Peter Thomas Senese

International Parental Child Abduction Prevention For At-Risk Families During Travel

The issue of international parental child abduction continues to be a serious and growing problem around the world.  Each year there are thousands upon thousands of unsuspecting parents and children that become victims of this horrific crime. Don’t be mistaken… international parental child abduction is a crime as it is a severe form of abuse against not only the child, but also the left behind parent.  Those that are part of the team of the I CARE Foundation are very aware of the challenges that are present when faced with having to deal with a child that has been abducted… so prevention is always the key!  A child that is protected from international abduction is one that is able to live as they should… free from abuse and free from fear.

3e5fe-travel-consent-form-side-2When we look at abduction prevention, one of the most effective tools readily available to parents is the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form, specifically protecting a child from wrongful retention in a foreign country which accounts for approximately 85-90% of all international child abductions. If your child is going to be traveling abroad, as a parent you should seriously consider utilizing this proven effective travel consent form to protect your child from abduction.  Being proactive is the key as the majority of parents who have become victims, have rarely seen the warning signs that may have told them the other parent was planning to kidnap their child.

Peter Thomas Senese, the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation shares, “The travel document does not simply act as a parent consent form allowing a child to travel abroad but reinforces a child’s return to their country of origin based upon affirmation requirements that remove the majority of an abductor’s legal defenses to remain abroad in connection with Hague law.  The consent form is a tool that can be utilized by parents around the world, as well as attorneys who are trying to protect abduction. If a traveling parent refuses to sign the document, then under no circumstance should the other parent or a court permit a child to travel abroad as there is a heightened increase to an abduction threat.”

As you read this you might think to yourself… “This could never happen to me“.  Generally every parent that has become a victim would have, at some point, said the same thing. The parents that need to pay most attention to this information are those that are involved in relationships that are strained or are in the midst of a divorce or separation, as well, those that are involved in child custody disputes,  These parents should be very aware of the risks involved when it comes to your child traveling abroad – in particular if your child’s other parent has strong ties to a foreign country. Another important aspect to this – if you happen to have a custody agreement that states that your child must travel, never assume that a court order is enough to ensure that your child will return home safely because this is just not the case.  A parent that is already willing to kidnap their child, which is an extreme form of child abuse, is not going to think twice about ignoring the requirements of a court order.  The simple fact is that without the protection of a travel consent form that has immediate and clear ramifications attached to it, such as the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form, there are no guarantees that your child will return home.

Understand that the intent here is not to be blunt, but rather share the cruel reality that faces so many families today.  Is there a chance that yours might be one of these families?  If so, don’t hide your head in the sand.  Being proactive and being aware of the warning signs of international parental child abduction, could well protect your child from a life of abuse at the hands of his/her other parent.

If you don’t fit into any of the criteria above, you should still be aware when traveling. Parental child abduction can commonly occur when both parents are traveling with their child to a foreign country. Perhaps you have planned a family vacation over, say, Christmas holidays during which, something like this could happen: The traveling family arrives in the foreign country they are visiting, and once they have landed, the would-be abducting parent files false claims of abuse and neglect against the other parent… the unsuspecting parent!  Once this is done, they notify the other parent that they and the child will not be returning back to the country of original jurisdiction.  From here, the targeted parent is generally forced to return back home without their child where they then need to seek legal assistance.

This is an example of what the cruel and unforgivable world of international child abduction can be like.  But once again, it is important to note, that as a parent there are things that can be done to help protect your child and to help protect yourself.

The I CARE Foundation focuses a great deal of their efforts on abduction prevention and has been involved in an growing number of cases in both prevention and reunification. The work of those involved with the Foundation speaks for itself.  At the forefront of this work is Peter Thomas Senese, who shows time and again that protecting children from parental abduction is a commitment that he stands unbowed to so that children and their families may never know the nightmare that is the world of international abduction. There are numerous sworn testimonial letters from individuals regarding the advocacy and volunteer work that Peter does each and every day.  As well, Peter has provided testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in regards to the issues that revolve around international parental child abduction.

And on a final note, it’s important to mention again about the 12.23% decline in the reported U.S. outbound abduction rate during the year 2013.  This past year’s decline brings the overall reduction in the outbound rate of international parental child abduction to over 38% since the I CARE Foundation began their advocacy efforts and working to bring an end to international abduction and trafficking.  As the I CARE Foundation continues it’s extensive work in advocating and protecting children we hope to see this trend continue in the year to come.  However, the truth is, there is still a great of work to do… so our efforts continue while we work to protect the innocence of children around the world.

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To DOWNLOAD a copy of the International Travel Child Consent Form, please visit the I CARE Foundation’s official website.

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Japan Ratifies 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention

(January 24th, 2014)

rat28jp1 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention; a few hours later, the Japanese Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr. Masaru Tsuji, deposited the instrument of ratification, making Japan the 91st Contracting State to this important treaty. This significant development reaffirms that diplomatic efforts among the international community, together with the invaluable assistance provided by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, are working; it also reaffirms that the Hague Child Abduction Convention is the proper mechanism for all governments and families around the world to utilize in order to settle international child abduction disputes.

Unknown-1Japan’s ratification of the Convention comes after long-standing multi-lateral diplomatic efforts combined with global public outcry over Japan’s previous failure to participate in the international child abduction treaty and to offer victimized children and targeted parents of abduction a vehicle to turn to in order to resolve international parental child abduction disputes.

The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention will enter into force for Japan on April 1st, 2014. Under Japan’s participation, foreign parents who have previously had a child internationally abducted to Japan are not eligible to file a Hague Application or utilize the treaty. Retroactivity remains a concern for hundreds of left-behind parents still seeking to reunite with their kidnapped children.

The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention seeks to combat parental child abduction by providing a system of co-operation between Contracting States and a rapid procedure for the return of the child to the country of the child’s habitual residence. Judges overseeing litigation revolving around the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention are not to determine issues of custody as that issue typically falls under the jurisdiction of the courts located in the child’s country of habitual residency.

Japan’s ratification of the convention demonstrates that international diplomacy and education continues to work, while also creating a stronger atmosphere for other countries that are not participants to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, such as India, to strongly consider ratification.

rat28jpIn the past, Japan has been considered a ‘black hole’ for international parental child abductors as the overwhelming number of children abducted to Japan by a Japanese national living abroad have not been returned to the child’s country of original jurisdiction.

The vast majority of left-behind parents are fathers residing in Europe and North America. Tragically, the targeted parent often has little or no rights of access or custody to their child once the child lands in Japan due to the country’s antiquated and prejudicial family law policies that tend to grant a child’s mother sole custody of the child while simultaneously removing the child’s father’s access to the child. Japan’s legal system does not recognize the concept of joint-custody.

In May 2013, the Diet had approved Japan’s compliance to the treaty, sending out a clear indicator that the country was steadily moving toward participation. Until today, Japan was the only country in the Group of Eight (G8) that has not affirmed the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

The following month (June) Japan’s Parliament enacted a law stipulating domestic implementation procedures for the Hague child abduction treaty.

Japan’s Parliament established procedures requiring the country to create a Central Authority under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry. The Central Authority’s responsibilities include the tasks of locating children who have been abducted and encourage families involved in international parental child abduction claims to settle disputes through consultations.

If the consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka specifically trained in 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention matters will decide on matters. The Central Authority will be staffed with legal experts in international private law as well child psychologist and domestic violence counselors. A third Hague Court location could later be added.

Under the terms of Japan’s Parliamentary action in June, 2013 the new law provides grounds forrefusal to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, issues that are expected to draw keen interest in light of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention’s Article 13, a provision that is almost always utilized by parental child abductors regardless of the gender of the abductor.

Child abduction prevention advocates from around the world hope that Japan’s ratification of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention will further push non-Hague countries including India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Philippines, and China (mainland) who are all believed to be actively assessing the Convention with a view to becoming a party to.

