Jakobs far er glad og lettet over, at sønnen nu er fundet i god behold.


Source: Extra Bladet

Uvisheden har været hård. Men den bortførte Jakobs far er glad og lettet over, at sønnen nu er fundet i god behold. Det siger en genbo, der udtaler sig på faderens vegne

– Anders er utrolig lettet og meget glad. Det har været fire måneder med venten og usikkerhed.

Det siger René Pedersen, Bryrup, der udtaler sig på vegne af Anders Jensen, far til den syv-årige Jakob Hashi Jensen, som nu er fundet i god behold i en flygtningelejr i Holland.

René Pedersen har haft tæt kontakt med Anders Jensen under bortførelsessagen, og startede indsamlingen til en dusør, der skulle bringe Jakob hjem.

Genkendte sønnen på foto
Først i dag ved middagstid fik Anders Jensen endelig vished for, at det varsønnen, som sent fredag blev fundet i en flygtningelejr sammen med sin mor Kawsar Kamilla Hashi, 32, og sin fire-årige halvbror.

– Politiet kom ud og viste ham billeder, der var taget i Holland, og det var 100 procent sikkert, at det var dem, siger René Pedersen.

Læs også: Skjulte bortført dreng under falsk identitet

Lørdag fik Anders Jensen besked på, at moderen formentlig var anholdt i Holland, men hun opgav falsk identitet, så politiet kunne ikke være helt sikre.

Anders Jensen er nu ‘gået i flyverskjul’ og vil først selv tale med pressen om et par dage. – Det er på foranledning af politiet, der har rådet ham til først at udtale sig, når han ved, hvordan Jakob har det, siger genboen René Pedersen.

Skal måske selv hente sønnen
– Anders vil gerne rejse til Holland for at hente Jakob. Jeg tror, han er parat til at ‘hoppe’ derned, men der skal først ordnes nogle formalia, og han ved ikke, om han selv kan hente Jakob, siger René Pedersen.

– Det har været uvisheden, der ikke har været til at holde ud, siger René Pedersen, hvis syv-årige datter går i første klasse med Jakob – selvom han aldrig nåede at starte i skolen efter sommerferien, fordi moderen bortførte ham den 4. juni.

Nu håber alle, at Jakob kan starte i klassen efter efterårsferien.

Læs også: Jakob fundet i flygtningelejr

– Skolen har håndteret det godt. Sagen er tonet lidt ned, så børnene har forstået, at Jakob ikke var i fare, fordi han var sammen med sin mor og bror, siger René Pedersen.

Ind til for få timer siden havde Anders Jensen endnu ikke været i kontakt med sin genfundne søn: – Jeg håber da, at han får mulighed for at snakke med ham i telefonen snart, siger René Pedersen.

Han nåede at samle 7500 kr. ind til dusøren, men nu bliver pengene ikke udbetalt. I stedet går de til foreningen ‘Bortført’, oplyser René Pedersen.

Da Kawsar Kamilla Hashi bortførte Jakob var hun iført slør og traditionel somalisk klædedragt. Via Aarhus og København rejste hun til Amsterdam med toget og meldte sig i en flygtningelejr på grænsen til Belgien, hvor hun søgte asyl med sine to sønner.

Hun opgav falske identiteter, og hævdede at hun kom direkte fra Somalia som flygtning.

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International child abductions tear families apart


By: Katie Worth

Dusk had long since fallen over the jungles of northwestern Honduras, but 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

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/international-child-abductions-tear-families-apart#ixzz18UrRDW1r

For emergency assistance contact:

ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

The goal of ABP World Group Ltd. 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.

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Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse


by Nancy Faulkner, Ph.D 

Introduction
Risk Factors
Impact of Parental Child Abduction

What has been reported about abducted children?
Conclusion from Clawar & Rivlin


Introduction
“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)

As an early leader in the relatively new field of parental child abduction issues, Dr. Dorothy Huntington wrote an article published in 1982, 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 events surrounding parental child abduction, Huntington emphasizes that “we must reconceptualize child stealing as child abuse of the most flagrant sort” (Huntington, 1982, p. 7).

There is an unfortunate and evident paucity of literature on parental child abduction. Just during the past two decades, Huntington (1982), Greif and Hegar (1993), and others have begun addressing concerns for children kidnapped by their parent abductors. With growing concerns for abducted children, some experts have coined terms like “Parental Alienation” to describe the potential negative impact on child victims. Regardless of the specific terms designed to illustrate the effects of parental child abduction, there is general consensus that the children are the resultant casualties.

Risk Factors
Post-divorce parental child stealing has been on the increase since the mid-1970s, paralleling the rising divorce rate and the escalating litigation over child custody (Huntington, 1986). According to Hoff (1997), “The term ‘parental kidnapping’ encompasses the taking, retention or concealment of a child by a parent, other family member, or their agent, in derogation of the custody rights, including visitation rights, of another parent or family member.” 

The abductor parent may move from one state to another, beginning a new round of investigation into the abuse with each move, impeding intervention by child protective services (Jones, Lund & Sullivan, 1996). Or, the abductor may flee to another country, completely shutting down any hopes of involvement by child protective services in the country of origin. The most pervasive scenario is that the abducting parent goes into hiding, or moves beyond the jurisdiction of governing law.

“These kidnappings are very cleverly plotted and planned and often involve the assistance of family members. The target parent has no forwarding address or telephone numbers.” (Clawar & Rivlin, p. 115)

Huntington and others believe that inherent in the act of kidnapping and concealment are negative consequences for the child victims. It is Huntington’s contention that one of the most concerning factors is that the parent has fled and “is out of reach of law and child protection agencies.” To escape discovery the abductor parent is hiding out, — “so who knows what is happening with child!” (Huntington, 1982).

The abducted child is without the safeguards normally provided by child law. This leaves the child completely vulnerable to the dictates of the abductor parent, who, as evidenced in the following research by Johnson and Girdner, may not have the child’s best interests in mind, or may be functioning with severe impediments.

A study entitled Prevention of Parent or Family Abduction through Early Identification of Risk Factors was conducted by Dr. Janet Johnston (Judith Wallerstein Center for the Family in Transition) and Dr. Linda Girdner (ABA Center on Children and the Law). The researchers detailed six risk parent profiles for abduction:

1. Have threatened to abduct or abducted previously;
2. Are suspicious and distrustful due to a belief abuse has occurred;
3. Are paranoid-delusional;
4. Are sociopathic;
5. Have strong ties to another country; and
6. Feel disenfranchised from the legal system.

These findings by Johnston and Girdner pose a bleak prognosis for children held at the hands of such inept parents.

According to Rand, 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 should come as no surprise, then, that post-divorce parental abduction is considered a serious form of child abuse” (Rand, 1997).

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” (Rand, 1997). Since the problem of parental child abduction is known to occur in divided parents rather than in united and intact families, the inordinate emotional burdens compound abduction trauma. Rand reports that although Wallerstein is familiar with Parental Alienation Syndrome, Wallerstein and Blakeslee (1989) prefer the term “overburdened child” to describe this problem.

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.

Attachment is the reciprocal process of emotional connection. This fundamental and necessary developmental process influences a child’s physical, cognitive, and psychological development. It becomes the basis for development of basic trust or mistrust, and shapes how the child will relate to the world, how the child will learn, and how the child will form relationships throughout life. “If this process is disrupted, the child may not develop the secure base necessary to support all future healthy development” (Stringer, 1999).

Stringer (1999), Van Bloem (1999), The Attachment Center (ACE, 1999), and criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, 1994) identify a significant and troubling list of behaviors associated with problematic attachment:

1. Unable to engage in satisfying reciprocal relationships;
2. Superficially engaging, charming (not genuine);
3. Lack of eye contact;
4. Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers;
5. Lack of ability to give and receive affection on parents’ terms (not cuddly);
6. Inappropriately demanding and clingy;
7. Poor peer relationships;
8. Low self esteem;
9. Affectionate with strangers or attempts to leave with strangers;
10. Refuses, resists, or is uncomfortable with affection on parental terms;
11. Incessant chatter or nonsense questions;
12. Hyperactive, over-active, or attention deficit;
13. Poor, underdeveloped, or no conscience;
14. Hoarding, gorging, eating abnormalities, or hiding food;
15. Intense control battles;
16. Significant learning problems or lags;
17. Fire setting, fire play, or fascination with fire;
18. Daily lying or lying in the face of the obvious;
19. Fascination with weapons, blood, or gore;
20. Destructive to self or others; and
21. Cruelty to animals, siblings, or others.

