-selling writer who has written a collection of diverse, enjoyable, empowering, and entertaining books under the pen name E.C. Stilson. When she is not writing, raising money for such notable organizations such as Angel Watch, Primary Children’s Hospital, Pregnancy Resources, or the American Diabetes Association, Elisabeth is speaking for and playing a key role in the healing process for families in crisis who have experienced the loss of an infant or young child.

Remarkably, Elisabeth used the hardships that she and her family faced during one extremely challenging period in their life when she lost her young son, Zeke, and acts so others will benefit from her experience.
And as explored in this interview, Elisabeth’s willingness and desire to help others means that she must go back to those incredible storms whenever she comes to help other families in crisis. As a parent who had to search the world over for an abducted child, and as a person
who, after finding and safely bringing my child home and becoming a highly visible advocate and activist against abduction and trafficking, I know all too well the challenges of advocacy Elisabeth faces because whenever she comes to the aid of those who may be experiencing infant loss, the fiber of her memories are part of her.  Fortunately, Elisabeth Hirsch has such tremendous strength – a strength she has found because of her strong faith in God, her strong relationship and partnership with her husband, the love of her family, and her courage to find her voice.

It is quite remarkable just how much a person can do when they find their voice. Clearly, Elisabeth Hirsch lives in Uhuru, and somehow, I think Noble Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai is looking down from heaven at Elisabeth with a big smile on her face, knowing that this indefatigable women lives unbowed in her morals, ethics, humility, and kindness
– and it all of this – Elisabeth Hirsch makes the world a much, much better place.

Raising four beautiful children with her husband Cade, while running her publishing company Wayman Publishing, Elisabeth came to the aid of the I CARE Foundation this past year and stewarded the message of international parental child abduction prevention. Elisabeth’s help was incredible, as is exemplified by the fact that after nearly 30 years of consistent rocketing growth in the U.S. international parental child abduction rate, the reported rate of abductions dropped by 23% over the past two years – the same period when the I CARE Foundation launched a global abduction
awareness and prevention campaign that utilized the tremendous reach of parenting writers such as Elisabeth Hirsch.

Elisabeth Hirsch is a hero to so many, including her family, her friends, and all those she has directly helped; however,
Elisa’s work, her spirit, and her willingness to help others in need – and the impact she has made, represents all that mankind aspires to be. She is what ‘Today’s Heroes’ symbolizes – and represents the best in all of us.

It is my privilege to share this interview with my friend and hero, Elisabeth Hirsch.

1. You have written several best sellers under the
name E.C. Stilson, including notable titles such as one of the most important
books I have ever read, The Golden Sky. Can you share with us a little about
this story, and what your purpose was in writing it?

I was nineteen years old, already a pregnant mother and lonely wife, when I found out the child I carried had serious birth defects. I wrote everything down, detailing how my baby died and my marriage fell apart, but through it all I found hope, redemption, and even forgiveness in the most unlikely of places.

A few years later, I reread my own words and found miracles that only hindsight could bring. So many amazing things had happened, showing me God was there, always with me, always guiding me.

I knew others going through hard times could read my story and see the miracles throughout their own trials. And understand that at the end of every storm, there is a golden sky.

2. Why did you choose the name E.C. Stilson to pen under?

My nieces and nephews called me “EC” because “Elisa” was hard to say. I always thought that was fun since my first name starts with an “E” and my husband’s begins with a “C.” Cade’s helped me so much with my memoirs, I wanted the “EC” to represent both of us. “Stilson” is my maiden name, and I used it to honor my dad.

3. During World War II, women in the media such as Jacquelyn Saix (one of television’s first producers) and Mary Walsh Hemingway (one of the first women war correspondents) began to transform who, how, and what news was reported, and how this information was shared. Moving forward nearly 70 years, parenting
blog writers are changing the landscape once again on how information is shared and utilized. Which makes the ‘The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom’ irresistible! Can you tell us about this blog and what value do you see in it?

Humor and laughter have more power than most realize. As parents, it’s easy to get lost in the stressful circumstances; we forget how much fun life can be. My blog tries to bring that back, by telling silly stories about parenting, potty training, school bullies, etc. My hope is to help people see how any circumstance can be humorous, if looked at differently. A happy parent, who’s involved with their children, will most likely raise happy kids.

4. How important of a role do parents who write and share their views and perspectives on the Internet play in directing or cultivating public perception or creating new trends?

Parenting blogs have grown substantially in the last few years. When googling terms, it’s amazing how many times I’m directed to parenting blogs. My blog alone has been viewed over 360,000 times. The blogging community has a strong
voice, the ability to be heard more easily by so many people–it’s phenomenal. These writers’ insights and knowledge are guiding others, making them feel less alone in our technologically evolving world.

5. Would you say a mobilized group of parent blog writes has the ability of creating a major impact on an issue or social cause, and if so, can you give a specific?

I think anyone with a strong voice has the opportunity to influence others by standing for what they believe in. Blogging has been a gift to those willing to speak out. With good blog titles and topics, writers now have the capability to be heard. I remember seeing this first-hand when I wrote about my son who died. I went to over 100 other blogs and asked them to join me in a 3-day event where we’d each share stories about our loved ones who have passed on. This event
exploded and was everywhere within the following days. That single event jump-started my writing career.

You can see that promo post here:

http://ecwrites.blogspot.com/2011/09/only-50-more-days-until-golden-sky.html

6. It seems to me that it took a certain amount of courage when you found your voice. What would you tell others who struggle to find the courage to find their own voice, and what could they do to alleviate any fear they may have?

It’s still hard for me to believe in myself and my voice. Even while being interviewed on the radio, or while talking at signings, I’m still nervous. But then I remember why I started in the first place. What was so important that this journey became worth the fight? That’s when I think of my son. I wanted his story out there, something that he’d left behind so he could look down from Heaven and realize I will never forget him. His life was important–it had meaning. That strength keeps me going strong.

We all have stories to tell. The reason we initially started looking for our voices, is the same force that will inspire us to find our way.

7. You are a very humble lady, yet your writing and advocacy has helped so many others. Can you share with us one story of how one of your books helped another?

. . . where to begin. I’ve been so blessed, and many of the things that have happened to me seem a bit miraculous. The one story that sticks out happened in winter of 2011. I’d just started Wayman Publishing and published “The Golden Sky.” It was an emotional time because Cade and I both thought about Zeke’s short life. On November 18th, Zeke’s birthday, we went to his grave and left “The Golden Sky” there. It was my final way of saying goodbye. I can’t describe how that felt. It was very bittersweet. At the time I had a romantic notion that God and Zeke were guiding me. I’d somehow leave the book and then the right person would find it and read it.

Well, it happened! In December I received an amazing email. It started like this:

“Hi, I am sure you do not know me. You see Zeke’s grave is right next to my sister’s grave.”

The email continued, telling me how she’d read my book and now hoped her sister was taking care of Zeke in Heaven! We’re still in contact through Facebook. I’m so thankful that she read Zeke’s book.

8. Losing a young child is a parent’s biggest fear, and it is something you have not only written about, but you have become a teacher, healer, and friend to so many others who have had to face this issue. What are a few important things that you teach others facing this crisis that can also carry over to others not facing this issue?

Keep Going
Some days it might seem simpler to stop facing our problems. But that’s not the easy way out. Giving up and repressing feelings leads to worse problems later on–trust me, I know. Whether you want to be a warrior or a wimp, give yourself time to grieve (and deal with things) so you can eventually find the issue and thus the resolution.

Find the Issue–Find the Resolution
We all go through tough times and grieve in different ways. If we can discover what’s truly upsetting us about any situation, then we can discover how to change things. For example, when Zeke died I had the hardest time thinking that
he’d never grow up–I’d never get to see him become a man. Why? Was there something I could do to make things better? He’d died and the sadness lingered for years, just causing more pain and hurt. When I identified the problem’s
root, I realized I could release his book, in that way his memory would live on even if he could not. By Identifying this deep issue, I found a resolution. And it worked!

The loss still hurts sometimes, but I feel much better, as if I’ve done as much as I can to make a bad situation better somehow.

9. You have helped raise money for such organizations such as Angel Watch, The Pregnancy Resource Center, and Primary Children’s Hospital. Why?

All three of these places helped me and Zeke. The Pregnancy Resource Center encouraged me to continue with the pregnancy. Angel Watch sent counselors to our house. They helped us cope before and after Zeke was born. They also helped Cade and I mend our failing marriage. And Primary Children’s, because that’s the only home Zeke even knew.

10. When the I CARE Foundation sought your assistance by asking you to lend your voice and help steward the messages about the realities of international parental child abduction, you did not hesitate to do so. Why?

I believe in the I CARE Foundation. They fight for the well-being of children, for the solace and strength of parents who are facing terrible tragedies. I don’t know what it’s like to face child abduction, but I do know what it’s like to lose a son. For these reasons and many more, the I CARE Foundation is close to my heart.

11. During the 2012 fiscal year, outgoing cases of international parental child abduction declined by 15% that originated from the United States because there was an increase in abduction prevention litigation. How important is it that other parent blog writers write about social issues that impact children?

Bloggers have more power than they know. If people would band together and write about this, our voices would be heard–and readers would take action. Think about “The Golden Sky”; if a single book–from a previously unknown other–can become a success from a single blogging launch, then imagine how an event like this could raise abduction prevention awareness!

12. Can you name three of your favorite books?

The Bible–because you can’t get better than that.

“Gone With the Wind”–because Scarlett is so real, loathsome and likable–all at the same time.

“The Sum of All Men” in David Farland’s Runelords series. He weaves social injustice into a fantasy story that I’ll never forget. Imagine a world where people could sell their intellect, beauty, and physical strength. Now imagine that same world, where these attributes can be taken by kings, leaving peasants brainless, ugly and physically marred as long as the omnipotent king lives.

13. I just ordered ‘The Sword of Senack’ – a magical YA adventure story about three siblings trying to find one of their lost siblings. Where did this story originate from, and can you give us a little insight?

When Zeke died, my oldest daughter had a very hard time. She’d ask what death is, and why Zeke never came back. I answered the best I could, but when answers no longer helped, I started telling her an allegory. The story is about a brave boy who takes an underwater adventure. “He had to go,” I told my daughter. “It was his destiny.” And through that story, my daughter slowly came to terms with her brother’s death. Few know of the story’s deeper meaning, they just think it’s a fun MG fantasy. But it’s a special book to me, because it represents how my daughter found healing.

14. You’re a wife, a mother, a writer, a publisher, an activist, and an advocate. What do you do for fun that is . . . well, just for you?

I love hiking. I also enjoy playing my violin in the mountains. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does I feel like all of my worries fade–even if only for a moment.

Don’t tell my mom, but I’d also like to get into skydiving. I went once and now I can’t stop dreaming about doing again–it was UNREAL!

15. The word ‘Uhuru’ means to live in freedom by being and living unbowed in your morals, ethics and principles. How important is it to live in freedom? 

Without morals, ethics, principles and freedom of our minds, who are we? If we expect to take life by the reins and truly live, we MUST understand ourselves.  That is true freedom, knowing ourselves and having the strength to be who we are. I’m still trying to learn this myself, but I feel as if writing my memoirs has helped me grow more than anticipated.

Living in freedom may be the single most important aspect of living, because being “free” entails so much.

16. As an accomplished writer who has created an impressive, diverse body of work, what three things would you tell inspiring writers?

Make a Goal and Stick to it!

Many writers don’t go anywhere because they can’t finish a book, or they won’t commit to writing consistently. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, if someone wants to be a writer they must take the time to write. Writing needs to be taken seriously. Find time. I get up at 5am just so I can write. If I stop being consistent, my writing will suffer.

Don’t Let Anyone Pull You Down

I could probably line a swimming pool with the rejection letters I’ve received.  It’s hard hearing criticism from publishers, editors and even friends. But you have to keep going. Yeah, I could swim in the hundreds of rejection letters I’ve gotten. You know what else I could do? I bet I could make a book using the wonderful letters I’ve received from people who’ve read my books and enjoyed them. I’ve met amazing people. I founded Wayman Publishing. I helped donate thousands of dollars to different organizations. None of that would have happened if I just gave up and swam in my own doubts. Now think of your writing–imagine what you could do!