Today Japan has taken its place at the table of nations and finally a stand against the atrocity of international parental child abduction and severe abuse against targeted children and their families.  As Japan works to uphold the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention we must first and foremost not forget the children who have been abducted to Japan and their left-behind families, many whom successfully advocated for Japan’s ratification of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

We invite you to read the official comments shared by The Hague Permanent Bureau concerning diplomacy and Japan’s ratification. Please click here.

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To visit the I CARE Foundation official website, please click here. 

The I CARE Foundation: Zero Tolerance For International Parental Child Abduction

ZERO TOLERANCE FOR INTERNATIONAL CHILD ABDUCTION AND THE NEED FOR AN EDUCATED JUDICIARY

1c402-icarelogoThe  I CARE Foundation takes a very strong stand when it comes to international parental child abduction… and that is one of zero tolerance for anyone planning or attempting such schemes! Under no circumstance should a parent feel that they have the right to abduct a child, nor should a parent ever think that removing a child from the other parent in this manner is in the child’s best interest.  It is not! There are both short and long-term ramifications on the child, and these are well-documented.  The underlying reality is that once abduction occurs, regardless if the kidnapping is done by a known person or stranger, the child’s safety is placed in grave risk.

When issues arise regarding mobilization (when a parent wants to relocate to another country with the child but without the child’s other parent), these issues should be rectified in accordance with the law. Not by creating an evil scheme filled with false innuendos and accusations against the other parent so to create a misleading impression that abduction is critical for the child’s safety and well-being. It is not. Seeking legal assistance via criminal and civil remedies if abusive conditions exist is the option that must be sought.

A would-be abducting parent puts their child in harm’s way, and this is not acceptable! The I CARE Foundation takes the position that international parental child abduction is a severe form of child abuse with consequences that will be extreme and will impact all phases of the child’s life.  With that being said, we also acknowledge the severe negative impact that abduction has on the victimized targeted parents. Both parties, the child and the targeted parent, are victims when we are dealing with parental child abduction.

In nearly all cases of parental abduction, children are used as pawns by the abducting parent in order to carry out their extensive premeditated plan which includes, but is not limited to causing severe suffering to the child’s other parent. One of the greatest challenges that children and their targeted parent face is the lack of accountability through the courts.  If a court neglects to hold abductors or would-be abductors accountable, this not only means that the targeted parents may remain at the mercy of a vengeance-seeking abducting parent that has already caused considerable harm, but it also sends a very dangerous global message that parental child abductors have limited risks when it comes to legal accountability, both in respect to the courts, but also law enforcement.  This needs to change!

The I CARE Foundation believes strongly that the Hague Child Abduction Convention is the right mechanism that all nations should participate in and adhere to.

As we look forward and create changes to help protect the hundreds of thousands of children each year who are targeted for international abduction, we see the critical need to create an International Judiciary College.

The fact is that the vast majority of judges who oversee international child abduction cases have not been trained in the very complex legal, psychological, political, financial and logistical matters that impact all cases of international abduction.  We face a reality that has untrained judges and courts contributing to many failures, including properly and expeditiously overseeing legal proceedings that seek the return of abducted children to their country of habitual residency.  An International Judiciary College, ideally under the guidance of the Permanent Bureauwould have a dramatic impact on reducing the global abduction rate, but also increasing diplomatic relationships among countries. As well, it is highly conceivable that the issues that exist today regarding the lack of judicial compliance would be greatly reduced as more judges become trained on Hague matters.

The reality is that today many targeted parents who have experienced abduction and who have been abused by the abducting parent remain targets of their child’s kidnapper.  Courts are hesitant to hold parental child abductors accountable for their act. Part of the problem lies heavily in an untrained judiciary – judges who are not trained in the deep understanding of parental abduction matters.  Tragically, the result of untrained judiciary and actors involved in abduction matters is that the targeted parent will believe that the courts will not hold the abductor accountable and equally alarming – by failing to hold the abductor accountable – the courts in essence empower the abductor who has returned with the child after the kidnapping – to attempt to abduct again or to continue making allegations against the targeted parent.

Tragically, when a targeted parent of abduction receives little or no support or protection from the court while they are working to protect their child from abuse (including but not limited to abduction), then that parent can become disenchanted with the legal system they once believed would protect them and their child. They lose hope.

Sometimes claims of abuse are real, and we acknowledge this reality.  In such cases we urge all parents to seek all intervention and assistance available to them under the rules of law.  Conversely, we have also seen in a great number of international child abduction cases when both men and women make false claims against one another.  This is a reality.

As always we encourage all parents to be familiar with the RISKS AND WARNING SIGNS of international parental child abduction.  Being aware of these warning signs is critical in preventing an international abduction from occurring.  Never think that you or your child(ren) could not become a victim of this inhumane crime.  Be proactive and protect yourself… and your child(ren).

If you happen to be a parent that has a child that is traveling abroad, either by choice or by court order, please consider using the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form.

For more information on international parental child abduction, please visit the I CARE Foundation’s official website.

Kindest regards,

Peter Thomas Senese
Executive Director
I CARE Foundation

International Abduction: The Love Of A Chasing Parent

aa3c9-icarelogoTry to imagine a world that makes little sense.  A world where trust is replaced with mistrust, where belief is replaced with skepticism and where love is replaced with hurt.  This is the world of International Parental Child Abduction.  It’s a dark world that is filled with a great deal of pain and suffering.

But make no mistake: the love of a parent who is willing to chase the cyclone of abduction is stronger than the strongest tsunami. And not only have I felt this love myself during the time I was Chasing The Cyclone, but I have witnessed first-hand other parents do everything they can in the best interest of their child.

Now for those of you who do not know how parental child abductors typically attempt to have an international court sanction their illicit act of kidnapping, the way this is done under the rules of the Hague Convention is to slander, defame, and outright attempt to vilify their target before the courts. Claims of child abuse, molestation, incredible drug and alchohol use, etc., are commonplace, occurring in near every abduction defense. Of note, these claims are made by both men and women abductors equally against their targets.

There is no question that abduction litigation is complicated. In part this is due to various laws and cultural norms in countries associated to the litigation.

During the years I have worked to assist other parents, I have met few parents who have withstood the incredible challenges in attempting to reunite with their child than my friend Steven.  I am proud to stand with him as he works diligently to reunite with his daughter while hopefully reforming laws and policies that have failed him and his child.

One day, Steven will be reunited with his child. And until that day happens, he will have my unwavering support. Why?  Because my friend Steven is a very good, caring, honest, and loving man.

I would like to share this letter from Steven as it serves as a reminder of the many thousands of targeted parents around the world – near equally men and women – who are forced to defend against a child kidnappers claims under Article 12 or Article 13 of the Hague Convention.

Letters like Steven’s are very important for they educate each of us of the importance of stopping abduction.

As for the targeted parent who was able to protect their child, I must say that he unquestionably is one of the kindest, gentlest, and loving parents I know.

To read a large number of select testimonial letters from parents who I and the I CARE Foundation have assisted, Please Click Here. 

Critically, parents need to know the Warning Signs Of International Parental Child Abduction.

Of great interest is the fact that the I CARE Foundation’s groundbreakingInternational Travel Child Consent Form is being hailed as one of the most important child abduction prevention tools ever created.

On a personal note, it is my honor to be able to have helped as many parents and children as I and my colleagues at the I CARE Foundation have.

The shared select testimonials were provided in order to educate others of the severity parents around the world face when dealing with the abduction of their child.

One last thing: Steven – you know where I stand.

Kind regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese 

http://www.petersenese.com/uploads/Testimonial_Letter_20.pdf

I CARE Foundation’s Travel Consent Form Continues To Protect Children From International Abduction


The I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form continues to be a tool utilized by parents, lawyers and judges on a worldwide scale and it is making an incredible impact on the fight to help protect children from being internationally parentally abducted.

