‘My children are my everything — the reason I’m alive’


Source: The Japan Times

Left-behind father makes desperate journey to Fukushima to reunite with kids

 

By SIMON SCOTT

On Bruce Gherbetti’s right forearm, the names of his three lost children are permanently inscribed in a swirling script of dark blue tattoo ink.

 

News photo
Canadian Bruce Gherbetti is reunited with his eldest daughter in Fukushima Prefecture in September after a difficult two years apart. SIMON SCOTT

 

“They go with me everywhere I go,” he says, smiling. “It is a physical representation of the fact that my children and I will never be separated. They are my everything — the reason I am alive.”

It was a very long, painful two years and two weeks before Gherbetti, a Canadian, was finally reunited with his children in Japan this September and was able, if only briefly, to see and speak with them again.

Tears in his eyes, Gherbetti described the reaction of his oldest daughter, now 8, when she saw him standing in the backyard of the house where the children now live.

“(She) saw me and it registered in about four seconds, and she said ‘Dada.’

“I opened my arms and she came running into my arms. I was afraid that wouldn’t happen, but also I was quietly confident in my heart that it would.

“I visualized that whole scenario every day for the last two years. It’s gold — it’s absolute gold.”

The journey from his home in Vancouver to a small town in Fukushima Prefecture just 50 km from the leaking No.1 nuclear plant has been a long and arduous one. In September 2009, during the breakdown of their marriage, Gherbetti’s wife took their three children — then 6, 4 and 2 years old — to Japan.

“I was absolutely devastated.” explains Gherbetti. “I arrived home and the house was utterly empty and devoid of all traces of my family and children. I felt at a loss and confused, but at the same time there was a realization that my children were gone — overseas, back to Japan.”

 

News photo
Gherbetti and a supporter celebrate after the surprise visit to his estranged wife’s home. SIMON SCOTT

 

Gherbetti’s wife accused him of domestic violence shortly before taking the children — an allegation he vehemently denies.

After his children were taken, Gherbetti suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he underwent counseling in Canada. He also joined a number of web-based support groups for left-behind parents and gradually, over time, built up the confidence to come to Japan to find his kids.

On Sept. 21 this year he flew to Japan, and within two days of arriving in the country he travelled up to tsunami-hit Fukushima, accompanied by a group of supporters, in search of his lost children.

All previous attempts Gherbetti had made to contact his children had been blocked by his wife, whom he has only spoken to once since she took the kids to Japan. Gherbetti says that during that conversation, his wife chillingly told him she wanted to “erase Canada from the children’s memories.”

Gherbetti says he can understand and accept that his estranged wife wants to bury the past, but he believes it is his children who will ultimately suffer by being alienated from their natural father.

“None of this is about me, this is about my children,” he says. “I feel what she has done is essentially denied them knowing half of who they are. It is not fair — it is simply not fair.”

Having lost his own father to cancer when he was only 17, Gherbetti, now 41, says he is only too aware of how important it is for children to have both parents in their lives.

“I know what it is to struggle without a father — to make your way in this life without the competence and guidance of a father. It made me realize that if I am ever in the position where I have children, I just want to emulate what he was able to give me. He was a very good man — a good father.”

 

Treaty is step in right direction, but won’t aid many kids, parents

There are currently 34 Canadian parents listed as having lost access to their children after a Japanese spouse unilaterally took the kids to Japan, according to the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. This number does not include Canadians resident in Japan who have lost contact with their children within the country.

Figures for the United States are much higher, with 100 American left-behind parents fighting to see their children as of January, according to the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo reports an additional 31 cases in which both parents and the children reside in Japan but one parent has been denied access.

Yet “parental child abduction” is not just a problem for foreign spouses of Japanese. Untold numbers of children of Japanese marriages never get to know both parents.

Japan is the only G-7 member nation that hasn’t signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, a treaty designed to protect the rights of child victims of international abduction by returning them to their place of habitual residence.

Earlier this year Japan made a commitment to eventually ratify the treaty, and this is clearly a step in the right direction, but for many victims of the country’s much-criticized custody laws, it will be too little too late.

The treaty only covers cross-border cases of child abduction and will do nothing to help children spirited away within Japan or the left-behind parents who want to be part of their lives.