This unsettling list of disturbances and other constellations of behaviors exhibited by abducted children comprises criteria from various childhood disorder categories of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that might lead one to rule out the following diagnoses:

1. Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood;
2. Separation Anxiety Disorder;
3. Overanxious Disorder of Childhood;
4. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder;
5. Conduct Disorder;
6. Disruptive Behavior Disorder;
7. Oppositional Defiant Disorder;
8. Eating Disorders;
9. Learning Disorder NOS;
10. Regression and Elimination Disorders: Encopresis and Enuresis; and
11. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

As a relatively new diagnosis to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), also known as Attachment Disorder (AD), is often misunderstood, and relatively unknown (ACE, 1999). Although the official DSM-IV diagnosis may be overlooked by some professionals, the phenomenon of attachment disorder was observed 50 years ago by Rene Spitz in the well known monkey studies. Spitz reported that infant monkeys may actually die if they are not played with, talked to, held, stroked, and tended. Some species of young monkeys die when abandoned. Even a brief separation of infant monkeys from their mothers is seen two years later, causing the infants to be more timid, clingy, and relate poorly to others.

Humans are social animals. If abandoned as an infant or young child, we may first protest by screaming, then quietly withdraw; finally, we become detached and apathetic. Abandoned, we may joylessly play some with others, but there is no emotional involvement (Tucker-Ladd, 1960).

The DSM-IV (1994) defines Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness in most contexts, beginning before age five. According to Van Bloem (1999), inexperienced professionals often misdiagnose Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression, Autism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Other experts in RAD estimate that this disorder has been misdiagnosed as Bi-Polar Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder in 40 to 70 percent of the cases (ACE, 1999).

Bloem (1999) suggests that Reactive Attachment Disorder is often accompanied by other diagnosis listed above, but that Attachment Disorder most often needs to be the primary diagnosis and the focus of early intervention. Some professionals may mildly disagree with Bloem’s preferred diagnostic perspective; however, most would agree that the resultant trauma to a child, — who in a moment was stolen away from his or her entire world of familiarity, — is emotionally, developmentally, and psychologically devastating.

Van Bloem (1999) reports that for a child “it is not possible to develop true self-esteem and find peace without resolving differences and emotional pain due to stressed or damaged emotional ties to parents and family.” According to Van Bloem, attachment helps the child to:

1. Attain full intellectual potential;
2. Sort out perceptions;
3. Think logically;
4. Develop a conscience;
5. Become self-reliant;
6. Cope with stress and frustration;
7. Handle fear and worry;
8. Develop future relationships; and
9. Reduce jealousy (Van Bloem, 1999).

The words “attachment” and “bonding” are used interchangeably. These bonding impaired individuals typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn how to trust. With Attachment Disorder, individuals have difficulty forming intimate lasting relationships (ACE, 1999). Children with attachment disturbance often project an image of self-sufficiency and charm, while masking inner feelings of insecurity and self hate. Unfortunately, such children do not respond well to traditional parenting or therapy, since both rely on the child’s ability to form relationships (Stringer, 1999).

Adult survivors of abuse may experience long term or chronic lifetime symptoms resulting from childhood trauma. For example, a person who has been physically abused might suffer from depression or anxiety. A victim of childhood sexual abuse might exhibit symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress, or other disorders as evidenced in the DSM-IV criteria of adult mental health disorders, such as:

1. Agoraphobia
2. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
3. Dissociative Identity Disorder
4. Dysthymic Disorder
5. Substance Abuse or Dependency
6. Generalized Anxiety Disorder
7. Major Depressive Disorder
8. Panic Attacks or Panic Disorder
9. Borderline Personality Disorder

All too often, children suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder go untreated and become adults without conscience (Antisocial Personality Disorder) and without concern for anyone but themselves. “Parental dreams are lost, and they grow up uncaring and without social conscience” (ACE, 1999).

Learned Helplessness. 

The concept of learned helplessness is based on the highly respected work of Seligman in 1975, when he observed this helpless condition among animals that were unable to alter their environment. Seligman subjected dogs to random shocks at variable intervals that were completely unrelated to their volitional behaviors. Nothing the dogs could do would protect them from being shocked. Under this experimental treatment, the dogs became passive and refused to leave their cages, even though the cage doors were eventually left open as the shock treatments continued.

“The key to the learned helplessness model is punishment that is totally unrelated to the victim’s behavior, that is, the victim does not have to do anything wrong to be punished” (Lalli, 1997). As a consequence, the victim places him or herself under a virtual house arrest without informed judgment that includes facts of the situation. In the situation of parental abduction, the child victim often does not know why he or she has been abducted, has no control over the situation, and even though there may be very strong feelings of anger, frustration and confusion, — the totality of helplessness may result in a yielding to the circumstances. This yielding and superficial appearance of resolution to the circumstance may be the result of complete devastation, lack of control, and total helplessness, — rather than acceptance.

Fear and Phobias. 

Most phobias are groundless and excessive, such as fears of crowds, small spaces, addressing large groups, and heights. These fears of harmless situations may be associated with fantasies of horrible consequences, like the fear of public speaking. Thus, frightening and irrational thoughts of what might happen become paired with the real situation, which in turn produces a fear reaction. For example, at night a child has fantasies of demons lurking under the bed and in the closet. The stronger the fantasies, the worse the fear when the lights are turned off. Soon, the fears will occur prior to bedtime, from anticipation of being in the dark.

“Likewise, most of us have at least a mild fear of the dark. Relatively few people have been attacked in the dark, no one by ghosts or monsters. Yet, at age 3 or 4 (as soon as our imagination develops enough) we begin fantasizing scary creatures lurking in the dark. Our own fantasies create our fear of the dark.” (Tucker-Ladd, 1960)

Children who are abducted have been stripped of almost everything familiar – toys, personal possessions, playmates, relatives, teachers, the neighborhood, playgrounds, favorite shopping and eating places, — daily routine — and a parent. Suddenly snatched from all that is familiar and deposited without adequate preparation into a completely new environment, — fear of the unknown, future events, emotional safety, and physical safety can run rampant and become irrational. The real threat becomes even more exaggerated and capacities to deal with the threat seem completely inadequate. “This is horrible, out of my control, and I can’t deal with it.” Overwhelmed with the stress of new stimuli and unable to make sense of the situation may lead the child to excessive anxiety and fears, which in turn may develop into chronic anxiety, stress reactions, depression, paranoia and/or other complications discussed in the following sections.

Stress and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

One of the leaders in theories of anxiety, Hans Selye spent a life-time studying stress and postulated that almost any change is a stressor, since there is a resultant demand to deal with a new situation. If normal daily stressors are increased to unusual and traumatic events, like child abduction, the short and long term impact may significantly impair development and functioning, — even into adulthood.

There are three stages in General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). In the alarm stage, physiological changes occur, — the heart beats faster, respiration increases and becomes more labored, senses become at least temporarily more alert, perspiration occurs, — all preparing the body to flee or attack. The body responds with panic, a reaction to the fight or flight dilemma. Under continued stress, the second stage begins, — resistance. The body becomes weary and attempts to adjust and adapt to the stress. Despite efforts to adapt, the autonomic system is still working overtime.

If the stress is extended (days, weeks, and months), resistance is further depleted and exhaustion occurs. Energy to continue stress adaptation is depleted. The body gives up, with some resultant damage potentially occurring, — particularly to the heart, kidneys, and stomach. Commonly, psychosomatic disorders occur. These somatic disorders are psychologically mediated physical difficulties, like lethargy, pain, hypertension, headaches, abdominal and gastric distress, and sleep disorders. Feelings of hopelessness and a state of confusion generally accompany the physical symptoms and decision-making deteriorates under intense or prolonged stress.

Extensive replicated research findings have demonstrated these psychosomatic and physiologically damaging consequences may also occur as a result of extended stress from circumstances of childhood trauma. The potential for harmful effects of divorce on children has been widely substantiated. Stress has been documented to alter the brain, cardiovascular systems, immune systems, and hormonal system. For example, it has been discovered that female adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a smaller hippocampus than non-abused women. Stress symptoms that are evident as an adult may be due to occurrences from many years prior, e.g., the long term effects of divorce, such as a fear of intimacy, may occur much later in life, — 10 or 15 years later.

In children, extended stress may result in regression of behaviors, like age inappropriate thumbsucking, excessive clingyness, unexplained crying, bedwetting, and temper tantrums.

Prolonged and unresolved stress may also manifest in displacement, the redirection of impulses (often anger) from the real threat to an innocent and safer person. Often, the redirection is because the threat is too dangerous to confront. This may be the case in an abducted child who redirects his or her anger from the abductor to another person, possibly the abandoned parent for not rescuing and restoring life to the way it had been. Another form of displacement is internal. Instead of displacing hostility to another person, it is turned inward, against oneself. This is not uncommon in depression and suicide.