Find Your Purpose and Hold onto it

Everyone is special. Everyone has something important to offer the world. Once you’ve found what inspires you to write, keep that close. Just like I wrote in question #6: The reason we initially started looking for our voices, is the same force that will inspire us to find our way.

17. When creating a story, how do you map out the direction you’re going?

Since most books are about 60,000 words long, and I write nearly 2,000 words per chapter, I start by creating 30 chapter titles. These must obey the arc of a good story, with the mid-point and climax carefully placed. I usually think
of my resolution and then start my story in the complete opposite place. For example, if my story will end with a confident woman who is financially stable and happy, in the beginning she’ll be poor and insecure. Every chapter must
describe her growth through subplots etc.

18. What is next for E.C. Stilson?

I’m currently working on “Quest for Larin,” the second book in the Mer-son Cycle.

19. What comes to mind from the phrase, ‘Global Citizen’?

I love this concept; it brings such a feeling of unity and hope. This really is a small world. With the way things are going, we’re all so easily connected, unique citizens, all equal with the ability to help each other succeed.

20. Can you tell us something funny that happened to you during your life?

I’ve had so many hilarious things happen to me. But just this morning I talked with a friend about my husband. Cade’s fine now, but recently, he was very ill.  I had no idea he was actually that sick. I kept saying, “Honey, you need
to get out of bed. You’ll feel better.”

“I can’t move,” he groaned.

Was he serious? Suddenly I had a flashback of myself being in labor. I breathed through each contraction. My mom and mother-in-law looked worried, praying for me. Then Cade started hyperventilating in the back of the room. Everyone
gasped.

I was the one in labor! I didn’t have a epidural, thinking I’d save my baby from any drugs. Yet Cade pulled out a damn paper bag, breathing into it, clutching the thing like it held the secrets of life. Then my mother-in-law and MY mother left me as another rolling contraction came. I breathed. Cade breathed. Apparently Cade breathes harder because everyone held his hands and wiped his sweaty forehead! Our families left soon after to get Cade a sandwich–my favorite kind. I couldn’t eat, yet he ate the thing, taking big breathes in between each bite. The ketchup from the sandwich kept falling, splashing beautifully onto a napkin on Cade’s lap, all during my intense contractions.

“I can’t move,” Cade groaned again, bringing me back to the present moment.

We went to the hospital. This time Cade rested in the hospital bed while I watched from the sidelines. “You have an infection in your lungs,” the doctor said. He had such wild white hair, like Einstein. “Another day and you might have died,” he told Cade.

It was my turn to start hyperventilating. I hadn’t thought Cade was sick. I’d been so rude! I sat down and breathed hard, trying to ground myself. My mother and mother-in-law instantly ran over to make sure I was okay. They held my hands. They wiped my forehead. . . .

After the doctor left the room, I caught Cade’s eyes. He kept staring, wondering why everyone was fawning over me when he was the one in pain.

(End Interview)

As I have gotten older and perhaps a bit more thoughtful, I have often thought about God’s will.  In these thoughts, I have come to believe that God so much bigger than any one religion, but the message God shares with all who believe in the Divine’s existence crosses all faiths: be courageous in your life to be kind and compassionate to one another.  In doing so, I think we allow the God each of us respectively believes in to come into our heart and guide our life.

When I think of the goodness of having God’s spirit exist on our earthly world, it is rather easy to see the Divine’s presence in the nature of mankind by simply paying attention to my remarkable friend, Elisabeth Hirsch for Elisa, as she is also referred to, is what is right about this world.

On one final note, my life has become enriched over this past year that Elisabeth and I have become friends.  I not only have been open to the lessons she teaches by her action, but I have been empowered to share my voice.

Elisabeth Hirsch exemplifies what it is to be a Hero for she has made our world a better place for many.  Be inspired – I invite you to read about ElisabethHirsch and Elisa’s publishing company, Wayman Publishing.  Click here to purchase any of EC’s publications on Amazon.

Heroes of Today: Top Parenting Bloggers Marvyn and Mary Cab Tinitigan

Today’s Heroes: Top Parenting Bloggers Marvyn and Mary Cab Tinitigan

A year ago, I had contacted Marvyn and Mary Tinitigan, who operate the delightful parenting – family blog site, ‘Marvyn and Mary’ and sought their assistance in stewarding the I CARE Foundation’s message about the pandemic of international parental child abduction so targeted parents may become educated about the realities of abduction.

Over the year, Mary and Marvyn have been extremely helpful in stewarding the messages of abduction prevention.  Their assistance has made a sizeable difference in the lives of many, including playing a key role in the recovery of an abducted child.

Specifically, a young girl was internationally parentally abducted from New Jersey. Her abductor had hatched a clever scheme that included use of flights to Florida, boarding a closed circuit cruise ship (a loophole under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) that would stop off in Mexico after visiting several ports-of-call in the Caribbean, debarking in Mexico’s Cancun, driving to Mexico City, where the abductor would then fly with the kidnapped child to Brazil.  However, the targeted parent, who had remained in New Jersey, unaware of the scheme of her ex-husband, read Marvyn and Mary’s various articles about international parental child abduction and the I CARE Foundation’s work.  Immediately, an investigation was launched that quickly uncovered the in-action plan.  And with a lot of effort and a great deal of work, the little girl was removed from the cruise ship and returned to her custodial mother.  Should the child’s abductor – her non-custodial father – gotten into Mexico, their passage to Brazil would have been clear.  And sadly, the child’s return would have been unlikely since Brazil is generally a non-complying signatory nation of the Hague Convention.

Mary and Marvyn’s willingness to get involved and to advocate for others demonstrates not just good citizenship, but undeniably is a demonstrative building block of excellent parenting.  If it was not for their blog writing and willingness to get involved, at least one child’s hatched kidnapping would have been carried out. But it was not because a caring, fun, and intelligent couple with a sense of civic responsibility decided to use their voice and make a difference for children and families in crisis.

I am pleased to share that Marvyn and Mary Tinitigin are Today’s Heroes.  They not only represent what can happen when each of us advocates issues that are geared toward enriching the greater good of others. Indeed, they are my heroes because, with nothing to gain other than the knowledge that they might be able to help others, they got involved.

Outside of their advocacy with the I CARE Foundation, Marvyn and Mary’s blog writing is delightful! Writing and posting as a family – which is awesome – the topics they write about and some of the photographs they share speak to readers around the world.

It is my honor to share with you my interview with Marvyn and Mary: compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and intelligent Heroes of Today who make the world a better place for all of us. When I think of the words ‘human connectivity’, I think of my dear friends Marvyn and Mary Tinitigin.

Here is my interview:

1. Your parent blog site ‘Marvyn and Mary’ is an absolute celebration of parenting and partnership. How do you and Marvyn collaborate on topics and issues you share with your readers?

We don’t really have a formal collaboration process. Instead we have a general idea of what our readers want and we stay true to that. We’re pretty loosey-goosey in that regard. – Marvyn

2. Why did you decide to create your parenting blog? 

Marvynandmary.com was originally a venue for us to share our wedding information with attendees. After our wedding, it eventually evolved into a blog. Marvyn has the know-how, so why not? – Mary

Eventually we were getting a lot of feedback on our posts of not-so-common products, so we took it from there.  – Marvyn

3. How has your writing and blog impacted others?

I’m hoping it gives the readers a few minutes of smiles and laughter. Everybody wants to see more of Jagger, right? – Marvyn

I am hoping that they find something in our blog that will help them in whatever they are searching for. Whether it’s laughter, wanting to relate to another parent or in need of help, I hope they find that on our site. – Mary

4. Parenting blog writers partially consist of mothers who have dedicated themselves to the incredible fulltime task of raising a family. What are the benefits for a stay-at-home mother or father who is considering creating a blog or using social media to have their voice heard?

Networking. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if it wasn’t for that, you know? – Marvyn

I am no longer a stay-at-home mom but when I was, I used our blog to just write about things that interest me like the I CARE Foundation. I also used it as something that I could take out my frustration on. – Mary

5. What are some of the fun or interesting aspects of being a well-respected parent blog writer?

You can take pictures of anything. When somebody gives you a dirty look, the instant response is “Don’t worry, it’s for my blog!” –Marvyn

That you can say anything you want and not worry about what people think – Mary

6. The way society obtains and shares information has changed dramatically over a short period of time. How important of a role do parent blog writers have in educating other parents about issues that they may face?

It is very important. When we were expecting, we looked to the web to provide us with answers that we needed and we wanted to do the same. Marvyn wanted to start writing reviews on products we bought in hopes that it would help people decide on whether to buy it or not, especially when it came to baby products.  We were constantly on Babies R Us reading reviews so we thought why not write our experience on our blog?

7. Would you say that a mobilized and united parent blog community has the ability of creating trends, swaying policy, and increasing the elevation of topical issues?

Absolutely! We as parents have a right to raise our voices because we are fighting for our children’s future. People tend to listen more when raising an issue comes from a parent. They know that we just want to do what is right and want to protect our children – Mary

8. On your blog site’s ‘About Us’ section, you post: ‘Let me write something about us. I promise I will make it entertaining. Come back later, okay?’ So, here is your chance: how about three sentences.

1)
2)
3)….come back later okay? 😉

9. Parent blog writer’s social activism is becoming more visible and influential. What responsibilities do parents have, if any, to become vocal with respect to causes or issues that impact society?

I think parents have such a big responsibility in society. After all, we are raising the future of this country. – Mary

10. How have you used your website to help others, particularly children and families in crisis?

I think your feedback is proof. A perfect example of how our website has helped those in need. –Marvyn

11. You have become visible in your advocacy with the I CARE Foundation to help prevent international child abduction and human trafficking. Why is this important?

Because we want to do anything we can to protect the innocent. It is such a cruel world out there and we want those horrible human beings (if we can even call them that)to know that we are out there, fighting you with everything we have to keep our children safe.

12. Your blog helped prevent an abduction of a young girl taken from the United States to South America. How did you feel knowing that you made a difference for a targeted family? 

We were completely blown away by the news. There were so many thoughts running through our mind. To unknowingly help someone get their daughter back, how do you find the right words to that? We are just so unbelievably happy that the child was returned. We never expected it would be our blog that would be of assistance to something like this. There are so many options when you Google something and the fact that our blog popped up and helped them, it’s just…WOW. It’s an honor really. It gives us comfort in some way that if something like this happens again, our blog and others like ours is able to provide someone with some assistance.  -Mary

13. Can you name three books that have inspired you? 

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. One of my all time favorite book/movie. I was always a believer in fairy tales (I mean, what girl doesn’t right) and that book gave me a hope at a time that I needed it most. Now this book inspired Marvyn too.  We met when I visited my family here in NJ during Christmas break. I was living in California at that time. He found out that my favorite book/movie is The Notebook. When it was time for me to leave, he wrote me this lovely letter that he made me promise not to read until I got on the plane. He pretty much confessed his love for me and that he really wished we could have met in different circumstances because he would have loved to get to know me better. Well, we all know how that turned out. A happy ending for us both =)

Another one is a book called Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo. I don’t know how much of the story is actually the truth but it gave me such hope that when it is our time, we are really going to be reunited with the people we love up there.

And lastly, Chasing the Cyclone, written by my wonderful friend, Peter Thomas Senese,  is another one that inspired me. It’s a story about a father’s love, how he would go to hell and back to get his son back. Reading that book, I never imagined it would introduce us to a great cause but also introduced us to a group of amazing people.

14. What would you tell other parent blogger writers about their role in using their voice to further social causes about children? 

That, believe us, your voice matters. We never knew when we started writing about the I CARE Foundation that our voice would be heard. You always told us, Peter, that our voices are being heard and it is helping, that we are heroes as well. We had a hard time seeing ourselves as heroes just by writing something important. With the news that we helped someone get their daughter back, we still don’t see ourselves as one. It really is all because of you Peter and the I CARE Foundation. You are the hero because with you and the foundation, we never would have had the chance to help give a voice to it. -Mary

15. Jagger seems to always be smiling, and the affection that is shared with him clearly genuine. What are some of the important aspects or techniques of your and Marvyn’s parenting that you would like to share with others? 

