US Congress acts to prevent international child abductions


29 August , 2014

Source: nation.com 

WASHINGTON : Congress gave its final approval Friday to legislation that compels US authorities to assist American mothers and fathers whose children are victims of international parental abductions.

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More than 1,000 international child abductions each year are reported to the State Department, with children often taken illegally from the United States by a foreign parent to countries like Brazil, England, India, Japan and Russia. Most of them are not returned.
By simple voice vote, the House of Representatives approved the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, named after son Sean who, through an intense US diplomatic intervention, was returned to his New Jersey home years after being taken to Brazil by his mother.
The bill passed the House last December, but the Senate tweaked it and approved its version last week. The House on Friday passed the final legislation and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The international Hague Convention on child abductions provides a civil framework for speeding the return of children, but the rules are not consistently enforced.
The Goldman act, first drafted in 2009, “ensures that (American parents) will now receive significant help from the US government in their fights to recover their children,” said House Republican Chris Smith, who wrote the original legislation.
“With this bill, for the first time ever, parents with children held in non-Hague countries can work with the State Department. They won’t be on their own, far from the United States, desperately trying to get their children back.”
The law, once signed, would call for increasingly severe steps taken by US authorities if a foreign government does not cooperate in helping resolve abduction cases, beginning with diplomatic demarches and escalating to cancellations of official visits, suspension of economic aid, and formal requests for extradition of individuals engaged in abductions.
It would also urge the administration to forge bilateral agreements with Hague Convention and non-Hague Convention countries to help locate and return abducted children and protect access rights for the “left-behind” parent. “These abductions are a form of child abuse and a human rights violation,” Smith said.

 

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Innocents Abroad: The Rise of Cross-Border Child Abduction by Parents


July 2 , 2013

Source: The Huffington Post

In recent years, the world has seemed a more connected place.

happychild

Palm-sized technology has condensed contact between continents while the flow of people across time zones has increased dramatically.

Experience of new horizons – and the different cultures, cuisines and tongues which comes from it – has made for a more cosmopolitan life.

However, official research and the daily caseload of myself and other family lawyers all too often illustrates that there can be negative consequences.

The number of international family disputes requiring the involvement of UK courts has almost quadrupled in the space of only four years, according to a report published by one of this country’s most senior judges.

The data, which was published by Lord Justice Thorpe, who acts as the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales, showed there were only three new cases of that type handled by the office in 2007. The following year, the total had risen to 65 but by the end of last year, it had reached 253.

Lord Justice Thorpe said that the matters involved child abduction, adoption and forced marriage and were due, he claimed, to “globalisation, increasing movement of persons across borders, and the ever rising number of family units which are truly international”.

His remarks confirm something which is all too apparent to myself and my colleagues atPannone LLP, as we have remarked upon previously.

The comments are also supported by figures released not by the courts but by Government which evidenced what many believe to be at the heart of the trend which Lord Justice Thorpe is witnessing.

Child_Abductions

Last year, the Foreign Office published its own figures, illustrating that the number of parental child abductions which it had been called upon to assist in had climbed by 88 per cent in a decade.

It revealed that a specialist unit which it had set up to deal with the problem was getting four calls every day, half of which were turning into new cases.

Of course, it is not only relationships forged by individuals of different nationalities which run into difficulties. However, when these partnerships break down, there is often a natural tendency to return to family and familiar surroundings to recover from any feelings of disappointment or distress.

Where children are involved, such matters become more complicated, especially when one or other partner decides to remove them from the country in which they had been resident.

A country’s incidence of these sorts of cases mirror its ties with other states. The Foreign Office cited parental child abductions involving 84 different nations. According to Lord Justice Thorpe’s report, Poland, Pakistan and Spain were the three places which featured most frequently in the disputes which came to his attention.

Once removed, children are sometimes only returned after a complex process which can be long and drawn out. There can be serious ramifications for the families concerned, both legally and emotionally.