Extended stress and frustration to resolve the conflict, in an effort to relieve the anxiety, may result in reaction formation, — denial and reversal of feelings. Love becomes hate, or hate becomes love. For example, with a problem between a parent and child, the child may express the anger through exaggeration of affection. In this situation, the child may superficially appear to be closely bonded with the parent who is contributing to the stress; if asked, the child will attest to a strong and loving parent-child relationship.

Yet another stress reaction is identification, — the process of attempting to bond with the person responsible for the stressors and becoming like the abuser to diminish the conflictual anxiety. As an example, some sexual assault victims have been known to identify strongly with offenders, even to the point of developing intimate relationships with incarcerated abusers. In these situations, the victim may emulate and become more and more like the abuser. Identification with and emulation of the offender is particularly true in cases of child sexual assault victims who become adult offenders. In parental child abductions, some children have been known to identify with the abducting parent, to the point of completely rejecting and blaming the abandoned parent, despite evidence absent blame.

Stress also generally interferes with performance, resulting in inhibited learning, poor decision-making, and resulting in restricted development. Intense and prolonged stress, especially in childhood, may create an overreaction to stress, — even years later. Intense reactions to stress and resultant failures become a self perpetuating cycle, creating more stress and more failure. Continued failure breeds the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, which circles back to learned helplessness and giving up.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is more intense than the normal anxiety generally experienced day to day. It’s chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even though time has passed, the circumstance has changed, and there seems to be nothing evident that will continue to provoke anxiety. Having this disorder means anticipating disaster and experiencing excessive concerns about health, money, family, or work. The problems generalize to other situations in life, become self-sustaining, and the original stressors are then difficult to identify.

People suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder cannot seem to control or manage their concerns, even though they may realize their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They seem unable to relax, often have trouble falling or staying asleep, with worries that are accompanied by physical symptoms, like twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, or hot flashes. There may be feelings of being lightheaded, out of breath, nauseated or an urgency to urinate; or, there may be an almost constant feeling of having a lump in the throat. There may be a heightened startle response, lethargy, or difficulty concentrating. If severe, manifestations of Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be very debilitating, making it difficult to carry out even the most ordinary daily activities (DSM-IV, 1994).

Guilt. 

It is difficult for some to understand the guilt felt by a victim, particularly when the victim is a child. Survivors of childhood sexual abuse continue to remind us that they felt guilt — guilt that they may have in some way brought on the abuse, guilt for feeling some sensate pleasure, guilt for destruction of the family constellation when the abuse was discovered, and guilt for legal consequences to the offender.

Literature on divorce is deplete with references to children feeling that they had somehow brought about difficulties between their parents and were responsible for the culminating division of the family. The guilt of abducted children is not dissimilar.

“These children are extremely guilty when they return and are very fearful of the reaction of the other parent. They do not know who to believe, the are bewildered and very fearful. Many children have a sense that the stealing was their fault and that it could have been avoided. They feel to blame for both the stealing and for the divorce. Many of the older children feel very guilty about not having tried to contact the parent victim. These children feel it is not possible to have a relationship with both parents, and they are town between them. It is not uncommon to see total confusion when they are returned, particularly with a sense of being returned to a stranger.” (Huntington, 1982, p. 8)

Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. 

The diagnoses of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder are commonly applied by professionals to victims of abuse situations, such as sexual abuse and child abduction, when the presenting symptoms and applicable conditions apply. According to the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1994), a person suffering from Acute Stress Disorder has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:

1. The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others;
2. The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the individual has three (or more) of the following dissociative symptoms:

1. A subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness;
2. A reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g., “being in a daze”);
3. Derealization;
4. Depersonalization;
5. Dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma).

Like many reactive effects and symptoms discussed in the sections above, this diagnostic category also includes marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor concentration, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, motor restlessness). A victim of abuse may meet the criteria for this diagnosis when the disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning; or, when the disturbance impairs the individual’s ability to pursue some necessary task, such as obtaining necessary assistance or mobilizing personal resources by telling family members about the traumatic experience.

Parental Alienation and the Overburdened Child. 

“Physical kidnapping situations leave children extremely susceptible to indoctrination against a target parent. Often the operating strategy is to frighten the child into believing that the only way to exist is to escape some ambiguous harm that is to be inflicted upon the parent, child or both of them by the target parent” (Clawar & Rivlin, p. 115).

In Children Held Hostage: Dealing With Programmed and Brainwashed Children, Clawar and Rivlin detail signs of abduction victim “maladjustment that go beyond the impact of separation and divorce” (p. 129). The authors delineate these parental child abduction consequences as “specifically related to the effects of brainwashing and programming.” Clawar and Rivlin list 25 resultant manifestations, including anger, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, development of fears and phobias, depression, sleep disorders, and eating disorders.

“Brainwashing” and “programming” are terms used more and more frequently by experts of parental child abduction. These term may initially offend or alienate the reader who is not familiar with Parental Alienation and abduction dynamics. “Brainwashing” and “programming” — or changing a child’s belief systems, — may be intentional, or, it may be the unintentional process of a parent imposing their belief systems on the child through an extended period of inadvertent repetition.

According to Garbarino et al. (1986), psychological maltreatment can be viewed as a pattern of adult behavior which is psychologically destructive to the child, sabotaging the child’s appropriate normal development of self and social competence. To assist with a framework for understanding brainwashing and parental alienation concepts, five types of psychological maltreatment identified by Garbarino et al. were adapted by Rand (1997) to apply to the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS):

1. Rejecting – The child’s legitimate need for a relationship with both parents is rejected. The child has reason to fear rejection and abandonment by the alienating parent if positive feelings are expressed about the other parent and the people and activities associated with that parent.
2. Terrorizing – The child is bullied or verbally assaulted into being terrified of the target parent. The child is psychologically brutalized into fearing contact with the target parent and retribution by the alienating parent for any positive feelings the child might have for the other parent. Psychological abuse of this type may be accompanied by physical abuse.
3. Ignoring – The parent is emotionally unavailable to the child, leading to feelings of neglect and abandonment. Divorced parents may selectively withhold love and attention from the child, a subtler form of rejecting which shapes the child’s behavior.
4. Isolating – The parent isolates the child from normal opportunities for social relations. In PAS, the child is prevented from participating in normal social interactions with the target parent and relatives and friends on that side of the family. In severe PAS, social isolation of the child sometimes extends beyond the target parent to any social contacts which might foster autonomy and independence.
5. Corrupting – The child is missocialized and reinforced by the alienating parent for lying, manipulation, aggression toward others or behavior which is self destructive. In PAS with false allegations of abuse, the child is also corrupted by repeated involvement in discussions of deviant sexuality regarding the target parent or other family and friends associated with that parent. In some cases of severe PAS, the alienating parent trains the child to be an agent of aggression against the target parent, with the child actively participating in deceits and manipulations for the purpose of harassing and persecuting the target parent.
Separation Anxiety and Fear of Abandonment. 

Separation Anxiety and fear of abandonment is noteworthy enough that it deserves mention separate from fear and learned helplessness. While manifestations of this problem may also meet the criteria for Overanxious Disorder of Childhood, in this instance features are more specific to having been removed from and seemingly abandoned by a parent. As mentioned above, the child may have no way of knowing what attempts the abandoned parent may be making for rescue, may believe to have been deserted by that parent, and may have been convinced by the abducting parent that the abandoned parent is deceased or no longer cares about the child.

According to the DSM-IV (1994), Separation Anxiety is manifested by developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety concerning separation from home or from those to whom the individual is attached, as evidenced by three (or more) of the following:

1. Recurrent excessive distress when separation from home or major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated;
2. Persistent and excessive worry about losing, or about possible harm befalling, major attachment figures;
3. Persistent and excessive worry that an untoward event will lead to separation from a major attachment figure (e.g., getting lost or being kidnapped);
4. Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere because of fear of separation;
5. Persistently and excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone or without major attachment figures at home or without significant adults in other settings;
6. Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home;
7. Repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation;
8. Repeated complaints of physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated.

The duration of the disturbance is at least 4 weeks. The onset is before age 18 years. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, academic (occupational), or other important areas of functioning (DSM-IV, 1994).

