In International Child Abduction Cases – quiet diplomacy is not working


December 29, 2013

Source:  Washington Post

SEAN GOLDMAN was 4 years old when his Brazilian-born mother took him from their New Jersey home for what Sean’s father, David Goldman, thought would be a two-week vacation. Five years passed before the father again laid eyes on his son.

A_Fathers_Love_Goldman

“It was very painful,’’ David Goldman recalled. “The first time I saw him after nearly five years, he looked at me and asked me where have I been all this time. . . . He was told that I didn’t love him, that I abandoned him, that I never wanted him.”

The only unusual feature of this story is that David Goldman eventually regained custody, though even after the boy’s mother died in 2008 her Brazilian family continued to resist his efforts. He succeeded in part because Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)relentlessly focused attention and pressure on the case. Now a bill written by Mr. Smith, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, has been approved by the House, 398 to 0, and is set for consideration in the Senate. But the State Department doesn’t want the additional diplomatic tools the bill would provide.

According to State, 1,144 children were reported abducted from the United States in 2012. There were 1,367 in 2011 and 1,492 in 2010. State Department officials say they work hard to get those children back — or at least to get the cases fairly adjudicated — but they can’t or won’t say how many of those abducted children remain overseas. That raises questions about their claims for success for “quiet diplomacy.”

In a letter to Mr. Smith, Robert E. Wallace, executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), said the abduction of children by a separated spouse is a particular problem for service members, especially in Japan. Mr. Wallace said the service members’ appeals for help “are too often met with bad legal advice, misinformation or indifference. . . . It is time for the U.S. government to take concrete action.” An organization of victimized parents said that the result of quiet diplomacy is “that the Government of Japan has not once assisted in returning a single abducted child.” Japan at least is in the process of acceding to an international treaty on the subject; most countries have not done so.

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The House bill provides for a series of graduated sanctions against countries that demonstrate a pattern of non-cooperation; it also would encourage the United States to negotiate agreements with countries that have not ratified the treaty. In both cases, the executive branch would act only if it chose to do so; the bill provides for a presidential waiver. Nonetheless, a State Department official told us putting tools in the tool kit would be counterproductive because U.S. officials would face pressure to use them and other countries would resent the implied threat.

Given the administration’s inability to quantify its success, or to report any results at all, the argument for the status quo is not persuasive. An aide to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told us that the committee will take the measure up soon. We hope soon means soon. For thousands of parents deprived of the chance even to communicate with their children, quiet diplomacy isn’t getting the job done.

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Prevent abduction: guarding against international parental abduction


August 16, 2013

Source: The Examiner

Parental child abduction is a federal crime. It is also a tragedy that jeopardizes children and has substantial long-term consequences for the “left-behind” parent, the child, the family, and society.

ChildrenFavourites

Children who are abducted by their parents are often suddenly isolated from their extended families, friends, and classmates. They are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems. Similarly, left-behind parents experience a wide range of emotions including betrayal, loss, anger, and depression. In international cases, they often face unfamiliar legal, cultural, and linguistic barriers that compound these emotions.

In this section of our Web site, learn about the measures you can take to prevent your child from being wrongfully taken to or wrongfully kept in another country. In addition to the materials below, also see these important links:

Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program
Passport Requirements for Minors
Additional Prevention Tools
For Attorneys & Judges
International Parental Child Abduction Is Illegal

Under the laws of the United States and many foreign countries, international parental child abduction is crime. Removing a child from the United States against another parent’s wishes can be considered a crime in every U.S. state. In some cases an abducting parent may be charged with a Federal crime under the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act (IPKCA). This can be the case even when neither parent holds a custody decree prior to the abduction. Nevertheless, a custody decree can be helpful to prevent an international parental child abduction, or to recover your child if he/she is abducted.

The Importance of a Custody Decree

A well-written custody decree is an important line of defense against international parental child abduction. In your custody decree, it may be advisable to include a statement that prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court. Ask your attorney if you should obtain a decree of sole custody or a decree that prohibits the travel of your child without your permission or that of the court. If you have or would prefer to have a joint custody decree, you may want to make certain that it prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court.