As many of you are aware, the summer months are a time where international abductions are at the highest levels and, in my role as the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation, I am pleased to say that every child that was expected to be returned home around the world, that used the Travel Consent Form, has indeed done just that… come home!

I invite you to read a piece that the Colorado Bar Association wrote about the I CARE Foundation and our groundbreaking International Travel Child Consent Form.

CBA_Logo_PressReleasesTo read more about the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form and to download a copy of the form, please visit The I CARE Foundation’s website. 

Kindest regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese
Executive Director
The I CARE Foundation

Summer Vacation Schemes and Fraud Behind International Child Abduction

During the summer school vacation, fraud, scams, and conspiracies to kidnap a child are at their highest levels.  This is the time of year when parents of children look at returning back to their country of origin after either deciding to separate from their spouse or during divorce.Yes, child custody disputes can get ugly. But there is something much more at hand – something very dark – when international parental child abduction occurs.  You see, a tremendous number of well-respected reports issued by government and non-government agencies alike have all said the same thing: children who are victims of parental kidnapping are used by their taking parent and used as a tool to cause harm to the other parent.

FRAUD, SCAMS, SCHEMES, CONSPIRACY, KIDNAPPING & CHILD ABUSE ARE ALL ON FULL DISPLAY DURING THE SUMMER CHILD ABDUCTION SEASON

International parental child abduction is not just the act of snatching a child from the country they live in and illegally removing them to another country without the other parent’s consent or a court order.

Abduction often takes place when one parent decides to detain a child in a foreign country without the other parent’s consent or a court order. This often occurs during high conflict child custody disputes.

ACCORDING TO A RECENT DOJ REPORT, CHILDREN WHO ARE KIDNAPPED BY A PARENT FACE SEVERE PHYSICAL ABUSE AND ARE AT RISK OF MURDER

The reality is that wrongful detention of a child under the rules of the Hague Convention appears to be the most common form of abduction. Parents need to know and understand the risk factors associated with allowing a child to travel abroad and act proactively to protect them.

Often there is extensive deceit and fraud involved at the hands of an abducting parent.  This includes never giving any indication to the other parent that their alleged ‘family vacation’ is in fact an abduction scheme.

Unfortunately, there are many abduction defenses that are implemented as part of an abductor’s strategy to have a court sanction their act of kidnapping.

There is no question abduction is complicated.  Especially for someone who first experiences the betrayal and fraud associated with abduction.

THE I CARE FOUNDATION’S INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL CHILD CONSENT FORM WAS DESIGNED TO HELP STOP THE CRIMINAL ACT OF CHILD ABDUCTION

Recently, the I CARE Foundation launched a very unique abduction prevention tool: one that has never before been created.  It is a universal international travel child consent agreement that was created to remove possible legal defenses associated with an abductor’s scheme to wrongfully detain a child abroad.

PARENTS ALLOWING OR REQUIRED TO ALLOW A CHILD TO TRAVEL TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY SHOULD STRONGLY CONSIDER HAVING THE OTHER PARENT SIGN THE I CARE FOUNDATION’S TRAVEL CONSENT FORM. SHOULD THAT PARENT NOT BE WILLING TO DO SO – THIS IS A SERIOUS WARNING SIGN OF PLANNED ABDUCTION.

Please visit the I CARE Foundation to receive a copy of the international travel child consent agreement or to learn more about the criminal act and schemes of parental child abduction.

Kind regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese

International Travel Child Consent Form: Help Stop Parental Child Abduction

I CARE Foundation (International Child Abduction Research & Enlightenment)

I am very pleased to share that on behalf of the I CARE Foundation we have released the ‘International Child Travel Consent Form’ created to help stop international parental child abduction’s associated with the wrongful detention of a child traveling abroad.

This agreement has been created for parents with children that will be travelling abroad.  

The release is timely as it allows parents the ability to sign in time for summer vacations as summer is the prominent time for international parental child abductions to occur.

As school ends for the summer vacation, the vast majority of international parental child abduction threats and kidnappings take place. Often, these abductions occur when one parent is able to legally remove a child from their country of origin, and travel abroad – as an example, under the idea of a family vacation to visit relatives.  However, and unknown to the child’s other parent, who may or may not be traveling with the scheming parent, there is a deceitful and fraudulent plan to never return back home.

Today the I CARE Foundation released the “International Child Travel Consent Form” that was created to stop international parental child abduction when a parent traveling abroad with their child may consider not returning the child to their country of jurisdiction.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD TRAVEL CONSENT FORM

I have said this many times previously, the key to protecting children at risk of abduction is to prevent their kidnapping. Today the I CARE Foundation is pleased to release our ’The International Child Travel Consent Form’ based upon substantial ‘Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’ case law.

The travel document is designed to remove an abductor’s defense under acts of wrongful detention and focuses on key issues related to the Hague Convention’s Articles 12, Article 13, and Article 20.

The dedicated work of the I CARE Foundation’s legal advisory board, which includes members of the United States Department of State’s Hague Convention Attorney Network, to create this formidable legal abduction prevention tool bespeaks of the ongoing dedication to stop the criminal and highly abusive act of kidnapping.

The travel document does not simply act as a parent consent form allowing a child to travel abroad but reinforces a child’s return to their country of origin based upon affirmation requirements that remove the majority of an abductor’s legal defenses to remain abroad in connection with Hague law.

The I CARE Foundation’s international travel parental child consent form is a new tool that can be utilized by parents around the world, as well as attorneys who are trying to protect abduction. If a traveling parent refuses to sign the document, then under no circumstance should the other parent or a court permit a child to travel abroad as there is a heightened increase to an abduction threat.”

The I CARE Foundation’s ‘International Child Travel Consent Form’ addresses many of the possible legal defenses an abductor may use in court under Article 12, Article 13, or Article 20 of the Hague Convention.

The ‘International Child Travel Consent Form’ will be available in Spanish, French, German, and Italian in the coming days.

For more information about the ‘International Child Travel Consent Form’ and international parental child abduction please visit The I CARE Foundation official website.

For attorneys interested in obtaining a full legal brief and framework of the travel consent form, please contact mediarelations@stopchildabduction.org.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD TRAVEL CONSENT FORM

Kindest regards to all,

Peter Senese

I CARE Foundation Director

The Extreme Difficulties Recovering A Child That Has Been Parentally Abducted

Recovering an internationally abducted child is very difficult regardless if the abducted child is taken to a Hague signatory country or a non-member of the Convention.

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,2abc2-icarelogo
  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.

For more information on abduction please visit the I CARE Foundation.

Colorado Child Becomes A Victim Of Parental Child Abduction To Canada Despite Amber Alert

A Longmont, Colorado mother who was assaulted this past Saturday by her separated husband after he broke into her home, where he is alleged to have pepper-sprayed her before using a stun gun on her before he kidnapped their three-year old child to Canada despite an Amber Alert being issued for the abducted child is hopeful that she will be reunited with her son over the coming days.  The child’s father was arrested in Manitoba, Canada on Sunday, and thankfully, the child has been reported to be doing okay.

Brandy Turner Holding Her Son Luke Prior To Abduction

Brandy Turner Holding Her Son Luke Prior To Abduction

The abduction of Luke Turner and his abducting father, Monty Ray Turner’s ability to remove the child out of the United States and enter Canada despite an Amber Alert presents a dire concern international parental child abduction prevention advocates have been voicing for some time: the ease of which children are able to be illegally removed from both the United States’ as well as Canada’s borders due to existing border control policies and abduction prevention laws.

As the school summer vacation months approach, it is anticipated that the majority of criminal international parental child abductions will take place. How to prevent these kidnappings is at the core of concern for tens of thousands of abduction prevention stakeholders, including targeted parents of abduction, law enforcement, courts of local jurisdiction, and respective government agencies around the world charged with protecting children.