Even children who have not suffered the trauma of abduction may experience Separation Anxiety and fear of abandonment. The death of a parent, family member, or friend’s parent, as well as extended absences of one parent and other factors normally expected in life may contribute to separation anxiety. That being the case, one can only imagine the degree of Separation Anxiety experienced by a child who believes to have been abandoned by a parent as a consequence of parental abduction circumstances.

Grief. 

Siegelman (1983), an expert on grief, contends that change is upsetting because we are leaving a part of ourselves behind. Any change involves loss of the known and relinquishing of a reality that has contributed to understanding and consistency. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a well respected authority on grief, suggests that the second most intense life stress, second to death, is divorce or loss of a love relationship. “Love relationship” in this sense applies to all familial and close relationships, e.g., husband-wife, parent-child, siblings, etc.

Not only does an abducted child experience the physical distancing and loss of a parent, the child may also be lead to believe the parent is deceased. Parent abductors are frequently known to invent stories about the abandoned parent to silence the frightened child’s questioning. With the death of a parent, generally comes loss of attachment, history, and roots. According to Ross, a sudden, unexpected loss is usually harder to accept than an anticipated loss for which we have had time to prepare, as is the case for a kidnapped child.

Loss and grief experts also agree that the loss of a person on whom we are dependent is difficult to handle, especially if that dependency left us without a life of our own and incompetent to care for ourselves — like that of an abducted child kidnapped from a parent on whom he or she was dependent. Also, the assistance from personal support systems — family and friends — is an important factor in recovering from a loss. Support for such losses are likely to be especially weak when one lives away from family or has few friends, such as the grief-stricken child who was removed from their own support and reality. An abducted child has lost most, if not all support systems.

So, added to the abducted child’s long laundry list of challenges, problems, stressors, and confusions, — is grief. Grief for the absent parent, for a life that no longer exists, for friends and loved ones, and for the certainty and comfort of life as it was.

What has been reported about abducted children? 

According to Greif (1999) in his personal lecture notes on “The Impact of Parental Abduction on Children,” the following have been experienced by “children on the run,” whether they remain within their country of origin or are taken across international borders:

1. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse (the range being from 6% with Finkelhor, to higher with others);
2. Neglect in terms of care, feeding, and psychological nurturing;
3. Specific training in how to be secretive in relation to hiding a sense of self, hiding accomplishments, distrusting authorities, etc.;
4. Being lied to about the searching parent, including being told the searching parent has abandoned the child, doesn’t love the child, or the searching parent is dead;
5. Being moved constantly and denied contact for any significant time with any one other than the abductor – this may include being cut-off from contact with siblings, teachers, friends, grandparents, and other relatives;
6. In addition, and on a more complex level, an abducted child is exposed to a dynamic situation where the child may take on an inappropriate, more adult-like role. In one scenario, the child may become the protector or caretaker of the abductor, if the abductor appears in need of emotional reassurance. In another scenario, the child over-identifies with the abductor in an “us against them” mentality where distrust of authority is the norm. One possible result of either dynamic is that the located child remains with the abductor!

Confirming the discussions above about the impact of child abduction, Greif adds that according to the literature, upon recovery the child may experience:

1. Concerns about safety and reabduction;
2. Guilt and shame;
3. Confusion about his or her identity if there has been a name change;
4. Loyalty conflicts between the searching parent and the abductor with whom the child may have identified;
5. Specific problems like depression, anxiety, anomie, bedwetting, thumb-sucking; and
6. Psychological regression, withdrawal, PTSD-like symptoms, and extreme fright.
Conclusion
“As adults, many victims of bitter custody battles who had been permanently removed from a target parent, whisked away to a new town and given a new identity, still long to be reunited with the lost parent. The loss cannot be undone. Childhood cannot be recaptured. Gone forever is that sense of history, intimacy, lost input of values and morals, self-awareness through knowing one’s beginnings, love, contact with extended family, and much more. Virtually no child possesses the ability to protect him- or herself against such an undignified and total loss” (Clawar & Rivlin, p. 105).

Published by: ABP World Group Ltd. Child Recovery Services

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International Child Abduction – A Guide to the Basic Law


By:Tre Critelli

As the world continues to get smaller and international travel more common, areas of the law once thought to be of primarily local jurisdiction are now turning out to have international complications. Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of family law.

Marriages between citizens of differing countries can be extremely beneficial and worthwhile, but when they break down the fight over child custody and visitation can quickly become quite complex. Simply serving a legal notice of a lawsuit on a party residing in a different country can be difficult and at times expensive. Often it requires familiarity with the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters, something few attorneys have any experience with. Further complications develop when one spouse decides to take matters into their own hands and simply disappears with the child, returning to their homeland.

In order to provide a remedy for such “abductions,” the international community came up with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This Convention aims to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State (i.e. country) of their habitual residence. As of this date, some 55 countries are signatories to the Convention. Some of these countries, however, are more than reluctant to comply with the terms of the Convention despite the fact that they have signed it.

Utilization of the Convention is fairly straightforward. Each country that has signed the Convention has a Central Authority to which an aggrieved parent may apply for assistance. An aggrieved parent is one whose child has been taken. That Central Authority will contact the Central Authority of the country to which the child has been taken. An attempt will then be made to locate the child and obtain a voluntary return. In the event that the parent refuses to return the child, a lawsuit is brought on behalf of the aggrieved parent to compel the return of the child.

As an example, if a child was taken from her residence in the state of Iowa and brought to London, England by her mother, the child’s father would contact the U.S. Central Authority, the U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues. They would assist the father in completing a Petition for Return of Child which would be filed with the Central Authority of England and Wales, the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit. The authorities in England would attempt to get the mother to return to Iowa with the child. If they were unsuccessful, then the father would bring a lawsuit against the mother in the English court system. The same process would be used if the child was resident in London, England and was wrongfully brought to the State of Iowa by her father: the mother would contact the Central Authority in London which would in turn contact the Central Authority in the United States. If unsuccessful, she would file a lawsuit in the US court where the child was located.

Once a lawsuit is filed, in order to win a case of wrongful removal or retention under the Hague Convention, the aggrieved parent must show that:

(1) the child was “habitually resident” in the country before being removed;

(2) the child’s removal was in breach of the “rights of custody” of “a person, an institution or any other body;” and

(3) that those rights “were actually exercised at the time of removal or would have been so exercised in the absence of his removal.” See Hague Convention, Art. 3.

As one would expect, there has been a significant amount of jurisprudence (legal theory) develop as it concerns the above terms. Courts have concluded that the term “habitually resident” refers to a child’s customary residence prior to his or her removal but focuses not upon a child’s domicile or legal residence but rather where the child physically lived for an amount of time sufficient for acclimatization and which has a degree of settled purpose from the child’s perspective. In other words, where the child likely considered its home.

“Rights of custody,”” meanwhile, include rights relating to the care of the person of the child and, in particular, the right to determine the child’s place of residence. These rights may arise by operation of law or by reason of a judicial or administrative decision, or by reason of an agreement having legal effect under the law of that State.

After the aggrieved parent has shown the court that the child was wrongfully abducted, the burden shifts to the opposing parent to show by clear and convincing evidence why the child should not be returned. Under the Convention, it is an affirmative defense if:

(1) the person seeking return of the child consented to or subsequently acquiesced in the removal or retention;

(2) the proceeding was commenced more than one year after the removal of the child;

(3) the children have become well-settled in their new environment; and

(4) there is a grave risk that the return of the children would expose them to physical or psychological harm.

Court decisions on this matter are quite clear that acquiescence under the Convention requires either an act or statement with the requisite formality, such as testimony in a judicial proceeding; a convincing written enunciation of rights; or a consistent attitude of acquiescence over a significant period of time. Acquiescence has been held to be a question of subjective intent. Many lawsuits in international child abduction matters focus upon whether or not one of the parents agreed or consented to the removal of the child.

Parents should be aware of the “one year” defense. Commencement of proceedings, as used in Article 12 of the Convention, means the filing of a civil petition for relief in any court which has jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed. Once the location of the child is known, the clock starts to run. However, Article 12 goes on to state that “even where the proceedings have been commenced after the expiration of the period of one year…, [the court] shall also order return of the child, unless it is demonstrated that the child is now settled it its new environment.” Hague Convention, Article 12. As for this “well settled” exception, it should be noted that the court retains the discretion to order the children returned even if an exception applies. Nor is a court obligated to take into account the child’s wishes.

Finally, Article 13(b) of the Hague Convention allows a court to deny return of a child to the country of habitual residence if “there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.” Generally speaking, such a risk arises in two situations: (1) imminent danger such as war, famine, or disease; or (2) when there is likely to be serious abuse or neglect and the court in the country of habitual residence, for whatever reason, may be incapable or unwilling to give the child adequate protection. As a parent, you will be expected to provide compelling evidence that the child will in all likelihood be in danger if returned.

