Senate Resolution 543

International Parental Child Abduction Rates on the Decline in United States

A Special Message From Peter Thomas Senese On

The U.S. Decline Of International Child Abduction Cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the report:

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

Issued On February 25th, 2013

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

Year                      Reported Cases           Number of Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

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

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

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

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

UNREPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION IS A SEVERE FORM OF CHILD ABUSE

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

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

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

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

EXTREME DIFFICULTIES IN RECOVERING AN ABDUCTED CHILD

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

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

REASONS WHY ONE PARENT CRIMINALLY ABDUCTS A CHILD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMMIGRATION MIGRATION AND ITS AFFECT ON CHILD ABDUCTION CASES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S OFFICE OF CHILDREN’S ISSUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Authors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What To Do If Your Child Has Been Internationally Abducted This Holiday Season

During the Christmas Holiday Season many children are internationally abducted in accordance to international law because they are illegally and wrongfully detained in a foreign country without one of the child’s parent’s permission.

If this has happened to  you and your child, you must first realize that the abduction was a well-planned scheme orchestrated by lies, deceit, and assistance by others, more thank likely the abductors friends and family members in the inbound country your child is presently being wrongfully detained.  In addition, there is the possibility that the abductor also received assistance from other family and friends in the country of original jurisdiction (your home country) where the child lived.

Now, before I go any further, I will say this: you need to pay attention to every detail and keep records of everything that transpires.

If you are presently in a foreign country where your child is presently being detained and you have no access to your child because the abductor has cut off ties with you, I reiterate that you must be very careful and remind yourself that you and your child were targets of a well-planned scheme.  You must seek immediate assistance from a local lawyer familiar with family law matters in that country, and, you must seek assistance available to you under the rules of law, including the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

For a list of countries who are signatory members of the Hague Convention, please click here.

Regardless if your child was illegally detained in a foreign country with or without you being in that country, there are critical steps that I suggest you must do, as outlined below.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS NOT TO WASTE TIME.

THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT ANY COMMUNICATIONS MADE BY THE ABDUCTOR MORE THAN LIKELY WILL BE USED TO EITHER HURT YOU OR TRY TO SHOW THAT YOU HAD OR HAVE CONSENTED TO THAT PERSON’S ‘RELOCATION’, AS THEY TRY TO SUGGEST YOU SANCTIONED THEIR NO-RETURN. THUS BE VERY CAREFUL!

When you believe that your child or children have been abducted by either their other parent or a non-stranger, you must remember that time is a precious commodity you do not have.

You must act efficiently, thoughtfully, and purposefully with respect to all efforts that you are about to put forth in recovering your child. Of utmost importance is the fact that you need to know everything that everyone involved in your child’s recovery is doing. Critically, you must stay calm, stay alert, immediately contact law enforcement, and immediately contact a lawyer familiar with family custody law.

1.  Never give up HOPE that you will find your child or children no matter how long and difficult the road you have to journey on is.

2.  URGENTLY, if you are a citizen of the The United States, immediately contact the United States Department of State – Office of Children’s Issues. They can be reached at 202-736-9090 or at 888.407.4747.  If you are presently in the foreign country that your child was illegally detained, then immediately contact the United States embassy in that country, and schedule an emergency appointment seeking their assistance.

If you are from Canada, contact the Justice Legal Services in Ottawa at 613.996.1300 or 613.992.6300.  If you are presently in the foreign country that your child was illegally detained, then immediately contact the Canadian embassy in that country, and schedule an emergency appointment seeking their assistance.

3.  If your child’s habitual residence was in the United States, immediately contact the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-The-Lost).

If your child’s habitual residency is Canada, contact The Missing Children Society of Canada (800.661.6160).

4.  IMMEDIATELY contact your local police and your local branch of the FBI (in Canada, the RCMP) and share with them all the details that support your belief that your child’s abduction is imminent or in progress.

Do not wait to file your police report!

Make sure you have as much evidence to support your claim as possible, including any witnesses that can support your claims. While sharing this information with the police, make sure that you file a missing child report immediately.

This report is important as it allows the police to place a description of the child who is missing on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, (and in Canada the Canadian Police Information Centre {CPIC} computer system) so all police forces in the United States (and likewise, in Canada) will know the child is missing.

The police should notify border crossing and all ferry, rail, airport facilities. If there is any hesitancy on their part to do so, under all circumstances demand that all border crossing locations and transportation companies (ferry services, airlines, etc.) are notified, and that all travel manifests are immediately reviewed. If you suspect parental or non-stranger abduction, provide the police with a photo of the suspected abductor, an address, telephone number and any other pertinent information about that person.

In addition, so long as you have a custody order decree from the courts, law enforcement can seek to press charges of aiding and abetting against any individual who may have assisted the abductor with their kidnapping scheme.  Recently, Senate Resolution 543 (SR543) that was unanimously passed in the Senate on December 14th, 2012 resolved that our nation and all applicable agencies involved in child abduction prevention and reunification do whatever they can to assist a targeted child.  This means that under the reach of criminal law, and if there is enough evidence to support a case of aiding and abetting, a criminal complaint must be filed with the authorities.

5.  In all scenarios, it is strongly advised that you hire a lawyer familiar with international child abduction.  It is critical that emergency legal applications are made to the court of jurisdiction that request for the court to issue to you the following:

A) Temporary Full Custody of your child or children.

B) A Return Order for your children demanding that the other parent return them to the court of jurisdiction by a specified date.