If your child is at risk of being taken to a country that partners with the United States under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention), your custody decree should include the terms of the Hague Abduction Convention that apply if there is an abduction or wrongful retention (see country list).

The American Bar Association also suggests requesting the court, if the other parent is not a U.S. citizen or has significant ties to a foreign country, to require that parent to post a bond. This may be useful both as a deterrent to abduction and, if forfeited because of an abduction, as a source of revenue for you in your efforts to locate and recover your child.

REMINDER: Obtain several certified copies of your custody decree from the court that issued it. Give a copy to your child’s school and advise school personnel to whom your child may be released.

Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport

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.

Read more: Passport Requirements for Minors

Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program

You may also ask that your child’s name be entered into the State Department’s Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). Entering your child into the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program will enable the Department to notify you or your attorney if an application for a U.S. passport for the child is received anywhere in the United States or at any U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. If you have a court order that either grants you sole custody, joint legal custody, or prohibits your child from traveling without your permission or the permission of the court, the Department may refuse to issue a new or renewal U.S. passport for your child. The Department may not, however, revoke a passport that has already been issued to the child. There is also no way to track the use of a passport once it has been issued, since there are no exit controls for people leaving the U.S. If your child already has a passport, you should take steps to ensure that it is kept from a potential abductor by asking the court or attorneys to hold it.

IMPORTANT TO KEEP IN MIND:

The United States does not have exit controls.
The Department of State may not revoke a passport that has been issued to a child, but you can ask a court to hold onto it.
There is no way to track the use of a passport once it has been issued.
Your child might also be a citizen of another country (dual nationality). Even if he/she does not have a U.S. passport, your child may be able to travel on the other country’s passport. .
The Privacy Act and Passports

Passport information is protected by the provisions of the Privacy Act (PL 93-579) passed by Congress in 1974. Information regarding a minor’s passport is available to either parent. Information regarding adults may be available to law enforcement officials or pursuant to a court order issued by the court of competent jurisdiction in accordance with (22 CFR 51.27). For further information regarding the issuance or denial of United States passports to minors involved in custody disputes, please contact Passport Services.

For additional information about prevention measures, please visit web site at:http://www.travel.state.gov/abduction/prevention/prevention_560.html.

Prevention Branch
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State
Email: PreventAbduction@state.gov
Phone: (888) 407-4747
Fax: (202) 736-9133
Website: travel.state.gov

 

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Country-by-Country Map of Drug Policy Positions in the Americas


August 9 , 2013

Source: insightcrime.org

This map breaks down every country’s stated position on legalisation and decriminalisation of drugs in the hemisphere. It is in this context that Uruguay is set to enact historic legislation and become the first country to legalise production, distribution, and consumption of marijuana.
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The interactive graphic (below and here) was prepared by InSight Crime for the 2012 Summit of the Americas and includes background information and links. It is also downloadable here (pdf) as a chart.

SEE ALSO: Gorilla in the Room: Legalization and Decriminalization in the Americas

The Summit put the issue on the table but achieved little else.

The Organization of American States (OAS) later issued a report outlining possible scenarios for the future of drug policy in the region. In one scenario, some governments in the region change their laws, while others maintain the status quo. The result is chaos and the formation of two blocks: one that is in favor of “legalization,” and one that is against it.

This appears to be the direction the region is headed. While some states in the United States, most notably Colorado, have passed laws that are similar to that of Uruguay, the US federal government remains firmly entrenched in its longtime position against the legalization of marijuana. Most governments in the region continue to follow the US lead.

There are similar contradictions in other countries as well, especially with regards to consumption versus production. While consumption is often “legalized” in small doses, production is outlawed. Uruguayan lawmakers in favor of marijuana legalization say they are addressing this contradiction in the legal code.

The Map Explained

The red countries in the map represent those who have publicly stated they are against both legalization and decriminalization of narcotics.