As should be no surprise, international child abduction matters are extremely complex, both in legal substance and procedure. In the unfortunate event that your child has been abducted, you should contact an attorney experienced in the area of international child abduction immediately. Time is of the essence, and a quick response can often be the difference between a voluntary return of the child and a long, expensive court battle in a foreign country.

For additional information concerning International Child Abduction, please see the U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues: http://www.travel.state.gov/abduction/abduction_580.html

For assistance in locating qualified lawyers, please see http://www.critellilaw.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Tre_Critelli

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Morocco – Norway International Child Abduction Inter-Governmental Battle


There are reports from Norway of an international re-abduction case involving the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian Embassy in Morocco and Special Forces officers of the Norwegian Navy. The case has led to an international crisis between Morocco and Norway.

Morocco is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri has asked that diplomats at the Norwegian embassy in Rabat be questioned and prosecuted, in connection with their alleged role in the Skah child custody case.

– Norway has broken diplomatic protocol, ethical guidelines and damaged the friendship between our two countries, the Moroccan Foreign Minister said at a press briefing Wednesday. He went on to say that Morocco was far from satisfied with Norway’s handling of the case, in which a Norwegian woman smuggled her two children out of Morocco.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre maintains that neither the embassy nor his department were involved in the flight, and that he therefore can see no reason for punishing anyone. 

___________

A heated dispute has arisen in Norwegian media, following reports that two special forces officers assisted a Norwegian woman in bringing her two children back to Norway, following a custody dispute with her Moroccan former husband. The two children reportedly escaped from their father’s apartment and sought refuge at the Norwegian Embassy in Rabat last July.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry say they regarded it as a “crisis situation” and allowed the children into the embassy. Three days later an embassy official drove the children to an agreed address where the children were turned over to a person representing the mother. The children and their mother were then smuggled out of Morocco on a small sailing boat.

Defence Minister Grete Faremo confirms that two officers from the Norwegian Navy’s special forces were involved in sailing the boat when the mother and children were brought out, but that the two were on vacation at the time. However, Faremo says it is unacceptable for Defence personnel to participate in “such an operation”, even on their time off. The opposition in Parliament (Storting) have callled for a full investigation into the case.

The children’s mother had for several years sought help from the embassy, and claims that Norwegian officials earlier had not met her appeals to help her ensure enforcement of a Norwegian court order which had granted her custody of the children. There are also reports that embassy personnel and Norway’s ambassador to Morocco had been threatened by the children’s father.

Posted by Jeremy Morley
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Expert: Parental abduction never in child’s best interest


An Ontario expert familiar with parental abduction cases speaks about how children are emotionally damaged by these incidents and relates two stories of children who were found in Toronto.

Terry Smith, Program Administration for Child Find Ontario, discussed the last side effects on children who have been abducted by a parent during a phone interview. She stressed first and foremost that parental abduction is a crime. “In almost all cases a child is not abducted for the good of the child. Those cases are extremely rare. We have systems in place for when a child is in danger from another parent. Taking the law into your own hands is never the right way to go.” Smith said that for the most part parents who may not get along still do a wonderful job of co-parenting because they put the best interest of their children above all else.
Sometimes there are issues that need to be addressed which are by use of the systems that are in place. There may be reasons that the courts limit visitations for instance that a parent wants to change. By using the court system parents can work to give their children their best. “Parents may not always like the answers but the systems are managed by people who are without an emotional stake allowing them to work for what is in the best interest of the child. The system works. In the rare cases that it doesn’t work parents need to challenge the system. Instead of abducting a child a good parent will come up with an idea to make the system work better. By and large co-parenting even without liking the former spouse is being done wonderfully every day.” It’s when a parent oversteps those systems, taking off with their child that everything falls apart.
Abducting ones own child is a crime. Still the public, media and even some law authorities view parental abduction as a ‘soft crime’ placing the bigger fears with stranger abductions. It is not often stressed the seriousness of parental abduction. The scars left on the child in these cases are not visible so they tend to be overlooked. “When found kids can do wonderfully when they are helped. The children need to have support though in order to thrive and realize that they are not at fault.” While most parental abductions do not end violently some do.
Changing the public’s perspective of parental abduction is needed in order for more of these children to be found more quickly. The longer a child is on the run the more emotional damage there is and the longer it takes for the child to become a ‘real kid’ again when they are found. “When one person jumps out of line is when it goes wrong. When they feel that they are above the law their kids will suffer. Parental abduction has serious side effects on the children. Trust, identity, living a lie, everything they knew of their life is gone, having to choose one parent over another-these add up on the overall toll to the child.” When a parent makes the decision to abduct their child they tend to not be considering their child’s best interest but rather their own. Being pulled away from the world a child knows has lasting effects. Kids who have been found and reunited with their other parent have said that they felt alone and isolated, betrayed by their parents and most damaging of all felt that they were in some way responsible for their parents actions.
The Victims of Violence website states that the child victim is often depressed, has a loss of community and stability, anger, loneliness, helplessness and a fear of abandonment. Some of the children have experienced Reactive Attachment Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Overanxious Disorder, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Disruptive Behaviour Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, eating disorders, learning disorders, regression and elimination disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of their time on the run. Smith said that these children have to deal with a huge internal tug of war. While there are few cases in Canada where children taken in parental abductions have been murdered there are a few.
One case that Smith related dealt with a man who was angry at his ex and took their daughter in Toronto. He had threatened to kill both himself and the child. The man threw the girl off an overpass and then jumped. The child survived, the father did not. Regardless when a parent is abducting their child they are “not running on all cylinders” Smith said. Smith said that when children are found they can thrive. She related two stories about children who were found that live in the Greater Toronto Area. “One little boy that has been taken when he was four spent four years on the run. He had never been to school or a doctor. Today he is thriving. His father made sure that he had the help and support he needed to go on.” Smith continued, “Another girl had been found after thirteen years. When a child has been missing for such a long period of time they are really strangers to their parents and visa versa. While there were many adjustments that had to be made she is doing okay today.” There is one time that it is wise to take your child and ‘run.’ If you are in an abusive relationship going to a shelter is the safe thing to do. This is legal and in the best interest of both you and your child. This is not parental abduction.
This is a safety issue. Go through the proper legal systems. If you are in danger then get help. Go to a shelter or contact the police. If you don’t think the police will be of help then tell someone like your doctor, your child’s teacher or a school employee about your situation. Above all learn your legal rights.”

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/297019#ixzz13ZGpnROw

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Resolution Condemning Japan for International Child Abduction


111th CONGRESS, 2d Session, H. RES. 1326

Calling on the Government of Japan to immediately address the growing problem of abduction to and retention of United States citizen minor children in Japan, to work closely with the Government of the United States to return these children to their custodial parent or to the original jurisdiction for a custody determination in the United States, to provide left-behind parents immediate access to their children, and to adopt without delay the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

RESOLUTION

Calling on the Government of Japan to immediately address the growing problem of abduction to and retention of United States citizen minor children in Japan, to work closely with the Government of the United States to return these children to their custodial parent or to the original jurisdiction for a custody determination in the United States, to provide left-behind parents immediate access to their children, and to adopt without delay the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Whereas Japan is an important partner with the United States and shares interests in the areas of economy, defense, the promotion of global peace and prosperity, and the mutual protection of the human rights of the two nations’ respective citizens in the increasingly integrated global society;

Whereas the Government of Japan acceded to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states under Article 16 (1), `Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution’, and Article 16 (3), `The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’;

Whereas the Government of Japan acceded in 1979 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that states `States Parties to the present Covenant shall take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. In the case of dissolution, provision shall be made for the necessary protection of any children [Article 23]’;

Whereas according to Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 44,701 marriages between a Japanese national and a foreigner were registered in Japan in 2006, and 17,102 divorces were registered in Japan in 2006 between a Japanese national and foreigner;

Whereas since 1994 the Office of Children’s Issues (OCI) at the United States Department of State had opened 194 cases involving 269 United States citizen minor children abducted to or wrongfully retained in Japan, and as of March 25, 2010, OCI had 85 open cases involving 121 United States citizen minor children abducted to or wrongfully retained in Japan;

Whereas since the signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan (San Francisco Treaty) between the Allied Powers and the Government of Japan in 1951, the Japanese Government has never issued and enforced a legal decision to return a single abducted child to the United States;

Whereas Japan has not acceded to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Convention), resulting in the continued absence of an immediate civil remedy that as a matter of urgency would enable the expedited return of abducted children to their custodial parent in the United States where appropriate, or otherwise immediately allow access to their United States parent;