In addition, the convention will not be applied retroactively, so it won’t alleviate the suffering of thousands of children already abducted to Japan who have no contact with their foreign parent. (Simon Scott)

 

Gherbetti believes his wife is a good mother and loves their children very much, but he doesn’t understand how she can deny them access to a person in their life who is critical to their development — namely, their father.

“There are definitely things I can bring to the table — as a male, as a father, and as a Westerner even — that are relevant and useful, I’m sure, for these children,” he says.

“The kids might want to talk to me about things that they are experiencing. ‘Maybe I’ll just talk to Dad about this situation and see what he has to say about this’ — rudimentary stuff but, that said, crucial to the emotional well-being and development of a child.”

Gherbetti acknowledges that he doesn’t know his estranged wife’s motives for denying him the right to play a part in his children’s lives, because she refuses to communicate with him, but he suspects that, beyond feelings of bitterness relating to the breakup of their marriage, they hold different values regarding the importance both parents can play in a child’s upbringing.

“I think there is a cultural issue at play here,” he says. “When the marriage fails, as far as I understand it, in Japan, traditionally access and contact with the left-behind parent is viewed as an inconvenience. It is so completely different from our Western philosophies — that children have the right to know both their parents, a right to know their whole family.”

Armed with only the old address of his wife’s family home and a lot of faith, Gherbetti made the journey from Tokyo up to Fukushima to seek out his kids. Prior to being reunited with his children, Gherbetti described his motivation for the surprise visit.

“I would simply like for the children to realize that I am still alive. I don’t know what they have been told. I don’t know what they believe or what they know at this point. I just want to arrive and give them the opportunity to see that I am here.”

Attempts by left-behind parents to reunite with their children in Japan are rarely successful and sometimes result in arrest for the alienated parent, particularly if they attempt to retake custody of their children.

In 2009, U.S. citizen Christopher Savoie was arrested and imprisoned in Fukuoka when he attempted to retrieve his two abducted children while they were walking to school. Savoie, who had been awarded legal custody of the children in the United States before their abduction to Japan, attempted to take them to the U.S. consulate in Fukuoka but was arrested by Japanese police outside the gates. He was detained for two weeks and released without charge, but never regained custody of his children.

Gherbetti says he has no intention of trying to take back his children and is not even seeking custody. He just wants to visit them from time to time and to communicate with them on a regular basis via telephone or Skype — something his wife will not allow him to do.

 

News photo
Gherbetti holds up a note apparently written by his 6-year-old daughter, handed to him by his eldest daughter during their brief reunion. SIMON SCOTT

 

Gherbetti’s wife was not at home on the day of his surprise visit to Fukushima, and his children were at home with their extended family, which he suspects may have been why things went so smoothly. Also fortuitously, his 6-year-old daughter was playing in the backyard when he arrived at the house.

He called out to her, and when she came over he passed a bunch of flowers to her across the fence, but — overwhelmed and confused after seeing her father for the first time in two years — she quickly ran back inside.

“Seeing me brought forward a flood of emotions that she probably couldn’t deal with at her 6-year-old age,” he says. “She was only 4 when she was abducted, so there is some confusion.”

She didn’t reappear in person, but Gherbetti’s eldest daughter delivered a note from the 6-year-old just before the visit ended.

“I think (she) was able to express her feelings the best way she knew how, and whether or not she or (her older sister) wrote the note, the expression is clear: ‘Dady Love’ — I love my daddy.”

Getting to see his three children again after over two years, even if only for a short moment, means the world to Gherbetti, and it has reaffirmed his commitment to his children despite the uncertain future.

“The hug . . . and the note . . . have provided me the fuel required to see this journey on to the end,” he says. “I’m willing to do anything and everything to reconnect with my children.”

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Så arbetar UD med bortförda barn


Source: Regjeringen.se

Medierna har de senaste dagarna rapporterat att fler och fler barn förs bort eller hålls kvar i andra länder. Juristen Julia Nusdorfer och hennes kolleger på UD:s konsulära enhet (KC) tar emot flera samtal om dagen.

Om ett barn förs bort över landgränserna kan UD ibland hjälpa. Frågor om vårdnad och umgänge bör avgöras av domstol i det land där barnet har sin invanda miljö, enligt Haagkonventionen. (cc)Om ett barn förs bort över landgränserna kan UD ibland hjälpa. Frågor om vårdnad och umgänge bör avgöras av domstol i det land där barnet har sin invanda miljö, enligt Haagkonventionen.