According to the Longmont Daily Times-Call, the defenseless child’s mother, Brandy Turner told police she stepped outside her home to smoke a cigarette and saw her husband in the backyard as Luke was having breakfast, Mrs. Turner, who had a restraining order issued against her husband, said she went inside, closed and locked the door, and tried to call 911, but Monty Turner forced his way inside and threw the phone to the floor. During a scuffle, Mr. Turner used pepper spray, shooting it into her face before she felt an electric shock, which she believes to be from a stun gun, she told the newspaper.

After snatching the child, Mr. Turner drove 1,500 kilometers east, leaving Colorado and entering Canada at some point while driving across the northern plains shared between the United States and Canada.

The brutality of the assault and abduction is indicative of sociopathic behavior exhibited by many parental child abductors.

Brandy Turner told The Associated Press on Monday that she had spoken with Luke on the phone and he knows he’s coming home. She said she couldn’t travel to Canada to get him because she has no passport. The child is presently under the supervision of Canada’s Child and Family Services.

Failure Of The Amber Alert

The Canadian Border Services Agency is presently investigating how the child was able to enter Canada despite an Amber Alert issuance.

kidnapping-map

How Monty Ray Turner Entered Canada Despite An Amber Alert Is Unknown At This Time

Immediate concerns on how Mr. Turner was able to leave the United States and enter Canada include that somehow someone at the Canadian border dropped the ball, and did not carefully check for any Amber Alerts on the child and father. In addition, there is a possibility that Mr. Turner bypassed a border crossing all together and entered Canada by taking back roads that connect the two countries.

Immediate questions as to why Mr. Turner fled to Canada are troubling.

In the world of international parental child abduction, an abductor may initially enter into an adjacent country that shares a border with the child’s country of habitual residency due to ease of departure, only to use the first landing country as a launching point to disappear with the child to another country and into a sea of seven billion faces. It is presently unknown if Mr. Turner was intending to leave Canada for another country. Nevertheless, one thing appears clear: the abductor seemingly knew where he was going, which means he may have previously canvassed an exit route out of the United States traveling along the remote northern plains that have limited border security.

In a previously well-publicized international parental child abduction case that remains active, Mr. Stephen Watkins of Canada had his two young sons illegally removed from Canada to the United States by his former wife Edyta ( Ustaszewski / Ustaszewska ) with the assistance of the abductor’s father, Tadeusz Ustaszewski. Once in the United States,  Edyta Watkins disappeared, and was able to enter Poland. Despite Poland being a signatory of the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and arrest warrants for kidnapping issued against her, Edyta Watkins has remained at-large, and Mr. Watkins children have not been returned home.  Mr. Watkins children traveled into the United States without valid passports.

Targeted parents around the world who have their children abducted often do not reunite with their children.  Rarely, are abducting parents prosecuted, as courts often fail to hold accountable an abductor for their act of kidnapping, often wrongfully citing ‘best interest of the child’.

However, recently, parental child abductors are starting to be held accountable, which may be one of the reasons why the reported cases of outbound international parental child abduction originating from the United States has declined by 15% over the each of the last two fiscal years (2011 and 2012) after nearly 30 years of continued growth. It should be noted with great exception that Canada has failed to publicly report the number of Canadian children abducted from Canada since 2008.

Monty Ray Turner and Luke Turner

Monty Ray Turner and Luke Turner

Monty Ray Turner was arrested Sunday afternoon without incident at the Casablanca Motor Inn in Brandon after law enforcement authorities were able to quickly locate him after he used a credit card to check into the hotel. If he did not use the credit card, it would have been more difficult to locate him and the child.

The boy’s grandfather, Ronald Turner, 72, was pulled over in Missouri on Sunday on a warrant for second-degree kidnapping. He was driving a vehicle with a licence plate number listed on an Amber Alert that had been issued after Luke was taken.

A Looming Cloud

As prosecutors in the state of Colorado are working to take custody of Monty Ray Turner, 51, who was being held on numerous charges, including kidnapping, a looming cloud covers Canada, the United States, Mexico, and island-nations located in the Caribbean due to existing international travel document requirements for minors under 16 years old need to cross a border that were established under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Specifically, a child traveling by land or by sea across adjacent borders who is under 16 years of age does not need to present a passport at the time of deparute. Instead, all that is required is a photocopy of the child’s naturalization papers, such as a photo copy of a birth certificate.

Peter Thomas Senese's Critically Acclaimed Novel On International  Parental Child Abduction:  CHASING THE CYCLONE

Peter Thomas Senese’s Critically Acclaimed Novel On International Parental Child Abduction: CHASING THE CYCLONE

The presentation of fraudulent documents at border points has long existed and is well illustrated in the publication of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Land and Sea Final Rule” that was released March 27, 2008 by the Department of Homeland Security. It was reported that CBP officers had intercepted over 129,000 fraudulent documents since January 2005 from individuals trying to cross the border over an approximate 3 ½ year period. This is a substantial number; however, we must ask ourselves how many fraudulent documents were never uncovered and successfully used, and how has this impacted international parental child abduction and human trafficking.

It should be of great concern that the ability to falsify travel documentation for children is appears to be relatively easy. The capability to easily present travel documentation without another parent’s consent or to falsify travel documents for children in cases where a passport is not required appears relatively easy. The fact that simply a birth certificate or worse, a “copy” of a birth certificate and a letter of permission with no documentation to verify its validity, is sufficient to cross international borders is a serious security concern. And although it is is required that a parent or guardian traveling with the child without the other parent possess a letter of consent from the absent parent(s) we must strongly consider that there is no way to verify the validity of a parental consent letter.

Under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the WHTI was designed to strengthen border security and is a joint Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) plan that is carried out in part by the U.S. Customs Border Protection Agency (CBP). The intent of the initiative is to further protect and strengthen our nation’s borders by requiring all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to present a WHTI compliant document that establishes identity and citizenship.

So where do we go from here?

Clearly, the summer seaon is upon us, and with the school summer break now here, this is a time of year when thousands of children living in North America will become crime victims of abduction.

As the Turner case unfolds, we must not only ask ourselves how did Mr. Turner exit the United States despite an Amber Watch, but how did he do this. Furthermore, as the Watkins case resoundly demonstrated, not only should there be a mandatory requirement for all individuals regardless of age and type of travel (land, sea, or air) to present a valid passport at the time of departure.  Note how I said ‘Valid Passport’?

Clearly, children like Luke Turner and every other child deserve to be safe from kidnapping.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative 
And International Parental Child Abduction 

How Are Children Internationally Abducted By Their Parent

Which leads us to the question, “How Are Children Illegally Abducted Into And Out Of The United States or Canada?”

Security flaws that can lead to our children becoming victimized include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Failures by courts and judges to properly assess abduction risk and attach court orders that would preempt international child stealing; and,
  2. Failure to create or uphold present child abduction prevention laws or other laws created to protect our children’s safety; and,
  3. Identity and travel documentation fraud; and,
  4. A lack of uniform requirements for travel documentation when departing or entering the U.S.; and,
  5. The ability under present law to easily illegally transport children under age 16 across borders during land and sea travel; and,
  6. Human error during verification of travel documents by CBP at a point-of-entry or departure; and,
  7. Failures by law enforcement to act expeditiously to a potential abduction threat; and,
  8. Inefficient communication and data sharing between government agencies responsible to assist in preventing or resolving an international child abduction case; and,
  9. The deficiency by our federal government to create and interlink a children’s travel alert, travel restriction data base consisting of real-time family court decisions at the state level with all U.S. border control agencies and transport companies similar to capabilities available through the Prevent Departure Program; and,
  10. A lack of or outdated or underutilized state or federal laws and programs that fail to prevent the abduction of a child and in fact may enable an abduction to occur.