Whereas the Government of Japan is the only G-7 country that has not acceded to the Hague Convention;

Whereas the Hague Convention would not apply to abductions occurring before the accession of Japan to the Hague Convention, requiring, therefore, that Japan create a separate parallel process to resolve the abductions of all United States citizen minor children who currently remain wrongfully removed to or retained in Japan, including the 121 United States citizen minor children who have been reported to the United States Department of State and who are being held in Japan against the wishes of their parent in the United States and, in many cases, in direct violation of a valid United States court order;

Whereas the Hague Convention provides enumerated defenses designed to provide protection to children alleged to be subjected to physical or psychological abuse in the left-behind country;

Whereas United States laws against domestic violence extend protection and redress to Japanese spouses;

Whereas there are numerous acknowledged cases, such as the Jade and Michael Elias case, of Japanese consulates located within the United States issuing or reissuing travel documents of dual-national minor children in violation of United States court orders restricting travel and in violation of United States Federal criminal parental kidnapping statutes;

Whereas there are numerous cases in which the actions of the Government of Japan evidence a disregard of United States law and jurisdiction, other cases show indifference to the United States and customary international jurisprudence in the area of family law, which overwhelmingly reflects the worldwide preference for the resolution of parenting disputes by negotiated joint custody;

Whereas Japan’s existing family law system does not recognize joint custody nor actively enforce parental access agreements for either its own nationals or foreigners, there is little hope for minor children to have contact with the noncustodial parent in violation of internationally recognized and protected rights;

Whereas there exists no due process within the Japanese family court system for the redress of such disputes, and the existing system has no recognized process to enforce a custody or parental access order from outside of Japan or within it, without the voluntary cooperation of the abducting parent or guardian;

Whereas the Government of Japan has repeatedly claimed to foreign governments that parental child abduction is not considered a crime in Japan despite the fact that Article 3 of the Japanese Penal Code does indeed make it a crime for a Japanese citizen to abduct a child and move the child across national borders, even if the child is moved to Japan;

Whereas the Government of Japan has refused to prosecute an abducting parent or relative criminally when that parent or relative abducts the child into Japan;

Whereas according to the United States Department of State’s April 2008 Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, abducted children are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems and have been found to experience anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, resentment, guilt, and fearfulness, and as adults may struggle with identity issues, their own personal relationships, and parenting;

Whereas left-behind parents may encounter substantial psychological, emotional, and financial problems, and many may not have the financial resources to pursue civil or criminal remedies for the return of their children in foreign courts or political systems;

Whereas Erika Toland was abducted in 2003 from Negishi United States Navy Family housing in Yokohama to Tokyo, Japan, by her now deceased mother and is being held by her Japanese maternal grandmother, while being denied access to her father since 2004;

Whereas Melissa Braden was covertly abducted from her home in 2006 by her mother to Japan in violation of previous Los Angeles Superior Court orders giving both parents access to the child and prohibiting international travel (travel to Japan) with the child by either parent and has since been denied any contact with her father;

Whereas Kai Hachiya was abducted in 2006 to Japan by his father, who had been found by a court of competent jurisdiction to have physically and mentally abused Kai’s mother who had been awarded sole custody in the State of Hawaii, and as a result, Kai has had limited contact with his mother;

Whereas Isaac and Rebecca Savoie were abducted in 2009 to Japan by their mother in violation of a Tennessee State court order of joint custody and Tennessee statutes, and have been denied any access or communication with their father, despite their father having been awarded sole custody of them by a United States court;

Whereas Karina Garcia was abducted to Japan in 2008 by her mother, who was ordered by the United States courts to return Karina to the care of her sole custodian father in the United States, but the order to return of the child has not been granted even though the sole custody order had been recognized by the Osaka High Court;

Whereas United States citizen minor children who have been abducted to Japan are being deprived of their United States heritage;

Whereas, on October 16, 2009, the Ambassadors to Japan of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, all parties to the Hague Convention, called upon Japan to accede to the Hague Convention and meanwhile to identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to establish contact with them and to visit them;

Whereas, on January 30, 2010, the Ambassadors to Japan of Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Charges d’Affaires ad interim of Canada and Spain, and the Deputy Head of Mission of Italy, called on Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, submitted their concerns over the increase in international parental abduction cases involving Japan and affecting their nationals, and again urged Japan to sign the Hague Convention;

Whereas the Governments of the United States and the French Republic have recently established bilateral commissions with Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to share information on and seek resolution of outstanding Japanese parental child abduction cases;

Whereas the bilateral commission is limited by the fact that it does not currently include Japan’s Ministry of Justice, which has jurisdiction over family law;

Whereas Japan’s Justice Minister Keiko Chiba said upon her appointment that she is determined to show that Japan `is very proactive’ in adopting international protocols and conventions that are the `international standard’; and

Whereas it is critical for the Governments of the United States and Japan to work together to prevent future incidents of international parental child abduction to Japan, which damages children, families, and Japan’s national image with the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That–

(1) the House of Representatives–

(A) condemns the abduction and retention of all minor children being held in Japan away from their United States parents in violation of their human rights and United States and international law;

(B) calls on the Government of Japan to immediately facilitate the resolution of all abduction cases, to recognize United States court orders governing persons subject to jurisdiction in a United States court, and to make immediately possible access and communication for all children with their left-behind parents;

(C) calls on the Government of Japan to include Japan’s Ministry of Justice in work with the Government of the United States to facilitate the identification and location of all United States minor citizen children alleged to have been wrongfully removed to or retained in Japan and for the immediate establishment of a protocol for the resolution of existing cases of abduction, interference with parental access to children, and violations of United States court orders;

(D) calls on the Government of Japan to establish immediately a protocol and timetable to amend its Civil Code to allow for enforceable rights of parental access and communication between minor children and their divorced or separated parents including parents who are not Japanese citizens;

(E) calls on the Government of Japan to review and amend its consular procedures to ensure that travel documents for minor children are not issued in violation of United States court orders;

(F) calls on Japan to accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction without delay and to promptly establish judicial and enforcement procedures to facilitate credibly the immediate return of children to their habitual residence and to establish protocols for the organization of rights of international parental access; and

(G) calls on the President of the United States and the Secretary of State to seek immediately to identify credibly all United States citizen minor children who have been wrongfully removed to and who are retained currently in Japan and to raise the issue of abduction and wrongful retention of those United States citizen minor children in Japan with Japanese officials and domestic and international press; and

(2) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should–

(A) recognize the issue of child abduction to and retention of United States citizen minor children in Japan as a central foreign policy issue of paramount importance to the United States within the context of its bilateral relationship with Japan;

(B) work with the Government of Japan to enact consular procedures and legal agreements to prevent parental abduction to and retention of United States citizen minor children in Japan;

(C) encourage the Government of Japan to adopt the policy of not issuing duplicate passports when a United States judge has restricted a child’s travel or ordered the surrender of passports and to otherwise require notarized signatures from both parents before issuing a passport to a child;
(D) review its advisory services made available to United States citizens from the Department of State, the Department of Justice, and other government agencies to ensure that effective and timely assistance is given to United States citizens in preventing the incidence of wrongful retention or removal of minor children and acting to obtain the expeditious return of their children from Japan;
(E) review its advisory services made available to members of the United States Armed Forces, particularly those stationed in Japan by the Department of Defense and the United States Armed Forces, to ensure that effective and timely assistance is given to them, including providing legal assistance in preventing the incidence of wrongful retention or removal of minor children and acting to obtain the expeditious return of their dependent children from Japan at the conclusion of their tour of duty in Japan;
(F) call upon the Secretary of Defense to include the issues of child abduction and the protection of members of the United States Armed Forces and their families stationed abroad in any current or future status of forces agreement;
(G) call upon the Secretary of State to enact immediately a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Japan to establish a bilateral protocol with procedures to address immediately any parental child abduction or access issue reported to the United States Department of State; and

(H) urge the Department of State to include international child abduction and Japan’s actions regarding abductions as a human rights violation under its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Japan: The Black Hole of International Parental Child Abduction


 

Chasing Parents from all over the United States who have their children criminally abducted and detained in Japan have joined together under the banner of ‘Bring Abducted Children Home’ (www.bachome.org/events.htm) , in an effort to raise the public’s awareness on the growing cruelty directed at defenseless, innocent U.S. children-citizens victimized by the act of international parental child abduction. The group, which consists of nearly 50 Chasing Parents and their supporters have descended on Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers and government officials in order to press for the return of their children, while also intending several formal protests and awareness campaigns in order to educate the scores of visitors celebrating Japan’s culture.