We shower Jagger with hugs and kisses every day. We don’t take our time with him for granted. His happiness means the world to us. Some may say he is spoiled but he gets disciplined too when he acts out.  Marvyn has been chatting with one of his aunts who lives in California lately. It’s been a while since they’ve talked. And he’s shown her pictures and one of her comments was the same thing: he is always smiling and looks very happy. I don’t know what we are doing half that time but obviously we are doing something right, right? I guess one thing I can tell parents out there is to not take life so seriously. Look at life through the eyes of your child every now and again. Also, no matter how hard you feel like you have to work so you can buy your child everything they want, remember that all they really want is your time. The material things are not what is important to them. As long as your child is happy and you’re happy, things will work out for the best. -Mary

16. What are three things that you love to do? 

There are just too many to name! This is hard. But I have to choose right? So here it goes: reading, watch basketball with my boys and shopping!

17. I consider you and Marvyn heroes for you acted unselfishly and came to the aid of the I CARE Foundation when we desperately sought assistance from the parent blog writer community to help raise awareness of abduction. You have posted several articles that have made an impact on the lives of others. How important is it for each of us to find our courage and share our voice?

It is so incredibly important to share our voice. You never know who you will reach. Someone out there is searching for something and your blog may just provide the right answer. Never in a million years would I have thought writing about I CARE Foundation would eventually reach that one person who really needed it. -Mary

18. If there is anything you would like readers to know that we have not covered here, what would that be?

That Marvyn and Jagger have more shoes than me!

(End Interview)

Marvyn and Mary Tinitigan demonstrate by act that each of our voices really do matter. They have made a resounding impact on others – something I am sure they will continue to do.  Their son Jagger is very fortunate, for he has two amazing parents that are connected to enriching the human experience by sharing the wonderments of their life.

Heroes can be defined by individuals chose to act for the greater good of others.  The heroic act is the defining moment, not necessarily the final act, but the willingness to act.  In Maryvn and Mary’s case, they have acted to help others, and have made a difference for others.  And that is more than very cool!

I invite you to visit Marvyn and Mary’s website.

– Peter Thomas Senese –

International Women’s Day: Celebrating The Amazing Women In My Life

Heroes. Child Advocates. Nurturing Parents. Freedom Fighters. Novelists. Global Leaders. Friends. Healers. Protectors Of Our Planet. Educators. Global Citizens. 

Today the world is celebrating International Women’s Day!
Every day, I celebrate the amazing women who have touched my life!

I am not a dainty guy by any means. In fact, you could say I am quite the opposite. I have kept my body, mind, and spirit fit and sharp. Professionally, I am active in the technology sector, and have been for a long time.  As a storyteller, it has been said my works have impacted the lives of many on every continent. In my philanthropy I have come to the assistance of many children who are in crisis, particularly children fighting cancer or at risk of, or who have been abducted. Holding true to my perspective that life is filled with magic, I have allowed the ‘Peter Pan’ in me to exist.  Perhaps this is why I fight the way I do with the I CARE Foundation to make sure that all the lost boys and girls in abduction’s Neverland come home.

In reflection, most of all who I am and who I have become, is because of some incredible women who have guided me throughout my life.  I know that all of who I am comes in great part because of some courageous women, who are unquestionably, my heroes.

But there is so much more.

For example, when the I CARE Foundation began our grassroots effort to raise awareness of the warning signs and risk factors of international parental child abduction and trafficking, it was only an amazing group of women who answered our call for help. And help they did!  By stewarding the educational messages of child abduction prevention, these international women – located as far away as the Philippines, Indonesia, South Africa, Kenya, England, Germany, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, and of course the United States – played a major role in a groundbreaking event: they pushed back the pandemic of international child abduction as demonstrated by the reported cases of abduction that had nearly 30 years of consecutive growth: reported abductions originating from the United States declined by 15% during 2011 and 2012!

Now granted, the majority of the parents who stood in the line of educational defense for children originated from the United States – but by the virtue of the statistical impact, it is clear that mobilized women – their hands reaching across international borders – have the incredible ability of changing the world. And this is clearly demonstrated by how a major international family issue – child abduction – has been impacted.

On this note, I would like to thank some of my friends and children warriors from all over the world for what each of you have done to assist children in crisis.  So a special thank you is extended to Maria Henderson, Carolyn Ann Vlk, Patricia Lee, Jennifer Cluff, Amanda Gammell, Patricia McKnight, Wangari Maathai, Haseena Patel, Victoria Vaccariello Swope, Stacey Jo Burns, PJ Schott, Britnee Degenhart, Tiffany Degenhart, Nancy Carty Lepri, Mary Tinitigan, Nanette Bonilla, Angeline De Luca, Annette Fuerriero, Carmen Ducharme Rochette, Jennifer Brooks Nelissen, Linda Blair, Shannon Colonna, Abigail Kidd Mui, Ida Acconciamessa, Lyndsey Doyle, Pamela Mitchell, Ann Marquez, Aprile Mazey, Leslie Warren, Kathy Marrocco, Alicia Yamashita, Sharon Simons, Susann Gehring, Stephanie Seymour, Claire Minnaar, Willa Stock, Elisabeth Hirsch, Katie Smith, Melanie Melugin, Patsy Woo, Bobbie Anne Munsey, Heather Jones, Cascia Talbert, Amanda Coburn, Erica Kloestra, Janice Roodsari, Leah Ison, Rachel Burk, Tamara Vellozzo, Lauren Johnson, Sabrina Dennis, Laura Taft, Ewa Kelly, Erin Henderschedt, Cheryl Bullock, Connie Lee, Gennevieve Elise Derveld, Megan Slattery, Connie Lee, Jilhan Tekinapp, Sher Wheeler, Stacey Stein Eva, Eri Nelson, Kali Panago, Gwen Johnson, Rita Evelyn Yanes, Carol Rita Sylvia, Jullian Steward, Barbara Craig, Patricia Hoff, and of course Amanda of Werdyab, Janessa of Thrifty Nifty Mommy, Jule from Takes a Village, Carlia from Nest Building 101, Natasha from Serenity You, Heather from Proud Book Nerd, Dianna from Free Sample Momma, Jane from Speak Jane Speak, Rondi from WAHM Resources, Stephanie from Random Mommy Blog, Jessica from Naturally Mamas, and so many others incredible international women who I have not mentioned but surely wanted to.

Each of you is right about this world.  Each of you in your own special way bespeaks of the hope of tomorrow and the possibility of true global citizenship. And each of you has impacted my life along the way.

Today the world celebrates International Women’s Day.  Every day, in my own special way, I celebrate each of you.

Enjoy!
Jennifer Husson Cluff
Haseena Patel
Patricia McKnight
Wangari Maathai
Mary Welsh Hemingway and Jacqueline Saix
Carolyn Ann Vlk
Pam Mitchell

In case you might be wondering what I believe in . . . that’s pretty simple.

Kindest regards to all,

PETER THOMAS SENESE

I CARE Foundation: Making A Difference In The Lives Of Children

On behalf of the I CARE Foundation, I am pleased to share my quarterly report on the foundation’s accomplishments, activities, and plans for the future.  Though there remains a great deal of challenges, particularly with existing international parental child abduction cases, the tide is turning toward preventing future cases of abduction.

Please read the report.

Kind regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese

Heroes of Today: Mom-ology Parenting Blogger Jennifer Husson Cluff

A Remarkable Hero: Mom-ology Parenting Blogger Jennifer Husson Cluff

Jennifer Husson Cluff Has Been Voted As One Of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting Bloggers

Over the past few years I have written a series of essays about real-life heroes – incredible individuals who act in kindness and compassion toward others and who inherently, by the nature of their spirits, enhance the lives of those around them. I am fortunate to call each a dear friend. These individuals have made me a better person. They have positively impacted the lives of so many others by direct act or through social activism. Nevertheless, they are what is right about our world.

Jennifer Husson Cluff
Voted One Of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting Writers

Needless to say, I feel honored and blessed to have these remarkable heroes in my life for they have not only enriched my own life, but they have profoundly and measurably made our world a better place. It is my privilege to share with you, insight about my dear friend Jennifer Husson Cluff of Ontario, Canada who not only is an active defender and protector of children in crisis, as well as children with special needs, but who also is one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate individuals I have ever had the privilege to call a ‘friend’. It is no wonder why Jennifer Husson Cluff has been awarded the honor of being called one of Canada’s top parenting bloggers through her incredible work discussing everyday parenting issues on her blog Mom-ology, but also issues revolving around autism and international child abduction and trafficking. From my perspective, Jennifer Husson Cluff is not only one of Canada’s top parenting bloggers, but she is one of the world’s most prolific parenting writers because through her writing and social media capability, Jennifer has measurably helped save the lives of children in severe crisis.

Before I go any further, let me say this simple thing about heroes: they are ordinary people doing extraordinary things for others during time of need or crisis, and in their act, they seek nothing but to hold the knowledge that they acted in kindness toward another, including individuals they know as well as individuals they may never know. In a hero’s compassionate act, they make the world a better place. And unquestionably, Jennifer Husson Cluff has made the world a better place for others.

Social media has clearly altered the way the world shares information, including a shift away from what may be previously considered traditional media outlets to the more nano-moment overdrive that occurs via social media outlets such as blog sites, TwitterFacebook, etc., etc. The paradigm of this is a massive world of what may be viewed as dormant voices erupted in the media. The volcano, if you will – the highly intelligent, insightful, connected voices known as parenting blog writers.

Speaking from first-hand experience in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, I have seen just how influential parenting blog writers are, particularly when they mobilize on a specific issue or cause. Fortunately for many at-risk children and their parents who have been targeted for international parental child abduction, a large and growing number of parenting bloggers decided to share their powerful voices and write about abduction. In doing so, the number of reported cased in the United States declined by 15% during 2012. This was more than a remarkable event. It was a miracle partially created by some extraordinary parents – mostly mothers who parent, who write, who live, who think, who care, and who stood unbowed. Among this remarkable group, and defining all of the above, is Jennifer Husson Cluff.

Over the past year, the I CARE Foundation has worked with Jennifer. Whenever we asked her for assistance in sharing messages that could possibly help families at risk, not only did she say ‘yes’ to our request, but asked ‘what else can I do to help?’

And help she did!

Jennifer Husson Cluff is my hero. She is what is right about this world. I value her friendship greatly and am inspired deeply by her belief in others, but more than anything, I value her incredible, insightful voice – a voice that always thinks of others while also being assertive, thoughtful, and at times, quite funny. And as a parent – there is not a day that goes by that I am not amazed by just how caring and attentive of a parent Jennifer is to her son Connor, who I think is one of the most remarkable young boys I have ever had the privilege of getting to know – in fact, I am blessed that Connor, who sees the world in its purest form – has been willing to share with me from time-to-time his unique, innocent, trusting, and wise perspective about so many things.

The other day, I was discussing with my fellow I CARE Foundation board of director member, attorney Joel Walter the amazing fact that the number of international parental child abduction cases declined by 15%. His words? “The reason why that happened more than anything is because of remarkable women like Jen [Husson Cluff] who answered our plea to help steward the message about abduction. They [the parenting blog writers] played a dramatic role in what was accomplished.”

I couldn’t agree more with Joel’s statement.

In asking Jennifer a list of questions below, I think you will understand just how remarkable a person she is. So with great pleasure, I share with you my interview with my hero, Jennifer Husson Cluff.

1. What is Mom-ology?

Mom-ology is a place where I share anything and everything mom-related… or in reality, parenting-related, as I do have some dad readers too. I originally started writing under another blog name and it was specifically about autism. As time went on, I started branching out into more general parenting topics, which allowed Mom-ology to be born. It allowed me to expand what I wanted to write about. It’s a place where I am able to be me and if that benefits someone else as well, that’s fantastic!

2. You have recently been voted one of Canada’s Top Parenting Blog Writers. Why write and what topics do you focus on?

My main goal in writing is to write about personal issues that may be of interest to others. Becoming a stay-at-home mom after being in the workforce for almost 15 years was a difficult transition in one sense. Though I love my son more than anything in this world, I thought I lost a part of my identity as a person in the workforce. So in creating Mom-ology, and writing about the things I do, it has allowed me to share my voice with others again.