The yellow countries are those that either have partial decriminalization laws or have argued in favor of this, but have said they are against legalization.

The green countries are those who are open to debate on drug decriminalization and legalization.

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 12.10.48 AM

 

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Brazil to Install Border Security Cameras


June 1, 2013

Source: Insightcrime.org

Brazil will install video surveillance cameras along the 17,000 kilometer border it shares with 10 other countries, as part of a national public security strategy aimed at combating organized crime along the frontier.

Border_Security_Brazil

Brazil’s National Public Security Secretariat will provide $13.9 million (29.5 million Brazilian reales) to 60 municipalities in 11 states that border other countries, for the purchase and installation of at least 624 security cameras, Folha reported. Funds will also be used for the transmission systems, video surveillance reception, and the training of system operators. Muncipal, state and federal authorities will work together to review the images

The cameras will be particularly heavily clustered along the border with Paraguay, in the Mato Grosso do Sul, Parana, and Santa Catarina departments, according to Folha’s map.

InSight Crime Analysis

Installing security cameras is part of a wider initiative focusing on Brazil’s border security. Since the implementation of the “Strategic Border Plan” in August 2011, Brazil has reportedly broken up 65 criminal organizations operating along the frontier. Brazil has also signed cooperation agreements with a number of countries, most recently Bolivia, in an attempt to help further secure its borders.

Rio-amazonas

As Latin America’s largest market for cocaine and a transhipment point for drugs going to Europe, border security is a major issue for Brazil. Bolivian and Peruvian cocaine is shipped from Bolivia or through Paraguay, along routes controlled by Brazilian gangs. Human trafficking is also a major problem, leading the government to recently invest in ten new control posts in border towns.

It is worth questioning whether the increased camera surveillance will significantly impact border crime, and whether the cost will be worth the investment. The US has had mixed results with its own expensive border strategy, which emphasized the use of technology. Geographical factors may make surveillance particularly difficult in some regions of Brazil, such as the Amazon. Moreover, evidence from the US has suggested that increased border security in certain zones simply shifts illegal crossings into different areas.

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Kokaindømte Stina Brendemo Hagens flukt fra Bolivia til Norge blir dokumentar.


Source: NRK/Nyheter og VG Nett
Stina Brendemo Hagen kom i slutten av oktober tilbake Norge, etter å ha flyktet fra Bolivia i august.
Hagen rømte fra soningen av en fengselsdom, etter at hun ble tatt for å ha forsøkt å smugle kokain ut av landet.
Hun hadde på tidspunktet hun rømte gått over i åpen soning med meldeplikt, men skal med hjelp fra to innleide hjelpere ha rømt via Brasil til Norge.

Sendes på tv

Se klipp her: NRK/Nyheter

Flukten fra Bolivia ble filmet underveis, og TVNorge har kjøpt rettighetene til det som skal bli en tv-dokumentar
Med på turen var også den norske journalisten Jonas Forsang som den gang jobbet i det nå nedlagte mannebladet Alfa.
Forsang står fram i dokumentaren og forteller at han har knyttet et sterkt vennskapsbånd til Hagen.
– Til syvende og sist veier det menneskelige aspektet mye mer enn det presseetiske, sier Forsang.

Kan ha finansiert flukten

TVNorge sier de ikke vet nøyaktig hvem hjelpere underveis i flukten er, men Hagen bistås i flere ulovlige grensepasseringer.
TV-kanalen kan ikke utelukke at de ved å kjøpe rettighetene til dokumentaren har vært med på å finansiere flukten.
– Vi har ikke betalt noe til Stinas familie for dette. Vi har betalt for det materialet vi har fått tilbudt, sier kommunikasjonsdirektør i TVNorge Svein Tore Bergestuen til NRK og legger til.
– Men jeg kan ikke garantere for hva folk vi betaler har valgt å bruke de pengene på, sier Bergestuen.
– Betyr det at penger fra denne filmen kan ha vært med på å finansiere flukten?
– Det kan jeg ikke tenke meg
– Men du kan ikke utelukke det?
– Nei, sier Bergestuen.
“Stina Brendemo Hagen har forklart flukten med at hun var livredd for å bli drept. Hun hevdet at hun hadde kilder som sa at hun ikke ville overleve i to måneder til.”

