U.S. Department of State

Parental Child Abduction and the Serious Risk of Violence or Murder

Parentally Abducted Children Are At Serious Risk Of Violence or Murder 
At The Hands of A Parent Abductor


“Unfortunately, the threat of violence—and death—in these cases is all too real,” said Ashli-Jade Douglas, an FBI analyst in our Violent Crimes Against Children Intelligence Unit who specializes in child abduction matters.  “Most non-custodial parental abductors want retaliation. They feel that if they can’t have the child full time—or any amount of time—then the other parent shouldn’t have the child, either.”

The following statement shared on the Department of Justice’s official website should cause great concern for society as we try to protect our children from brutal crimes connected with abduction – and that includes murder.  The I CARE Foundation has been sharing this for some time: children of international parental child abduction are at risk of murder. The truth is – children are put in grave risk at the hands of their abducting parent.  Parental child abductors are willing to break the laws as well as the orders of a court – as well, they have no concern with perjury or contempt.  Parental child abductors kidnap children in order to cause the targeted parent hurt and suffering.  Simply put, the aggressive act of kidnapping – using a child to cause harm – is the reality of parental child abduction.

It is imperative that every social services program, every child welfare organization and every family protective service agency charged with investigating any claims of child abuse carefully analyze any allegations of abuse. Critically, these organizations must carefully scrutinize any claims made by a parent who was previously charged with child abduction, especially if a court determined that parent had committed a criminal act of child kidnapping, or in Hague cases during international parental child abduction that uses a civil procedure for the return of a child despite the federal act of kidnapping being committed, it is imperative that all social service personnel charged with investigating any claims of abuse or neglect made by a child abductor against their previous targeted parent be cautiously examined.  Critically, all social service agencies acting on a complaint against a child made by a parent child abductor must commence their investigation with the hard reality that the child was a victim of kidnapping along with other forms of serious abuse, and carefully review the sociopath tendencies of abductors.As published on the United States Department of State’s website, “When non-custodial parents resort to kidnapping, they believe they are acting in the best interests of their children. Although a minority of parental kidnappers may actually save their children by taking them out of the reach of the other parent, the motives of most parents who steal their children are not at all altruistic. Parents find a myriad of reasons or self-justification for stealing a child from another parent Some abductors will find fault with the other parent for nonsensical transgressions; others will steal a child for revenge.”

The State Department’s report includes, “[A] profile [of] the parent who shows signs of flagrant paranoid beliefs or psychotic delusions. In this situation, the intervention must focus on the child and his or her safety and well-being . . . Unfortunately, the other parent and the child must be informed about a safety plan at all times.”  Continuing, the Department of State’s report specifically states, “[The] profile [of an international parental child abductor] is the sociopathic personality.”

Again, nobody wants to think about a parent killing their child.

However, we must take into heavy consideration the statement by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)  concerning the sociopathic behavior of abductors. Grave concern was expressed, “As with paranoid and delusional parents, sociopathic parents are unable to perceive their children as having separate needs or rights. Consequently, they often use their children blatantly as instruments of revenge or punishment or as trophies in their fight with the ex-partner. Hence, the sociopathic parent believes that domestic violence and child abduction can be perpetrated with impunity. Like paranoia, a diagnosis of severe sociopathy is rare (4 percent of the studies’ samples).

Filicide is not a term that I like to talk about, but the reality is, we need to talk about it more.  For those that are not aware, the term filicide refers to the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child.  In the United States, hundreds of children are murdered by their parents each and every year. Proportionately, filicide occurs everywhere. It is not a phenomenon isolated within American borders: parents do kill children. And we can’t put our head in the sand and think this does not exist.

According to a recent statement released by the FBI, there is a trend that I find incredibly disturbing coming from non-custodial parents – and that is the rate in which they are abducting and threatening to harm their own children… all with the intent of retaliation against the parent who has been given legal custody.

Now, with a large number of American children being born to unwed parents, along with the high rate of marriages ending in divorce, the reality is that there is an increasing number of cases where a single parent is going to have custody of the child. The FBI’s statistics show that between the years 2010 and 2012 there was an increase of 41% in child abduction cases that involved custody matters.  So if we add that to the increased number of those parents seeking retaliation through harming their own child – do we need to be concerned?  You bet we do!