Outside of sharing life living with autism… the good, the bad and the funny… I am passionate about raising autism awareness. As a special needs parent, I learned very quickly how to advocate for my son. Society has a lot of misconceptions about autism, and to help reduce the amount of discrimination and unfortunately, ignorance, the views of society need to change. My goal is to do what I can to change those views… to make life easier for my son, his friends and anyone else on the spectrum.

I have also become a bit of an advocate trying to help raise awareness about international parental child abduction (IPCA). About a year ago, I was introduced to this world that I didn’t know existed. I was an outsider looking in… and I can sure say, I didn’t like what I saw. I have been incredibly lucky to be able to assist the I CARE Foundation in any way I can, as they fight to bring about changes in the laws that are necessary to protect innocent children from the abuse and cruel world that is IPCA.

3. You are a fierce advocate of children with special needs. What benefits, if any, has social media had in furthering society’s understanding of children who are on the autism spectrum?

Thank you for saying that Peter – it means an awful lot coming from you. As you are aware, education is the key for any type of advocacy. In my opinion, social media has been a huge benefit as we try to raise awareness and help change the way society looks at children or adults on the autism spectrum.

Social media has allowed many causes and advocacy programs to reach people that they would have never been able to years ago. There are bloggers out there advocating and raising awareness for autism, as well as organizations such as Autism Speaks, and the information and reach is unbelievable. For example, April 2nd has been recognized as World Autism Awareness Day and a big part of this day is Autism Speaks’ campaign called ‘Light It Up Blue’. Businesses, organizations and individuals from all around the world recognize and participate in this event. It’s something small but it shows that social media is making a difference and getting the word out there. It allows us to share with society and to help people understand. Many times people’s reactions are based on fear of the unknown, but those fears can be reduced simply sharing information and educating society. I like to think that one day my son will live in a world that will accept him for who he is and part of that will be due to the work that advocates are doing today… but we still have a long way to go.

4. You have stewarded the message of international parental child abduction prevention, and have directly played important roles in helping prevent children from being internationally abducted. How would you describe parental child abduction and how relevant is this in society today?

I would say any parent’s worst nightmare would be to have their child abducted. Making it worse would be to know that it was the other parent doing the abducting! It’s hard to imagine that a parent could do that to their child! Aren’t parents supposed to love and care for their children? I know many of you feel the same way as I do and just can’t fathom the idea. However, it happens… and it happens a lot!

International parental child abduction is a form of child abuse… there is no other way to describe it. The short-term and long-term effects on these innocent children are severe. Not only is the child subjected to parental alienation, but studies show there is an increased risk of being murdered by the abducting parent (filicide) and data indicating victims of IPCA are also at a higher risk of suicide.

If you look at the statistics you will see how relevant this is in society today. There may be as many as 20,000 Canadian children and 125,000 American children internationally abducted by one parent from the other over the next ten years. Of those numbers, only about 10% of these children will ever come home!

As a parent, protect yourself and protect your child… I encourage you to take a few minutes and educate yourself about the WARNING SIGNS of IPCA. The easiest and best way to protect these children is to stop IPCA before it happens!

5. You use your blog to educate others about a host of important topics relevant to society today. What would be two of your biggest success stories on how your blog writing has helped another?

One of the things that I love about blogging is hearing from readers. My favorite story by far would be when I was contacted by a mom here in Canada, after reading an article about international parental child abduction that was shared on Mom-ology. This mom discovered that her three children were at risk of being taken to Saudi Arabia by their father. Thankfully the I CARE Foundation was able to ensure that these children remained in Canada where they were safe. I will ALWAYS remember that day… being a part of ensuring these children were safe… that was truly an amazing feeling!

I have had ‘autism parents’ contact me looking for support for their struggles that mainly revolve around dealing with school issues. Most recently, a parent emailed me after their child was forced into a supposed ‘seclusion room’ at school. Many parents are unaware of their rights in these types of situations and even more are afraid to upset the school and the officials. Helping parents to understand their rights and assisting to ensure they are able to access the resources and support that they need is extremely important. In this case it was to protect a child’s safety… to preserve a child’s dignity… and help a parent to realize they need to be the voice for their child and stand up for what they believe is right.

6. How socially influential are parenting blog writers and mom bloggers in particular?

I wish I could remember where I read this, but it was research stating that in 2012 there were 4.2 million ‘mom bloggers’ in North America. Now each of those mom bloggers have a passion that they write about… it may be fashion, food or fighting for a cause… whatever it is, in those numbers, they carry a lot of weight in the social world. Many parenting bloggers are stay at home moms and we use our blogs to share our voice and with the accessibility of the internet we are able to share our message with more people than ever before. I read parenting blogs from all around the world… I don’t go to buy a newspaper anymore… I use the internet to see what is going on in the world.

7. You have been blog writing for a little more than a year, yet in your first year as a blogger you have become considered one of the most important parenting blog writers. Are there any lessons that you can share with other parents who are or may be considering creating a blog?

Mom-ology was not my first blog but it is the first one that I have actually stuck with and made into something that I am proud of. I struggled a lot trying to ‘find my groove’ so to speak. I can’t say exactly what it was, but everything just fell into place. I write about what I love. I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way. I proved that to myself many times over!! I like to think I’m heading down the right path now though because I sure love what I do.

In my opinion, you need to write about what you know… write about what you love! I think with blogging, you have to do it because you enjoy it. If you put too many expectations on yourself you will probably lose interest. Deciding what you want from your blog is also an important step. Do you want it to be a ‘diary’ that you can share with family and friends, or do you have a bigger goal in mind…making an income? Advocating for a cause? Most of all have fun!

8. I would like to play a little word game. What comes to mind when I say, “Finding Your Voice?”

Funny you should ask this question, seeing as it comes up so much in our conversations!

I believe that your ‘voice’ is who you are… your mind, your heart and your spirit. When you ‘find your voice’ you find who you are truly meant to be and what is your ‘gift’, so to speak. There is a passion inside everyone and the challenge is to find it, but when you do, you will know. I guess for myself, I found my voice after I started Mom-ology. It’s been an incredible journey!

9. How has social media changed the landscape of society?

Social media has made some pretty great changes in the world. If you look at the way we interact with each other there are some definite pros and cons. Social media allows us to stay in contact with friends and family like we never could before, but I also think there is a downside to that in that we have lost some of the social skills that used to exist in society. People sit in the same room with each other and converse via text messages rather than a good old conversation. I must admit that I find that funny when I see it happen. The definition of ‘friends’ has pretty much been redefined due to Facebook. How many of your friends on Facebook are really friends? But if you look at the area of social activism, the changes are amazing! Gone are the days of having a small group on individuals trying to fight for a cause…locally. Today, social media allows people to connect on a global scale which only benefits the area of education and raising awareness. Think about the decline in parental abductions. This information is going out over the internet through the I CARE Foundation and bloggers. Parents are finding out about IPCA and the risks through social media. Children’s lives are being protected because of social media! I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty impressive!

10. Three books that have changed your life?

OK, this is really going to show where my life is today! I don’t have a lot of free time to read so when I do, most of my focus goes into learning about autism. The first two books are written by individuals on the autism spectrum and each has taught me so much about my son.

Chasing the Cyclone… well, that’s kind of a given. Now certainly one of my favorite books, it has impacted my life in so many positive ways… as has the author!!

1. Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
2. Look Me In the Eye by John Elder Robison
3. Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas Senese

11. Your son has a golden retriever named Ollie. How important is Ollie to your family?

As a companion, a helper, a best friend and member of our family, Ollie is our son’s autism service dog. Quite simply, he brings peace back to our lives as he is our extra set of eyes and ears. He has the amazing ability to make a young boy’s tears disappear by sharing a little nuzzle, or a comforting lick on the cheek, and those tears are replaced with sounds of laughter. Things like providing a warm snuggle at night, Ollie helps our son to feel safe and comforted so that he is able to sleep. A simple cuddle can help reduce anxiety and assists with self-regulation (those things we all take for granted) which makes those daily routines more bearable. If you were to ask what the best thing about having Ollie is, our son’s reply would be, and has been, ‘He is my best friend’.

We have had Ollie for almost 4 years and he has made such an enormous change in our lives. He has a big job but he does it so well! As you can probably tell by all that, Ollie is an extremely important member of our family and we are truly blessed to have him!

12. International Parental Child Abduction rates declined for the second year in a row in the United States. How significant of a role would you say parenting blog writers played in raising social awareness so at-risk parents can protect their children?

First off, I am thrilled at this news. When you shared this information the other day it was, as you know, a reality check for me. As a blogger, you don’t generally see the effect that you have on things like social awareness. If you are blogging about healthy eating, you don’t see how your efforts change people’s health specifically… you have to trust that what you are doing is making a difference.

In the case of parental child abduction, getting the word out on a global scale is beneficial for all. With bloggers having access to the internet and the followers through social media sites, it is easy to get messages out on a massive scale. I guess you could say that the numbers speak for themselves. Though standing up for what you believe in on your own is better than not doing anything at all, I think it takes a strong team to really make a difference. The efforts of the I CARE Foundation and the parenting bloggers that have been working with them are making a difference! I am proud to be a part of that!

13. Who or what inspires you?

That’s an easy one… my biggest inspiration is, of course, my son.

14. What should others know about you and your writing?

One of my favourite phrases is ‘Live… Laugh… Love’. There are sure a lot of different ways you can interpret that phrase, but any way you look at it, it’s a great way to live! If I could give everyone the ability to at least laugh each day I would. Laughter is the best medicine… it doesn’t take batteries… and best of all, it’s free.

I would love it if people would stop by and check out Mom-ology… and of course let me know that you stopped by!

15. What would you like to tell anyone who thinks that their voice doesn’t matter or who thinks that they can’t make a difference in their own life or the lives of others?

Never let anyone tell you that your voice doesn’t matter because it does! Even one voice can make a difference. It took me a while to realize that, but thanks to a pretty good friend… namely Peter Thomas Senese… I am able to see that now. If I can make a difference, so can you!

(End Interview Questions)

There are people in this world that make the world a better place by simply existing, and Jennifer Husson Cluff sure is one of them.  Extremely intelligent, humble, considerate to others, a dedicated parent who has found her voice and who has used her voice for the greater good of others, she is what is right about this world.

While I sit here thinking about how I would like to end this interview, I have immediately found myself reflecting upon the time when Jen and I first met.  With a smile on my face, I remember after our first conversation thinking how intelligent and caring she is.  But I also remember thinking to myself, “She really doesn’t realize just how capable she is, nor how important her incredible insight is.”  Well, I can’t say how amazing of an experience it has personally been to see first-hand as Jennifer Husson Cluff, one of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting writers . . . has found her voice.  Undeniably, the world is a better place . . . and my life has been enriched in ways I could never possibly explain.

And Jennifer, should you ever read this – I want you to know you are a true hero in my eyes.

Kindest wishes to all –

Peter Thomas Senese

Author, Filmmaker, Advocate, and Believer In Miracles
Founding Director – The I CARE Foundation

Please visit Mom-ology.

Film ‘150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children’ To Include Footage of Child Trafficking Rescue

In the face of the dark clouds of international parental child abduction that exist in the United States, Canada, and abroad, the light of hope has begun to make its way through the darkness.

A few significant events come to mind.

Immediately, I think about how a grassroots effort led by caring parents, including some of the most prolific parenting blog writers, has raised awareness of child abduction warning signs, risks, and necessary actions an at-risk parent can take if they believe their child is targeted for abduction.  There is no question that these incredible social media savvy writers have made a giant difference in the fight to protect children.

As some of you may know, a little over a month ago a large number of young girls who were previously enslaved into the sex world of human trafficking in Central America were rescued, freed, reunited with their families, and are presently receiving the necessary care that one day make them whole again.  Obviously, there are no words that can ever express the horror these children faced; however, the road they will journey on will be one filled with the support and care they need so that God willing, they will find the magic that does exist in life.