Dokumentaren varer i én time vises på TVNorge mandag klokken 22.00.

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

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International Child Abduction / Parental Kidnapping – Recovery Services


International Child Abduction is tragically a global epidemic.

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. Unfortunately for the majority of targeted parents, the financial burden for recovery and litigation falls on their shoulders. With tens of thousands of children parentally abducted each year, the reality is too many of these children never come home. ABP World Group is dedicated to assisting parents in need of assistance in locating, rescuing, and safely bringing home your abducted child.

Our intelligence and investigation abilities combined with our ability to dispatch personnel to most locations in the world offer a safe and strategic solution to protecting your most important asset: your child.

Areas of expertise:

Parental abduction

Missing children

Kidnappings

Counter Kidnapping

Anti Kidnapping

Runaway children

Reunification Counseling

Unfortunately in this day and time parental kidnapping happens and we are here to help you trough this difficult period. 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 including, but not limited to:

Electronic Forensic Foot printing Investigations

Intelligence Gathering

Information Specialists/Skip Tracing

Evidence Procurement

Interview/Evaluation

Surveillance Special Ops

Non-Combatant Evacuation Ops

Domestic Support

International Operations

Maritime/Land/Air transport

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It’s parental kidnapping season


Holiday season signals an increase in cases of child abduction

Incidents of international parental child abduction – where a child is taken overseas without the other parent’s consent or contrary to a court order – are expected to peak over the summer, according to the FCO’s Child Abduction Section.

In many cases, parents pretend they are going on holiday with their child to their country of origin and then fail to return.

Worryingly, it is also common for parents not to realise that they have committed a child abduction offence. Research recently commissioned by the FCO* showed that a third of people didn’t know that if you take your child abroad without the permission of the other parent, this may be considered abduction under UK law.

“International parental child abduction, whether intentional or not, can cause huge distress to families.

“If a parent wishes to take their child to live in a new country they will normally need either the permission of the other parent or the British courts. Cases of parental child abduction increase in the summer holiday period. We urge parents who are worried to get specialist legal advice and contact our Child Abduction Section and the charity Reunite which can provide them with information to try to prevent an abduction from happening in the first place, or to try to resolve disputes if a child has already been taken overseas.

“We also see cases where British nationals simply return to the UK with their child after their relationship breaks down whilst living abroad – this is still likely to be considered abduction. A parent will normally require the consent of the other parent and possibly permission from the courts of the country concerned. It is important that a parent obtains legal advice before taking any action.”

If you are worried that your child may be abducted overseas you should:

  • Seek advice from a  family lawyer and  request a Prohibited Steps Order (or equivalent depending on where you  live in the UK) prohibiting your child from being taken out of the UK
  • In the event of an imminent abduction (in the next 24-48 hours), contact the police who may be able to issue an All Ports Alert to try to prevent a child from leaving the UK.  The police in England and Wales do not need a court order before instituting a port alert.  Police in Scotland do need a court order.
  • Ensure that you keep their child’s passport in a safe place and contact the Identity and Passport Service (and relevant local embassy if your child has dual nationality) to request that another passport is not issued without your permission
  • Contact the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878
  • Contact the Reunite International Child Abduction Centre on 0116 2556 234
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El 53% de llamadas a número de niños desaparecidos es por secuestro parental


El 53 por ciento de las llamadas recibidas entre septiembre de 2010 y marzo de 2011 al número 116000 para casos de niños desaparecidos que gestiona la Fundación Anar hacen referencia al secuestro parental de un menor. 

Así lo asegura en un comunicado la Fundación Anar, con motivo de la conmemoración mañana del Día Internacional de Niños Desaparecidos, jornada que tiene su origen en un hecho ocurrido el 25 de mayo de 1979 cuando un menor fue raptado en Nueva York (Estados Unidos) y posteriormente se le dio por desaparecido.