In the FBI statement there were some recent cases of filicide that occurred at the hands of non-custodial parents:

  • In 2009, a non-custodial mother abducted her 8-month-old son from his custodial father in Texas. She told the father she killed the boy to prevent the father from employing his custodial rights and in retaliation for his alleged involvement with other women.
  • In 2011, a 2-year-old girl was abducted by her non-custodial father in California. A week later, both were found dead. The father committed suicide after shooting his daughter.
  • In 2012, a non-custodial father in Utah abducted and killed his 7- and 5-year-old sons and then committed suicide. He was angry over not being afforded sole custody of the children.

Ashli-Jade Douglas offers up this advice to help keep children safe:  “Custodial parents should inform schools, after-care facilities, babysitters, and others who may at times be responsible for their children about what custody agreements are in place so that kids are not mistakenly released to non-custodial parents.”

The common misconception that parental abductions are considered a family matter has to end.

Parental child abduction is a serious crime. The act of abduction leads to ongoing forms of abuse toward a child.

When a child is abducted they should immediately be considered to be in great danger!

Law enforcement agencies need to act quickly to ensure that these innocent children are not going to be harmed.  The sociopathic behaviors that a kidnapping parent exhibits has them believing in their own mind what they are doing is in the best interest of the child.  When we think again about the fact that many of these cases revolve around revenge or retaliation, you can see it’s not out of the question to have the ultimate revenge be at the expense of the innocent child… with the act of filicide.2abc2-icarelogo

This is all very disconcerting, but one thing is for certain:  raising awareness and stewarding the message about the warning signs of international parental child abduction is the key.  This awareness has played a role in reducing the number of reported outbound child kidnapping cases originating in the United States by 15% during the last two consecutive years after nearly 30 years of continued growth.

If I may ask you to please share the warning signs of international abduction – you may very well be getting this information out to a family that needs it… ultimately possibly saving the life of an innocent child.  It is that desire, that is so ingrained in me, that I continue my fight each and every day!

Together we can, and are, making a difference.

– The I CARE Foundation –

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what is dual nationality?

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

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

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

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

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

Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport

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

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

EXCEPTIONS:

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

Prevent Departure Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what are we fighting for?

Lives.

We’re fighting for a child’s life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you really want to play those odds?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to a scheming kidnappers idea of a vacation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protect yourself and your child. Educate yourself.

~ Peter Thomas Senese

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

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

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

Report on International Parental Child Abduction Growth
International Parental Child Abduction Today – 2013
Written By
Carolyn Ann Vlk and Peter Thomas Senese
Issued On February 25th, 2013

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

Year                      Reported Cases           Number of Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

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

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

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

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

UNREPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

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

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

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

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

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

PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION IS A SEVERE FORM OF CHILD ABUSE

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

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

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

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

EXTREME DIFFICULTIES IN RECOVERING AN ABDUCTED CHILD

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

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

REASONS WHY ONE PARENT CRIMINALLY ABDUCTS A CHILD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMMIGRATION MIGRATION AND ITS AFFECT ON CHILD ABDUCTION CASES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S OFFICE OF CHILDREN’S ISSUES

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Authors:

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

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

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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.

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

International Parental Child Abduction and Murder

An Abduction That Won't Happen This Holiday SeasonThis is not the type of article I want to write, particularly around the festive Christmas Holiday Season; however the reality is that Christmas is one of the times of year when children are internationally parentally abducted, and, sadly, as various government studies indicate, a large percentage of children who are murdered have their lives taken by one of their parents.

When child abduction prevention advocates including those associated with the I CARE Foundation raise our voices and try to raise awareness of international parental child abduction, I think many of us are not only trying to prevent a child’s severe abuse from occurring, but what we are trying to do is prevent the murder of innocence.