For more information about international parental child abduction please visit The I CARE Foundation or Chasing The Cyclone.

For more information about international parental child abduction in Canada, please visit I CHAPEAU.

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

Peter Thomas Senese Hosts Television Special On International Parental Child Abduction On National Missing Children’s Day

Peter Thomas Senese Hosts Educational Television Special On International Child Abduction On National Missing Children’s Day

New York City Metropolitan area airing of ‘International Parental Child Abduction: A Pandemic’ which I hosted will air this Saturday at 8:30pm on Time Warner channel 56, Cablevision channel 69, Fios channel 44, and RCN channel 84 and also streamed online at the same time (Saturday at 8:30 PM) in conjunction with International Missing Children’s Day.

The segment is rather direct: Summer is when the majority of kids are abducted: this is how to stop their kidnapping. Its purpose very straight-forward: to simplify the risk factors of child abduction that occur during the summer school vacation and provide suggested steps on how targeted parents can protect their children.

The show will air in the 19 million person New York Metropolitan area this evening and is expected to be released thereafter in numerous communities around the United States.

To watch the show via web feed, please visit: http://bricartsmedia.org/community-media/bcat-tv-network (Channel 3).

A special thank you to Mark Sullivan for directing the educational segment, and to the indefatigable Carolyn Vlk and Joel Walter, Esq. for their writing contributions.

As history has demonstrated, sharing direct and straight-forward educational messages about child abduction prevention has helped many families targeted for kidnapping. God willing, the airing of ‘International Parental Child Abduction: A Pandemic’ will reach others who it is intended to reach.

In addition to this direct educational segment, I am happy to share that production of ‘150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children’ is expected to wrap mid-Summer, 2013. The documentary film is a rather different production than tonight’s airing.

On International Missing Children’s Day, I ask each of you to raise your voice and help raise awareness of abduction.

Kindest regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese
The I CARE Foundation

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

Japan Moves Toward Ratifying The Hague Convention

Japan Moves Toward Ratifying The Hague Convention. Will This Help Abducted Children Wrongfully Detained In Japan Today?

After more than a decade of urging from the U.S., including a unwaivering protest by a large number of American parents, primarily victimized fathers, Japan’s parliament on Wednesday finally gave the go-ahead for the government to ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects Of International Child Abduction – an  international treaty for settling international child custody parental abduction disputes. The move by Japan’s parliament offers hope to many chasing parents who were left-behind as their children were whisked away across the Pacific primarily by their Japanese mothers. But realistically, how much can present chasing parents left behind in the wake of their child’s abduction count on unification with their children?

The move by the Diet (Japan’s parliament) will make Japan the 85th signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on Aspects of International Child Abduction appears on the surface to be a step in the right direction; however, Japan’s final ratification of the treaty is not expected for another year. And during that time a lot can go wrong, including, potentially, women right activists in Japan who wrongfully think that every mother abducting their child to Japan was fleeing abuse.  As study after study has demonstrated – both women and men equally cite abuse when they try to have a court sanction their act of kidnapping. The vast majority of these claims are not true.

Is there hope? Yes. But we need to be reminded that there is a long way to go and now is not the time to stop putting pressure on Japan’s government to ratify the Hague Convention under any circumstance.

For years, Japan has come under fierce criticism mainly from the U.S. fathers and more recently, American lawmakers, for its reluctance to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions due to cultural differences on how divorce and child custody is viewed and handled in their own homeland. Traditionally, during times of divorce in Japan, the courts grant the mother full sole custody, and the father of the children is permanantly removed from the child’s life.

Welcome to insanity Japanese style.  In fact, it is estimated that there are well over 300,000 Japanese fathers seeking to reunite with their own chldren who have been removed from their lives by the courts.

Legal experts welcomed Wednesday’s decision, but said the treaty would have little effect unless it is accompanied by changes in Japan’s domestic law. Courts in Japan routinely favor the Japanese parent – usually the mother – in custody cases involving international marriages.

“I am concerned that Japan won’t implement the convention at face value,” says Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University in Tokyo. Mr. Tanase points to numerous loopholes in Japanese family law that could be cited to prevent the return of children to their original country of residence, including the suspicion – without any burden of proof – that the child could be exposed to harm or that the mother’s welfare could be affected.

“Japanese law and the convention contradict each other, and this can be used as an excuse not to return the child,” he said. “The tradition of awarding sole custody was introduced 60 years ago, but Japanese society has changed dramatically since then.”

Yuichi Mayama, an upper house politician who has pushed for the legal change, was more optimistic. “This is a meaningful development,” he said. “I’m delighted that Japan is finally catching up with the rest of the world.”

But he added: “The tradition in Japan is to award sole custody, and that’s supported by the law. Unless we change that we won’t be able to use the convention properly. We take a very traditional view of the family in Japan, and changing that is going to take time.”

The convention is intended to protect children from being taken to another country by one parent without permission in bitter custodial battles. While 89 countries have signed the convention, Japan has been the last member of the Group of Eight major nations holding out. But with Wednesday’s parliamentary approval, Tokyo is expected to ratify the treaty by next March, 2014. (Of the Group of Eight, it should be noted that Germany is consistantly considered a non-complying signatory member of the Hague Convention).

Japanese parliamentarians have long argued that the country’s single-custody tradition is incompatible with the Hague Convention. Unlike in the U.S. and many European countries, Japanese family law doesn’t recognize joint custody of children after divorce, and typically gives the mother full custody.

Like many other countries, Japan has seen an increase in mixed marriages—-a five-fold jump over the past 35 years. While these international marriages only account for about 4% of all marriages in Japan, they have a higher-than-average divorce rate. In 2011, about 40,000 international couples got married. In the same year, about 19,000 divorced, according to Mr. Mayama.

Given that a disproportionate number of American husbands make up the other half of mixed marriages, typical cases that would violate the Hague Convention consist of a divorced Japanese mother flying back to Japan with her child without permission or not allowing her child to return to the U.S. from Japan after a visit, then severing all contact with her American husband. Japanese women married more American men in 2011 than any other nationality except for Korean men, who are mostly permanent residents of Japan.

These international parental child abductions havee landed a number of Japanese mothers suspected of child abduction on the FBI’s most wanted parental kidnappings list. The U.S. State Department says that as of 2011, there are 100 active cases involving 140 American children wrongfully detained in Japan by a parent.  However, activist groups in the United States, who have their heart on the pulse of the real situation, have estimated that the number of children wrongfully detained are well over 300 (this is due to the fact that many targeted parents may not have reported their child’s abduction to the Department of State since Japan is not a member of the Hague Convention). Additionally, the Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday that Britain, Canada, and France each claim over 30 cases of their children being wrongfully kept in Japan.

Despite international parental child abduction being a U.S. Federal crime, parents who have fled to Japan with a kidnapped child have not faced concern of criminal charges because since Japan’s laws do not make international parental child abduction a crime, Japan would not allow extradition proceedings to go forward against any of its citizens.  This theme – failure to extradite  – is something that the I CARE Foundation has spoken out about in the past, particularly in courts during abduction prevention cases whereas a sitting judge may think that they and U.S. law would have far reach abroad: it does not.

With hardly any domestic attention given to the matter, though, there has been little incentive to ratify a treaty mostly detrimental to Japanese nationals. Lawmakers who have rejected submitting the treaty to parliament in the past point to the need to protect women and children from domestic violence and abuse should courts forcibly expatriate mothers and children to overseas residences they have escaped from. In itself, the domestic violence claim against women appears to be a deflective way for some of Japan’s politicians to not welcome change. And it clearly does not take into consideration the increase of domestic violence acts against men, or, more commonly, the use of false claims of domestic violence as a reason for a parent to abduct, knowing they may find protection under Article 13 of the Hague Convention.