La Fundación puso en marcha en España el pasado 15 de septiembre el número único de la UE 116000 para casos de niños desaparecidos tras adjudicarle la gestión de este servicio el Ministerio de Industria, Turismo y Comercio.

Anar asegura que los familiares amigos y educadores de los niños desaparecidos viven una situación “inimaginable para todos”, por lo que es necesario “brindarles el apoyo psicológico, técnico y jurídico que pueda aliviar la angustia de estos momentos”. La UE respondió a este problema precisamente con la implantación del teléfono único 116000 para todo el continente, que en el futuro apunta el comunicado, será de ámbito mundial.

Actualmente, este número está activo en 13 países europeos y para ofrecer este servicio en España y actuar de “forma coordinada” con el resto de los países europeos, la Fundación Anar forma parte de la plataforma internacional “Missing Children Europe” (Niños Perdidos Europa). El total de llamadas atendidas desde que se puso en marcha el teléfono el 15 de septiembre de 2010 hasta el 31 de marzo de 2011, asciende a 1.775 llamadas procedentes de toda España y muchas de ellas son para informarse sobre las características del servicio y qué ayudas puede ofrecer.

Hasta el 31 de Marzo de 2011, estas llamadas han dado origen a la apertura de 117 casos por desaparición de un menor.
Según explica la Fundación Anar, un niño desaparecido puede haberse fugado de su domicilio, ser un menor de edad inmigrante no acompañado, puede ser objeto de un secuestro parental, puede estar perdido o herido, o bien puede ser víctima de un secuestro.

En este sentido, indica que en el periodo de tiempo mencionado, el 53 por ciento de los casos atendidos hacen referencia al secuestro parental de un menor, es decir, cuando uno o ambos padres, o la persona que ostenta la guarda del menor se lo lleva a otro lugar dentro del país, o al extranjero, contra la voluntad del otro progenitor.

El 33 por ciento de los casos se deben a fugas de menores de su domicilio: aquellas en las que el menor voluntariamente se va o abandona su casa, la institución donde está acogido o la compañía de las personas que son responsables de su cuidado.

Publicado por : ABP World Group Ltd. internacional de menores por Servicios de Recuperación

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The Impact of Parental Child Abduction


An abducting parent views the child’s needs as secondary to the parental agenda which is to provoke, agitate, control, attack or psychologically torture the other parent.

It is generally accepted that children are emotionally impacted by divorce. Children of troubled abductor parents bear an even greater burden. “The needs of the troubled parent override the developmental needs of the child, with the result that the child becomes psychologically depleted and their own emotional and social progress is crippled”

 

In custody disputes and abductions, the extended support systems of the parents can become part of the dispute scenario, — leading to a type of “tribal warfare” (Johnston & Campbell, 1988). Believing primarily one side of the abduction story, — family, friends, and professionals may lose their objectivity. As a result, protective concerns expressed by the abandoned parent may be viewed as undue criticism, interference, and histrionics. Thus, the abandoned parent may be ineffectual in relieving the trauma imposed on an innocent child by the parental abduction.

Generally the abductor does not even speak of the abandoned parent and waits patiently for time to erase probing questions, like “When can we see mom (dad) again?”. “These children become hostages … it remains beyond their comprehension that a parent who really cares and loves them cannot discover their whereabouts” (Clawar & Rivlin, p. 115).

Impact of Parental Child Abduction

Children who have been psychologically violated and maltreated through the act of abduction, are more likely to exhibit a variety of psychological and social handicaps. These handicaps make them vulnerable to detrimental outside influences (Rand, 1997). Huntington (1982) lists some of the deleterious effects of parental child abduction on the child victim:

  1. Depression;
  2. Loss of community;
  3. Loss of stability, security, and trust;
  4. Excessive fearfulness, even of ordinary occurrences;
  5. Loneliness;
  6. Anger;
  7. Helplessness;
  8. Disruption in identity formation; and
  9. Fear of abandonment.