In addition, laws in many states give judges authority to issue a ‘pickup’ order for the child to prevent an imminent abduction or harm to the child. Pickup orders go by different names, including ‘warrant to take physical custody of a child’ and ‘warrant in lieu of a writ of habeas corpus’.

6.  The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), in effect in most states, provides an emergency ex parte proceeding for getting a law enforcement directed pickup order (in conjunction with a custody enforcement order) when abductions or serious physical harm to a child is imminent. If the requirements are met, a judge should issue an order directing law enforcement to pick up the child and to serve notice of the custody enforcement proceedings.

7.  If you believe your child’s safety is in danger, and you have credible evidence that your partner is intending to imminently take your child and abduct to another country – file an emergency ex parte motion in court immediately, and make sure you or your lawyer notify your local law enforcement that you are filing an emergency motion before the court.

8.  When possible, you and/or someone you trust should stay in close physical proximity of the child. Consider hiring a seasoned private investigator to monitor the movements of your spouse and child.

9.  STAY CALM. Contact neighbors, friends, spouse, siblings and anyone who may know where your child may be. Invite a friend or acquaintance with a “calm” manner to be with you.

10.  Conduct a telephone search. Call family, friends and relatives who may wish to help. Encourage them to use their telephones to make inquiry calls so your line will remain free for incoming calls. If you have to leave the house, have an answering machine on the line or have a friend or neighbor take incoming calls.

11.  Have friends and relatives conduct a basic land search of the neighborhood area while you are making a police report. With family and friends, try to recall the present and past few days of family situations and activities (a recent argument or disciplinary action could be the reason for hiding).

12.  Provide the police with the information in your prepared Identification Kit. This kit should include updates clear photographs, foot and fingerprints, birth certificate, medical history, passport, dental records, X-rays, child’s name and description including location of scars, birthmarks and any other identifiable data (glasses, braces, earrings, etc.). A videotape or a recent home video of the child may be made specifically for the kit. Try to keep a mental note of what your child is wearing each day.

13.  Conduct a complete physical search of your area. Organize a search party of friends and relatives to search areas such as, child’s route home from school, community center, friend’s houses, favorite hang-out etc. Be on the lookout for articles of clothing, toys, books other personal belongings scattered on the ground. If found, do not disturb. Contact a police officer immediately.

14.  Leave someone at home at all times to answer the telephone in case your child calls.

15.  Continue to keep the telephone lines FREE at all times.

16.  Continue your search even if there are no immediate results. Follow up for updates on the case by contacting the investigating police officer and the provincial searching agency who registered your child.

17.  Solicit media support such as radio, television, local publications and newspapers only at the advice of the police and searching agency involved with the case. Be mindful that once your spouse has illegally taken your child and is on the run, they essentially will act like a fugitive (in many cases they are due to arrest warrants issued by the local court). Typically, a person running from law enforcement is willing to take risks that they might otherwise not be inclined to take under more normal circumstances. These risks can be very concerning, and could potentially place the child as well as the abducting parent in grave and dangerous situations. So, before you solicit help from the media, weigh out the opinions and advice of law enforcement, your lawyer, and your private investigators, if you have hired for these services.

18.  Distribute a photograph of the missing child as well as your spouse or ex-spouse who has taken your child.

19.  Keep a detailed diary of people and agencies you have contacted and steps you have already taken. Logging the events limits the duplication of efforts and allows a review of inquiries.

20.  As I said earlier, hire a local lawyer familiar with local and international child custody law and have your attorney appear before your local court immediately. Share with the court the details of your child’s abduction and all other relevant information to allow the judge to understand the seriousness of the matter. It is critical that you are honest, open, and credible before the court. In simple terms: do not lie, do not fabricate anything, and do not give the court any reason to question your credibility. Tell the good, the bad, and the ugly. Request that the court grant you sole full custody and sole full guardianship of your child or children if you do not already have it. Also request that the court direct your spouse to immediately return with the child to the place of original jurisdiction (if he or she has a lawyer in the jurisdiction, you should be able to serve that person [have your lawyer check on matters of service]. Request that the court issue a ‘pick-up’ order directing police officers to assist you in finding and returning your child to you.

21.  If you know your child has been taken to another country, contact the United Stated Department of State – Office Of Children’s Issues and immediately file a Hague Application for the wrongful international abduction and retention of your child.

22.  Make sure you monitor all bank accounts and remove all assets that are in joint-tenancy into your sole name.

23.  If you are the primary holder on any assets and credit cards, immediately remove your spouse’s name on every account.

24.  Immediately contact your credit card companies and put a security alert on all of your credit cards. This will direct the credit card company to request that you show proper identification to the merchant during each time you use a credit card, or, in the event of electronic on line transactions, a representative from the credit card company’s security department will be required to contact you in order to authorize the transaction. Also, make sure you put two password questions and answers (not one – but two), on your bank and credit card accounts in order to prevent having anyone else other than you access your money.

25.  Contact all credit reporting agencies and request that you are immediately notified of any credit inquiries, remarks, or additional accounts. Make sure that each agency issues a security alert, directing each requesting credit company to seek additional verifying information that any inquiries or applications made to their company were made by you.

26.  Monitor all cell phones of your spouse, and, if possible, have all cell phones, emails, and any other communication devices monitored.

27.  Check with your spouse’s friends, family, and acquaintances and see if they were aware of any information that might lead you to locate your child. Typically, a person who is standoffish, might have known of the abductor’s plans, or, has already been influenced by that person, and will be of little help to you. If that occurs, immediately report this to law enforcement investigating the abduction. If the police chose to interview that person, and they lie to law enforcement, they can be criminally charged with a crime.