Siffrorna talar sitt tydliga språk. UD hade 72 fall på sitt bord under 2006. Just nu har KC-enheten 120 fall på sitt bord, och Julia Nusdorfer märker av det ökade trycket.

– Många ringer och är oroliga inför resor. Vågar jag och barnen resa? Våra råd varierar förstås utifrån situation. Men om man verkligen är orolig, och om det handlar om ett land som inte är anslutet till Haagkonventionen, då tycker vi att föräldern noga ska undersöka vilka förebyggande åtgärder som kan vidtas och om de är tillräckliga. Vi betonar att det är väldigt lite vi kan göra om barnen skulle hållas kvar i ett sådant land.

Höga förväntningar på UD

– Det finns fortfarande en föreställning om att UD kan göra så mycket mer än vi kan, säger Julia Nusdorfer.

Den oroliga föräldern bör ta reda på så mycket som möjligt om de lagar och regler som gäller i landet och ladda upp med kontaktuppgifter till släkt och vänner i landet ifråga.

I värsta fall händer det ändå. Barnet hålls kvar eller förs bort. Den konsulära enheten ber då föräldern att komma in med en ansökan med alla uppgifter om barnen och båda föräldrarna samt foton och en beskrivning av vad som hänt. Den anmälande föräldern får rådet att anlita ett juridiskt ombud.

Vikten av Haagkonventionen

Ett olovligt bortförande är ett brott enligt svensk lagstiftning och kan leda till en straffrättslig process ledd av åklagare. Om landet dit barnen förts har anslutit sig till Haagkonventionen blir ärendet mer lättjobbat, och runt 85 procent av fallen klaras upp.

– Vi kontaktar då centralmyndigheten i landet, oftast motsvarigheten till UD eller justitiedepartementet. De kollar om barnen kan föras hem igen frivilligt. Om det inte fungerar går ärendet vidare till domstol, och målet är att det ska avgöras inom sex veckor. Efter domstolens beslut kan det i värsta fall bli fråga om polishämtning, om föräldern som olovligen fört bort barnet vägrar lämna barnet ifrån sig.

UD fungerar bland annat som kontaktförmedlare mellan den drabbade föräldern eller dennes ombud och centralmyndigheten i det andra landet.

Om landet inte skrivit under Haagkonventionen är det betydligt mer komplicerat.

– Då gäller det landets lagstiftning. Oftast försöker vi driva fallet via ambassaden. Men det är svårt om den bortförande föräldern inte är villig att samarbeta, säger Julia Nusdorfer. Bara ca 30 procent av dessa fall klaras upp.

Det pågår ett internationellt lobbyarbete för att få fler länder att acceptera Haagkonventionen. Tidigare i år anslöt sig Ryssland, och nu verkar det som om Japan kommer att följa efter, efter åratal av påtryckningar från både USA och EU.

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China Briefing: Kidnapping Attempts on Foreign Schoolkids in Beijing


Foreign schoolchildren are the potential new targets in child kidnapping cases following an incident at one of Beijing’s luxury compounds this past weekend.

On Saturday afternoon at approximately 4:30 p.m., the student was outside the side exit of the Yosemite Villa Estate and a man, unknown to her, came towards her and gave her a hug. She pushed him away but he then attempted to lift her up and drag her into his car. Fortunately a guard and a taxi driver stepped forward to help her and she safely returned home. The incident has been reported to the police for further investigation … The suspect is described as a 30-40 year old Chinese man of average height and build, short (buzz) haircut, frame-less glasses, wearing a dark-colored jacket and pants, and driving a small dark-colored car.

It’s not just children. There have been reported cases of kidnappers targeting women driving expensive cars. BJ is no different than any major city. Where I come from, car jacking is not unusual. You should always be on alert and pay attention to your surroundings.

Yes it is true and this is not the first time this happend. Young woman I know was attacked by a man in the city. She is rather tall and could get away but can tell you that she still “carries” it with her.
And another kidnap attempt happend near the Yashow. Her friend could help her and also there was a little van approaching them with open door.