With respect to these young children, heavy consideration has been put into whether the film footage that was taken during their recovery should be used in the film ‘150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children’ due to the severity of what they had to endure, amongst other considerations.  This was not an easy issue to wrestle with; however, after speaking at length with numerous advocates, many who are highly informative freedom fighters, we have decided to include the majority of the film footage in the feature documentary as the film coverage included some incredible, intense, spirited, and provocative film important to share with the world.  There is no question that the world really needs to know what goes on first-hand in the world of child trafficking – the brutality of it – and why we must do what is necessary to stop it. In case you are wondering, the film will be extremely conscious and respectful of each child and their family’s privacy, safety, and road to recovery.  We will never show a child’s face nor identify who they are or where they are from. What the viewer will see is the actual planning and eventual rescues that took place.

Obviously, it is not easy to celebrate the rescue of any child who is trafficked because they should have never been kidnapped to begin with.  Yes, there is a silver lining that has come from their rescue outside of the incredible act that each child is safe and free, and that is that a monstrous network was smashed.  That is not to say that another network of traffickers will not emerge, but those individuals who ‘ran’ young girls from country to country in Central America will never be able to touch another child. Thus, many other children who may have been preyed upon by these monsters will never be touched by them. And fortunately, law enforcement has increased their efforts in light of what occurred to destroy any other networks that exist.

God willing, inclusion of these events in ‘150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children’ will keep pressure on the international community to continue strong efforts to protect young children, mostly young girls in Central and South America (and boys in China), when the full details of what occurred and what occurs is shared. On this note, there are no words that can ever express the gratitude of the heroic efforts put forth by some of the most amazing men and women I know who acted with sheer heroism to rescue these children nor the physicians and support teams who continue to provide critical care to them.  You are all what is right about this world.

On a separate note, I am thrilled to share that reported cases of international parental child abduction has declined in the United States by 15%. from 2011 to 2012.  This is tremendous news, particularly since there was a previous 15% decline in reported IPCA cases from 2010 to 2011.  After 30 years of sustained increased of reported cases of international parental child abduction in the United States, we are moving in the right direction – but make no mistake, no child should ever be abducted, and every kidnapped child must be brought home!

Kind regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation
Author of Chasing The Cyclone

International Parental Child Abduction Rates on the Decline in United States

A Special Message From Peter Thomas Senese On

The U.S. Decline Of International Child Abduction Cases

I am very pleased to share that the number of reported United States outbound cases of international parental child abduction (IPCA) has declined for a second year in a row.

Despite key factors that have led to increases in risk factors associated with IPCA such as global citizenship mobility, U.S. abduction rates have dropped from what was previously forecasted as a +22% to a +40% yearly growth rate to an average decline of 15% per year over the past two reporting years.

This is a remarkable series of events, and credit must be given and shared with those who have worked so hard to stop abduction.

Personally, I believe that there is no organization that deserves more credit than the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI).  The leadership of OCI is made up of some of the most caring individuals in the world who dedicate their lives to helping families at risk of abduction. Speaking from first-hand experience as a volunteer advocate who spends a significant part of my life fighting for children at risk of abduction, I can tell you that fighting this fight is not easy: which makes it even that more remarkable to think about the incredible commitment displayed by many individuals at OCI. With attention to the decline in reported cases of abduction, significant credit must be given to OCI and its leadership, who continued with an assortment of educational public outreach programs created to help families in crisis.  Clearly, their effort is making a difference.

Outreach and education have been the primary catalysts behind the decline in abductions, and undeniably, the work of a select group of organizations, foundations, and individuals have made a sizeable difference in preventing abduction.  Unilaterally, the  work of child abduction prevention advocates have been able to not only educate families in crisis of abduction, but organizations such as the I CARE Foundation have assisted parents by providing legal counsel during court abduction prevention proceedings. Undeniably, stewarding the public message of abduction risk has made a measurable difference, and the tireless work of these non-government organizations have made a difference.  In addition, the vehicles used to reach parents have increased.  The books, articles, and reports written and published have mattered.  The educational documentary films have made a difference, as too have the creation of several educational websites.

In reflection, the power of social media and global connectivity via the Internet has allowed communities dealing with IPCA to form and grow. These communities have become visible and made a difference to many.  And they continue to grow.

Another aspect of why IPCA rates have fallen is that after 30 years since the United States became a member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction (1981), courts and judges charged with overseeing abduction risk are finally beginning to understand the gravity of the situation at hand, and their own limited authority once a child is illegally removed.

From the I CARE Foundation’s perspective, and keeping in mind that many of our lawyers have worked impressively to educate the courts and judges on the many issues of IPCA.  On a personal level, I have voluntarily provided expert testimony before numerous courts in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation at the request of counsel. In fact, at the request of the United States Department of State, the I CARE Foundation hosted a conference at the United Nations as part of the Department of State’s ‘Global Leadership Visitor Program’.

Finally, I must say that the incredible effort of a series of parenting bloggers who wrote extensively about IPCA reached millions of other parents, some of who were at risk of having a child abducted.  Made aware of their own circumstances (many parents never consider the possibility of IPCA), these at-risk parents were able to act to protect their children – something I know first hand because the I CARE Foundation assisted numerous families in crisis who turned to the foundation for assistance after reading an article posted by a parent blog writer. Remarkably, these amazing parents, all not having any direct association with IPCA, made a major contribution and help protect children.

Are we moving in the right direction? Yes.  However, it would be a major mistake to think that we can put our guard down and not push further to remove abduction risk.  Clearly there is a great deal to be done on all fronts, including the abduction prevention side and, equally, on the international compliance side once a child is kidnapped.  Sadly, it is anticipated that the total number of children returned home after they are abducted, when including reported and unreported cases of abduction (as defined in the report below), is less than 10%. Which means that approximately 90% of all kidnapped children never come home.  And the dangers of IPCA are real, and include severe abuse that has led to parental child murder and post-abduction suicide by kidnapped victims.  And that is why we must continue to fight against abduction.  Afterall, a child’s life sure is worth fighting for.

I offer to you the report ‘Crisis In America – 2013’ written by Carolyn Ann Vlk, Joel Walter, and myself.  Carolyn and Joel are two of the hardest working child advocates on the planet. The I CARE Foundation is very fortunate to have their leadership.

Here is the report:

Report on International Parental Child Abduction Growth
International Parental Child Abduction Today – 2013
Written By

Issued On February 25th, 2013

INTRODUCTION

United States child-citizens continue to be criminally kidnapped, illegally removed overseas, and wrongfully detained in foreign countries in shocking numbers by their non-custodial parent. The global plague of international parental child abduction significantly continues in America in a similar capacity as it does in the majority of nations abroad. However, the United States Department of State has now reported in two consecutive years that the number of reported outbound cases of American child-citizen abductions has declined. Clearly, this is very significant, particularly since previously reported growth trends demonstrated an average growth rate of reported American child abductions of over 20% per year during the previous decade.

Specifically, during 2012 there were 799 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority representing a total of 1,144 children.  Previously, in 2011 there were a total of 941 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority, representing a total of 1,367 children.

Thus, the reduction by 142 filed cases represents a decline of 15% of reported abduction cases from 2012 from 2011.  During the same reporting period, there were 223 fewer children internationally kidnapped in 2012 from 2011, representing a 16.3% decrease of total children abducted.

Comparatively, there were 1022 reported international parental child abduction cases in 2010 representing 1,492 children.  Thus, there has been a reduction of 223 reported abduction cases from 2010 to 2012, representing a total decline of 348 children between the two years. This represents a two year decline from 2010 to 2012 in reported cases by 21.8%, and a 23.3% reduction over the same two year period in the number of children kidnapped.

Year                      Reported Cases           Number of Children

2010                             1022                                       1,492
2011                               941                                       1,367
2012                              799                                        1,144

The decline in the reported number of international parental child abductions of American citizens represents a significant development and bespeaks of the tremendous educational outreach effort by the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’sIssues as well as non-government organizations such as but not limited to the I CARE Foundation and the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children to raise awareness of parental abduction amongst lawyers, judges, law enforcement, and targeted parents to that children may be protected.  However, it is important to note that despite a groundbreaking shift in child abduction statistical growth trends previously realized, we strongly affirm that criminal international parental child abduction continues to be a destructive epidemic in the United States and abroad that must be met with new abduction prevention laws and government policies, while significant efforts to educate courts, law enforcement, social workers, and at-risk parents of the many issues of child kidnapping diligently continue.

It is important to note that while the number of ‘reported cases’ of international parental child abduction have declined, the number of ‘unreported cases’ of abduction remains a significant concern for both government agencies and non-government organizations dedicated to preventing abduction.  Previously, the I CARE Foundation issued a report that the number of yearly unreported cases of abduction is believed to equal between 100% and 125% of all reported abduction cases.  We have no reason to change this forecast.  Thus, though there are no measurable statistics on unreported abduction cases, it would be reasonable, though not conclusive, to anticipate that the number of unreported cases of international child abduction have also declined.

While there is much to be pleased about regarding the significant decline in the reported international parental child abduction rate and forecasted decline in unreported cases of abduction, a great concern critically worth noting is that the number of children actually legally returned home after they are kidnapped remains to be estimated at only 10% when considering the total number of reported and unreported cases.

The reality is that children who are internationally abducted do not come home.  Sadly, many are lost forever.

One of the major facets of abduction prevention is education, and raising awareness of abduction threats to at-risk parents clearly has demonstrated a clear and measurable impact on the number of reported abduction cases.

Clearly and unquestionably, educational outreach programs directed toward raising international parental child abduction awareness are working!  Still, there is a long way to go.

The I CARE Foundation and the organization’s leadership have been actively involved in increasing awareness of child abduction while assisting a large number of parents protect their at-risk children.

One of the I CARE Foundation’s most dynamic and significant educational outreach programs that have had measurable results is the ‘Parent Blogger Educational Outreach Program’.  Under the program, highly influential parenting bloggers with a large global readership of followers have written a series of informative educational articles concerning the pandemic of international parental child abduction, including warning signs, risk factors, and actionable steps an at-risk parent may take to prevent abduction.  This grassroots effort led primarily by mothers who write and blog to raise awareness has been a tremendous success and has resulted in a significant number of successful child abduction prevention cases to occur.   Collectively, the extraordinary participants of the ‘Parent Blogger Educational Outreach Program’ have reached millions of parents, some who may have been directly at risk, or who may have known another parent and child at risk of abduction. In addition, the reach of these incredible parents willing to help protect children at risk of abduction has had a global impact on the prevention of child abduction as blogger participants were located on every continent and the millions of their readers blanketed the globe.  Clearly, the effort of these parent writers has made a significant difference in protecting lives, both in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere!

With the recent success of efforts put forth by child advocates everywhere to stop abduction, we are reminded that child abduction is a cruel and dangerous act against a child.

With grave concern we acknowledge that hundreds of young children each year are murdered by their parents in the United States, and that there is a clear statistical correlation of filicide in nations abroad and abduction similar to reported United States and Canadian government statistics of parental child murder.

As this report cites in detail, international parental child abduction is a severe criminal act of kidnapping committed by a parent against a child and the targeted left behind parent. International parental child abductors commit grave crimes against their child, including the act of abduction as well as the acts of child abuse and neglect.

According to numerous studies and reports including those issued by the United States Department of Justice and Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an abductor exhibits significant sociopathic tendencies, and generally does not act in the best interest of a child, but conversely, the act of abduction and the acts after the child-snatching cause both serious short-term and long-term damage that may, on many occasions, be irreversible. Sadly, acts of identity stripping, parental isolation, and removal of the bond between the abducted child and targeted parent speak nothing of the fact that filicide: the act of parental child murder is real. So too, tragically, is the reality that children who have been abducted and who have had their identity stripped during an abduction exhibit an alarming number of characteristics that are exhibited in individuals who commit suicide.

For the majority of child advocates who work tirelessly to protect children, especially advocates who are not in the business of profiting due to the tragedy of a child being kidnapped, what we fight for are lives – children’s lives.

In our capacity as directors of the not-for-profit I CARE Foundation, which has successfully assisted reunited numerous internationally kidnapped children with their targeted left-behind parents taken from around the world, while also preventing an exponentially larger number of children from international parental child abduction, we and our colleagues have worked tirelessly at conducting extensive research in the area of child abduction.