The timing of their rally could not be better: this week, Washington celebrates the Cherry Blossom Festival, where over a million visitors are expected to visit the nation’s Capitol. One of these visitors expected to visit is Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Japan has never returned a child that has been internationally parentally kidnapped and illegally detained in their country in accordance to the laws of the child’s nation of habitual residency. According to various reports, it is estimated that there are over 1,300 children who had been criminally abducted from a foreign country and presently criminally detained in Japan. In addition, in the last decade alone there were 167 child abduction cases in Japan reported to the State Department involving 230 children. This, despite an assortment of U.S. court orders and demands for these children to be returned home.

Zero abducted children returned from Japan equates to this country becoming known as the ‘Black Hole of Abduction’, and a ‘Safe Harbor’ for parental child kidnappers.

Sadly, most American citizens and for that matter, most citizens of developed and progressive-leaning countries have no idea that Japan is a safe-harbor for child abductors, none of whom face prosecution or extradition in Japan. And why would the public not know this? Isn’t Japan one of the United States’ strongest strategic partners and allies? On the surface, the answer to this question is ‘yes’. But how can a strategic partner allow for criminally abducted children to remain in their country and under the guidance and care no less, of the abducting parent?

Culturally, Japan’s courts allow for only one parent to have access and custody of a child during divorce proceedings. Tragically for the child and the child not selected to be with their own child by the court, contact and communication is frowned upon and not approved. This approach is far different than the West, where research and common sense demonstrate that a child is best served by knowing the love of both parents.

For example, the case of Navy Commander Paul Toland and his daughter Erika’s plight provides one microcosm that there is more to Japan’s refusal to comply than what is commonly referred to as ‘cultural differences in law’. In Commander Toland’s case, his daughter Erika was abducted by the child’s US Citizen mother while he was assigned in Japan on military duty. Shortly after, the mother died, and the grandmother took possession of Erika where she remains until this day, held captive in a country that has never returned a child. The US State Department tried to intervene and asked to visit Erika to check on her welfare and well-being, but the grandmother denied their request. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked to visit Erika to check on her welfare and well-being, but again, the grandmother denied their request. In the Japanese system, where no enforcement mechanisms exist and compliance is completely voluntary, all any government agency can say is “We’re sorry, we tried.” Nobody can offer any remedies or solutions, because none exist. Commander Toland, who is Erika’s sole legal custodian under Maryland State Law, remains with absolutely no access to his daughter. Erika has been gone now for nearly seven years. Her father Paul loves her with all of his heart.

Commander Toland commented, “I never dreamed that serving my country overseas in one of our allied nations would result in the loss of my only child. Japan is supposedly an ally of the United States, so why does the United States continue to tolerate this behavior from Japan? How can a nation that we call an ally be guilty of such despicable human rights violations and get away with it? Our children are all we have, and every civilized society has the responsibility to ensure that their most vulnerable citizens, their children, have the opportunity to know and love their parents..”

In another case that cuts through the chatter of cultural issues is the case of Captain William Lake. In Captain Lake’s case, his former spouse, who is not a Japanese citizen, abducted his daughter Mary Victoria to Japan despite an array of court orders. The abducting parent has no national ties to Japan; however, for nearly five years Japan has provided a safe harbor for the abducting parent despite having no connection to Japan. Mary Victoria will be 13 this Sunday. Her father William loves her greatly.

Christopher Savoie, who drew international media attention to the Japanese government’s complicity with child kidnappers when he was wrongfully detained by Japanese police last year while attempting to retrieve his two kidnapped children stated, “I am glad that the tide is turning and that this extremely shameful aspect of Japanese culture is being exposed for what it is. People are starting to realize all of the previously closely guarded dirty secrets of Japanese society such as the popularity and legality in Japan of child pornography, legal “consensual” sex with 13 year-old children, cover-ups about killer vehicles, the ruthless killing of dolphins and the most disgusting secret of all– that Japan officially and shamelessly supports and even assists in the kidnapping of innocent kids from countries that are supposedly their ‘allies’.”

Read more here: http://bignews.biz/?id=858756&pg=3&keys=Child-Japan-abduction-Parental

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

 

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International Parental Child Abduction: A Silent Epidemic of Kidnapping


Written By: Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Ann Vlk

It is believed that United States children-citizens are being criminally abducted, illegally removed overseas, and wrongfully detained in foreign countries in shocking and seemingly advancing and unprecedented numbers. This despite U.S. court orders prohibiting their removal and/or demanding for their immediate return.

Remarkably, the necessary data required to accurately measure the total number of international parental child abductions (IPCA) does not exist due to the inability to measure what is believed to be a large number of ‘unreported’ cases, which is discussed in this report later on. Therefore due to the inability to measure ‘unreported’ cases, much of what has been previously reported in government and reputable organizations’ studies or statements should be considered as speculation due in part to the inability to measure ‘unreported’ cases, as well as forecasted numbers derived from immeasurable and highly questionable determining methodologies. The only measureable statistics are the number of cases reported to law enforcement and to The Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI).

The content of this report includes statistics from the most current published annual report   dated April of 2009 and titled the Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The 2010 annual compliance report is expected to be delivered to Congress in the coming days and will be publically available in the near future; however, we anticipate that the current trends previously seen with respect to the increase in international parental child abductions will remain.

Carolyn Ann Vlk, the writer of Florida’s Child Abduction Prevention Act, explains, ”In response to a mandate of the 1984 Missing Children Act, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJPD) publishes periodic studies titled the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART). The NISMART publications are meant to identify the numbers of children who are reported missing and the number of children recovered in a particular year. These bulletins consist of comprehensive studies with an emphasis on examining trends in the incidence of missing children.”

The NISMART I study (utilizing data from 1988 and published in 1990) reported that there were an estimated 354,100 family abductions annually. In order to derive data for that study in regards to the number of children that are victims of a family abduction each year a household telephone survey was conducted. The survey included a total of 10,367 interviews with adult caretakers. The Population Estimates Program of the Population Division U.S. Census Bureau estimated the U.S. population at 244,498,982 in 1988. To clarify, a sampling of telephone interviews from 0.0000413% of the U.S. population was utilized to provide the statistical data that is widely accepted as being an accurate accounting of the numbers of annual family abductions.

The NISMART – 2 study, which utilized data from 1999 and was published in 2002, reported that there were 203,900 family abductions annually. This study also utilized a household telephone survey and completed interviews with 16,111 adult caretakers. Additionally, this study surveyed 5,015 youth ages 10-18 who lived in the sample households. During the study year the estimated U.S. population was 272,690,813, thus reflecting completed interviews of 0.000059% of the U.S. adult population.  Once again, a small fraction of the U.S. population was interviewed as the only method of determining the annual numbers of family abductions. Critically, and troublesome is the fact that the NISMART studies did not derive any of the data relating to family abductions from law enforcement or other governmental agencies. Data was entirely compiled from random computer-assisted telephone interviewing methodology. Neither study conducted a second survey.

Now consider that an assortment of generally accepted reports or statements from leading authorities including The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). On April 22, 2002 NCMEC stated in a press release the following, “In an effort to educate the public and to provide more services to victims, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has released a new publication entitled Family Abduction: Prevention and Response and has recently formed a group for adults who were victims of family abduction as children.  A commonly misunderstood and complex issue, best estimates indicate that there are 354,000 domestic and 16,000 international family abductions per year.”

We are unable to ascertain where NCMEC determined their 16,000 international child abductions per year. What we do know is that according to the Department of State, in several of their published statements, that there were approximately 16,000 international parental child abductions over a two-decade long period. What these inconsistencies demonstrate is a lack of data. Unknown is whether the NCMEC statement included an estimate of ‘unreported’ cases or perhaps was an error as the same ‘16,000’ yearly number is identical to the Department of State’s ’16,000’ two decade number.

Peter Thomas Senese is the author of the upcoming book titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ which critics have praised as an extraordinary story on international parental child abduction, love, and parenting. He stated, “Criminal parental cross-border abduction appears to be increasing in the United States and abroad at significant rates despite the fact that there is not enough accurate data required to establish growth trends in cross-border abductions. The rise of abduction in our country as well as that seen in other nations indicates that we have a global pandemic on our hands. And as more children from different nations are stolen and not returned, including our own children, citizens will inevitably voice their growing anger over the fact that their nation’s children-citizens have been abducted.  The stealing of children across international borders can, and very well will inevitably create grave challenges for all nations who sit at the world’s political and economic tables.”