Many of these untoward effects can be subsumed under the problems relevant to Reactive Attachment Disorder, the diagnostic categories in the following section, and the sections on fear, of abandonment, learned helplessness, and guilt, that follow.

Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Attachment is the deep and enduring connection established between a child and caregiver in the first few years of life. It profoundly influences every component of the human condition, — mind, body, emotions, relationships, and values. Children lacking secure attachments with caregivers often become angry, oppositional, antisocial, and may grow up to be parents who are incapable of establishing this crucial foundation with their own children (Levy & Orlans, 1999).

Children who lack permanence in their lives often develop a “one-day-at-a-time” perspective of life, which effects appropriate development of the cognitive-behavioral chain — thoughts, feelings, actions, choices, and outcomes. “They think, ‘I’ve been moved so many times, I’ll just be moved again. So why should I care?'” (ACE, 1999).

Stringer (1999) and other experts on attachment disorder concur that the highest risk occurs during the first few years of life. This disorder is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) as Reactive Attachment Disorder. According to Stringer, common causes of attachment problems are:

  1. Sudden or traumatic separation from primary caretaker
    (through death, illness hospitalization of caretaker, or removal of child);
  2. Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse;
  3. Neglect (of physical or emotional needs);
  4. Frequent moves and/or placements;
  5. Inconsistent or inadequate care at home or in day care
    (care must include holding, talking, nurturing, as well as meeting basic physical needs); and
  6. Chronic depression of primary caretaker.

It is evident that these causality factors would place at high risk children who are subjected to similar conditions in the circumstances of parental kidnapping.

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International child abductions tear families apart


Source: Katie Worth – The Sfexaminer

Dusk had long since fallen over the jungles of northwestern Honduras, but
Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/international-child-abductions-tear-families-apart#ixzz1MAXmMS3z
Lt. Carlos Sanchez could still make out the three children playing in the dirty yard of the bare hut his team had surrounded.

Those children, ages 3, 6 and 8, were his quarry. Sanchez, an investigator from the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, had been searching for them for the better part of a year. The children had been abducted from San Francisco by their father in June 2008, and he had carefully hidden them. It took an exhaustive investigation to follow their trail here. Though his team was close, Sanchez knew they had to be careful because smuggling and other crime made this border village dangerous.

The children were victims of what the U.S. Department of State believes is a growing phenomenon: international child abduction. According to State Department statistics, there are about 3,000 children currently missing who have been abducted by a parent and ensconced out of the U.S. At least 400 of those missing children are from California — about 50 from the Bay Area.

The issue of international child abduction briefly received widespread attention last Christmas when a New Jersey father successfully retrieved his 9-year-old son from Brazil, where his mother had taken him for a visit and never returned. After her death, the boy’s stepfather refused to return him to the U.S. until courts forced him to.

The international press treated the Brazil case as an anomaly. In fact, the number of open international kidnapping cases have doubled in about a decade: In 1998, there were about 1,000 open cases, according to nonprofit Committee for Missing Children. Today, there are about 2,000 open cases, State Department spokesman Ryan Palsrok said.

In part because of the sharp increase, State Department officials visited San Francisco last month and met with many of the families awaiting their children’s return, Palsrok said.

Rising numbers are tied to the increasing ease and affordability of international travel. The poor economy may also encourage more kidnappings, with unemployed parents deciding to return to their home countries, Palsrok said.

The abductions are complicated, because both parents often feel they are right in their actions. Because the abductions are international, multiple countries’ legal systems are often involved, as well as an international body empowered by a 1980 Hague Conference treaty.

According to the treaty, an abducted child must be returned to his or her “country of habitual residence,” whose courts will determine the best outcome for the child.

In the Honduran case Sanchez was working last spring, the children’s mother had sole custody of her children, but the father had visiting rights. On June 13, 2008, the father picked up the children for a scheduled visit and told them he was taking them to Disneyland. When the mother did not hear from them, she tried and failed to contact the father. She found his apartment empty. She suspected he would take the children to Honduras, where he had family.