It made me more allert and even it is a boy, still foreigner, my 14 year old boy is (was) not allowed to go to town in the evening or during day by himself by taxi. But now not even by himself in the neighbourhood. I know it must be possible to do so but I am very glad he understands my concerns and he deals with this without any comment. Only the idea that they take you child…
And I agree with Esther we all have to be allert why should this not happen in Beijing while it happens everywere else in the world.
It does not mean we must be scared to go out of the house but just be allert.

According to the China Briefing post, a few schools have issued warnings to parents and have offered some advice on what to do in such situations. Click here to read more.

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Iraq War Vet Says Wife Kidnapped Children To Japan


Source: CBS New York

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A young Iraq War veteran is in the fight of his life against his ex-wife to bring his children home.

Michael Elias, who is now a Bergen County sheriff, claims his wife kidnapped their two young children and took them to Japan.

America, the country he risked his life defending, is powerless to bring his children back.

At 26-years-old, Elias has already endured more pain than most people ever will.

As a young Marine, the New Jersey native was injured twice in Iraq – the first time when he’d only be in-country two weeks, CBS 2’s Don Dahler reports.

“We were hit by an improvised explosive device around three o’clock in the morning, then we were ambushed by small arms fire,” Elias told Dahler.

When he returned from Iraq three years ago, Elias was greeted by his wife, Mayumi, and his two young children, Jade and Michael, Jr. He was also met with the news that Mayumi had been having an affair while he was at war and she wanted a divorce.

A Bergen County judge granted the couple joint custody and ordered that the children’s passports be surrendered, even though Elias had no idea what Mayumi was going to do.

elias and mayumi Iraq War Vet Says Wife Kidnapped Children To Japan(credit: Handout via CBS 2)

A few months later, Elias and his mother were expecting Mayumi to drop the kids off. But they never showed.

“My mother went over there and the apartment was completely empty, like ready to be rented. The very next day,” Elias said.

Mayumi, her alleged boyfriend and the children were on a plane to Japan.

Mayumi was able to obtain new passports for her children since she worked at the Japanese embassy processing visas and passports.

The question is, did anyone with the embassy help her?

The Japanese Consulate has yet to return any calls to CBS 2.

“I was horrified,” the children’s grandmother, Nancy Elias, said. “We just said, ‘Okay, she kidnapped them. She not only crossed state lines but she took them to another country. This is wrong, we’ll get them back.’”

elias children Iraq War Vet Says Wife Kidnapped Children To Japan(credit: Handout via CBS 2)

In doing their research, they quickly learned a devastating fact: of the thousands of children from all over the world who’ve been abducted to Japan, not one has ever been returned home.

“It’s a haven for child abduction,” Nancy said.

The problem is Japan is not party to the Hague Convention on Parental Abduction, and despite pleas by the U.S. State Department, there are no legal means to bring the Elias children back home.

“It has destroyed me, my son, my whole family,” Nancy said. “We’re never going to be the same. Never.”

“When she took them, she took my soul with her,” she added.

This past May at a congressional hearing on abducted children in Japan, Elias described the last time he saw his children via Skype.

elias and jade Iraq War Vet Says Wife Kidnapped Children To JapanMichael Elias and his daughter Jade (credit: Handout via CBS 2)

“My daughter Jade looked at her mother in heartache and said to her something ever so softly in Japanese. When I asked Mayumi what Jade had said, she replied, ‘She wants to be with you.’ The monitor immediately went blank. That was the last time I saw my daughter’s face.”

When Michael was in Iraq, it was clear who the enemy was, but not anymore. His most prized possession is now a photo of his daughter holding his hand the day he came home from war.

“It’s disgusting to me that this is allowed. We’re supposed to be the most powerful nation and these are our allies. These are not our enemies. I don’t understand what the problem is,” Elias said.

He vows to never give up but his only hope now, he says, is for the president himself to put direct pressure on Japan.

President Obama recently brought the issue of parental abduction up with the Japanese Prime Minister and urged him to resolve the hundreds of outstanding cases.

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Dramatisk økning i anmeldte overfallsvoldtekter i Oslo


Kilde: VG Nett

Oslo-politiet har bare funnet 4 menn i 39 anmeldte overfallsvoldtekter

Hittil i år er det anmeldt 15 anmeldt flere overfallsvoldtekter i Oslo i år enn i hele fjor. De fleste har skjedd utendørs.