This report will unequivocally demonstrate that new, carefully constructed research initiated by our government is immediately needed, and that the number of international parental child abductions is increasing despite efforts to stop this terrible act directed at our children-citizens.

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.”

This fact is evidenced by the statistical data contained within the 2009 report. Utilizing data that was collected during the period from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008 the report reflects that of the 1,082 new cases were reported involving 1,615 children. During the study year the U.S. was only successful in the return of 361 children. However, it is important to note that as time passes, it becomes substantially more difficult to recover an abducted child.

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 only 361 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 (IPKCA). 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.

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.

“I’m the only living parent to my daughter Erika,” said U.S. Navy Commander Paul Toland, whose daughter Erika was abducted to Japan seven years ago, “my wife died and my daughter was subsequently kidnapped by her grandmother, yet I have absolutely no access to her. Both the State Department and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs have asked to visit my daughter to check on her welfare, but the abductor said no. In the Japanese system, where no enforcement mechanisms exist and compliance is completely voluntary, all any government agency can say to me is ‘We’re sorry, we tried’. Nobody can offer any remedies or solutions, because none exist.”

At the time of Commander Toland’s child’s abduction, OCI did not include his case as an officially reported case since at the time, Commander Paul Toland, father of Ericka, was on active duty serving his country, and military personal cases were not counted as ‘reported’ cases. This has recently changed.

Welcome to the absurd world of international parental child abduction. The bizarreness of Commander Toland and his daughter’s dire odyssey into the world of the incomprehensible is the norm experienced by many chasing parents and their children, not the oddity.

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.

According to statements issued by the Department of State, reported cases of international parental child abduction increased by 40% from 2007 to 2009, which appears to be similar to what other Hague Convention signatory nations have experienced. This represents a mean increase of 20% per year. The report for 2009 to 2010 will be issued on April 28th, 2010; however, the expected percentage increase in abductions is anticipated to be equivalent to, if not higher than the increases demonstrated during 2007-2009.

What is not known is whether the increase in ‘reported’ cases to the Department of State’s OCI is due to greater public awareness and proactivity amongst targeted parents, an actual increase in the number of international abductions, the extensive outreach made by OCI to let targeted parents know that OCI exists and can assist a Chasing Parent, or all of the above.

Peter Thomas Senese, who turned to OCI during his child’s abduction commented, “There never is a day that goes by that I am not appreciative and thankful for the assistance that was extended to me and my family by the Office of Children’s Issues during the time I was chasing the cyclones of international parental child abduction.  Unquestionably, it was through the assistance of some of the extraordinary, caring and concerned individuals from OCI who intervened on behalf of my child’s case that today my son lives a happy, peaceful, and secure existence. OCI had a giant impact on my case, and for the rest of my life, I will be forever thankful to some of that organization.”

The increase in reported cases by the Department of State only demonstrates abduction cases that are actually ‘reported’. Unfortunately, it is believed that many abduction cases are not reported due to multiple reasons. This includes fear from immigrant aliens living in the United States with either documented or undocumented status that they may be deported if they file a Hague Application with OCI seeking for the return of their abducted child. In these cases, OCI will always accept a request for assistance regardless if the parent is here legally or not since The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction does not say anything about citizenship status. And it has been OCI’s policy to never report an undocumented alien to the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Now consider the data contained in the most current Hague Compliance report indicating that the mean growth rate experienced between 2007-2009 was approximately 40% (an average of 20%).  If the rate continues at a mean of 20% over the next ten years and we factor in the 2009 reported case numbers, this forecasts that our nation will have at least 9,647 of our children-citizens criminally abducted overseas in the year 2020, and from 2008 through 2020, 52,466 of our nation’s children will have been internationally abducted.

Our position is that due to the existence of what we believe to be a significant and substantial number of ‘unreported’ cases combined with population growth and increases in documented and undocumented immigration migration, the rate of children abducted internationally will continue to rise at a rate of at least, if not substantially greater than 20% annually unless significant abduction prevention steps are immediately implemented.

Combining the projected increases of ‘reported’ cases with the immeasurable ‘unreported’ cases that is apparent and real based upon immigration migration and economic factors, it is reasonable to state that America and our children are facing a serious problem.

The absurdity of this all is so terrifying that you might be inclined and desirous to dismiss it, particularly when we consider the immeasurable number of cases presently classified as ‘unreported’ that may shift to the ‘reported’ category due to public awareness combined with OCI’s outreach efforts.

It is important to note that none of these figures include the large number of children who have previously been internationally abducted and presently remain illegally detained overseas.

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.

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 last week and is highly anticipated to become law within the coming days. 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.”

One of the great concerns is the determining the actual number of annual child abductions. In the 2009 report approximately 1,082 outgoing cases were reported to OCI. However, we must also consider the number of cases that are unreported. This leads to several obvious questions including how accurate is the data that was compiled in the NISMART publications. Particularly when we consider the study was generated, concluded, and widely disseminated based upon completed adult surveys of approximately 10,367 households in 1988 and 16,111 in 1999. We must also ask ourselves why there appears to be a large number of unreported abduction cases? And why is the data so old and outdated, and how could our government allow for this to happen? Budget constraints aside, we’re talking about out nation’s children, aren’t we? Undeniably, we need to know what the real numbers are. And finally, what can OCI do to further assist targeted parents and their children who have not reported their cases?

In order to answer these questions, we must first look at the shift in our country’s population, and heavily weigh who we are – as a nation of immigrants.

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.”

David Bokel of Lynchburg, Virginia was a targeted parent of international parental child abduction. On December 24th, 2003 his young daughter was parentally abducted and planned to be criminally removed from the country. Fortunately, Mr. Bokel was able to find and safely bring home his child. He commented, “International parental abduction, a form of child abuse, is seriously on the rise.  The laws in our country realistically permit an abducting parent who intends to carry out their planned kidnapping to essentially do so.  There are very few laws in place that prevent child abduction, and those that are in place are not enforced.  Immigrants who kidnap children should be removed from the country.  My daughter’s abductor, after receiving a two-year federal prison sentence for her crimes, received her green card so she can legally stay in the United States.”

The Office of Children’s Issues at 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.

Peter Thomas Senese, who produced and narrated the important documentary film on international parental child abduction titled, Chasing Parents: Racing Into the Storms of International Parental Child Abduction added, “One child criminally abducted and illegally detained overseas is one child too many. However, we are not referring to one child. We are referring to hundreds of thousands of our nation’s child-citizens who are at risk of abduction.

“Unfortunately, due to outdated data and research, we really do not know how large of a problem we have on our hands, but I suspect it is much greater than we know or want to accept. One thing that is common amongst the vast majority of Chasing Parents is that none of us expected to have our child or children stolen. It realistically can happen to a very large portion of our population. I hope that all concerned citizens will contact their Senators and Representatives and urge them to support and sign the International Child Abduction Prevention Act known in Washington as HR3240. This bill is critical. And I want to repeat that most targeted parents who had their child criminally abducted never saw it coming. Due to the demographic composition of our nation, few parents and their children are immune to this threatening plague.”

Carolyn Ann Vlk concluded early on in my child abduction prevention advocacy I was asked, “Where is the public outcry?”  My response at that time was that if you are a parent attempting to prevent your child from a criminal abduction you are focused on that issue.  If tragically your child has already been abducted, then you are devastated and grieving.  I am happy to report that through my volunteerism in this area, I have had the great honor of getting to know some extraordinary parents.  The days of quiet acceptance of this crime are over.  Parents are uniting together all over the U.S. to ensure that their voices are finally heard and demanding that their children no longer be marginalized and that they be protected.  Preventative laws can and will help curb the unacceptable numbers of abductions from occurring. My heart breaks for those children who remain criminally detained in foreign nations and their grieving and left behind families.  It is my greatest hope that through bringing this hideous crime to the forefront of the public’s attention that it will someday be possible to reunite these children and their families.”

Speaking on the crisis of IPCA, author Peter Thomas Senese said, “With limited accurate data, an uneducated judiciary, an uninformed public, difficulties in passing child abduction prevention legislation, non-compliance of international treaties, and heavy financial burdens placed on Chasing Parents desperately trying to protect their kidnapped children, this really is the world turned upside-down, and it is going to get much worse for our children and their parents unless dramatic steps in all areas are immediately implemented.”

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Help Find My Child is an small Scottish charity searching for missing children online. We aim to reduce the time a child is missing, potentially save lives and relive the distress to their families.

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We are committed to the global search for missing children and dedicated to helping families find their loved ones for as long as it takes. Read more here;  http://www.helpfindmychild.net/about-us

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

Visit our web site at: www.abpworld.com