Taking a child out of the country without the express permission of a court or the other parent can be a criminal offence. No matter how comforting the prospect of returning to one’s family overseas might seem once a relationship has broken down the consequences need to be seriously considered.

Sadly, my workload and that of other family lawyers specialising in these cases shows no sign of letting up, regardless of the legal and personal consequences. If anything, the increasingly common nature of international partnerships makes further rises likely.

Given the prominence of Poland in figures from both Lord Justice Thorpe and the Foreign Office, it will be interesting to see whether allowing two other East European countries – Romania and Bulgaria – to live elsewhere across the continent without limitation will further fuel the number of international family units living in Britain and the terrible complications of their breaking apart.

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Parental Kidnapping – Now a Global Issue


May 27, 2013

Source: Boston Herald

On International Missing Children’s Day, marked May 25th, we remembered the thousands of missing children and the parents who grieve and plead for help. Since 2008, more than 7,000 American children have been abducted to a foreign country — not by a stranger, but by their other parent.

american_flag_kids

Such children are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems and may experience anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, resentment, guilt and fearfulness.

Members of Congress have seen the lopsided battles our constituents face to bring their children home from a foreign jurisdiction. Michael Elias, a combat-injured Iraqi veteran from New Jersey, has not held his children since 2008, when his ex-wife used her Japanese consulate connections to abduct Jade and Michael Jr. in violation of New Jersey court orders. Japan has refused to return the children or prosecute the abductor.

Elias told Congress, “All my hopes and dreams for their future now lie in the hands of others. … I am begging our government to help not only my family, but hundreds of other heartbroken families as well, to demand the return of our American children who are being held in Japan.”

Colin Bower’s children, Noor and Ramsay, were abducted from their home in Boston to Egypt nearly four years ago by their mother — who had lost custody because of her drug use and psychological problems. The Egyptian government facilitated the abduction by issuing fraudulent Egyptian passports, providing passage on the government-owned airline, and by shielding the mother, who comes from a well-connected family, from any accountability or responsibility.

American_Child

At a recent hearing Bower noted the billions of dollars in U.S. assistance to Egypt and observed, “Regardless of whatever moral, fiscal, or political balance you use, providing uninterrupted aid to a partner that acts this way is quite simply wrong. If this is American foreign policy, it’s flawed and it isn’t working. We aren’t getting what we pay for.”

Tragically, the Obama administration has limited itself to diplomatic requests for the return of the children. In the words of Bernard Aronson, former assistant secretary of state of inter-American affairs, “a diplomatic request for which there is no real consequence for refusal is simply a sophisticated form of begging.”

It is time for a new approach. That is why we have introduced H.R. 1951, the Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013, which will give the president powerful tools to motivate a country’s quick response for the return of abducted children.

If a country has 10 or more cases not being resolved in a timely manner, or the judiciary, or law enforcement, or other responsible entity is persistently failing to fulfill their obligations, the president can take action to aggressively advocate for our children’s return — such as denying certain assistance, canceling cultural exchanges, opposing international loans, or extraditing the abductor.

This bill creates the expectation of action — not just words — to bring every American child home. In the words of then-Senator and now Secretary of State John Kerry at the 2012 passage of a Senate resolution calling for the return of the Bower children, we must “remain focused like a laser beam until this father is reunited with his two boys,” and every other abducted American child comes home. We can, and must, do more than talk.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R) represents New Jersey’s 4th District.

 

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International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) Awareness Month


May 23, 2013

Source: blogs.usembassy

Did you know that May is International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) Awareness Month?

The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is committed to preventing international child abductions. The State Department places the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been abducted across an international border and is encouraging foreign governments to join the U.S. as parties to The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Abducted_Children_USA
The Hague Abduction Convention is the primary civil law mechanism for parents seeking the return of the children from other treaty partner countries. The Convention does not address who should have custody of the child; it addresses where the custody case should be heard. Today the U.S. is a treaty partner with 70 countries (Hague Abduction countries).