– I flere av sakene dreier det seg om gruppevoldtekt. Ikke nødvendigvis flere som forgriper seg, men at det er flere som medvirker til at voldtekten blir gjennomført, sier Hanne Kristin Rohde, leder av vold- og sedelighetsseksjonen i Oslo politidistrikt, til Aftenposten.

Fra nyttår og til utgangen av august har politiet mottatt 39 anmeldelser om overfallsvoldtekter i Oslo. Ifølge AFtenposten er 2 av ofrene er menn, og 37 er kvinner. De fleste av voldtektene skal ha skjedd utendørs, og 16 av anmeldelsene kom i løpet av sommermånedene juli og august – 10 alene i august.

Få blir tatt

I bare fem av sakene har politiet funnet antatt gjerningsmann.

– Vi har kjent gjerningsperson i bare fem av de 39 sakene. Den ene mannen som sitter fengslet, er siktet for to voldtekter. Så vi har bare pågrepet fire gjerningsmenn, sier Rohde, og påpeker at samme gjerningsmann kan stå bak flere overgrep. Politiet leter derfor ikke nødvendigvis etter 39 gjerningsmenn, sier hun til Aftenposten.

– Ikke-vestlig opprinnelse

I de fleste tilfellene har kvinnene ifølge Rohde beskrevet overfallsmannen som av ikke-vestlig opprinnelse.

I hele fjor var det 24 anmeldte overfallsvoldtekter. Årene før har det vært rundt 20 anmeldelser.

Published by: ABP World Group – Close Protection
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Recovering Kidnapped / Abducted Children


Time is a very important factor if a child is missing / Abducted

Immediate access to current information about the missing child is critical.

Although nobody hopes to be in such a situation where this information is needed, parents have to keep in mind that child abduction can occur anytime, anywhere, to any child. Therefore, parents must have the resources and knowledge about their children ready, so they can take action if their children become missing.

The goal of ABP World Group international child recovery services is to locate, negotiate and recover your missing child. We can dispatch personnel to most locations in the world; we specialize in locating missing children up to ages 18.

Areas of expertise: Parental abduction, Missing children, Kidnappings,
Runaway children and Counselling.

Unfortunately in this day and time parental kidnapping happens and we are here to help you trough this difficult time.
We are aware parental child abduction can be difficult to resolve, but we use professional operatives with the skills and expertise to help find a resolution.

One key to ABP World Group`s successful recovery and re-unification of your loved one is to use all necessary means available

Contact us here: Mail

Join the Group: International Parental Child Abduction

Parental Abduction – How bad can it be?


Leading experts believe that due to the rapid growth in multi-national marriages and relationships, the number of children born from parents of different countries will continue to expand.

Similar to all relationships, a significant portion of these marriages or partnerships will end in divorce. All too often, one of the separating parents of the child of the relationship will seek to abduct the child to a country other than where the child has lived. This is called ‘International Parental Child Abduction’, and though there are various civil remedies available to targeted parents who have had their child abducted, the challenges they face are grave, and include first and foremost, locating where the child is located.

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Parental dilemma: Whether to spy on their Kids – parenthood and paranoia often walk hand in hand.


Source: David Crary

– In the 21st century, parenthood and paranoia often walk hand in hand.

For some, the blessed event is followed by high-tech surveillance – a monitoring system tracks the baby’s breathing rhythms and relays infrared images from the nursery. The next investment might be a nanny cam, to keep watch on the child’s hired caregivers. Toddlers and grade schoolers can be equipped with GPS devices enabling a parent to know their location should something go awry.

To cope with the uncertainties of the teen years, some parents acquire spyware to monitor their children’s online and cell phone activity. Others resort to home drug-testing kits.

Added together, there’s a diverse, multi-billion-dollar industry seeking to capitalize on parents’ worst fears about their children – fears aggravated by occasional high-profile abductions and the dangers lurking in cyberspace. One mistake can put a child at risk or go viral online, quickly ruining a reputation.

“There’s a new set of challenges for parents, and all sorts of new tools that can help them do their job,” said David Walsh, a child psychologist in Minneapolis. “On the other hand, we have very powerful industries that create these products and want to sell as many as possible, so they try to convince parents they need them.”