The I CARE Foundation’s volunteer activity has included playing key roles in legally reuniting many abducted children, writing and working diligently in the passing of abduction prevention laws and leading in lobbying efforts to have existing policies modified so that the capacity to protect children from kidnapping would be increased, in our creation of a national attorney network of educated lawyers willing and ready to assist at-risk children and their families,  in our capacity as researchers and educators to study the global issues of international parental child abduction and publish our findings in a way that may drive policy, and in our efforts to create a grassroots educational awareness movement by working with leading parent bloggers and writers with large followers, who have shared with their audiences the grave issues of abduction.

Though great strides have been made over the past two years, and we hope that the child abduction trend will continue to decline, we do have reason for concern.  Our apprehension is due in part due to the reality that though abduction rates have declined in the last known reporting fiscal year of 2012, there remains a glaring failure by the courts and law enforcement to punish international parental child abductors even though the act itself is a federal criminal act that is a known form of child abuse.  Without concern to be held accountable for their actions, parents who contemplate or carry out abduction will do so with a sense of immunity.  Without holding kidnappers accountable, children at-risk of abduction remain vulnerable.

In addition, it is critical to recognize that chasing parents who attempt to legally reunite with their kidnapped child face incredible difficulties in doing so. The challenges faced are discussed in this report in detail; however, they include but are not limited to failures by nations to uphold international treaties such as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the outright failure of nations to enter into any international treaty, receiving-country prejudice at the trial court level on legal action taken by a left-behind parent, grave financial challenges faced by a targeted chasing parent, and direct physical dangers faced by a targeted parent if they should attempt to reunite with their abducted child.

Clearly, child abduction prevention advocates are making an impact through an assortment of outreach programs that are raising awareness at the at-risk parent level, the trial lawyer level, and within the courts, as demonstrated by the second consecutive year of abduction rate declines. However, for parents presently attempting to reunite with their kidnapped children, the challenges they face are grave as explained herein.

REPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

Indisputable, are the actual number of ‘reported’ abduction cases. Estimating the incalculable total number of ‘unreported’ cases is difficult to assess. Despite this inability to concisely determine the total number of cases each year, it appears America and our nation’s children-citizens are plagued by a dangerous criminal epidemic known as ‘International Parental Child Abduction’ that is silently sweeping through our nation. At risk are tens if not hundreds of thousands of our defenseless children who are targeted for abduction each year.

In April of 2009, the annual Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was released. In that publication, Janice L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs writes, “Unfortunately, current trends reflect a steady increase in the number of international parental child abduction cases and highlight the urgency of redoubling efforts to promote compliance with Convention obligations and encourage additional nations to join the Convention.” She also writes, “Very few options exist for parents and children who are victims of parental child abduction.” In the 2010 annual report Ms. Jacobs continues to voice concerns over the increasing numbers of our child-citizens who have been wrongfully removed or wrongfully detained.

Similar sentiment has been shared in reports issued by the U.S. Department of State since this time. There is no question that the challenges that parents and children of abduction face are significant.

However, during 2012 there were 799 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority representing a total of 1,144 children.  Previously, in 2011 there were a total of 941 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority, representing a total of 1,367 children.  Thus, the reduction by 142 filed cases represents a decline of 15% of reported abduction cases from 2012 from 2011.  During the same reporting period, there were 223 fewer children internationally kidnapped in 2012 from 2011, representing a 16.3% decrease of total children abducted.  Comparatively, there were 1022 reported international parental child abduction cases in 2010 representing 1,492 children.  Thus, there has been a reduction of 223 reported abduction cases from 2010 to 2012, representing a total decline of 348 children between the two years. This represents a two year decline from 2010 to 2012 in reported cases by 21.8%, and a 23.3% reduction over the same two year period in the number of children kidnapped.

UNREPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

Peter Thomas Senese commented, “The anticipated number of international abductions used as a benchmark and often referred to is inconclusive because the published data does not take into consideration ‘unreported’ cases of international child abduction, population growth, increases in multi-cultural marriages, immigration migration increases to the United States, and economic difficulties many families are facing, which inevitably leads to a break-up of the family unit. More concerning is how the widely distributed and cited surveys used what I believe to be an inadequate number of telephone interviews and appear not to include any law enforcement records. In my view, we as a nation have a serious problem on our hands.”

Carolyn Ann Vlk stated, “Admittedly, something is seriously amiss in our ability to accurately estimate the number of children victimized by the crime of child abduction. In my opinion, utilizing only a random telephone survey, to determine the number of affected children is a process flawed by numerous, serious methodological problems. Additionally, the cooperation and compliance rate in obtaining the return of our citizen children who have been criminally internationally abducted must be drastically improved. The recovery of so few of these children during an entire fiscal year is not and should not be acceptable”.

Unfortunately, many internationally abducted children are never returned because their abductions are not reported to authorities. The likelihood is that the vast majority of these types of cases never end with a child’s return. It would be reasonable to conclude that if a targeted parent did not report their child’s abduction, then in all likelihood, that U.S. child-citizen will not be returned to the United States. Due to the number of ‘unreported’ international abduction cases, it is difficult to determine a reasonable return-rate percentage. We recognize the difficulty in attempting to accurately estimate the ‘unreported’ case numbers and believe that it is probable that the number of returns of ‘unreported’ cases is extremely low and essentially immeasurable.

Reasons for ‘unreported’ cases include the financial inability of a Chasing Parent to take legal action since they are responsible to pay for all costs associated with their child’s recovery – even though a child’s international abduction violates state and federal laws such as the International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act (IPCA). Furthermore, many parents experience a sense of hopelessness that any recovery efforts will be futile since there are great difficulties associated with bringing a child home, including the possibility of first trying to determine where your child is. Also, the fact is that many nations are not a party of or do not uphold the Hague Convention. Furthermore, there exist substantial prejudices in foreign courts.

The NISMART I study reported that there were a total of 354,000 parental child abductions annually. The NISMART II study stated the total number of parental child abductions decreased to approximately 203,900 children. The truth of the matter is that we really do not know how accurate any of the data is or how large of a problem we actually have on our hands. What we do know is that hundreds of thousands of children are targeted for parental abduction each year, and out of this group, tens of thousands of these instances include planned international parental abductions.

PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION IS A SEVERE FORM OF CHILD ABUSE

According to leading experts who specialize in international parental child abduction, conclusive and unilateral opinion and fact demonstrates that parental child abduction of a targeted child is a cruel, criminal, and severe form of abuse and mistreatment regardless if the child is with one of their (abducting) parents. This includes the illegal act of international abduction, whereas, the child is unexpectedly uprooted from their home, their community, their immediate and extended family, and their country. Sadly, severe short and long-term psychological problems are prevalent for many abduction victims who survive their kidnapping experience. It is commonplace for a child to be emotionally sabotaged, whereas, the abducting parent will try to remove all bonds and attachments the child has with the other parent, thus, removing the child’s right to know the love of the other parent, and keep in tact their own identity. Too many children simply never come home and in certain cases a child’s abduction overseas has led to the death of the abducted child.

A leader in the field of parental child abduction issues, Dr. Dorothy Huntington wrote an article titled Parental Kidnapping: A New Form of Child Abuse. Huntington contends that from the point of view of the child, “child stealing is child abuse.” According to Huntington, “in child stealing the children are used as both objects and weapons in the struggle between the parents which leads to the brutalization of the children psychologically, specifically destroying their sense of trust in the world around them.”

“Because of the harmful effects on children, parental kidnapping has been characterized as a form of “child abuse” reports Patricia Hoff, Legal Director for the Parental Abduction Training and Dissemination Project, American Bar Association on Children and the Law. Hoff explains, “Abducted children suffer emotionally and sometimes physically at the hands of abductor-parents. Many children are told the other parent is dead or no longer loves them. Uprooted from family and friends, abducted children often are given new names by their abductor-parents and instructed not to reveal their real names or where they lived before.” (Hoff, 1997)

Consider that today in Japan, there are approximately 230 American children-citizens who were illegally abducted from United States soil to Japan by one of their parents in violation of U.S. court orders. To date, and for what is believed to be nearly fifty years, Japan – America’s strong ally – has never returned 1 American child who was parentally kidnapped and illegally detained in accordance to United States law. And tragically, the vast majority of the chasing parents left-behind in the wake of their child’s abduction are not permitted to have contact with their child.

EXTREME DIFFICULTIES IN RECOVERING AN ABDUCTED CHILD

There are abundant reasons why it is very difficult to have an illegally stolen child returned despite the United States being a signatory of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. They include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Lack of action in reporting a child’s abduction by a targeted parent left behind; and,
  2. Many nations do not comply with or uphold the spirit of the convention (ex, Brazil, Mexico, Germany); and,
  3. Many countries have not signed the convention (ex. Japan, China, Russia, and many countries located in the Middle East); and,
  4. Chasing Parents may not have an idea what country their child was taken to; and,
  5. Chasing Parents are responsible to carry the enormous financial burden associated with their child’s recovery. Many simply do not have the substantial resources needed; and,
  6. Many Chasing Parents do not have the knowledge necessary to navigate the difficult and complex legal system of international law, nor do they often know who to turn to and what to do; and,
  7. Nationalistic prejudices of court systems located in the ‘inbound’ country, whereas, a court may try to protect the abducting parent if that parent is a citizen of the country where they abducted the child to; and,
  8. Cultural differences; and,
  9. A Chasing Parent’s fear to attempt to recover their child due to threats from the abducting parent or individuals associated with the abducting parent; and,
  10. Lack of cooperation from law enforcement; and,
  11. Limited power of the Office of Children’s Issues to intervene on behalf of a U.S. citizen.

REASONS WHY ONE PARENT CRIMINALLY ABDUCTS A CHILD

Studies have demonstrated that an unprecedented number of abductions have occurred where one parent took unilateral action to deprive the other parent of contact with their child. The majority of abducting parents will typically use the child as a tool to cause the targeted parent great pain and suffering. Their intent is simple: to make the other parent suffer as much as possible by depriving that targeted parent with the love and connection to their own child. Nearly every published study on this subject has concluded that an abducting parent has significant, and typically, long-term psychological problems and may in fact be a danger to their child.

We take the time to acknowledge that in certain cases of parental child abduction, a parent claims to have no other choice but to flee the other parent due to serious, grave, and ongoing forms of abuse. We acknowledge that in many abduction defenses found under Article 13 of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an abducting parent will often claim mental, emotional, and physical abuse by the other parent as part of their defense to sanction their criminal behavior of abduction. However, we must also acknowledge that domestic violence is a very real, measurable, and in many cases, an ongoing crime that has limited law enforcement safety controls. We acknowledge that there are parents who must flee for their and their child’s safety due to failures by law enforcement and courts to protect their safety, combined with an habitual abuser who aims to cause grave hurt to the targeted parent.

In addition, and understandably, family abductions occur at a higher rate during times of heightened stress such as separation or divorce and often involve custody issues and visitation problems. The sad fact is that a large number of marriages, estimated to be between 40% and 50%, in the U.S. end in divorce.

One of the many considerations that factor into the increase in total abductions indicates that economic difficulties in the United States and elsewhere are a measurable factor in the number of increases in separations and divorces. This added stress can lead to a parental cross-border abduction, particularly since we live in a global society, and the number of international relationships has increased dramatically.

While all children can be potential targets of a family abduction, the likelihood increases when that child has a parent with ties to a foreign country. According to the Juvenile and Family Court Journal Vol. 48, No. 2 titled Jurisdiction In Child Custody and Abduction Cases, “Parents who are citizens of another country (or who have dual citizenship with the U.S.) and also have strong ties to their extended family in their country of origin have long been recognized as abduction risks.” This increase in cultural diversity within the U.S. population has created challenges for our existing laws. Many U.S. born children-citizens fall victim to parental abduction when a parents’ union ends.

Across the U.S., states are struggling to address their archaic and outdated laws, and establish additional precautions to better protect their child-citizen population. Unquestionably, it is critical that child abduction prevention laws are passed in each state and upheld by the judiciary and law enforcement. Failure to do so will likely lead to the looming disaster that is already upon us.

Peter Thomas Senese stated, “As a nation, the United States must fight back this sweeping plague by passing child abduction prevention laws and by increasing our judiciary’s level of competency in overseeing and enforcing laws associated with these complex cases of potential or actual international parental child abductions. Critical to judges and lawmakers’ ability to protect our children is the need for immediate research on this subject. The present available information is archaic, and more than likely inaccurate particularly due to the inability to measure ‘unreported’ cases. The community of child abduction prevention advocates has pointed this out for some time now. What we also need is for the creation and enforcement of well thought out and researched laws along with the upholding of the intent, spirit, and law of the international treaties such as The Hague Convention so we can protect our children and put an end to the spread of this malignant pandemic that has reached our shores.