But during a U.S. visit in February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surprised some by promising President Barack Obama he would seek approval for joining the convention. Mr. Abe’s visit was aimed at strengthening ties with Washington after a cooling in relations during the previous Japanese administration.

Progress?  Yes, however, Japan must still clear various governmental and legislative hurdles before the Hague Convention can take full effect. The government has said it aims for final ratification by the end of this fiscal year — March 2014.

A central authority will be set up in the foreign ministry to take charge of locating children who have been removed by one parent following the collapse of an international marriage, and to encourage parents to settle disputes voluntarily.

If consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will issue rulings.

The law will, however, allow a parent to refuse to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, a provision which campaigners say is vital, but which some say risks being exploited.

It will also allow for parents who separated before its enactment to apply to get a child returned. But it contains a provision stating that the application can be refused if a child has been resident in the country for a year or more and is happily settled.

Few foreign parents have much faith in the Japanese justice system as a means of getting back their children once they have been brought to Japan.

Are there concerns about the Japan’s language in the new law passed that would make a child’s return difficult?  Yes.

There are others in Japan, primarily from women-rights groups that have concern about the Hague Convention.

Yumiko Suto, co-founder of a women’s rights group, took issue with the convention on the grounds it would leave youngsters open to violence when she said, “What’s worrying about the Hague Convention is that it won’t protect victims of domestic violence, mothers and children who barely escaped alive from their violent husbands. It is very difficult for women and children in shelters to hide their whereabouts for a year… so the provision is not very helpful to them,” adding that providing evidence of domestic violence in a foreign country is also difficult.

Kimio Ito, professor of sociology at Kyoto University, said he hopes Japanese domestic laws “will remove worries over domestic violence that the convention doesn’t fully address”.

Under growing pressure from Washington and other Western capitals, Japan has repeatedly pledged to sign the treaty into domestic law, but it has until now never made it through parliament.

With cautious reason to be excited that the nightmare of hundreds of children and their chasing parents left behind in the storms of abduction may soon be over for many, the reality still remains that Japan is at least one year away from final ratification, and in a country that has made promises to sign the convention many times in the past, there still remains a long road ahead for so many.

*************************************

The following information has been shared by Paul Toland regarding pro bono legal assistance that may be available to U.S. parents to obtain access to their children in Japan using the provisions of the Hague Convention once Japan ratifies the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Paul is the contact point for this and his email address is pptoland@yahoo.com.

If you wish to have your case listed, the following is the information that should be submitted:

Contact Information
Name:
Address:
Phone Number:
Email Address:
Child/Children information
Child name:
Child Sex: (Male or Female)
Child Birth Date:
Child Abduction Date:
Abductor:
Last known address:

The following is the email from Paul Toland:

Subject: Article 21 Hague Convention Access Application – Requesting your response

All,
Please forgive the length of this email, but it is important to be a thorough and clear as possible. With Japan nearing ratification of the Hague Convention, we have the opportunity to gain access to our children under Article 21 of the Hague, which reads:

“An application to make arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise of rights of access may be presented to the Central Authorities of the Contracting States in the same way as an application for the return of a child. The Central Authorities are bound by the obligations of co-operation which are set forth in Article 7 to promote the peaceful enjoyment of access rights and the fulfillment of any conditions to which the exercise of those rights may be subject. The Central Authorities shall take steps to remove, as far as possible, all obstacles to the exercise of such rights.

The Central Authorities, either directly or through intermediaries, may initiate or assist in the institution of proceedings with a view to organizing or protecting these rights and securing respect for the conditions to which the exercise of these rights may be subject.”

I know this is not what everyone wants, we want our children returned, but my attorney, renowned Hague attorney Stephen Cullen, has told me that if done properly and en masse, simultaneous delivery of dozens or perhaps hundreds of Hague Access applications in the immediate aftermath of Hague Ratification by Japan would severely test Japan and put them on notice that we’re watching their compliance. Stephen is perhaps one the foremost Hague attorneys in the US (Baltimorean of the Year in 2004, American Bar Association Pro Bono Attorney of the Year 2003, Maryland Trial Attorney of the Year in 2008, etc.) having litigated over 200 Hague Abduction Cases, with well over 100 successful returns. He has VOLUNTEERED to submit Hague Applications for ANY AND ALL JAPAN ABDUCTION CASES PRO BONO.

The plan would be to hold an event in DC shortly after Japan ratifies the Hague, where we march en masse from his office on K Street in DC to the State Department to deliver the Hague Article 21 Access Applications. We would do this march in front of members of the press and garner as much publicity as we can. Additionally we would do a symbolic delivery of the Applications in front of the Japanese Embassy as well (although the actual applications would be delivered from our Central Authority, the State Department, to Japan’s Central Authority). First, though, Japan has to ratify the Hague and Stephen has to prepare the applications.

Questions and Answers:

1. Question: Who can submit an Article 21 Hague Application:

    Answer: ANYONE who is a US Citizen and has a US Citizen or dual-national child in Japan that they do not currently have access to. This includes what have historically been referred to as both “Abduction” cases and “Access” cases.

2. Question: Will performing an Article 21 Hague Application affect my ongoing legal case in any way?

    Answer: No, if you have Warrants out for the arrest of your former spouse, those warrants still stand. This is simply a request to have access to your child under Article 21 of the Hague.

3. Question: I am American, but I do not currently live in the United States, can I still submit an Article 21 Hague Application to see my child?

    Answer: Yes.

4. Question: Will this process subject me to the Jurisdiction of the Japanese courts, and affect the US Court jurisdiction over my case?

    Answer: It will not affect your US jurisdiction of your case, but the Japanese court system may be utilized under the Hague in facilitating the access to your child. The extent to which the Japanese court system will be used is really a matter of how the Hague implementing legislation is written in Japan.

5. Question: I am not a US Citizen. Can I participate?

    Answer: Yes and no. You cannot file via Stephen Cullen with the US State Department. However, you can file an Article 21 Hague Access application through your country of citizenship, and I highly encourage you to do so to further test Japan’s system. 

6. Question: What will this cost me?

    Answer: Stephen, whose normal attorney fees are about $800 per hour, is doing this PRO BONO. There will probably only be small costs associated with copying, and filing fees.

So what’s the first step? Stephen has asked me to collect as many names as possible of as many parents who would be interested in filing Hague Article 21 Applications. We are hoping to get at least 50, and if we get 100 that would be a tremendous success. I will collect your information centrally for Stephen and then his office will be contacting you to begin the process. I am not sure if he will begin the process prior to Japan’s ratification of the Hague or after. I will let you know when I find out.

For now, though, please provide some basic information to me so I can collect it for Stephen. Your name, your current address, phone, email address, and the names and ages of your children. Stephen’s office will collect more information after the process begins, but for now, I’m simply trying to get a parent and child head count and contact information.

Please distribute this request as far and wide as you can among the community of US Citizen parents who have had their children taken from them to or within Japan. The more parents we get, the better!

(End Paul Toland communication)

Summer Vacation and International Parental Child Abduction: When School Ends… Kids Are Abducted

As the summer vacation draws near, thousands of children will be victims of international parental child abduction – Peter Thomas Senese

f872b-icarelogocalltoarmsHi, I’m Peter Thomas Senese, the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation and as the summer school vacation period approaches, I would like to share with you the assortment of warning signs and risk factors associated international parental child abduction that targets thousands upon thousands of unsuspecting parents and defenseless children each year primarily who are a product of a multi-national relationship or marriage that is or has ended. In sharing some key warning signs today, it is my hope that children will be protected from kidnapping and overwhelming abuse.

Now if you’re like hundreds of thousands of parents around the world the term international parental child abduction may be one you are not familiar with. . . . . . until a child you know is kidnapped and illegally detained in a foreign country by the child’s other parent.

Before I go any further, let me say this: the vast majority of children abducted abroad never come home. Tragically, some can’t – they are gone forever.