May is also an important month for children because May 25, 2013 is the 30th annual Missing Children’s Day. The first annual Missing Children’s Day was proclaimed by President Reagan in 1983. Although we remember the plight of missing children particularly on this day, it is important to remember that all year long organizations in the U.S., like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), are working to promote children’s rights and protect them. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Childrenopened in 1984 to serve as the nation’s clearinghouse on issues related to missing and sexually exploited children. Today NCMEC is authorized by Congress to perform 19 programs and services to assist law enforcement, families and the professionals who serve them. Organizations like NCMEC and the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs are both working hard to prevent child abductions and serve the needs of children.

Special Advisor to Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs spoke to the US Congress on May 9, 2013 about International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) Issues. Here is a link to her testimony, as well as the testimony of members of Congress and parents who have been victims of IPCA.

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DA Child Abduction Unit Recovers Autistic Boy from Mexico


October 26, 2012

Source: scoopsandiego.com

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis announced today that her office’s Child Abduction Unit successfully located a 7-year-old autistic boy in Mexico and reunited him with his mother in San Diego.

An arrest warrant has been issued for 37-year-old Julio Rocha, who in 2007 took his then 2-year-old son, Keoni Rocha, to Mexico after the boy’s mother requested full custody. Julio Rocha has been charged with one felony count of child abduction.

“Locating missing children and returning them home to San Diego isn’t easy within the United States, let alone across an international border,” DA Dumanis said. “The dedicated investigators in our Child Abduction Unit routinely overcome difficulties in dealing with foreign governments to recover children from around the world.”

The DA’s Child Abduction Unit is contacted when a child is taken form his or her parent or rightful guardian in violation of that person’s right to custody. Investigators in the unit work with Mexico and other countries to track down children and get them home safely.

In this case, a young woman doing online research for a school project in Mexico came across a poster from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children with information about Keoni Rocha and his father. The girl recognized the boy as a neighbor and contacted authorities.

Thanks to help from the neighbor, District Attorney Investigators were able to negotiate a voluntary return of Keoni Rocha’s with his grandparents at the Mexico City airport last week.

“It was the most heart-wrenching return I have ever seen,” said DA Investigator Carole Snyder who works in the Child Abduction Unit. “The grandmother and the aunt knew this would be the last time they saw Keoni. The boy’s mother, Leilani Masumoto, who had not seen her son in five years, bonded like they were meant to be as soon as they were reunited at the airport.”

Last year, the DA’s Child Abduction Unit conducted 150 investigations and recovered 75 abducted children from around the U.S. In addition, the unit worked 30 cases involving children being abducted from, or taken to other countries, including, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, Columbia, and Dominica. In 2011, the Child Abduction Unit’s ‘Visitation Reporting System’ which is accessible via the DA’s website, logged 2,096 violations.

“Over the years, we’ve successfully located children and returned them from several countries including France, the Philippines, Sweden, Germany and Mexico,” DA Dumanis said. “Given San Diego’s location, a number of child abductions involve children who are taken across the border to Mexico.”

The DA’s Child Abduction Unit assists parents in both countries. The number of cross-border cases involving Mexico handled by the DA’s Office has grown from 10 cases in 2006, to 21 cases in 2011. So far this year, the unit has opened 15 such cases. The District Attorney’s Office Child Abduction unit is only involved when a parent or other family member abducts a child involving a violation of Family Court, Juvenile Court and/or Probate Court orders.

If anyone has information on the whereabouts of Julio Rocha, who is believed to be living in the United States, please call 619-531-4345

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International Parental Child Abduction – The Effects


Source: Reunite.org

This two-year research project considered the long and short term effects of international parental child abduction and included, we believe for the first time in an European study, an investigation of the effects on the abducted child through child interviews conducted by senior CAFCASS officers who worked with the Research Unit on this project.