Florida state representative Darryl Rouson is the lawmaker who championed and sponsored Florida’s landmark Child Abduction Prevention Act (HB 787). The bill was unanimously approved in the Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist. Florida’s new preventative legislation will take effect on January 1, 2011. Representative Rouson commented, “It is critical for each state to implement laws that will protect the rights of our children-citizens who may face parental child abduction. The misconception that when one parent steals a child from the other parent, that the child is safe, is undeniably inaccurate. It is through prevention laws such as Florida’s Child Abduction Prevention Act that we will be able to prevent this serious crime against our nation’s children from occurring.”

Carolyn Ann Vlk, the child abduction prevention advocate, commented, “Early on in my research on this critical issue I recognized the urgent need for preventative legislation. Thankfully, Florida’s legislative body wholeheartedly agreed as evidenced by the unanimous votes. I am thrilled for the added measure of safety this new law will have in protecting the children of my great state. However, I will not be satisfied until all states have child abduction prevention legislation enacted.”

IMMIGRATION MIGRATION AND ITS AFFECT ON CHILD ABDUCTION CASES

A report compiled by the renowned Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center reports that most immigrant groups are comprised of young families. The likelihood that a child will be born while the parents are present in the U.S. is high. Prior to 2007, data collected on parents of children under 18 only identified one parent, and a second parent could only be identified if they were married to the first parent. Currently, a second parent identifier is considered whether or not the parents are married to each other. The new data more accurately reflects the number of children living in the U.S. with at least one foreign-born parent.

In 2008 that meant that 22% of all children in the United States had at least one foreign-born parent. In fact, consider the following statistics compiled by the Center for Immigration Studies in its March 2007 analysis. Immigrants and their U.S. born children under age 18, as a share of population: California – 37.9%, Los Angles County – 50%, New York State – 27.9%, New York City – 46.7% and Florida – 27.9%.

It must be noted that although 31.3% of all immigrants originate from Mexico, other countries have significant entry numbers as well. Included in the March 2007 Current Population Survey (CPS) were statistics indicating that 17.6% of all immigrants were from East/Southeast Asia, 12.5% from Europe, 5.5% from South Asia, 3.5% from the Middle East, and Canada at 1.9%.

Traditionally, states such as California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Arizona have had large numbers of immigrants in their population. What is surprising is the trends in migration toward new centers of immigrant growth. The CPS prepared an analysis of states with statistically significant growth in immigrant population between 2000 and 2007. Most notably, Wyoming, which experienced a percentage increase of 180%, Tennessee at 160%, Georgia at 152.1%, and Alabama at 143.6%. The impact of unprecedented increases in immigrant migration is likely to create multiple challenges as states struggle to keep pace with their newest segment of population and their children.

“As a nation of immigrants, it is important to note that as our nation’s population increases due to immigrant migration, so too does the likelihood of increased cross-border child abduction,” Peter Thomas Senese added.

Additionally, it has been well established that illegal aliens do not respond to surveys such as the US Census or the CPS. Because the U.S. government does not have accurate records of arrival and departures for individuals present illegally in the country, their numbers must be estimated, as there is no hard data to draw from. However, indirect means for establishing these figures are used, and they must be viewed with a considerable amount of uncertainty. In 2007 CPS, it was estimated that of the approximately 37.9 million immigrants present in the U.S., nearly 1 in 3 immigrants were present illegally.

It is important to note this segment of our population when discussing child abduction because when a child is born in the U.S. that child automatically is a U.S. citizen. While the available data gives us fairly accurate figures regarding the number of children born in the U.S. as well as those immigrants who are present legally, a number is impossible to compile accurately in relation to the unauthorized resident population.

In regards to children born to illegal immigrants, in the five-year period from 2003 to 2008, that number rose from 2.7 million to 4 million. The report published by the Pew Hispanic Centers reported that nationally the children of illegal immigrants now comprise 1 in 15 elementary and secondary students in the U.S. Additionally, in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Texas more than 1 in every 10 students in those states are the children of illegal immigrants.

Carolyn Ann Vlk, the writer of Florida’s Child Abduction Prevention Act stated, “The ability of state governments to prevent the abduction of children by family members could be drastically improved by comprehensive legislation. While aiming to protect all children, special consideration must be given to those children who may be at increased risk simply by virtue of their parentage. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the resident population of the U.S. projected up to April 22, 2010 estimated that one international migrant enters the U.S. every 36 seconds. International travel has become commonplace and as more cross-cultural relationships develop children are born. A number of these relationships will end and may result in an increased risk of international abduction of the child. Attempting to retrieve a child who has been abducted and possibly hidden internationally is a near impossibility as a multitude of problems surface in cases such as these. Unfortunately, studies have proved 4 of 5 Americans drastically underestimate the threat of a family abduction. Statistically, it is a sobering thought when you become aware of the vast numbers of children that are criminally abducted each year. Preventative laws are a necessity as an immediate remedy to this unconscionable crime.”

DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S OFFICE OF CHILDREN’S ISSUES

The Office of Children’s Issues has worked diligently to educate at-risk parents of abduction via an assortment of outreach programs.  The leadership at OCI has placed a particular emphasis on abduction prevention, which in turn has demonstrated remarkable and measurable results including two consecutive years of significant abduction rate declines.

The Department of State was established to assist parents whose children have been unlawfully removed from the country. The OCI assists the remaining parent and strives to protect those children who have been victimized in these types of cases. Considering thousands of child custody cases are fought across national borders each year, the assistance of the OCI can be invaluable.

Litigating custody, especially across international borders where conflicting orders may exist can be difficult if not impossible. The OCI aims to assist in these cases by enhancing an understanding of the many complex laws, both domestic and international that may be applicable to a particular case.

However, OCI has significant limitations, including the fact that they cannot represent your abducted child in a foreign court. OCI does provide a list of lawyers in foreign countries who at times have worked pro bono on abduction cases. However, there are no obligations by any of these lawyers to take a case, and it is up to each Chasing Parent to work out all arrangements. The reality is that ‘pro bono’ sounds like a nice idea, but it is an unrealistic expectation.

Immediate suggestions that could allow the dedicated staff at OCI to be more helpful include the following:

  1. Creating and distributing useful, concise information for chasing parents, law enforcement, and court personnel regarding all areas of IPCA. The use of digital media combined and supported by printed content is critical.
  2. The development of an independent website outside of the Department of State’s website. This website must be easy to navigate, include audio and digital feeds, and must be accessible to individuals in various languages.
  3. OCI must actively support advocates and lawmakers who are seeking to pass child abduction prevention laws. Support by OCI in this area can increase the visibility of the issues of child abduction while also increasing lawmaker and judiciary awareness.
  4. Dissemination of information on the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program.
  5. Dissemination of information on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’, and dedicated resources established to assist lawyers and Chasing Parents seeking assistance under this program.
  6. Increases in outreach toward documented and un-documented aliens about OCI, and the rights of their U.S. child-citizen.
  7. Increase in personnel to support the tremendous workload of the OCI staff.

About the Authors:

Peter Thomas Senese is the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, a highly respected child abduction prevention advocate and a successful chasing parent in accordance to the rules of international parental child abduction law established under the Hague Convention.  Under Peter’s leadership, the I CARE Foundation has assisted reunite many children who have been internationally kidnapped with their left-behind parents while also working tirelessly to prevent the abduction of an exponentially larger number of children. Peter advocated for the passage of the State of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ (CAPA), heavily contributed to raising public awareness of the previously widely underutilized federal child abduction prevention program; specifically, the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ (PDP) that is now more commonly implemented in aiding targeted parents and their child from abduction in certain case scenarios, worked diligently to have ‘Senate Resolution 543 – the International Parental Child Abduction Resolution’unanimously passed calling for a complete revamping of how the United States government handles abduction. In addition, Peter has spoken as an expert witness before numerous government bodies, including hosting a forum on international parental child abduction at the United Nations at the request of the U.S. Department of State in his capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation.  Peter is the creator/writer/producer of the educational documentary film series ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction’, a best-selling author whose upcoming world-wide book release focusing on international parental child abduction and titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ has been critically acclaimed as a call-to-arms against child abduction. Peter is the writer of an extensive number of influential articles and essays pertaining to IPCA. He has created and oversees a comprehensive website dedicated to child abduction prevention and good parenting (www.chasingthecyclone.com) where numerous essays and may be found, including the eye-opening report ‘International Parental Child Abduction And Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere’ Peter co-authored with Ms. Carolyn Vlk. Dedicated to bringing about new child abduction prevention laws while creating dialogue that may reform certain government programs and protocols so that they may better serve targeted children and their parents, Peter Senese is a strong supporter of The Hague Convention and The Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues.

Carolyn Ann Vlk is a renown child abduction prevention advocate and a Founding Board of Director Member of the I CARE Foundation as well as a member of the Special Advisory Board of the Amber Watch Foundation. Carolyn drafted the landmark State of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ that will be enacted on January 1st, 2011. Ms. Vlk was highly influential in raising the public’s awareness on the little-known, highly effective child abduction prevention federal program titled the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ and  worked diligently to have ‘Senate Resolution 543 – the International Parental Child Abduction Resolution’ Carolyn is also a writer/producer of the highly educational documentary film series titled ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction’, and, is the author of numerous essays and studies on parental child abduction, including the groundbreaking report titled ‘International Parental Child Abduction And Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere’ (2010). Carolyn is dedicated to assisting parents and their children who are targets of international child abduction, and is committed to bringing about positive reform and change in law and government protocol that has been established to aid at-risk children. Ms. Vlk is a supporter of The Hague Convention, The Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues, and the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA). Carolyn is a loving and dedicated mother to her children, and fought rigorously to protect her own child who was a target for potential abduction that she went so far as to draft legislation that has now become new law in her home state of Florida.

Joel S. Walter is a practicing attorney licensed to practice law in New York State and is admitted into numerous United States Federal Courts, where he has practiced law for nearly 40 years.  Mr. Walter is a Founding Board Member of the Board of Directors of the I CARE Foundation, where he has worked diligently in assisting parents and children in crisis at risk of abduction, including playing key roles in reuniting numerous children of international kidnapping with their targeted parents.  Joel’s active role with the I CARE Foundation also includes conducting legal research on a variety of issues related to abduction and trafficking.  A highly respected trial lawyer by nature, Joel is known within the law community as an outstanding litigator.  Joel has worked diligently on numerous I CARE Foundation legal initiatives and has petitioned various lawmakers on a series of policy issues related to child abduction and trafficking.

Young Girls Rescued From Child Sex Trafficking Ring

I AM NOT FOR SALE

For the past couple of months the I CARE Foundation has played a heavy role in assisting in the planned and successful rescue of 15 young girls who were previously kidnapped and enslaved into the world of the child sex trade in Central America.  The abducted children were all kidnapped from their homes in various countries in Central America and wrangled together into one horrible, disgusting working brothel, where they were literally imprisoned as monstrous men and women (yes both men and women) would have their sexual way with them.  Mind you – these victims were children, many who were not yet teenagers.

Today these young girls are free, reunited with their families, and receiving the medical and psychological care they need. Their respective journeys will be unique to their own circumstances; however, the trauma they shared will bind them forever.  So too, I hope, will the love and care they are receiving, that I pray, will allow them to learn how to trust once again.

The physical health issues and damage done is severe for some of these child victims. It is insane what was done. However, the necessary teams are well underway, providing each with the care they need.

And if you’re wondering about the monsters that did what they did to these innocent children, rest assured they will not be victimizing and preying on any young children anytime soon.  Ongoing investigations by the proper trusted authorities continue to work to close down the ancillary abduction rings that prey on children.

The complexities of the journey from enslaved prisoner to becoming a free child are remarkable for each of these children.  Their roads ahead of them will be long and challenging; however, like I said, there are teams in place who are working closely with each child and their now reunited families so that the necessary healing takes place so that perhaps one day, magic will be restored.