Some parents need little convincing.

In New York City, a policeman-turned-politician recorded a video earlier this year offering tips to parents on how to search their children’s bedrooms and possessions for drugs and weapons. In the video, State Sen. Eric Adams – who has a teenage son – insists that children have no constitutional right to privacy at home and shows how contraband could be hidden in backpacks, jewelry boxes, even under a doll’s dress.

“You have a duty and obligation to protect the members of your household,” he says.

Another parent who preaches proactive vigilance is Mary Kozakiewicz of Pittsburgh, whose daughter, Alicia, was abducted as a 13-year-old in 2002 by a man she met online. He chained, beat and raped her before she was rescued four days later.

In recent years, mother and daughter have both campaigned to raise awareness of Internet-related dangers.

Mary Kozakiewicz urges parents to monitor children’s computer and cell phone use, and says those who balk out of respect for privacy are being naive.

“It’s not about privacy – it’s about keeping them safe,” she said,

On a different part of the spectrum are parents such as Lenore Skenazy, a mother of two teens in New York City who wrote a book called “Free Range Kids: How To Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry).”

Skenazy, who let one of her sons ride the New York subway alone when he was 9, contends that many marketers exploit parents’ ingrained worries about their children’s safety.

“The idea is that the only good parent is a parent who’s somehow watching over their child 24/7,” she said. “You feel nothing should take precedence over monitoring your child’s well-being every second of the day … from time they’re born to when they go off to college.”

Joe Kelly of St. Paul, Minn., helped his wife raise twin girls (they’re now adults) and founded a national advocacy group called Dads and Daughters. Like Skenazy, he bemoans commercial exploitation of parental anxiety.

“Markets play on this fear that something horrific is going to happen to your child, when the odds of that are minuscule,” he said. “It might happen, but to have their whole childhood predicated on this remote possibility is, in the aggregate, even more damaging.”

Psychologists who work with troubled adolescents and teens say parents often ask if they should be doing more surveillance.

“Ideally, parents establish good open communication and trust with their children, and they don’t need to do all these things,” said Neil Bernstein, a psychologist in Washington, D.C. “But if the child is doing something to create suspicion, you can’t expect parents to turn their back and not monitor.”

Bernstein, author of “How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to do if You Can’t,” says the best approach is a balanced one – neither overly zealous and paranoid nor uninvolved and neglectful.

A look at some of the monitoring tactics and products available to parents:

___

Baby monitors:

These devices – some limited to audio monitoring, others also with video capability – have developed a reputation as a mixed blessing. They can provide parents with peace of mind, freeing them to be elsewhere in the house while the baby naps, but sometimes they accentuate anxiety.

“Some parents are reassured by hearing and seeing every whimper and movement. Others find such close surveillance to be nerve-racking,” says Consumer Reports, which has tested many of the monitors.

Skenazy likened night-vision baby monitors to the surveillance cameras used by convenience stores and prisons.

“It’s treating your child’s bedroom as if it’s the streets of Kandahar,” the battle-scarred Afghan city, she said.

The monitors operate within a selected radio frequency band to send sound from a baby’s room to a receiver in another room, a technology which can be vulnerable to interference from other electronic devices. Prices of models tested by Consumer Reports ranged from $30 for audio monitors to more than $200 for some with video.

“Overall, baby monitors can be as temperamental as a 2-year-old,” says Consumer Reports. “Interference is probably the biggest complaint, but parents also report such problems as low visibility, a shorter-than-expected reception range, and short battery life.”

Models at the high end of the price scale include the Dropcam Echo audio-video system, for $279. Its manufacturer says the system automatically detects motion and sound, and sends alerts to a parent’s smart phone or iPad.

Experts say baby monitors can provide a useful early warning if something is amiss, but caution that they should never substitute for adult supervision.

Parents are warned not to rely on monitors to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and they should be sure that the monitors’ electrical cords are kept away from cribs. Earlier this year, about 1.7 million Summer Infant video monitors were recalled after being linked to the strangulation deaths of two infants.

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Tracking devices:

Of the roughly 800,000 children reported missing in the U.S. each year, the vast majority are runaways or were abducted by a parent. But there are enough kidnappings by strangers – including a few each year that make national news – to fuel a large, evolving market for products catering to apprehensive parents.