Many parents had previously spoken informally of the effects of abduction and this research exercise allowed a formal investigation into the physical and emotional effects and whether these were affected by other factors such as the length of the abduction and the specific circumstances in which the abduction took place. The Research Report details the far-reaching and long-lasting effects of abduction from the perspective of both the left-behind parent and the abducting parent.

One of the objectives of the research was to capture the experiences of the children and young people themselves.  Hearing from them directly, and independently of their parents, we hoped to gain a better understanding of the effects on children of international parental abduction and also identify any lessons that could be learned by parents and professionals.  In the words of Singer J. who so kindly wrote the foreword to the Research Report, “The interviews with children are particularly striking and poignant.  Their accounts again demonstrate the long-lasting effect of abduction on the children and young persons involved, as they grow and develop.”

Following the publication of the research findings, this statement was issued by Professor William Duncan, Deputy Secretary General, Hague Conference on Private International Law:

“Congratulations to reunite, and especially to Marilyn, for this excellent publication. Careful empirical studies of this kind are a vital basis for policy making at the national and international levels. It is a happy coincidence that the study is published a few months before the next meeting of the Special Commission to review the practical operation of the 1980 Hague Convention, for which it provides valuable background material.”

Click here to download the full report 

Parental child abduction and its impact

When a parent kidnaps a child long-term problems begin
Published on November 13, 2010 by Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D. in Buddy System

I have been studying the impact of parental child abduction for the last 20 years and have published extensively on the topic.  Recent events and articles have placed it again in the news. Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped by a non-family member for nine months when she 14-years-old testifed this week in court during the trial against her abductor, Brian Mitchell.  Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped when she was 11 and held for 18 years. During that time she gave birth to two children.  While these high profile non-family kidnappings capture the headlines, much more common are family abductions. Today’s New York Times carries a front page article about using the I.R.S. to track down abductors who file tax returns.  Department of Justice statistics report that approximately 200,000 family abductions occur each year and that 6% of these last for longer than six months.

Most recently, and working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), I completed interviews with 8 people (now all over 21-years-old) who were parentally kidnapped when they were children.  The focus of the interviews (the report is available on the NCMEC website) was to learn what would help families reunify with each other after a kidnapping. For today’s blog I will focus on the impact on children.  Some of this information appears in my co-authored book (with Rebecca Hegar), When Parents Kidnap.  Imagine a child being taken by a parent with whom the child does not feel particularly close, moved away from friends and other family members, and living in changing residences.  Imagine the state of mind of the abductor who is the primary caretaker.  Add these two together and the stage is set for a difficult time for the child.  While the child is on the run, the left-behind parent is often frantic and expending all his or her time involved in the search.  The left-behind parent’s well-being, relationships, and work life are put at risk and, upon recovery of the child (not all children are recovered) the parent struggles to get things back to normal when such a hopeful vision may not be possible.

According to David Finkelhor et al.’s telephone survey (NISMART), 16% of abducted children experience emotional harm, 4% are physically abused, and 1% are sexually abused.  Other research, including our own, found reactions to abducton include: nightmares, fears of doors and windows, bedwetting (depending on age), fear of authority and strangers,anger at abductor and left-behind parent, depression, anxiety, and school and peer problems.

Problems for many adults persist into their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s (the oldest person I interviewed was 53).  Today’s New York Times‘ article talks about cooperation between the IRS and searching parents to help find missing children.  The sooner cooperation can begin the better it will be for children and their families. The impact of these long-term abductions is significant enough that new steps toward prevention are clearly needed.

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What triggers the international parental abductions?


Source: squidoo.com

Abdutor Motives and Popular Assumption Regarding Family Abduction.

Through out my story I have came across many different people from which I sought the help or they were designated to my case. I’d like to thank you the high level experts and their commitment to the preventing abduction. However I faced also some front line “specialists” who meant to be trained in such cases to support effectively however they seemed to be rather sharing the below assumption.


A lot of people are convinced that a child is not in danger if the child has been abducted by a family member.