28.  Check in your child or children’s rooms for any hints or clues as to where they might have been taken.

29.  Check your ex-spouse or spouse’s personal items for any clues as to where they might have taken your child.

30.  If your ex-spouse or spouse has family that live in a foreign country, hire the services of a private investigator in that country to immediately follow your ex-spouse or spouse’s parents and other family members in order to determine where the child has been taken and is located. This very well may be the best set of dollars you will spend. Remember, any recovery actions cannot be taken until your child’s location is known. In many international parental child abduction cases, the abducting parent chooses to go underground with the child, and develops behavior similar to a fugitive on the run (they are fugitives). Typically, they have a support network in place, and the abduction has been carefully planned and enabled through the assistance of family members and friends. Finding and knowing where your child was taken to is the most important action once you know the child has been removed from the country of habitual residency. Without knowing what country your child is in – you cannot file a Hague Application … and you will be spinning your wheels endlessly trying to find out where your child is. One final note on this subject: according to the provisions in The Hague, there exists language that essentially enables a Hague judge overseeing the case to allow for a child to stay with the abducting parent if the abducting parent is able to prove to the court that returning the child to the country of origin would be detrimental to the child’s best interest. One of the techniques commonly used in a Hague defense is to demonstrate that the child or children have adjusted and desires to live in the country they were wrongfully and illegally taken to. In certain situations, a judge may believe that the child or children have settled into their ‘new life’, and that uprooting them would be harmful, and not in the child’s best interest. So – it is critically important for a Chasing Parent to know where the child was taken to as soon as possible and immediately file for the child’s return under the protocols of The Hague Convention.

31.  If your child is taken to another country, consult heavily with a lawyer in your local jurisdiction familiar with The Hague Convention, and, make sure you hire a lawyer familiar with The rules of The Hague Convention in the jurisdiction you know your child was taken to.

32.  Become familiar with the laws and customs of the country that your child has been taken to.

33.  Consult with The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children, the governing agency who acts as The Hague Signatory for your country (in The United States, the U.S. State Department acts as the official Hague representative for The United States Government) and the International Child Abduction Research and Enlightenment Foundation (the I CARE Foundation).

34.  Try to keep yourself physically active, eat a healthy diet, and rest on a regular basis.

35.  Never give up Hope that you will be reunited with your child.

36.  Remember, you must know everything that everyone involved with your child’s recovery is doing. Do not be concerned about any or your actions other than one: finding your child. In essence – do whatever you have to do in order to protect your child – but remember, your actions must not place your child in any harm’s way. That is why it is important for you to consult with the experts – but remember – you must know everything – including as much as possible on family law, and the rules of The Hague Convention.

37.  Allow and trust in The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Hague Courts do work!

38.  If your child or children have been issued a passport and you have access to it, make sure you hold it and secure it in a safe place. If your child has not been issued a passport, then immediately contact the agency overseeing passport issuances, and appraise them of the present situation. Typically, law enforcement or an officer from the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues overseeing your Hague Application will do this as well.

39.  In the event that your child does not have a passport from the country they habitually lived in, and no passport has been requested or issued by your local government, then make sure that law enforcement contact the local embassy of the country your spouse was originally from, and inform them of the litigation taking place.

40.  One of the most important things you can do in the early stages of an international child abduction is to establish friendly contact with the relatives and friends of the other parent, both in your country and abroad. The fastest and most effective way to resolve international child abductions is for the abducting parent to return the child voluntarily. While there may be good reasons for you to believe that this approach won’t work, it is important that the effort be made.

41.  Make sure you have a cell phone with you at all times, that it is fully charged, that you keep a charged back-up battery, and a back-up phone charger.

42.  If you are traveling abroad to search for your child, make sure you send yourself back-up ‘emergency’ money via Western Union (Western Union is reliable, serves most locations around the world, and funds can be accessed immediately).

43.  The ‘Prevent Departure Program’ is a very effective tool to prevent alien residents physically in the United States from leaving the country either with or without a child. The program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and was initially created to aide in our the country’s national security interests post 911. Essentially and under the purposes of child abduction, an individual would not be able to depart from the United States. For more information on this program, please visit information on this website listed under ‘Prevent Departure Program’ or click on the following link:

44.  Trust yourself.

45.  Contact the I CARE Foundation.

46.  For more information please visit the Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues at http://travel.state.gov/abduction/emergencies/emergencies_3845.html

47.  Remember, the abductor has been well advised and aided about how to get away with their abduction.  They will try to do whatever they can to have it appear that either you are a horrible, dangerous person, and/or that you consented to their travel abroad with intent to relocate. Thus, be very careful of what the abductor communicates with you, and be very leary that any suggestion to have a family member of the abductor mediate an agreement between the two of you in genuine: there is a very good chance it is not.

48.   In the United States, it is illegal to operate or hire a recovery agents who essentially re-abduct a child taken in another country.  It is strongly advised that you follow the rules of law and remember that recovery agents are very costly, you as a client have limited way of validating their activity or expense, and that generally, snatching a child places the child in harms way.  Follow the rules of law and trust the courts.

49.  Critically, you must be aware that if you are in a foreign country where your child was taken, the other side will do essentially whatever is possible in order for them to remain there, including making false child abuse or police reports against you.  One of the most common techniques used for both men and women abductors is for the abductor to make a police report that you threatened their life and that they are concerned about their and the child’s safety.  This enables them to get a restraining order against you while also laying out ground for an Article 13 Defense of the Hague Convention.