The devices range from clip-on alarms to GPS locators that can be put in a backpack or stuffed in a doll, but they have limited range and can raise safety concerns of their own.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, says the devices can be helpful in some circumstances but worries about overreliance on them.

“Some of them encourage parents, perhaps unwittingly, to forget their basic responsibilities,” he said. “There are parents who think they can depend on the technology, not on themselves.”

He recounted the case of one little girl who activated her wristband alarm when she was abducted. The abductor cut off the device, left it behind and later killed the girl.

Allen said the child might have been better off yelling for help, rather than focusing on the alarm.

“Some of the new technology is extraordinary,” Allen said. “But these shouldn’t be used as substitutes for good old-fashioned parenting.”

Generally, the gadgets are in two parts – a main device carried by the parent and a small alarm attached to the child. If a child vanishes, the parent can activate the alarm.

Other gadgets use GPS technology, relying on satellite signals, that allows parents using a Web browser to track the location of an enabled device such as a cell phone.

One company, BrickHouse Security, offers a GPS child locater for $200 that functions as a digital watch and can be locked into the child’s wrist. If forcibly removed, an alert is sent to the parent’s cell phone and email.

Some anxious parents wonder if a satellite-enabled tracking device could be implanted in their child – a technology now expanding in Mexico among people rattled by a kidnapping epidemic there. But Allen says such implantation, for children, could have grim consequences – a child who ran away from home or a noncustodial parent who abducted a child might make a grisly attempt to extract the device.

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Spyware:

For many parents, one of the toughest decisions is whether to spy on a child’s computer and cell phone activity. It’s common for some children to send more than 100 text messages a day, and a recent Associated Press-MTV poll found that about one-quarter of teens had shared sexually explicit photos, videos and chat by cell phone or online.

Walsh, the Minneapolis psychologist, says the best initial step for parents concerned about online risks is a heart-to-heart talk with the child, with monitoring used as a contingency measure only if there’s clear justification.

“If it does make sense to use some spyware, I would never do that in secret way,” said Walsh, whose own three children are now adults. “Tell your children you’ll check on them from time to time. Just that knowledge can be effective.”

Mary Kozakiewicz disagrees, saying deployment of spyware must be kept secret.

“You can’t let them know it’s there, or they’ll do it at a friend’s house,” she said.

Indeed, one of the challenges for some parents is a technology gap – their children may have more savvy about cyberspace and an ability to thwart various spyware tactics.

“Parents are trying to play catch up – and it’s a highly fragmented, confusing sector,” said Keith Jarrett of the AmberWatch Foundation, a nonprofit based in Seal Beach, Calif., dedicated to protecting children against abduction and “the dangers of the digital world.”

AmberWatch promotes various safety devices and technologies, including SafeText – a system enabling parents, for $5 a month, to monitor their children’s text-messaging. The system sends alerts when it detects potentially dangerous or inappropriate text messages, so the parents don’t have to review vast numbers of messages themselves.

Another enterprise, Software4Parents, reviews and sells a range of spyware products. Its Web site features a comment by Mary Kozakiewicz after her abducted daughter was rescued.

“No matter how you feel about your child or how trusting you are that what’s going on is innocent, check it, check it and double check it – or don’t have (the Internet) at all,” Kozakiewicz warns.

Among the site’s featured products are Spector PRO and eBlaster, for sale at $99, and touted as ways way to monitor online chats, instant messages and emails.

“Receive complete transcripts of the web sites they visit, keystrokes they type and more – all delivered right to your email inbox,” the site says.

Several spyware brands, including Mobile Spy and MobiStealth, now offer systems that work with Android, Google’s operating system for mobile phones, ranging in price from $100 to $150 per year.

The software “gives you complete control over your child’s cell phone,” says MobiStealth.

Dr. Henry Gault, who practices child and adolescent psychiatry in Deerfield, Ill., says parents who spy on their children “are walking down a slippery slope” and may end up causing worse problems than the ones that prompted the surveillance.

“That should be the course of last resort,” he said. “Essentially you’re throwing in the towel and saying there’s no trust anymore.”

He suggested it’s normal for children try to keep some secrets from their family.