That is incorrect assumption which results in taking the problem too easy and risking the child’s safety.

Vast majority of parental abductions are not based on motive of love to a child.

Parental Kidnapping is closely associated with the Divorce. During separation the parents battles over child custody is a common place.
Child abduction can take place at any time: during, after, or even before divorce. For example there are known cases where one parent took the child to his/her home country for vacation never to return. Once far away these parents proceeded to file for divorce.

The fury and vengeance towards the other parent are reasons for most parental abductions.

The experts list the following motives for the parental kidnapping:

  • To force an agreement or carry on the contact between themselves and the left-behind parent
  • To get revenge or punish the other parent
  • Fear of losing custody or contacts rights
  • Frustration and allienation by the legislation with the custody order or other court proceedings
  • Rarely, to keep safe the kid from a parent who is perceived to molest, abuse or neglect the child
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International Parental Child Abduction : Fathers pay price when mothers take children


Source: Irish Times – Irishtimes.com

JOHN WATERS

DESPITE ONE-THIRD of births occurring in non-marital relationships, unmarried Irish fathers remain deeply ignorant of their legal situation.

Under Irish law, such fathers have no automatic right to the day-to-day care of their children (“custody”) or to a say in the upbringing of their children (“guardianship”). What they have is the right to apply to a court, which may then extend rights of guardianship and custody according to the nature of the relationship between the child and the father, a matter almost invariably dictated by the attitude and behaviour of the gatekeeper-mother.

Although mischievous agents propose that the high numbers of Irish unmarried fathers neglecting to apply for guardianship is evidence of indifference, the fact is that many fathers, reluctant to initiate legal proceedings that might create a conflict where none exists, tend to leave well alone.

This leads to extreme difficulties when mothers abduct children to other jurisdictions and fathers find themselves bereft of legal standing.

Almost all European countries now make legal provision for the concept of the “de facto family” – which extends legal recognition in situations in which unmarried parents and their children have lived together in quasi-marital situations. This can enable an unmarried father who has no formal guardianship order to invoke the Hague Convention in the event that his child is abducted. Irish law is noticeably out of step in the recognition of such “inchoate rights”.

The man in the street may attribute this circumstance to oversight. Alas, it arises from the ideological outlook of the Irish State, which is determined to withhold from unmarried fathers anything but the most minimal recognition forced upon it by international law.

The lay person, too, might surmise that, all things being equal, the objective of the Irish State will always be to strive towards just and equitable resolutions, subject only to whatever legal impediments may arise.

Alas, in abduction situations where the abductor is the mother, such an assumption would be mistaken.

In fact, the pattern of behaviour by the Irish central authority in these matters – ie the Department of Justice – is to turn its back on fathers whose children have been abducted, even when the destination country is reluctant to accept jurisdiction.

This policy became clear over the past 18 months, in a case arising from the refusal of a mother to bring her two children back to Ireland after a summer holiday in New York. For six years the father had lived in Ireland with his children, in virtually every respect as though married to the mother. In August 2010, the mother told him she and their two children would remain in New York, where she was moving in with a man she had met on Facebook.

The children had been born in New York, which meant that the father was their legal guardian under US law. He had the right to apply to a New York court, but felt that to do so would be to acquiesce in what had happened.

He wished to have the matter adjudicated in Ireland, where his children had lived almost all their lives. He approached the Department of Justice but was told that, since he did not have guardianship here, there was no legal recourse under the Hague Convention.

Proceedings were initiated in New York by the mother, while the father began seeking guardianship under Irish law. In November 2010, he was granted a guardianship order. Because this application was initiated within a statutory six-month period stipulated by New York law – in effect confirming the children were for legal purposes still habitually resident in Ireland – and since the father continued to reside here, the New York court ruled that the case should be determined by the Irish courts.

All that was required was for an Irish court to issue a temporary custody order in favour of the father, and the New York court could have ordered the return of the children here.