50.  It is beyond important that you remember that the abductor committed the crime of kidnapping.  Surely, the abductor was aware of their action and legal issues.  And it did not matter.  They still carried out there plan.  And if you are on foreign soil, you should be very cautious that the abductor has been well advised, and knows that it is critical for their abduction defense to make the child abuse or criminal complaint against you.  Sadly, many abductors act as predators by luring the partner to the foreign country during Christmas so that they could make criminal complaints against that person while they are there. Be very careful – and seek assistance from your country’s embassy.

51.  Mobilize your assets.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION:

When it comes to International Parental Child Abduction, there are a few things that are important to realize.

1.  From 2012 -2022, it is anticipated that there could be as many as 100,000 to 125,000 international parental child abductions originating from the United States, and as many as 17,500 cases originating from Canada.

2.  Unreported cases of abduction are anticipated to at least equal the number of reported cases of abduction, and it is believed that this number could be as high as 150% of reported cases. As an example, in 2010, there ere 1,634 reported cases of IPCA in the United States. Thus, it could be expected that the number of unreported cases of abduction ranged from 1, 634 to 2,451, and that the total number of cases of international parental child abduction was anywhere from 3,264 – 4,085 cases.

3.  Growth of IPCA cases is at least 20% per year.

4.  It is forecast that only roughly 10% of all children (reported and unreported) illegally kidnapped come home.

5.  International Parental Child Abduction is a federal crime.

6.  Loopholes in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative may have a serious negative impact on IPCA and human trafficking in the United States.

7.  The Prevent Departure Program needs to be modified to allow the screening of high-risk child abductors who possess rights of United States citizenship.

Peter Thomas Senese

Founding Director
I CARE Foundation

South Korea Has Joined the Hague Abduction Convention

After years of prodding by the United States and other Hague Convention member nations, South Korea has finally signed the international treaty that requires a country to expeditiously return a child abducted by a parent to the child’s country of habitual residence, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry in a published report issued earlier today. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, or Hague Abduction Convention, will come into force in South Korea on March 1, next year, ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said. Cho added that South Korea’s accession to the Hague Abduction Convention “will lay a groundwork for us to swiftly cope with parental child abductions.” Demonstrating a global shift in marriages, and the increase of cross-cultural marriages everywhere, Cho stated, “In particular, it is expected to help resolve human rights issues with regard to children in multi-cultural families.” International parental child abduction is a severe form of child abuse and malicious kidnapping. Recently, the United States Senate passed SR 543 condemning IPCA.

Peter Thomas Senese

I CARE Foundation: U.S. Senate Resolution 543 Champions Cause Of Internationally Abducted Children

The United States Senate has made a very clear and impressive position against the growing surge of International Parental Child Abduction of American children. On Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 Senator Barbara Boxter’s (D-CA) Senate Resolution 543: International Parental Child Abduction Resolution (Senate Resolution 543), that was co-sponsored by 27 additional Senators, passed a Senate voice vote. Resolution does so much more than condemn the horrible criminal and abusive act of parental child kidnapping, but calls for an immediate overhaul of U.S. Government policy and agency implementation on how the government will handle the criminal act of cross-border kidnapping against the nation’s greatest treasure: our defenseless children.

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I CARE Foundation: U.S. Senate Resolution Champions Cause Of Internationally Abducted Children

2012-12-07 20:50:02 – The U.S. Senate Resolution 543, referred to as the International Parental Child Abduction Resolution, initially Sponsored before the Senate by California Senator and renowned child advocate Barbara Boxter and Co-sponsored by 27 other U.S. Senators unanimously passed in the Senate. The Resolution takes a hard stance against the criminal and abusive act of international parental child abduction while calling for the U.S. Government to do everything possible to help bring home American child-citizens kidnapped abroad. According to I CARE Foundation Director Peter Thomas Senese, SR 543 is a landmark act that may reap sizeable benefits for children everywhere.The United States Senate has made a very clear and impressive position against the growing surge of International Parental Child Abduction of American children. On Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 Senator Barbara Boxter’s (D-CA) Senate Resolution 543 International Parental Child Abduction Resolution (Senate Resolution 543), that was co-sponsored by 27 additional Senators, passed a Senate voice vote. Resolution does so much more than condemn the horrible criminal and abusive act of parental child kidnapping, but calls for an immediate overhaul of U.S. Government policy and agency implementation on how the government will handle the criminal act of cross-border kidnapping against the nation’s greatest treasure: our defenseless children.Senator Boxter first introduced to the Senate Resolution on August 2nd, 2012.

I CARE Foundation (International Child Abduction Research & Enlightenment)
I CARE Foundation (International Child Abduction Research & Enlightenment)

The renowned child advocate, Senator Boxter, stated during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Business Meeting presided over by Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) that, “The International Parental Child Abduction Resolution condemns the abduction of a child by one parent to another country. It also calls on our nation and the international community to do more to resolve current and future abduction cases.” Senator Boxter also stated she “Introduced this resolution to help shine a light on child abduction and to urge immediate and sustained action to address it.”

According to recent studies and published reports by the I CARE Foundation, the number of actual international child kidnappings originating from the United States over the next ten years is expected to exceed over 100,000 children and cost the economy billions of dollars.

Senate Resolution achieves many things child abduction prevention advocates and targeted parents of abduction have been hoping would be accomplished for years: not only does the resolution clearly condemn international child abduction, but it directs various government agencies to review existing policies that have failed our nation’s children, revamping and reforming existing protocol so the growing epidemic of child kidnappings will end.