Patricia Hoff, now with the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, and who oversees the State Department’s Hague Convention Attorney Network has been a long-standing and tremendous child advocate who has clearly dedicated her life to helping children: I cannot say strongly enough that children all over the world have benefited from Ms. Hoff’s indefatigable dedication to making a positive difference in their lives and pushing back the mountain of child abduction. Previous to her role at the United States Department of State, Ms. Hoff was the Legal Director for the Parental Abduction Training and Dissemination Project sponsored by the American Bar Association on Children and Law.

In the much heralded report titled International Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse written by Nancy Faulkner, Ph. D. that was presented to the United Nations Rights On The Child (Special Session, 1999), the report begins with Ms. Hoff’s statement that, “Because of the harmful effects on children, parental kidnapping has been characterized as a form of child abuse.” Dr. Faulkner also share Ms. Hoff’s statement that, “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.”

But is there a correlation between parental alienation, international parental child abduction, and murder of a child by a parent (Filicide)?

Yes. All that needs to be done is view the long arch of severe act of child abuse a topic none of us ever what to think about: the reality that hundreds of children each year in the United States and Canada are murdered by one of their parents. One of the main reasons why innocent lives are taking? Family disputes, including separation and divorce.

In fact, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports on their website that a report cited by Marlene Dalley Ph.D. (2000) indicates that of all the child murders that occurred at the hands of a parent “the findings of a two-year research project indicates that over 5% of all children murdered in Canada were related to a custody dispute. Additionally, the findings showed that 23% of the killing incidents were influenced by divorce and separation stressors and mental instability.”

Did you notice the words “mental instability?”

Going back to the Faulkner report, Dr. Dorothy Huntington, who was one of the leading advocates warning how abduction is severe abuse, and who published the article Parental Kidnapping: A New Form of Child Abuse states that, “child stealing is child abuse . . . 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.”

So, do parents who abuse their children and who kidnap them abroad, stealing their identity and sense of self have the capacity of taking their life?

Clearly. And it has happened too many times.

In late 1993, the Criminal Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office undertook a 3-1/2 year research project, partially funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, to study the investigation of child abduction murder cases. Their study was updated in 2006.

In this first research project, published in 1997, researchers reviewed more than 600 child abduction murder cases across the United States, then interviewed the investigating detectives. The 2006 updated report the Attorney General’s Office released included 175 additional solved cases. One of the glaring findings in this study is that in 44% of the cases studied, the victims and killers were strangers, but in 42 percent of the cases, the victims and killers were friends or acquaintances and about 14% of the cases studied involved parents or intimates killing the child.

The Denver Post published an article about parental child killing a few years ago. The article cited Dr. Phillip Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who stated, “Historically, one out of 33 homicides is a parent killing a child younger than 18.” Dr. Resnick, who conducted a study on filicide in 2005 states “Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child, is the third-leading cause of death in American children ages 5 to 14.”

The Denver Post reports, “Researchers estimate 250 to 300 children are murdered by their parents each year in the U.S.

The Denver Post’s statistics are reflected in FBI Uniform Crime Reports indicating the murder of sons and daughters accounted for 3.1 percent of the 90,869 homicides in the U.S. from 1995 through 2000.

Now in a highly publicized report on the United States Department of State’s website written by the highly respected Honorable Judges William Rigler (Dec.2012) and Howard L. Wieder, “Parental kidnapping is the abduction and/or concealment of a child without the consent of the other parent child snatching, child stealing, and child abduction are synonymous with parental kidnapping. Id. at 364 n. 13.. Parental kidnapping one of the worst forms of child abuse.McKeon, “International Parental Kidnapping; A New Law, A New Solution,” 30 Fam. L.Q. 235, 244 (1996); see, Note, “Access Rights: A Necessary Corollary to Custody Rights Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction,” 21 Fordham Int’l L.J. 308, 318 & n.64 (1997). The mere threat of child abduction is also a form of patent abuse. People v. Beach , 194 Cal. App. 3d 955, 240 Cal. Rptr. 50 (1987).”

The State Department report continues, “When non-custodial parents resort to kidnapping, they believe they are acting in the best interests of their children. Although a minority of parental kidnappers may actually save their children by taking them out of the reach of the other parent, the motives of most parents who steal their children are not at all altruistic. Parents find a myriad of reasons or self-justification for stealing a child from another parent. Some abductors will find fault with the other parent for nonsensical transgressions; others will steal a child for revenge.”