I know many of us are committed to this, and I know this committment is one that I will hold for the rest of my life.

There is no question WHY we must all rise up and fight against predator kidnappers, no matter if that abductor is a parental abductor or stranger abductor.  I remind you that hundreds of children are murdered each year by their parents in the United States alone each year and that filicide is a real threat, particularly among parental child abductors.

There is no question WHY we must not permit the child sex trade to exist anywhere in the world. We must renounce places such as Thailand, China, Costa Rica, Columbia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and other impoverished countries, including those in Africa, who turn a blind-eye toward the child sex trade and allow monsters to walk among us.

There is no question WHY we must stand and do what is necessary in our own way to protect the innocence of a child, regardless if that child is targeted for abduction and trafficking or if that child sees the world in a different way due, say to being on the autism spectrum.  The point being, children should never know abuse.

Several months ago, I announced the production of a film on international child abduction titled ‘150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children’, which I have been working on for some time now. The remarkable recovery of these young children will be shared in our film, in hope that the message shared will further push world governments into understanding that each nation really needs to have international abduction prevention laws and policies that make it extremely difficult for children to be illegally removed from one nation to another.  Of course there is a whole agenda of policy shifts we will address.

So . . . our work continues.

I would like to thank all of our friends who kept and keep these children and their families in their prayers.  They all have a long road ahead of them and surely will need your continued prayer.

But step by step, the lives of these children and their families are being put back together, and we’re doing whatever is necessary to help bring back the idea that life really can be magical.

In fact, yesterday I had an opportunity to speak with several of the young children.

What did I say?

I reminded each of them that life is magical and that they must have fun. And that I am so proud of each of them, and of course, I will see them again real soon . . . amongst other things.

I know they know the love I have for them, and am blessed to know that these children have embraced my caring.  Most of all, I am comforted in knowing that they have embraced the caregiving extended to them by professionals who are able to attend to their issues.

* * *

Every once in a while I reflect upon my journey into the world of abduction.  At the pinnacle of my thoughts is the promise I made to one day help other children and their families targeted or taken during the time when I was Chasing The Cyclone.

The I CARE Foundation has directly come to the assistance of over 100 families over the past 14 months.  We have helped bring home a significant number of abducted children while preventing the abduction of many more children.  We have helped create and lobby for new laws and policies that will protect children from abduction, and have taken our agendas onto the world stage.  We have built an attorney network – educating as many professionals and parents – on abduction prevention and reunification.  And we have a very big agenda for 2013 that I am confident will make a big impact in the fight to protect children.

I am very proud of our organization and our members.  But most of all, I am very proud of the parents I have come to know and care deeply about who have fought for their children.  Truth is, I have many friends in my life, but the parents who I have come to know over the past 7 years have become my family, and their children my adopted nieces and nephews, many who I speak to often.

Last night, I had the chance to speak to my dear friend Amanda’s two young daughters, who I absolutely love.

Several years ago, when Amanda first contacted me, her daughters were at great risk of abduction to Saudi Arabia, and asked for assistance in ensuring that her children would not be kidnapped to a nation that women had no rights.  Well, we did what we had to do, and the children are safe . . . and I intend to ensure that they are always safe.

And over the years, I have spent some wonderful time with Amanda and her two daughters, including time at Disney World.

So last night, as I often do, I called Amanda right before the girls went to bed to find out about their day and to wish them a good night.

The last words they said to me before I hung up the phone was, “Good Night, Peter Pan.”

It is a reminder that children should never be left in Neverland.

Best regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation

Peter Thomas Senese and I CARE Foundation Confirm New Film: 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children

I am very pleased to confirm that I will be producing on behalf of the I CARE Foundation and Pacifica an upcoming feature documentary film 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children focuses on the cataclysmic growth of international parental child kidnapping in the United States, Canada and abroad.  The film will dissect why the hideous crimes against innocent children has reached pandemic levels that have claimed so many lives and what can be done to prevent abduction, while also offering solutions that should be implemented that can help current child-victims of cross-border kidnapping.

The film’s title 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children originates from a widely distributed and cited study titled Crisis In America written by renown child advocate Carolyn Vlk (a member of the Board of Directors of the I CARE Foundation, and a member of the Special Advisory Board of the Amber Watch Foundation) and myself.  150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children is the average weighted forecast of that takes into consideration how many children living in The United States, Canada, and Mexico are anticipated to actually be internationally parentally kidnapped over the next ten years.

The film will bring viewers into several intriguing parental child abduction cases, through the legal system available to targeted parents and children, the psychological trauma of kidnapping and its effects, and eventually above a microscope looking at the government agencies and their existing policies responsible for protecting children. Paramount to the film’s direction is the intent to offer new solutions to a serious social problem that in the United States alone is expected to cost the American economy over six billion dollars over the next decade.

150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children will also focus on how children of both parental and stranger-abductions are easily removed from one nation’s border to another under existing policies in North America, and particularly in Europe.

The I CARE Foundation and several of its Board of Director members have been studying key aspects of international parental child abduction for some time.  150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children will include substantial data and information based upon these unique and groundbreaking studies. Studies and information, I might add, that I fully expect will change the landscape of abduction prevention. Which is, by virtue, the mission of the I CARE Foundation.

And of course, I am thrilled to once again be working and writing with Carolyn Vlk, who is one of the brightest and most knowledgeable persons concerning abduction that I know.  In the past, Carolyn Vlk and I produced the important educational documentary film series Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms of Child Abduction that has come to benefit many targeted parents from around the world, as well as our publication of the most up-to-date resource guide on child abduction prevention and reunification titled The World Turned Upside Down.

As a storyteller deeply familiar with the world of child abduction, it is my personal hope that this film will not only raise awareness of parental abduction so targeted parents may act to protect their families, but it is my aspiration to also provide keen social insight into the horrors that exist so our lawmakers will move on new laws and policies that will help protect children in a similar manner that we accomplished through passage of Senate Resolution 543, the State of Florida’s Child Abduction Prevention Law, the State of New York’s and the State of California’s criminal Cyber-Impersonation and Cyber-bullying laws, and the implementation of the highly effective abduction prevention tool – the federal Prevent Departure Program by the Department State in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children  will be released during the late Spring – early Summer, 2013.

Similar to all projects associated with my work as a child advocate and steward raising awareness of child abduction, the 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children film is personally funded through charitable donations from my business holdings.

For those of you interested in learning more about abduction and my writing, may I suggest you read my critically acclaimed novel Chasing The Cyclone – and remember, 100% of all my proceeds from sales of all my books are presently donated to the I CARE Foundation, which sure has created more than a few miracles for children.

Attorney Joel Walter, who is a member of the I CARE Foundation’s board of directors and one of the best litigators I know, and who, over the course of many years, has represented many professional athletes and entertainers, and who is intimately involved in the upcoming production recently wrote, “The research on abduction the I CARE Foundation has and continues to conduct is critical to the fight to save children of kidnapping’s lives.  In Mr. Senese’s upcoming 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children film, the work of the I CARE Foundation will act as the story’s rudder, guiding the narrative into a solution-oriented universal message. On a personal note, I continue to be flawed at the deep commitment of Mr. Senese, including using a tremendous amount of his personal resources, in our fight to help families in crisis.  As a critically acclaimed storyteller and one of the most committed and published child advocates around, combined with the data drawn from the I CARE Foundation’s research, we expect 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children to become a socially important and influential film.

Report On Total Number Of International Parental Child Abductions To Be Released: Results Will Shock You!

Through the combination of stewardship of sharing the message of international parental child abduction and the actual growing number of child kidnappings that are occurring each year, society is slowly but surely becoming aware of the existence of the international parental child kidnapping crisis upon us, and surely coming to terms that when a parent illegally removes or detains a child in another country without permission of the other parent, the child taken is not simply with their other parent, but with an abusive criminal kidnapper.

So, you would think that the total number of international parental child abductions would be made easily available upon, in the very least, signatory countries of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction in lieu of the urgent worldwide dilemma at hand.

But they’re not. Not even close.

In fact, many member states of the Hague Convention to not publish their statistics.

Why?

It is beyond me.What To Do If Your Child Has Been Internationally Abducted This Holiday Season

The I CARE Foundation has been spent a great deal of time researching the question, ‘What is the Total Number of International Parental Child Abductions?’  Of course, there are many ancillary questions that stem from this question.

In the near future, and as the I CARE Foundation prepares to announce a series of legislative initiatives, we will be releasing a shocking report that addresses the issue of how many international parental child abductions exist each year worldwide that is so concise, measurable, and sadly, alarming.

If you are a journalist interested in receiving a copy of the report prior to its publication, please contact the I CARE Foundation. If you desire to be placed on an e-mail list in order to receive a copy of the report, please click here.

What will be shared is remarkably alarming. And it affects everyone.

– Peter Thomas Senese –
On Behalf Of The I CARE Foundation

Suicide Rates and International Parental Child Abduction: A Very Serious Issue

What To Do If Your Child Has Been Internationally Abducted This Holiday SeasonThe International Child Abduction Research and Enlightenment Foundation (herein referred to as ‘The I CARE Foundation’) is dedicated to assisting children and their families from the horrible and inhumane crimes of malicious international parental child abduction (herein referred to as ‘IPCA’).  For clarity and understanding, IPCA is a criminal act of kidnapping under federal and national laws in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.

Part of the I CARE Foundation’s mission is to conduct research in the area of IPCA, publish our findings, and use our findings to help guide new public policy that will benefit at-risk children and their families.

But what is it that we are really fighting against?

There are multiple facets to this answer, but all surround around the intent to prevent high-caliber child abuse, and this includes fighting against child-murder (filicide), and tragically, suicide my adults who were previously child-victims of IPCA.

It is important not to forget that children who are victims of IPCA are in fact crime victims – and crime victims of kidnapping.  The reality that they are victimized by a parent exponentially magnifies the trauma and abuse, as demonstrated by Dr. Nancy Faulkner’s highly distributed report stating that parental child abduction is child abuse.  Dr. Amy Baker, who is one of the world’s leading experts on parental alienation, not only reiterates the abuse of alienation and its widespread tentacles during international parental child abduction in her brilliant publication ‘Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome’, but further states that alienation and abduction cause for a child to lose their identity and in doing so, lose themselves, thus developing alarming long-term side effects of IPCA trauma.

Filicide has been an alarming issue that has recently become brought to society’s attention due in great part to the work of  Dr. Phillip Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, who is one of the world’s leading experts on filicide.  However, up until now, there have been no published reports on IPCA and suicide though an assortment of surveyed therapist who specialize in IPCA have expressed alarm over the existence of adult suicides by IPCA child-victims.

Now, IPCA is not a new phenomena; however, it is one that over the past 20 years has grown dramatically and has by the very nature of the number of abductions here in the United States, in Canada, and worldwide become a frightening epidemic that is undeniably destroying many lives.

The I CARE Foundation’s efforts as an organization dedicated to conducting research and studies in the area of IPCA is critical to society today particularly since there has been limited new studies conducted despite the reality that it is expected that as many as 100,000 to 125,000 American and as many as 20,000 Canadian children will be victims of IPCA.

Sadly, we are deeply concerned about IPCA and filicide – when a parent murders their child.  Previous studies conducted, including those conducted by the RCMP have demonstrated that the instability of a parental child abductor is severe, and that children of abduction have been murdered by their parent because of the irrational and dangerous thinking connected to abduction that “If I can’t have my child, then nobody will.”

How widespread is filicide?  Several hundred children each year will be murdered by their parents each year in America, and proportionately, the number of Canadian children victims are on par with the population ratio of American to Canada.

After much discussion with leading therapist who specialize in IPCA, filicide, suicide, and family crisis issues, and having these mental health specialist express great, universal concern with respect to IPCA and suicide, the I CARE Foundation will be overseeing a new study that focuses on post-child abduction and suicide from targeted children.

Of great concern is the fact that many reported psychological conditions that exist with individuals who have committed suicide have been reported to exist with individuals who have been previously abducted or abusively alienated by a parent.

The I CARE Foundation will be providing updates on this issue: however, one thing is certain, and that is that there appears to be a clear correlation between suicide and IPCA.

Lastly, if you are a parent considering abduction, please do not.  The effects on your child are long-lasting and severe.

Regards,

Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation