What Is A Parental Child Abduction?
Most children who are abducted in Canada are not taken by a stranger, but by a parent. These children are taken without the other parent’s consent or knowledge.
Parental child abduction is illegal and a person found guilty of abduction can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison. The charge of parental child abduction applies not only to parents, but to guardians and others having the lawful care or charge of children under the age of 14.
Who Is A Potential Child Abductor?
The custodial parent is less likely than the non-custodial parent to abduct his/her child, although there are exceptions. A parent who takes little interest in or responsibility for the children is, ironically, a potential abductor. A parent who is a potential child abductor fits the following profile:
- Someone who angers easily, is erratic or impulsive.
- Someone who is hostile, vengeful, spiteful or abusive.
- Someone who possesses the skills, finances and personal connections to support him/herself and the abducted children while moving frequently.
- Someone who has a poor record of employment, and has no business responsibilities that could stop him/her from fleeing.
- Someone with close ties to another country where laws and traditions may be discriminatory towards the rights of foreigners or of people of a certain gender.
In 1999, 200 children and teenagers in Ontario were abducted by estranged parents. That’s four children a week.
Unfortunately, no amount of precaution can completely protect your children from an ex-partner who is intent on taking them. But you can take steps to reduce the risk
Measures You Can Take To Prevent Parental Child Abduction
In order to prevent parental child abduction, the initial measure you can take is to keep a friendly, or at least civil, relationship with your ex-partner. This may ease tension and discourage your ex-partner from planning an abduction. Also, try to remain friendly with your former in-laws. If they are angry with you, they may encourage your ex-partner to abduct the children. When children are abducted, the grandparents almost always know where they are.
If an amicable relationship with your ex-partner cannot be achieved, the following are suggested measures you, as a parent, can take if you fear your children may be threatened with abduction. These are suggestions, not guarantees.
Obtain A Court Oder For Custody, Access And Movement Limitation
Obtain a court order for interim custody with an apprehension and residence clause included. Ensure the court order clearly defines the details of custody, access, and limitations for travel. The court order should state the following:
- The non-custodial parent may not travel with the child outside of the province without first notifying you or the court in writing.
- The non-custodial parent is to surrender his or her passport, and the child’s if they possess it, to his/her lawyer. Be aware that the potential abductor may still seek an additional or duplicate passport from his/her country of birth.
- The non-custodial parent is to post a bond (buy a special insurance policy) to ensure that the child is returned at the end of the visitation period.
- Certify the custody order and keep it up to date. Keep a copy with you at all times.
- Be sure that your children’s school, day care, babysitter, and camp understand thecustody arrangements and state clearly, in writing, who is allowed to pick upyour children. Give copies of the custody order to these people.
- If the non-custodial parent is allowed visitation with your children, specifytime-frames, e.g., Fridays from 6 p.m. to Sundays at 6 p.m.
- If you as the custodial parent agree to allow the non-custodial parent to take yourchildren on a holiday, you can get a consent order through the courts. Or, you cansimply put your consent in writing, documenting departure and return dates andtimes. Be specific and leave no room for interpretation. Request that the non-custodial parent sign the document. If he/she refuses to sign it, file a copy of thedocument with his/her lawyer, if he/she has one, and with your lawyer. If you areworried about the other parent not returning the children, permission can bewithheld.
- Keep a record of as much physical information on your children and the non-custodial parent as possible, such as birthmarks, scars, tattoos, body piercing and disabilities. (A Child Find Kidcheck ID package can help you prepare this information.)
- Keep your children’s Health Card, Passport and Birth Certificate with you at all times.
- Keep important information about your former partner, such as his/her vehiclelicense and registration numbers, driver’s license number, Social InsuranceNumber, passport number, bank accounts and credit card numbers.
- Keep a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of friends and relatives, both locally and internationally, whom your spouse may contact when planning, or following, an abduction.
- Have your children fingerprinted.
- Make sure each of your children has a valid passport. Apply to the Passport Office to prevent the other parent from getting a passport for your children. You must submit a written statement, along with a copy of the court order for custody, access, and movement limitations. The passport office considers each case individually and makes no decisions until it has received and reviewed all documentation. Once approved, your children’s names will be added to the Passport Control List.
- Start a family tree of your ex-partner’s that tracks all his/her relatives, including their location and phone numbers. If you are still living with your partner, place all documents in a safetydeposit box or in care of a relative or personal friend of yours rather than with amutual friend or relative of your ex-partner’s.
Communicate With Your Children
- Explain the custody/access order to your children. Let them know what the legal custody order says and what it means.
- Teach your children how to dial 911 and their home phone number.
- Familiarize your children with the ‘safe adults’ in their lives. Explain to them what to say to a ‘safe adult’ if an abduction is attempted.
- Think of a simple code word, i.e., the name of a toy, pet, or food, to use with your children. Give each child a separate code word and tell him/her not to tell anyone what it is. Change the code word regularly. Teach your children not to go with the other parent (or anyone else) unless that person can give the code word without stumbling. Tell them that if they have any doubts, they should say “no” and call you immediately.
- Be aware of how much information your children see or overhear. Your children may accidentally repeat private information to the other parent.
- Tell your children that you are not likely to die during their childhood. Tell them that unless they have been to your funeral and have seen that you have died, you are alive and well.
- Make sure your children know they are loved and wanted. Tell them that you will never stop loving them or looking for them.
- Listen to your children. This is probably the most important prevention tool. Your ex-partner may have suggested plans for moving or living with them. Your children may be able to give you some advance warning before they are abducted.
Get The Authorities Involved
- Record any threat of abduction and seek legal advice and/or call the police.
What To Do If An Abduction Has Taken Place
- Immediately report your child missing to your local law enforcement agency.
- Ask for the name and phone number of the officer assigned to your case, and keep this information in a safe and convenient place.
- Give the officer all the facts and circumstances related to the disappearance of your child, including what efforts were already made to search for your child.
- Limit access to your home until law enforcement arrives and has collected all possible evidence. Don’t touch or remove anything from your child’s room or from your home. Clothing, sheets, personal items, computers, and even trash may hold clues to the whereabouts of your child.
- Write a detailed description of the clothing worn by your child and the personal items he or she had at the time of the disappearance. Include any personal identification marks, such as birthmarks, scars, tattoos, mannerisms that may help in finding your child. If possible, find a picture of your child that shows those identification marks and give it to the officer.
- Make a list of friends, acquaintances, and relatives who might have information or clues about your child’s whereabouts. Include telephone number and addresses if possible.
- Designate one person to answer your telephone. Keep a notebook by the telephone so this person can jot down names, telephone numbers, dates and times of calls, and other information relating to each call.
- Keep a notebook or pad of paper with you at all times to write down thoughts or questions and record important information, such as names, dates, or telephone numbers.
- Ask your officer for help in contacting the media, if appropriate.
- Take good care of yourself and your family, because your child needs you to be strong.
Every 9 minutes a child is reported missing in Canada.
Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service
Visit our web site at: www.abpworld.com