Did you notice the keyword, “revenge?”

The Honorable Judge Rigler and Judge Weider’s report further states,“A representative of Child Find said at a congressional hearing on missing children: “Searching parents worry and wonder, constantly tormented by this act. It is revenge far sweeter and longer lived then a beating or even murder, for it never ends. “Note, “Children as Pawns in Their Parents’ Fight for Control: The Failure of the United States to Protect Against International Child Abduction,” 21 Women’s Rts L. Rep. 129, 132 (2000).

Again the keyword here is “revenge.”

But what if the act of revenge fails and a child is going to be returned back to the targeted parent? What type of “revenge” will be served?

Remember, the narcissistic and sociopathic behavior of an abductor removes all rational thinking.

Back to the Honorable Judge Rigler and Wieder report, the judges state,”A kidnapping parent may also be controlled by feelings of frustration and inadequacy and thus, may want the children to reassure his or her worth. Often, children who are abducted are placed in the role of the other spouse and receive the emotional and, sometimes, physical abuse meant for the non-abducting parent. Moreover, because the children are stolen in a fit of anger or revenge, the abductors eventually realize that they do not want the child once their anger has subsided.”

The reality of international parental child abduction is, as cited by Judge Rigler and Wieder that, “Although most parents who steal their children attempt to justify their actions as the only way to ensure the best interests of the child, the child’s best interests are usually not considered. In fact, the best interest of the child mandates that parents ask themselves what the consequences of the abduction will be on the child. If parents had the foresight and emotional empathy of the impact of lying to a child across time and deriding the custodial parent, then they would not do it.”

Clearly, in the vast majority of cases of international parental child abduction, we are dealing with severe instability, narcissism, and sociopathic behavior.

New  York attorney Joel Walter, who is a board of director member of the I CARE Foundation, and who has a long and extensive history  that stretches nearly 40 years of fighting to protect children and their rights, including protecting children from international child abduction, added, “Who suffers because of a kidnapper’s uncontrollable rage and desire to hurt the other parent? The innocent child does! 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. This is a very serious issue.”

What Mr. Walter points out, I think, more than anything else is what all international parental child abduction prevention advocates are fighting to stop.

It might not be openly talked about – especially when you consider the majority of activist who vocalize their concern about international child kidnapping are parents still searching – but this issue is for many, their gravest concern.

And with the United States possibly facing between 100,000 and 125,000 international parental child abductions over the next 10 years, and Canada facing anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 children who will actually be kidnapped abroad – this issue is worth screaming about!

As an author, child advocate, and parent, and in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, every time the foundation gets involved in a child abduction case, my stomach twists and turns and rolls into a knot because of the grave concern I have for all children who are parentally kidnapped.

So I remind each of you who read this to remember that you are only three degrees of separation from knowing someone who is a target of international parental child abduction.  Please support all initiatives created to prevent international parental child abduction.

Thank you –

Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation

Author Of The Critically Acclaimed
Chasing The Cyclone (100% Author Proceeds donated to the I CARE Foundation)

I CARE Director Peter Thomas Senese Speaks At United Nations

The United Nations

On Friday, September 14th, 2012 I had the great privilege on behalf of the I CARE Foundation to extensively speak and participate at the U.S. Department of State’s sponsored ‘International Visitor Leadership Program’ held at the United States Mission to the United Nations in conjunction with the United Nations to discuss the work and research the not-for-profit I CARE  Foundation has been conducting in the area of international parental child abduction prevention (IPCA).

Unquestionably, the initiative by the U.S. Department of State to connect global government leaders with non-government organizations such as the I CARE Foundation to discuss the challenges and potential solutions of IPCA demonstrates a pro-active, solution oriented approach to combating child abduction and trafficking by private and public sector leaders.

Peter Thomas Senese

As the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, it is with deep pride to continue to see the I CARE Foundation recognized by our global leaders as a preeminent organization actively at the battle-front against the pandemic of international child abduction.  On a personal note, my participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program was deeply satisfying.  You see, six years ago, when I first found myself Chasing The Cyclone of international child abduction,I had made a promise to make a difference so other families would not have to race into the nightmare of abduction.