The next step was to persuade the Irish court to do the decent thing. Three hearings, in August, October and November 2011, were adjourned in turn because the judge was away. Although it was implicit in the New York decision that, by issuing a guardianship order, the Irish court had already accepted jurisdiction, the Irish judge refused to communicate with his counterpart in New York.

Instead, in the end, he wrote to the New York court handing over jurisdiction, unwittingly confirming that, contrary to the assertions of the Department of Justice, the Irish court already had jurisdiction. Thus, in December, this Irish father was forced to surrender to the jurisdiction of an American court.

These Irish proceedings, involving 12 court appearances and nine different judges over 15 months, cost this father more than €20,000.

For years I have been meeting men like this, trying to help them deal with the inscrutable processes that “legal advice” forbids me from describing in the only terms I can adequately and reasonably describe them.

I observe with dismay that things are growing worse, not just in the treatment of such men and their children, but even more ominously in the studied avoidance of these matters by other journalists who make much of calling authority to account except here, where the sleep of justice is more implacable than anywhere else.

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PARENTAL ABDUCTIONS – TIPS ON HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD AND YOURSELF


Source: Derrica Wilson, CEO of Black and Missing Foundation, Inc 

Over the last few months, there have been a number of reports of children abducted by a parent.

Some of them have been reunited with the custodial parent, while others have been brutally murdered, like two-year-old Tierra Morgan-Glover whose father threw her body, strapped into a car seat and weighted down with a car jack, into a stream.

Each year, over 200,000 children are kidnapped by a family member, many more children than are kidnapped by strangers. The good news is that family abductions can often be prevented.

Many custodial parents are not aware that parental kidnapping can happen. The following information can help you keep your children safe.

Why Do Parents Kidnap Their Own Children?
Child custody kidnapping experts say that people kidnap their own children for the following reasons:

  • To force a reconciliation or continued interaction with the other parent
  • To spite or punish the other parent
  • From fear of losing custody or visitation rights
  • In rare cases, to protect the child from a parent who is perceived to molest, abuse, or neglect the child

Is Your Child At Risk for Parental Child Abduction?
A direct threat of a child abduction should always be taken seriously. If your relationship with the other parent is volatile, and you argue over visitation, be concerned.

Read: World Renowned Child Abduction Recovery Experts ABP World Group: Christmas is the Season for International Child Abduction – Parents Must Take Extra Precautions

Here are some common warning signs.

If the other parent:

  • Has threatened abduction or has actually abducted the child in the past
  • Is suspected of abuse, and these suspicions are supported by family and friends
  • Is paranoid, delusional or severely sociopathic
  • Is a citizen of another country and is ending a mixed-culture marriage
  • Feels alienated from the legal system, and has family/social support in another community
  • Has no strong ties to the child’s home state
  • Has no job, is able to work anywhere, or is not financially tied to the area
  • Is planning to quit a job, sell a home, closing bank accounts, applying for passports, and obtaining school or medical records

Tips to Prevent Family Child Abduction
These are important steps you can take to clearly establish legal custody of your children, and to help prevent a kidnapping.

Custody:

  • Respect the other parent’s custody and visitation rights. Anger, frustration and desperation are leading causes of family abduction.
  • Attempt to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex-spouse and his/her family. If a kidnapping does occur, you will need the support of the kidnapper’s family to bring your child home safely.
  • Consider counseling. As little as 10 hours of intervention can reduce the stress, anger and frustration that lead to family abduction.
  • Begin the custody process immediately. You cannot prove your custody rights without a custody order.
  • Include abduction prevention measures in the custody order.
  • Keep a certified copy of the custody order with you at home.
  • Record and document abduction threats. Report them immediately to family court or your lawyer.
  • Ask the police to intervene and warn the non-custodial parent of criminal consequences—family abduction is often a felony.
  • Notify schools, healthcare providers, day care and baby sitters of custody orders. Certified copies of custody orders should be on file at the school office, etc.
  • Keep lists of identifying information about the non-custodial parent, including social security numbers, current photos, license plate numbers and bank and credit card accounts.
  • File a certified copy of the custody order in the non-custodial parent’s state, so that state’s courts know about the order.
  • Obtain a passport for your child, and notify the passport office that your child is not to leave the country without your written permission.
Your Children:
  • Keep completed child ID documents for each child. Update the color photo every six months.
  • Teach your children:
    • Their full name. Your full name, address and phone numbers.
    • How to use cell, home, and pay phones to call for help. Have them practice these calls.
    • Every day, reassure your children.
    • You will always love them.
    • You will always look for them if they don’t come home.