I CARE Foundation Founding Director Peter Thomas Senese stated, “I am thrilled that Senate Resolution 543 was streamlined by the Senate. Senator Boxter has a long history of protecting children. Sadly, as the number of international child kidnappings has come to light, combined with our understanding and acceptance that these cases against defenseless American children are criminal acts of conspired, heavily abusive acts of kidnapping that create incredible short-term and long-term hardship for the innocent child, today it is more evident than ever before that swift and immediate change in how these kidnapping cases must be handled. Clearly, one of the most important messages that could make change today is in ongoing abduction prevention litigation. It is my belief, and it is a message the I CARE Foundation has shared with all of our attorneys, that Senate Resolution is in fact a siren call to all judges overseeing an abduction prevention case that these cases are real, are not to be treated as child custody cases –because they are not – they are potential conspiracy to kidnap cases – and must be treated this way.

“Equally impressive is that Resolution 543 has teeth in that it calls for the review of how our federal agencies assist targeted children and parents. By calling to “review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies”, the Senate Resolution 543 is not only clearly identifying but acknowledging that the existing agencies charged with protecting our nation’s children need to be overhauled in that there is a need to provide OCI with more power to act on behalf of kidnapped children. Surely, when this definitive review is conducted, there will be a clear disposition that OCI is underfunded, understaffed, and given limited power, which means as part of the Department of State, it is underutilized. Outward, the resolution calls for countries who are not members of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Abduction to become complying members of the international treaty. Presently, nations including Japan, India, and Egypt are not members of the international treaty, and few, if any children ever abducted to these nations ever are returned to the United States. Passage of SR 543 is an outstanding achievement.”

Carolyn Vlk, who is a Board of Director member of the I CARE Foundation and a Special Advisor to the Amber Watch Foundation added, “One of the most important messages of Senate Resolution 543 that I hope will transcend into the courtroom where the battlefield of abduction prevention is presently taking place is that judges who are presiding over these type of cases will realize just how serious these matters are, how difficult it is for a parent to recover their child, and how carefully plotted and schemed an actual abduction plan is. The key to protecting children from kidnapping is to not let them be stolen to begin with. I am very pleased to know that the resolution specifically calls for criminal extradition of kidnappers. I am also pleased to know that a review of government agency responsibility and interaction, such as those conducted by the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, will take place. The passage of Senate Resolution 543 is a very powerful step in the right direction.”

New York based attorney and I CARE Board member Joel Walter added, “I speak on behalf of the Board of Directors of the I CARE Foundation as well as our large number of lawyers in the foundations attorney network, when I say we are loudly applaud the Senate and all Senators who have made the passage of Resolution 543 possible. In streamlining the passage of 543, many much-needed and positive messages have been sent, including a clear green-light signal for child advocate organizations such as the I CARE Foundation to move forward on an assortment of federal legislative initiatives that will help protect children from this terrible fate of abduction. And that is exactly what the I CARE Foundation’s next step is: to move forward on additional new legislative initiatives that we have been working on over the past year. One thing that we must all remember is that a stealing parent generally has severe sociopathic tendencies and chose to abusively use a child of abduction to cause severe hurt against the other parent. In certain cases, the unthinkable act of filicide exists, as parental child murder is one of the leading causes of child death in our country. Clearly, children of abduction are in highly volatile situations. SR 543 is more important than perhaps we care to talk about.”

Senator Barbara Boxer said, “I am so proud that today (Tuesday evening, December 4th, 2012) the Senate took a stand to condemn the tragic and devastating crime of child abduction,” Senator Boxer said. “This resolution is a resounding call to the international community to join together to prevent and resolve abduction cases.”

Sentiment from several key United States Senators demonstrates a reshaping of Congress’ view on international parental child abduction with intent to act.

“International child abduction is a tragic situation that impacts not only the parents who are left behind but also the children who have been illegally separated from them and denied any contact,” Senator Lugar said. “Bringing greater attention to this issue is important if we are to change other governments’ attitudes to these abductions.”

“International child abductions aren’t faceless crimes, they’re real and they’re tragic,” Senator Kerry said. “The United States must condemn international abductions and work to resolve them. The international community must stand up and do all it can to make this right.”

New Jersey Senator Lautenberg said, “We need to gain the support of countries around the world in condemning this practice and agreeing to cooperate in the return of abducted children. This resolution will help us prevent these tragedies in the future.”

To read an analysis of Senate Resolution 543, including the resolution, please visit the I CARE Foundation’s website at: http://www.stopchildabduction.org


Press Information:
I CARE Foundation

225 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

Contact Person:
Maria Gina
Media Relations
Phone: 347-939-9399
email: email

Web: www.stopchildabduction.org

Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation

U.S. Senate Resolution 543 Condemns International Parental Child Abduction

On the evening of December 4th 2012, U.S. Senators unanimously took a stand against international parental child abduction.  This is a big day for those of us that devote our lives to advocating for those innocent children that are targets of international child abduction.

The I CARE Foundation is pleased to share that U.S. Senator Barbara Boxter’s International Parental Child Abduction Resolution (Senate Resolution 543) first introduced to the Senate on August 2nd, 2012 passed unanimously yesterday, December 4th, 2012 a Senate vote. Previously, Senator Boxter stated before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Business Meeting presided over Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) that, “The International Parental Child Abduction Resolution condemns the abduction of a child by one parent to another country. It also calls on our nation and the international community to do more to resolve current and future abduction cases.” Senator Boxter also stated she “Introduced this resolution to help shine a light on child abduction and to urge immediate and sustained action to address it.”