“Parents shouldn’t feel guilty not knowing 100 percent of what’s going on,” he said. “It’s our job as parents to reduce risk, but you can never reduce the risk to zero.”

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Home drug tests:

Compared to tracking and spyware gadgets, home drug testing kits are relatively low-tech and inexpensive. But they raise tricky issues for parents, who may be torn between alienating their child on the one hand and living with unresolved doubts about possible drug abuse on the other.

David Walsh directed an adolescent treatment program earlier in his career and says the at-home tests can be appropriate when parents have solid reason for suspicion.

“When a son or daughter is getting seriously into drugs, one dynamic of that is denial,” he said. “The stakes are so high. Parents can say, ‘We need to make sure you’re not doing serious damage to yourself. We might occasionally test you.'”

In Colorado Springs, Colo., single mother Amanda Beihl was among the first to carve out a business from Internet sales of test kits, starting in 1999.

Beihl created homedrugtestingkit.com, selling kits to test for illicit drugs and alcohol use. Individual kits testing for a single drug cost as little as $3; a 10-substance kit sells for $19.95.

It’s an ever-evolving field, Beihl says, as teens experiment with new hallucinogens or abuse a range of prescription drugs.

“A lot of parents say they’re afraid of ruining their relationship with their kid – they don’t want to be seen as the bad guy,” Beihl said. “I tell them, if you’re already worried about it, the relationship is probably not that great.”

Kim Hildreth, 52, of Dallas, tested both her daughters during their teens. They’re now in their 20s, and provide occasional assistance as she runs a company, drugtestyourteen.com, that sells testing kits online.

Hildreth has been in the business since 2003 and says she has many repeat customers – parents who used the tests on an older child and now worry about a younger sibling.

In Hildreth’s case, she opted for testing after concluding that her oldest daughter’s best friend was using methamphetamine.

“None of us wants to believe our kids are capable of that,” Hildreth said. “Denial is a much more comfortable place.”

She also later tested her younger daughter, to the point where resentment surfaced, but said both daughters are now staunch proponents of testing.

“We all think we know our kids, but they can change on a dime, and bad things can happen before you even figure it out,” Hildreth said. “They’re good at deceiving parents when they want to – that’s kind of their job.”

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UK riots spread from London to Liverpool, Birmingham and Belfast


Rioting broke out in the English cities of Liverpool and Birmingham as the worst violence in London in years threatened to spread to the rest of the country on Tuesday.

West Midlands Police confirmed they had made 87 arrests as youths ran amok in Birmingham centre overnight, smashing shop windows and looting merchandise.

The force also said that a police station in the central England city was on fire.

Meanwhile, Merseyside Police confirmed Tuesday they were dealing with unrest in the northwestern city of Liverpool with several cars set alight.

“We will not tolerate any violence on the streets of Liverpool and have taken swift and robust action in response,” police spokesman Andy Ward said.

Riots have been ongoing in London since Saturday night after protests against the death of a man in a police shooting turned violent, but Monday saw an escalation in hostilities.

Fire engulfed many areas of the capital as police fought pitched battles with thousands of looters and gangs of youths in the third day of serious disorder.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/riots+spread+from+London+Liverpool+Birmingham/5224524/story.html#ixzz1UUQh5jCq

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Crime Solvers Seeks Man Wanted for Parental Abduction


Fairfax County Crime Solvers is asking for the public’s assistance in locating Mario Olguin. Olguin is currently wanted for felony parental abduction after violating a court order for child visitation.

Mario Olguin picked up his 4-year-old son on Friday, July 29, for a scheduled weekend visitation. On Sunday, July 31, the child’s 26-year-old mother went to Olguin’s home to get her son and discovered them both gone.

A police investigation determined Olguin left the area with his son on Friday, July 29. They were seen in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, July 30, by a family member and the child was reported to be in good condition. Investigators are working with our federal partners to locate Mario Olguin and his son; there is a possibility they may have crossed over the border into Mexico, Olguin’s home of origin.

 

Mario Olguin is 29 years old. He is about 5 feet 7 inches tall and 150 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. A photo of Olguin is available online.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS(8477), e-mail at www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES(274637). A $100 to $1,000 cash reward will be paid for information that leads to an arrest. As always, callers never have to give their names or appear in court. Find us on Facebook.

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