According to United States Federal Law, the illegal removal of a child from the country without consent of a court or the child’s other parent is a criminal act of kidnapping. The conspiracy that leads up to the child snatching is generally filled with a host of illegal activities, including false allegations toward the targeted parent of abuse toward the child or other parent. This is something I will touch upon later. However, one thing more than anything else should be clear: parental child abduction is not just an act of kidnapping against an innocent child, but inherently, an abducted child becomes a prisoner of the kidnapper forced to follow and obey the predators instruction under the deplorable acts of parental alienation that the kidnapper deploys as they need to rationalize their behavior toward the child-victim.

Generally, the vast majority of abductions are well-planned and are orchestrated so that the other parent is off-guard when the abduction occurs. Blindsided by the act of international parental child abduction – that tragically is treated very differently than a stranger abduction by law enforcement despite the act being a federal crime of kidnapping – parents who attempt to reunite with their child often enter a dark and dangerous world that will change their world forever.

But what are we fighting for?

Lives.

We’re fighting for a child’s life.

Filicide – a term you may not know – is the act of child murder by a parent. In the United States, hundreds of children are murdered by their parents each year. This is not a phenomenon – parental child murder is a reality that knows no borders.

In cases of parental child abduction the kidnapper uses the child as a pawn to cause hurt and suffering toward the other parent. Denying that parent access to the child is a common theme and often the reason why abduction occurs.

The fear is – the reality is – that many abductors exhibiting sociopath behavior often believe that if they can’t have sole custody of a child – nobody will. Additionally, there appears to be a strong correlation of adult suicides connected to child abduction victims.

None of its easy to discuss yet we’re all only three degrees of separation from knowing someone who may be a target of abduction.

In the course of events leading up to the actual abduction or attempted abduction there are clear warning signs that may allow a parent to protect themselves and their children. And with the summer months upon us – the time of year when most child kidnappings take place – I hope that some insight I will share may be of use to you.

On behalf of my colleagues at the I CARE Foundation, one thing is certain: raising awareness and stewarding the message about the warning signs of international parental child abduction has played a role in reducing the number of reported outbound child kidnapping cases originating in the United States by 15% during the last two consecutive years after nearly 30 years of continued growth.

Make no mistake; the reality is that tens of thousands of children living in cities and on farms across our nation are targeted for kidnapping each year. It is carefully estimated that only 10% of these children will ever come home when we consider the ‘reported’ and ‘unreported’ cases of abduction.

Do you really want to play those odds?

Now before I get into a list of warning signs of international abduction you may ask yourself why is international parental child abduction affecting tens of thousands of families?

The answer is complex, but in general terms, we are seeing a substantial increase in multi-national relationships, which personally I think is great; however, with the notion of ‘global citizenship’ comes some challenges.

You see, as our world becomes a closer, more connected society, individuals from different nations develop relationships with one another, some leading to the birth of a child. Unfortunately, some of these relationships end, and when they do, the foreign-born national parent often desires to return to their home country – and when they do – they usually have a desire to take the child with them.

Except they have one problem: the other parent does not want their child to live abroad after being born and raised in their home country.

Knowing that the likelihood of a court granting them permission to live abroad with their child more than likely will not occur, the parent seeking to relocate to a foreign country often creates a clever, well thought-out plan to either abduct the child from the child’s country of original jurisdiction, or, they will create a deceitful scheme that will enable them to legally remove the child from the country they live in – such as plans to travel on a family vacation with intentions of permanent removal.

Once they are abroad, the scheming parent will often lay a host of criminal charges against the other parent, including domestic physical and mental abuse, threats of murder, and outlandish acts of child abuse and neglect – all for one purpose: to sever the other parent’s relationship with the child and to gain legal actions to the foreign courts they are now physically located in by having the targeted parent arrested and prevented from seeing either them or the child.

Now what most individuals do not realize is that once that child steps foot on foreign soil, that child’s temporary welfare becomes the responsibility of the rules of law and courts of the country they are located in.

Which means this: the police and courts must follow the procedures established under their law: the targeted parent more than likely will be arrested, issued restraining orders against them, and have their access to their child denied until an investigation is done. In the meanwhile, the scheming taking parent files a host of legal motions in the country that will further restrain the targeted parent.

Welcome to a scheming kidnappers idea of a vacation.

Sometimes – and I have seen this happen many times – but a kidnapper will say that the other parent actually consented to have the child relocate . . . so that they can litigate ‘what’s in the child’s best interest’ abroad – in their country of origin – and at a tremendous disadvantage to the child’s other parent.

I want to make this very clear: the scheme of a parental child abductor does not discriminate by gender. Men and women generally abduct equally and often cite abuse and mistreatment as the reason why they abducted. They make the claim that they are not abductors but liberators fleeing abuse. The majority of these claims are false. They are lies created to defend against Federal kidnapping charges. They are lies created in hope a court would sanction the abduction under Article 13 of the Hague Convention – a rule that allows an abductor the ability to relocate if they can prove it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country. These lies are intended to cruelly cause the targeted parent suffering, including arrest in hope to make any litigation they may bring to reunite with their child difficult or impossible.

So if you think that since you may have a U.S. custody order, and that THAT order will allow you to simply go and bring your child home, you should know this: that once your child is in a foreign country, the pragmatic reality of the custody order you are in possession of may mean very little, especially if the abductor has made a criminal complaint against you and/or filed a civil action for custody. Usually, they happen at the same time.

And so here’s your reality: should you attempt to remove your child and take them home with you, you may be violating laws in the country you and your child are located in and you may be arrested . . . . Your custody order is at least temporarily, useless. Welcome to the world of parental child abduction.

But like Dante’ descending into the Inferno, your nightmare as a targeted chasing parent has only just begun. For example, as an American citizen, do you know that even though the abduction was a criminal act toward you and your child, you are responsible for 100% of all costs associated with finding, monitoring, and litigating your case, including the costs to bring your child home unless you become dead-broke – which often occurs for many targeted parents because the cost to reunite with a child often costs parents hundreds of thousands of dollars. So if you don’t have a large amount of money available, chances are you’re not going to bring your child home. But that’s not it: you still have to deal with the false charges and claims, and litigate abroad. If you don’t think foreign courts have prejudice, you are sadly mistaken.

And if you think you’ll simply be able to get an arrest warrant issued and seek extradition proceedings against the kidnapping parent, you’re in line for some serious disappointment because numerous countries that the United States has extradition agreements with do not have agreements in place regarding parental abduction. In fact, in certain countries, this is not even a crime!

Do you get the sense of hopelessness? If you do – welcome to the world of many chasing parents.

Add to it that while your child is gone, he or she is taught by the abductor to think you are a bad mother or father out to hurt them and their taking parent. Yes, parental alienation and parental isolation are alive and well – and in its abuse, it destroys the innocence and very fabric of your child.

So as the summer approaches, this is the time of year when parents need to be aware of the warning signs of parental child abduction.

I have often heard from parents who tragically stuck their head in the sand and didn’t pay attention to the warning signs that ‘Their partner was not that clever’, to find out just how cunning and deceitful they really were only after their child or children were gone.

The key to stopping child abduction is to prevent it from happening.

The MOST IMPORTANT WARNING sign of abduction is to understand the present relationship you have with the child’s other parent and ask yourself ‘May that parent have the intent, desire, ability, and means to take your child to another country without your permission, or possible intent to keep your child in a foreign country should you grant permission for your child to travel abroad with you, the other parent, or both of you?

Abduction often occurs as a prelude to parents separating or beginning divorce proceedings, though there are a significant number of abductions that occur post-divorce commencement litigation. In many cases, the abduction is a planned scheme, which means that generally, the parent intending to abduct a child will try to create an atmosphere that is opposite of their intent: meaning that they will try lull the other parent to thinking that they are committed to the relationship, when in fact they are not. This is a critical issue because it is easier to abduct a child when the targeted parent is not seeking to prevent abduction. So having the targeted parent think that there is a loving, committed relationship is critical for the abductor.