Senator Boxter’s comments made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unequivocally shed light as to the great difficulties targeted children and parents face.  Senator Boxter, a known child advocate stated before Senator Kerry’s Foreign Relations Committee that, “The resolution (Senate 543) condemns the abduction of a child by one parent to another country. It also calls on our nation and the international community to do more to resolve current and future abduction cases. By approving this resolution, we are sending a clear, bipartisan message that the United States Senate stands united in its condemnation of child abduction and its commitment to help end this injustice.”

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a Senate Resolution 543 by a voice vote yesterday. Impressively, the resolution garnered 28 original cosponsors, and is a clear indication that the voices of the community of activists are reaching the halls of our nation’s Capitol.

Senate Resolution 543 reinforces several critical issues that are expected to come to the aid of targeted children and parents, as is discussed in a step-by-step summary analysis provided below.  However, on the surface, and with great light on the subject needed, Resolution 543 names Japan, India and Egypt as the worst offenders in the kidnappings of children from the United States to countries abroad.

Equally importantly, Senate Resolution 543 calls for several critical actions to be taken that will open up new avenues of child protection.  Specifically, Senator Boxter’s resolution calls for the immediate review of the protocols previously established by the United States Congress when our lawmakers agreed to become a signatory member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction.  Specifically, Senate Resolution 543 (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) states:

(E) review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies—

(i) to improve the prevention of international parental child abduction from the United States; and

(ii) to ensure that effective and timely assistance is provided to United States citizens who are parents of children abducted from the United States and taken to foreign countries.

What (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) (iI) makes it clear that:

A review of Congress’ existing declaration when it annexed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction whereas it declined to financially assist targeted parents who have had their child criminally kidnapped (International Kidnapping Crimes Act) reunite with their children.According to an I CARE Foundation recent study,  parents who have their children internationally abducted face severe and overwhelming costs in attempting to reunite with their kidnapped children, and the financial costs and economic impact on the U.S. economy over the next 10 years is expected to reach over 5 Billion U.S. Dollars.   Clearly the resolution’s (2)(E)(ii) is specifying that the United States government must “ensure that effective and timely assistance is provided to Untied States citizens” who have their children kidnapped – and this means financial assistance that may be required to locate an internationally kidnapped child, financial assistance for litigation expenses and any activity associated with a child’s recovery, including reunification assistance.  How important is this?  Enormous, particularly when we must consider that many of targeted parents fail to reunite with their abducted child because the stealing parent knows that so long as they can financially drain the other parent’s resources, and tie up the litigation into a long process, they should be successful in achieving their criminal act of abduction.  Should this portion of the Senate’s resolution be upheld, not only will it change the ability of a targeted parent to protect their child, but it will alter the dynamics of an abductor’s litigation strategy because they will not be able to financially drain the targeted parent.

Equally important, (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) does something that could potentially make the greatest difference of all aspects of the resolution.  Specifically, the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI), which I believe is made up of some of the most dedicated and caring child advocates on the planet, presently have extreme limitations on what it can and cannot do to assist American parents who have had their child abducted.  Which leads to great frustration by the nation’s citizens who turn to OCI for assistance.By calling to “review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies”, the Senate Resolution 543 is not only clearly identifying but acknowledging that the existing agencies charged with protecting our nation’s children need to be overhauled in that there is a need to provide OCI with more power to act on behalf of kidnapped children.  Surely, when this definitive review is conducted, there will be a clear disposition that OCI is underfunded, understaffed, and given limited power, which means as part of the Department of State, it is underutilized.

(Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) importantly states since international parental child abduction is a federal criminal act of kidnapping – this is not a child custody disagreement but a brutal act against a child – that review of existing protocols on how our national law enforcement agency may assist a targeted parent who has had a child abducted.

This section of Senate Resolution 543 is critical because today, and in the past, the vast majority of parental child kidnappers did not fear any retribution for the scheming, abusive, and destructive criminal act of cross-border abduction.  Without concern that they would be held accountable for their act, and with the financial playing field heavily tilted in their favor, there has been a sharp increase of child abductions that could see as many as 100,000 to 125,000 American children abducted abroad if we consider the current number of reported cases of abduction, the forecasted number of unreported cases of abduction, the growth rate of abduction, and underlying conditions such as immigration migration to the United States as well as general population growth as factors.

Critically supporting (Article 2) (Section II) (Part E) is (Article 2) (Section II) (Part A), whereas the resolution calls for:

(A)   Vigorously pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States to another country through all appropriate means, facilitate access by the left-behind parent if the child is not returned, and, where appropriate, seek the extradition of the parent that abducted the child.

Did you notice the key words, “Vigorously pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States?”

This is clearly indicating that the United States Senate is sending a message that children will no longer be considered collateral political damage and that the United States government will protect and defend its defenseless, innocent children who are kidnapped and held hostage overseas.

How?

By seeking “the extradition of the parent that abducted the child.”

As previously stated, parental child abductors have little concern that their actions will be prosecuted even though the acts of international parental child abduction violates federal laws including criminal codes on kidnapping, and, at times, laws prohibiting the aiding and abetting of a fugitive.  In addition, a state’s laws on abduction are also violated, as well as criminal codes of child abuse and child neglect.  Of course contempt of court and perjury are rampant in these cases, and are punishable by contempt of court charges.

However, now it is clear that a parent can and should seek criminal remedy in conjunction with civil remedy available to them under the Hague Convention.

For a long time now, child abduction prevention advocates and chasing parents have all shared a very important message: by having an arrest warrant issued against a child abductor, by extraditing the abductor on kidnapping charges, by prosecuting abductors, and by having them sentenced, a strong message that will serve as a deterrent against abduction will be issued, and many would-be abductors will think carefully before they abuse their child.