I am equally committed to that promise today as I was when I first made it six years ago. Along the way, we have created more than a few miracles.

The I CARE Foundation

The I CARE Foundation’s ongoing ground-breaking, critical research in the area of international parental child abduction has shed light onto many areas and issues associated with international child kidnapping.  Our legislative and policy modification initiatives have had a sizable positive impact on preventing abduction.  Our dedication to assisting children of abduction has led to the rescue and reunification of many internationally abducted children while also successfully preventing the abduction of many other children.  And our public outreach to educate society, particularly potential targeted parents, has led to the prevention of numerous child kidnappings. Our commitment to build a national and global attorney network of highly qualified lawyers dedicated to assisting at-risk children of kidnapping continues to be highly received by the legal community, and perhaps most of all, our ability to make a difference for others continues to expand and reflect our deep commitment to helping others.

International Visitor Leadership Program

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program.  Launched in 1940, the IVLP is a professional exchange program that seeks to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations through carefully designed short-term visits to the U.S. for current and emerging foreign leaders.  These visits reflect the International Visitors’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.

International visitors are selected and nominated annually by American Foreign Service Officers at U.S. Embassies around the world. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funds and administers the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

During our specific conference, discussion took place that evolved around the simple question ‘How can we as a global society help stop the pandemic of international parental child abduction?’

A few things stood out immediately.  This included:

  1. Unquestionable realization that IPCA is a severe form of child abuse; and,
  2. The vast majority of abductions are well schemed plans against a targeted parent; and,
  3. Targeted children and parents of abduction face severe hardship; ,and,
  4. Abducting parents utilize the existing legal system to draw out court proceedings; and,
  5. The longer a court proceeding takes, the more difficult it is for a child to be returned; and,
  6. Litigation must focus on narrow focus of jurisdiction established by the Hague Convention; and,
  7. IPCA is growing worldwide at an alarming rate; and,
  8. IPCA causes severe emotional and financial devastation to all connected to it; and,
  9. The economic cost of IPCA on the global market over the next decade will be many tens of billions of dollars.
  10. New research and studies similiar to the I CARE Foundation’s work must continue, and, utilizing the research findings to initiative new laws and government policies are critical to protecting children.

Chris Morris, Eugene Pothy & Peter Thomas Senese

As our conference unfolded, it was with awe that I listened to my friends Christopher Morris and Bryan Mooney, both parents who had children internationally abducted under the rules of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductiondiscuss the severe challenges they have each faced respectively over the past two and three years trying to reunite with their children.

As I listened to each of these dedicated, loving parents discuss portions of their cases (which I am very familiar with), I could not help but wonder if their children will ever really know how much their fathers love them.  It is my hope that these children of abduction do, because the love Chris and Bryan have for their children has led them to do whatever possible to reunite with their children.

Dedicated Parent Bryan Mooney and His Children

Both Chris and Bryan’s stories of well-schemed child abduction by their childrens’ other parent re-enforced the notion that it was necessary for judges to expedite international child abduction cases, and settle the issue of which country has the right of jurisdiction of a child.

Chris and Bryan’s point was made very clear when it was shared that collectively, they have spent over U.S. $300,000.00 between the two of them thus far trying to bring their abducted children home, and their protracted litigation is far from over.

Critically, Chris and Bryan’s conveyance that the spirit of the Hague Convention to be expedited was made to all.

Eugene Pothy Reuniting With His Son After 9 Years

I was also very happy to hear my dear friend Eugene Pothy, who miraculously was reunited with his abducted child taken to the Ivory Coast and illegally detained for nearly 9 years, speak about the mental and spiritual hardship of abduction of children. Eugene’s points of view reinforced Chris and Bryan’s point of view that IPCA litigation must be expedited by the courts.

Fortunately, our conference was the right forum to share our view. And the message was heard.

Another very important issue that was discussed revolved around abduction prevention.  Specifically, it became clear that certain countries, for example, Turkey, have the ability of preventing abductions from occurring (736 total IPCA cases under the Hague over the past 10 years) by citizens who possess a right of Turkish citizenship because Turkish judges have the ability of preventing a high-risk child abducting parent from departing the country by all means of departure.