The City’s District Attorney’s Office became involved because in California, the State Department asks those offices to take a lead in finding internationally abducted children.

The mother was beside herself with anxiety. In a court document a year later, she wrote that her sole comfort was their scent still stuck on their clothes, which she sniffed every day, “until they smelled no more.”

Investigators learned the father drove to Texas in a rented car, put the children in the back of a truck and drove them through Mexico and into Honduras. He stayed with them for several weeks, but eventually left them with his family in a village outside the city of San Pedro Sula.

When the investigation pinpointed them, Sanchez and a recovery team flew down. After securing the perimeter with local police, Sanchez and his team approached the hut and talked to the children’s grandmother. He explained the children were going to come with him and be returned to their mother.

The children had been sleeping on old mattresses, had been bitten by bats and mosquitoes and were infected with lice. They did not want to leave, in part because they had been told that their mother didn’t want them anymore, and that their father would go to jail if they ever left with authorities.

The District Attorney’s Office requested the family not be identified.

“It’s always really dramatic for children, because they’re usually being ripped from someone they love,” Sanchez said. “We told them they were leaving and they were crying.”

But a day later in the U.S., comforted, debriefed and prepared for the reunification, they rushed into their mother’s arms.

“It was like day and night,” he said. “It’s great to see a reunification. Unless you’re dead, you can’t go without crying.”

Mexico abduction yields happy ending

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office sees about two child custody cases a month, but in most of them, both parents are within the county, and one of them is keeping the child a little longer than they should.

Sometimes, however, Inspector Ivan Grosshauser responds to cases where a child has been taken out of the country without the permission of the other parent or the courts.

In one case, he recalled, a couple with a 4-year-old son split up, and the father, “kind of a control guy,” asked for sole custody. When San Mateo County’s family court granted dual custody, the father took the child to Mexico.

The mother was reluctant to approach law enforcement because she was not a U.S. citizen, but finally did so when the father told her he would not allow her to speak to her son unless she sent him money. The situation deteriorated quickly, Grosshauser said.

“At some point he threatened the mother that if she came to get the child, he would kill the child,” he said.

A break came when the father left the child briefly with the mother’s relatives, and they contacted her. Grosshauser flew to Mexico City. The family turned over the child, who was excited to return to his mother.

“It was a very long day — we flew back from Mexico City to Tijuana so I could walk him over the border, and then got on another flight in San Diego,” he said.

“But after that long day, at 10:30 at night, I pulled up to the meeting place, and the mother was there, and I opened the car door and the little boy steps out, and there was that absolute spontaneous yelp of a mother who never thought she’d see her kid again,” Grosshauser said. “It was very, very satisfying for me.”

Guarding against international parental child kidnapping

– A well-written custody decree: This can be an important line of defense against international parental child abductions. The decree can include a statement that explicitly prohibits your child from traveling abroad without your permission or that of the court. If the other parent has significant ties to a foreign country, the court can require that parent to post a bond that would be forfeited if they leave with the child.

– Passport Issuance Alert Program: You may ask that the State Department alert you if an application for a U.S. passport for the child is received. Because it is much easier to travel out of the country with a child if the child has a passport, preventing one from being issued can deter international travel.

– Quickly alert the State Department: If the child is in the process of being abducted but is not yet abroad, contact the department’s Office of Children’s Issues. The office can work with law enforcement in the U.S. and in other countries to try to stop the departure of children being abducted from the U.S.

The Office of Children’s Issues can be reached at (202) 736-9090 during working hours, and (888) 407-4747 evenings, holidays and weekends. For additional details on missing children, visit www.missingkids.com. If you have information on a missing child, call (800) 843-5678

Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues

Unresolved cases

2,000: Open cases of international parental abductions known by the U.S. Department of State

3,000: Children involved in these cases

400: Children taken from California

50: Children taken from the Bay Area

50: Percent increase in cases reported to the State Department in the last two years

62: Countries on six continents where children from California have been taken

Source: U.S. Department of State
Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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