Extradition means in many cases that in the simplest terms an abductor will have limited ability to hide under the rules of law of another nation.  Granted, part of the challenge is that each country has its own rules as to what type of crime it will allow extradition of; however, the underpinnings of Senate Resolution 543 is to use diplomacy that enables the laws of a child’s country of original jurisdiction to allow the child’s custodial parent the ability of protecting their child.

Obviously, it is critical that international parental child abduction occurs.  Which means new abduction prevention laws must be created while certain existing policies must be modified.  Clearly, new laws and policy modifications that occur will become worthless if judges presiding over courts of jurisdiction of a targeted child do not enforce the laws they are governed to uphold. Furthermore, it must become a mandatory policy for each child protective agency to develop a special division of trained personnel familiar with international parental child abduction in order to protect a child from abuse, including the common-place false claims made by a taking parent against a targeted parent.

Over the past 15 years the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, funded a study on child abduction murder cases. The number of cases of filicide – the murder of a child by one of their parents – was alarming.   A recent report issued by the I CARE Foundation provides acute insight as to the grave risk of murder associated with international child abduction cases.

Perhaps shedding light as to just how important Senate Resolution 543 is are the comments of Mr. Joel Walter,Esq., a Board of Director of the I CARE Foundation when he shared his insight on parental child abduction and the threat of parental child murder. “Once removed from their home, the child becomes a hostage who is put into more danger than being alienated from their other parent and family, being forced to live the life as a fugitive, having their identity stripped away – no, there is much more at risk than all of this: there is the risk that filicide – the murder of a child at the hands of one of their parents – will occur. And this is the reality that we all keep in the forefront of our thoughts: child abductors have demonstrated their cleverness and willingness to scheme and break the law as exhibited by their criminal act of kidnapping, the vast majority of abductors kidnap their child because they have lost control of their emotions and use the child as a pawn for revenge against the other parent and are willing to go to nearly any length to cause pain and suffering to their target, even if it is at the expense of their own child, and conceivably, as has been demonstrated in various forms and ways as exhibited by the number of filicide cases, a parental child abductor could murder their own child as the ultimate act of revenge – especially when a child’s return to their country of original jurisdiction has been ordered or is imminent.”

For targeted parents who have had their children abducted to countries such as Japan, India, and Egypt, who are not members of the Hague Abduction Convention, Senate Resolution 543 made it clear that the United States legislative branch no longer is willing to sit idle while American children are kidnapped or illegally detained abroad while laws in their country and courts that oversee these laws do nothing to uphold the legitimate claims of law based upon a child’s original jurisdiction and the prevailing laws and court orders issued from such jurisdiction.

A portion of the preamble of Senate Resolution 543 reads:

Whereas Japan, India, and Egypt are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and were also among the top 10 countries to which children in the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011;

Whereas, in many countries, such as Japan and India, international parental child abduction is not considered a crime, and custody rulings made by courts in the United States are not typically recognized by courts in those countries; and

Whereas Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries that has not yet become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention: Now, therefore, be it –

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sponsored Senate Resolution 543, which garnered 28 original cosponsors and passed the Senate by voice vote Tuesday evening. Senator Boxer has been the Congressional leader on this issue since 2006, consistently raising legislative awareness. The renown child advocate Senator Boxter said, “I am so proud that today (Tuesday evening, December 4th, 2012) the Senate took a stand to condemn the tragic and devastating crime of child abduction,” Senator Boxer said. “This resolution is a resounding call to the international community to join together to prevent and resolve abduction cases.”

Sentiment from several key United States Senators demonstrates a reshaping of Congress’ view on international parental child abduction with an intent to act.

“International child abduction is a tragic situation that impacts not only the parents who are left behind but also the children who have been illegally separated from them and denied any contact,” Senator Lugar said. “Bringing greater attention to this issue is important if we are to change other governments’ attitudes to these abductions.”

Senator Inhofe said,  “Unfortunately, some countries around the world are complicit in allowing these unacceptable acts.  The heart wrenching stories I have heard from parents is not just devastating for them, but destructive for the children.  It is time for the Senate to act in a way that will help end this injustice.  This well written measure is a high priority.  I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join in this effort.”

“International child abductions aren’t faceless crimes, they’re real and they’re tragic,” Senator Kerry said. “The United States must condemn international abductions and work to resolve them.  The international community must stand up and do all it can to make this right.”

New Jersey Senator Lautenberg said, “We need to gain the support of countries around the world in condemning this practice and agreeing to cooperate in the return of abducted children. This resolution will help us prevent these tragedies in the future.”

So now where do we go?

Well, obviously Senate Resolution 543 clearly indicates that the way our government, courts, and law enforcement handle international parental child abduction is not enough.  More – much more must be done as international child kidnapping spreads.

Prevention of abduction is critical.  This means that judges presiding over cases of abduction risk or act must become fully aware of the laws they oversee as well as the seriousness of this crime against children.  Education is critical.

The United States Senate has shared a very strong message: international parental child abduction is not a child custody case: it is criminal kidnapping, and it must be treated as such.

In addition, we need new laws that will help prevent abduction.  Two immediate legislative initiatives the I CARE Foundation is currently working on is to:

  1. Create a secondary secure screening list so that individuals possessing a right of U.S. citizenship and who are determined by courts or law enforcement to be high-risk child abductors  may be vetted prior to travel to ensure they are not abducting a child. This proposal is similar to the current Prevent Departure Program, which presently only permits the listing of individuals onto a secure screening list that do not possess a right of U.S. citizenship and who are in the United States.
  2. Under the current Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative Policy, American children are permitted to travel outside of the country by land or sea to adjoining nations such as Mexico, Canada, and certain Caribbean-Island nations by presenting only a photocopy of a naturalization document such as a photocopy of a birth certificate.  We call upon the mandatory use of valid passports for all children entering into or traveling from the United States.