In contrast, the United States only has the ability to stop a high-risk child abductor from departing the country if that individual is not a U.S. citizen. Thus, individuals who possess duel citizenship in the U.S. and who are determined to be high-risk parental child abductors have limited security screen to prevent them from illegally removing their child from the country.

As some of you may know, members of the I CARE Foundation’s board of directors, including Carolyn Vlk and myself worked very hard to have the Department of State disseminate the Department of Homeland Securities’ ‘Prevent Departure Program’ as a tool to be used to help prevent abduction. However, the problem with the Prevent Departure Program is that it only applies to non-U.S. citizens. Thus, the I CARE Foundation’s efforts to modify the Prevent Departure Program to include a secure screening list for high-risk child abductors possessing a right of U.S. citizenship appear to be critical to protecting children.

Another I CARE Foundation measure that was discussed and warmly embraced was our initiatives to require all individuals entering into or departing the United States, regardless if they travel by land, sea, or air, to present a current and valid passport.

Overall, the day was very meaningful as a great deal of information was exchanged that inevitably will help protect defenseless children.  It was indeed a great privilege to have been asked by the United States Department of State to participate in such a highly esteemed program to a humbling experience to know that the I CARE Foundation’s work is respected around the world.

There is no question that it was yet another day of progress to protect children from abduction.

As for the International Visitor Leadership Program, the IVLP has a luminary list of esteemed participants include:

Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai (1987)
Austria: President Heinz Fischer (1964)
Belgium: Prime Minister Yves Leterme (2002)
Bhutan: Prime Minister Lyonpo Jigme Yoser Thinley (1987)
Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff (1992)
Croatia: President Ivo Josipović (2002)
Croatia: Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic (1996)
Czech Republic: Prime Minister Petr Nečas (1994 and 1999)
Denmark: Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (1989)
Dominica: President Nicholas Joseph Orville Liverpool (1985)
Finland: President Sauli Niinistö (1992)
Finland: Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen (2003)
France: Prime Minister François Fillon (1984)
France: President Nicolas Sarkozy (1985)
Georgia: President Mikheil Saakashvili (1997 and 1999)
Germany: President Joachim Gauck (1993)
Grenada: Prime Minister Tillman Thomas (1986)
Guinea: President Alpha Condé (1962)
India: President Pratibha Devisingh Patil (1968)
Ireland: Prime Minister Enda Kenny (1989)
Kenya: President Mwai Kibaki (1961 and 1999)
Lithuania: President Dalia Grybauskaitė (1994)
Macedonia: Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (2000)
Malawi: President Joyce Banda (1989)
Malta: Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (1990)
Mauritius: President Anerood Jugnauth (1981)
Mauritius: Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam (1986)
Mexico: President Felipe De Jesús Calderón Hinojosa (1992)
Moldova: President Nicolae Timofti (2005)
Montenegro: Prime Minister Igor Lukšić (1999)
Mozambique: President Armando Emílio Guebuza (1987)
Namibia: Prime Minister Nahas Gideon Angula (1996)
Norway: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (1988)
Poland: President Bronisław Komorowski (2006)
Poland: Prime Minister Donald Franciszek Tusk (1993)
Portugal: President Aníbal Cavaco Silva (1978)
Slovakia: Prime Minister Robert Fico (1990)
Slovenia: Prime Minister Borut Pahor (1991)
Sri Lanka: President Mahinda Rajapakse (1989)
St. Kitts and Nevis: Prime Minister Denzil Llewellyn Douglas (1990)
St. Lucia: Prime Minister Stephenson King (1985)
Sweden: Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (2002)
Taiwan: President Ma Ying-Jeou (1971 and 2003)
Togo: President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé (2001)
Trinidad and Tobago: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (1998)
Trinidad and Tobago: President George Maxwell Richards (1986)
Turkey: President Abdullah Gül (1995)
Zimbabwe: Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (1989)
Macedonia: President Gjorge Ivanov (1999)

In leaving the United States Mission to the United Nations, I left reaffirming once again my commitment to helping defenseless children of abduction and their targeted parents.