So – if you have been in a difficult, strained relationship with a person who has deep ties to a foreign country, and suddenly that person is demonstrating a new-found love or new-found commitment . . . and they eventually pose the idea of traveling abroad with the child so the child could visit that person’s family, THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS WARNING SIGN that abduction may be planned.

Remember, even if you are invited to travel with the other parent and child, this does not mean you or your child are safe. I know many parents who traveled abroad with the other parent and child who were in possession of custody orders – only to have false claims of abuse, neglect, or acts of violence made against them within days of touching down in the foreign country. Once that happens, the legal nightmare begins – despite possessing joint custody, there is very little that the targeted parent can do to remove the child from the inbound country because the abducting parent usually has filed legal documents seeking court relief to remain abroad – typically in their country of origin.

So here we are – the school summer vacation season is upon us. Parents need to ask themselves this question: Has my relationship with my child’s other parent been strained, and all of a sudden there is a new-found love or commitment by that parent – and is there a trip abroad being suggested or planned? Because if so – you should be very concerned.

As touched upon earlier, if you believe the other parent may remove or retain the child abroad in order to gain an advantage in expected or pending child-custody proceedings by seeking the jurisdiction of the courts located in their country of origin, you should be very concerned.

For example, if a child is taken to a nation in the Middle East, there is a high probability that that nation will allow the abductor to keep the child abroad since the legal environment or cultural traditions may provide the abductor the safe harbor they seek.

In fact, there are many nations who simply do not return internationally kidnapped children, and this includes the majority of countries found in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, who outrageously, are not signatory members of international treaties on abduction. And before I let you think that having a child abducted to European or South American countries is any better you better think again. For example, I have a good friend who is a highly decorated police officer in New York who had his daughter abducted to Germany. For nearly 4 years this loving, honest, compassionate father has fought to reunite with his child. Yet she remains in Germany and he is as close as bringing her home today as he was when the kidnapping first occurred.

Unfortunately, there are countries, particularly in the Middle East, that have cultural environments that make it very difficult for a woman to recover their child. Cultural norms in Asia make it equally difficult for a man to recover their child. But child recovery and reunification is rare. In fact, there are many cases when the international courts order for a child to be returned to their country of original jurisdiction, and the kidnapping parent does not follow the court orders and does so without fear of retribution or arrest . . . . it’s a common theme.

Now back to the WARNING SIGNS – If the other parent threatens you that they will take your child abroad and you will never see them, don’t take this threat as a non-event. Many abductors who have successfully kept a child abroad did in fact make at least one threat that they were returning to their own country of origin.

Another WARNING SIGN is if the other parent presses you to sign a passport application for your child to obtain a passport from their country of their origin. Remember – your child has a right to dual citizenship if their other parent is a foreign-born national.

BEWARE that many nations do not require a second parent’s signature in order to obtain travel documents for a dual national child. . . for example France – so you very well may not know if the other parent has a secondary passport issued from another country. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT because even though the U.S. courts may obtain or even cancel your child’s American passports, they have no control on passports issued by another country. The fact is that even though a U.S. court order may restrict international travel for the child – passports issued by a foreign country are accepted without question at points of departure from the U.S. ”

So if abduction is going to occur – there is a high probability that foreign issued passports will be used to leave the United States.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, if you discover a foreign passport for your child issued from another country that you were not aware of, you have a serious problem on your hand.

Often the scheming parent will use a sudden illness of a family member abroad as a scheme to play on the targeted parent’s heart, often seeking to have their child, ‘See their grandmother or grandfather before they pass away.’ I can’t even begin to tell you how many scenarios like that I am aware of – when the targeted parent who let their child travel with the other parent – soon finds out that there was no family emergency, but instead – an abduction scheme.

A CRITICAL WARNING SIGN is if you soon realize that the other parent is sending large sums of money or other personal belongings abroad – or if they are removing all financial ties to the country they presently live in . . . such as selling their home, quitting their job, selling their car. You get the idea.

There is one other VERY IMPORTANT WARNING SIGN that I would like to touch upon here: if there is a false police complaint and incident report filed by your child’s other parent against you, there is a likelihood that they are establishing a case against you based upon domestic violence and abuse which will be very beneficial to them in court should they abduct your child.

Disgracefully, both men and women abductors are known to make false claims of abuse toward the other parent when planning to abduct . . . if you think it can’t happen to you – you better think again.

With false police complaints in mind, there is something every parent should be aware of: generally, a parent seeking to abduct a child will often make a false police report against the other parent on Thursday afternoons thru Friday afternoon in hope to have their targeted parent arrested and detained by law enforcement over the weekend so that while the child’s other parent is in jail, they have an unimpeded path to depart the country.

When the abductor arrives in the inbound country where they had schemed to abduct the child to – they have established a paper trail of domestic abuse or violence reports that may provide the court in the foreign country with all the evidence they need to allow the abductor the right to keep the child there, thus becoming a ‘liberator’ as opposed to an ‘abductor’ because they created the false appearance that they had to run to protect their lives.

Remember, children under 16 years of age living in the United States, Canada, or Mexico are not required to present a valid passport when traveling within North America so long as they travel by land or sea under policies established by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative . . . . which means that a closed circuit cruise ship that starts and ends in the same port, but that may travel to foreign ports, is in fact a vehicle for abductors to use.

Hopefully the I CARE Foundation’s efforts will cause our government to modify this policy and mandate that children traveling abroad, regardless of age must present a valid passport.

The Truth is that there are a substantial amount of warning signs of abduction, and parents need to pay attention to them TODAY.

Should you believe that your child is at risk of abduction, please contact a qualified attorney who has true experience litigating international child abduction prevention cases.

If child abduction is in process, please contact law enforcement immediately as well as a qualified attorney familiar with abduction. You should also immediately contact the United States Department of State’s OFFICE OF CHILDREN’S ISSUES.

As the summer approaches, the reality is that thousands of children will be targeted for abduction. It is anticipated that several thousand children will be kidnapped abroad when combining reported and unreported cases of abduction.

Of these children taken, only a small number will ever return home . . . ever see their targeted parent again . . . ever return to the community they were raised in . . . ever see their family now left behind.

In the process, their identity will be stolen . . . who they are will be denied . . . they will learn to know hatred because that is what an abductor will preach to them in order to have that child hate their left behind parent . . . and they will live a life as a fugitive.

Most of all they will become prisoners illegally detained by a vengeful abductor who is using that child to cause harm and destruction to the other parent.

Tragically, these children will lose their innocence. As I said earlier, many will never come home . . . some simply will never have the opportunity to . . . . they can’t.2570b-chasingthecyclonehardcoverjacket

For more information I urge you to visit the I CARE Foundation’s website. You may also visit the official website for Chasing The Cyclone, which is the website of my deeply inspired novel about international child abduction that contains an extensive amount of resources. And of course, you should visit the United States Department Of State Official Website, particularly if abduction is in progress.

Protect yourself and your child. Educate yourself.

~ Peter Thomas Senese

U.S. International Parental Child Abduction Rate Drops By 15% in 2011 and 2012

The United States government has stated that the number of reported cases of international parental child abduction has dropped by over 15% during fiscal year 2012, marking the second year in a row that the number of reported cases of outbound child abductions have declined by over 15%. This current trend contradicts the previous 30 years, where there had been a significant increase in outbound abductions.

I invite you to read the report ‘Crisis in America’ – The I CARE Foundation’s report discussing international parental child abduction and where we are today.

Report on International Parental Child Abduction Growth
International Parental Child Abduction Today – 2013
Written By
Carolyn Ann Vlk and Peter Thomas Senese
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.

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