Obviously, bolstering the Office of Children’s Issues resources and capability are critical.  And using direct and ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring countries to the table of the Hague Abduction Convention, and ensuring that they comply with the treaty are also critical.

Senator Boxter’s Senate Resolution 543 Cosponsors was a bipartisan effort and included Senators Feinstein, Blumenthal, Rubio, Durbin, Kirk, Lugar, Moran, Roberts, Landrieu, Kerry, Cardin, Mikulski, Blunt, Lautenberg, Menendez, Gillibrand, Inhofe, Merkley, Wyden, Casey, Toomey, Reed, Whitehouse, Johnson, Hutchinson, Leahy, Cantwell, and Murray.

We applaud and thank Senator Boxter and all the Senators who passed Resolution 543 yesterday.  This is a major step in the right direction toward protecting our nation’s children, and equally, in doing so, sending a message to other nations that they too, must protect their child citizens.

We do take note that the statistical numbers of the number of cases of abduction cited in the legislative resolution are not accurate in that the cited 2011 numbers reflect the number of reported abductions that occurred in the year 2010.  We also take note that it is believe that the number of unreported cases of international parental child abduction are between 100% and 125% of the reported cases of abduction.  Finally, we believe that it is important to note that to state that international parental child abduction is on the aggregate rise of over 25% per year from the last known cited reporting years of 2006 through 2010.  The represented number of abduction cases in the senate resolution demonstrates that there is a critical need for more current research and shared updated information concerning just how severe international child abduction is today.Again, we are thankful for everyone’s efforts in making Senate Resolution 543 a reality.

The full text of Senate Resolution 543 is below.

RESOLUTION

Whereas international parental child abduction is a tragic and common occurrence;

Whereas the abduction of a child by one parent is a heartbreaking loss for the left-behind parent and deprives the child of a relationship with 2 loving parents;

Whereas, according to the Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of the United States Department of State from April 2010, research shows that abducted children are at risk of significant short and long-term problems, including “anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, [and] aggressive behavior”;

Whereas, according to that report, left-behind parents may also experience substantial psychological and emotional issues, including feelings of “betrayal, sadness over the loss of their children or the end of their marriage, anger toward the other parent, anxiety, sleeplessness, and severe depression”, as well as financial strain while fighting for the return of a child;

Whereas, since 1988, the United States, which has a treaty relationship under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague October 25, 1980 (TIAS 11670) (referred to in this preamble as the “Hague Abduction Convention’’) with 69 other countries, has agreed with its treaty partners to follow the terms of the Hague Abduction Convention;

Whereas the Hague Abduction Convention provides a legal framework for securing the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to the countries of their habitual residence where competent courts can make decisions on issues of custody and the best interests of the children;

Whereas, according to the United States Department of State, the number of new cases of international child abduction from the United States increased from 579 in 2006 to 941 in 2011;

Whereas, in 2011, those 941 cases involved 1,367 children who were reported abducted from the United States by a parent and taken to a foreign country;

Whereas, in 2011, more than 660 children who were abducted from the United States and taken to a foreign country were returned to the United States;

Whereas 7 of the top 10 countries to which children from the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011 are parties to the Hague Abduction Convention, including Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia;

Whereas Japan, India, and Egypt are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and were also among the top 10 countries to which children in the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011;

Whereas, in many countries, such as Japan and India, international parental child abduction is not considered a crime, and custody rulings made by courts in the United States are not typically recognized by courts in those countries; and

Whereas Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries that has not yet become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That—

(1) the Senate—

(A) condemns the international abduction of all children;

(B) urges countries identified by the United States Department of State as non-compliant or demonstrating patterns of noncompliance with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague October 25, 1980 (TIAS 11670) (referred to in this resolution as the “Hague Abduction Convention”) to fulfill their commitment under international law to expeditiously implement the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention;

(C) calls on all countries to become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention and to promptly institute measures to equitably and transparently address cases of international parental child abduction; and

(D) calls on all countries that have not become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention to develop a mechanism for the resolution of current and future cases of international parental child abduction that occur before those countries become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention in order to facilitate the prompt return of children abducted to those countries to the children’s countries of habitual residence; and

(2) it is the sense of the Senate that the United States should—

(A) vigorously pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States to another country through all appropriate means, facilitate access by the left-behind parent if the child is not returned, and, where appropriate, seek the extradition of the parent that abducted the child;

(B) take all appropriate measures to ensure that a child abducted to a country that is a party to the Hague Abduction Convention is returned to the country of habitual residence of the child in compliance with the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention;

(C) continue to use diplomacy to encourage other countries to become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention and to take the necessary steps to effectively fulfill their responsibilities under the Hague Abduction Convention;

(D) use diplomacy to encourage countries that have not become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention to develop an institutionalized mechanism to transparently and expeditiously resolve current and future cases of international child abduction that occur before those countries become a party to the Hague Abduction Convention; and

(E) review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies—

(i) to improve the prevention of international parental child abduction from the United States; and

(ii) to ensure that effective and timely assistance is provided to United States citizens who are parents of children abducted from the United States and taken to foreign countries.

For more information on international parental child abduction, please click here.

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