 When the Kidnapper Leaves the Country

Sometimes a family abductor will take the child out of the United States. The Polly Klaas® Foundation recommends the following US State Department and Office of Children’s Issues resources for help:

Note: You can download this fact sheet and other educational materials atwww.PollyKlaas.org, or request materials and Child ID kits for families by calling the Polly Klaas Foundation at 1-800-587-4357.

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Parental abduction: Here are the warning signs


Source: Times Colonist 

Knowing what to look for can help prevent, solve kidnapped-child cases

ANDREW FELDSTEIN

The story of Joe Chisholm finding his daughter, now 20, after an 18-year search has a happy ending. Patricia O’Byrne, 54, was arrested at her home in Victoria on Dec. 1 and charged with parental abduction in contravention of a custody order for the alleged 1993 abduction of their 20-month-old child.

Yet many more parents, undergoing separation and whose children have been abducted, suffer a more uncertain ending to their trauma.

When either ex-spouse takes the law into their own hands – practising a form of “vigilante justice” – they are leaving family law and entering criminal law.

This means that when the police do catch up, the offending spouse will be arrested and charged.

Here are some warning signs that may be helpful in preventing child abduction, if you believe your child is at risk.

To start, do you consider your separation and divorce to be “high conflict?” Is your custody and access arrangement not working properly, or being ignored altogether? These two factors are warning signs. Promptly inform your lawyer.

Next, the physical ties that your ex-spouse has to his or her jurisdiction or geography are of extreme significance. Essentially, is your ex-spouse giving you exit signals?

You have to consider all of the following four conditions: Does your ex-spouse have any valuable assets in Canada and/or another country? Does your ex-spouse have a foreign passport? Does your ex-spouse have family anywhere else in Canada or across the world? What is the current employment situation of your ex-spouse?

If your ex-spouse quits their job and begins to sell off local assets, that is a good sign that they are thinking about leaving, perhaps with your child(ren).

Finding out ahead of time about assets, family and a foreign passport are important because they give you clues as to where your ex-spouse might be going. For example, if your ex-spouse has an Italian passport or a large family in Italy, your search may begin and end there.

As a preventive measure, you can file your child’s travel documents with the court pursuant to a court order, or have Passport Canada put your child’s name on the passport-control list.

Separation agreements often deal with how parents are supposed to travel with their children, but despite that, you want to try and arm yourself with the tools that will allow you to put all possible preventive measures in place before it is too late.

When an abduction does take place, what are some clues to look for and who might be in a position to help you find your child(ren)?

Schooling is an important part of the investigation into the abduction of a child. Sometimes, children who are abducted are home schooled or enrolled in private school in order to avoid detection by the public school system.

You may also want to stay in touch with your ex-spouse’s family, as they may be more concerned about the missing child’s welfare than they are about protecting the abductor.

You can also speed up the search after an abduction by providing the authorities with a detailed list of attributes pertaining to your child(ren) and the abducting spouse, as there are various agencies that are in the business of returning abducted children to their parents and families that could put this information to good use.

As a parent, I can imagine nothing more emotionally damaging than being separated from my children. In Joe Chisholm’s case, 18 years is a long time to hope and wait for redemption.

Andrew Feldstein runs a family law firm in Greater Toronto.

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