Zero Tolerance For International Child Abduction And The Need For An Educated Judiciary

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1c402-icarelogoWhen it comes to international parental child abduction, the I CARE Foundation believes in zero tolerance for individuals involved in such schemes. Under no circumstance should a parent feel they have the right to abduct a child.  As well, a parent should never think that planning an abduction is in the best interest of the child.  It is not! Short and long-term ramifications on the child are well-documented.  The underlying reality is that once abduction occurs, regardless if the kidnapping is done by a known person or stranger, the child’s safety is placed in grave risk.

When issues arise regarding mobilization (when a parent wants to relocate to another country with the child but without the child’s other parent), these issues should be rectified in accordance with the law. Not by creating an evil scheme filled with false innuendos and accusations against the other parent so to create a misleading impression that abduction is critical for the child’s safety and well-being. It is not. Seeking legal assistance via criminal and civil remedies if abusive conditions exist is the option that must be sought.

A would-be abducting parent puts their child in harm’s way, and this is not acceptable! The I CARE Foundation takes the position that international parental child abduction is a severe form of child abuse with consequences that will be extreme and will impact all phases of the child’s life.  With that being said, we also acknowledge the severe negative impact that abduction has on the victimized targeted parents. Both parties, the child and the targeted parent, are victims when we are dealing with parental child abduction.

In nearly all cases of parental abduction, children are used as pawns by the abducting parent in order to carry out their extensive premeditated plan which includes, but is not limited to causing severe suffering to the child’s other parent. One of the greatest challenges that children and their targeted parent face is the lack of accountability through the courts.  If a court neglects to hold abductors or would-be abductors accountable, this not only means that the targeted parents may remain at the mercy of a vengeance-seeking abducting parent that has already caused considerable harm, but it also sends a very dangerous global message that parental child abductors have limited risks when it comes to legal accountability, both in respect to the courts, but also law enforcement.  This needs to change!

The I CARE Foundation believes strongly that the Hague Child Abduction Convention is the right mechanism that all nations should participate in and adhere to.

As we look forward and create changes to help protect the hundreds of thousands of children each year who are targeted for international abduction, we see the critical need to create an International Judiciary College.

The fact is that the vast majority of judges who oversee international child abduction cases have not been trained in the very complex legal, psychological, political, financial and logistical matters that impact all cases of international abduction.  We face a reality that has untrained judges and courts contributing to many failures, including properly and expeditiously overseeing legal proceedings that seek the return of abducted children to their country of habitual residency.  An International Judiciary College, ideally under the guidance of the Permanent Bureauwould have a dramatic impact on reducing the global abduction rate, but also increasing diplomatic relationships among countries. As well, it is highly conceivable that the issues that exist today regarding the lack of judicial compliance would be greatly reduced as more judges become trained on Hague matters.

The reality is that today many targeted parents who have experienced abduction and who have been abused by the abducting parent remain targets of their child’s kidnapper.  Courts are hesitant to hold parental child abductors accountable for their act. Part of the problem lies heavily in an untrained judiciary – judges who are not trained in the deep understanding of parental abduction matters.  Tragically, the result of untrained judiciary and actors involved in abduction matters is that the targeted parent will believe that the courts will not hold the abductor accountable and equally alarming – by failing to hold the abductor accountable – the courts in essence empower the abductor who has returned with the child after the kidnapping – to attempt to abduct again or to continue making allegations against the targeted parent.

Tragically, when a targeted parent of abduction receives little or no support or protection from the court while they are working to protect their child from abuse (including but not limited to abduction), then that parent can become disenchanted with the legal system they once believed would protect them and their child. They lose hope.

Sometimes claims of abuse are real, and we acknowledge this reality.  In such cases we urge all parents to seek all intervention and assistance available to them under the rules of law.  Conversely, we have also seen in a great number of international child abduction cases when both men and women make false claims against one another.  This is a reality.

As always we encourage all parents to be familiar with the RISKS AND WARNING SIGNS of international parental child abduction.  Being aware of these warning signs is critical in preventing an international abduction from occurring.  Never think that you or your child(ren) could not become a victim of this inhumane crime.  Be proactive and protect yourself… and your child(ren).

If you happen to be a parent that has a child that is traveling abroad, either by choice or by court order, please consider using the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form.

For more information on international parental child abduction, please visit the I CARE Foundation’s official website.

Kindest regards,

Peter Thomas Senese
Executive Director
I CARE Foundation

Trinidad and Tobago To Sign Hague Convention On The Civil Aspects On International Child Abduction

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The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago will no longer tolerate international child abduction as it has now formally acceded into signatory status with the United States with respect to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction.

“Although international child abduction is not a new problem, the incidence of such abductions continues to grow with the ease of international travel, the increase in bi-cultural marriages and the rise in the divorce rate. International child abductions have serious consequences for both the child and the left-behind parent,” began an official statement issued by the Trinadad and Tobago government. “The child is removed, not only from contact with the other parent, but also from his or her home environment and transplanted to a culture with which he or she may have had no prior ties. International abductors move the child to another State with a different legal system, social structure, culture and, often, language. These differences, plus the physical distance generally involved, can make locating, recovering and returning internationally abducted children complex and problematic.”

The statement said that in keeping with the measures outlined in the convention, the ‘Civil Child Abduction Authority’ has since been established to act as the country’s Central Authority in order  “to deal with all matters relating to the civil aspects of international child abduction between Trinidad and Tobago and contracting territories”. The announcement was made following talks between Trinadad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and US Vice-President Joe Biden at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

The accession, which makes Trinidad and Tobago to become the 69th nation to be accepted by the United States would have happened sooner as the United States expressed interest in partnering with Trinidad and Tobago. However, discussions only began in November 2011 when the head of the central authority was appointed.

According to the International Child Abduction Act, 2008, a Central Authority known as the Civil Child Abduction Authority, was established in the Ministry of the Attorney General to deal with all matters relating to the civil aspects of international child abduction between Trinidad and Tobago and other countries. Under this authority to date, Trinidad and Tobago has partnered with 48 member states. The accession was confirmed in Cabinet note No. 121 dated May 21, 2013.

In commenting on the accession, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said, “It is a signal of the continued strengthening of diplomatic relations between the two nations,” and continued by emphasized the importance of “protecting the most vulnerable sect within our two societies—children.” The United States Central Authority continues to provide input to the Governments of Japan, Morocco, Russia, Singapore, and Thailand, as each country has drafted implementing legislation for Convention ratification or accession.

United States Central Authority officials have also met with foreign officials from the following countries to discuss IPCA and progress towards joining the Convention including Egypt, Ghana, India, Japan, Jordan, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.

Julie Rosen of the I CARE Foundation commented, “The foundation’s attorneys have worked closely with counsel in T and T as well as Anand Ramlogan’s office, in providing practical advice on the challenges of international abduction in a way that assists targeted children while also remaining true to the spirit of the procedures required from a Central Authority. This is a big step forward for our friends in the Republic of Trinadad and Tobago, as well as children living in the Caribbean.”

National Missing Children’s Day: Help Stop Child Abduction

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Today commemorates the 30th International Missing Children’s Day. All children who are missing: parentally kidnapped or abducted by a stranger or who disappear in a world of billions are always at grave risk. Today we acknowledge the large number of children and their families who went missing and who are no longer with us, as the tragedies they experienced nor our sympathy ever adequately expressed. On behalf of the entire I CARE Foundation family and in the name of those children and their families who faced the unthinkable of having a child missing, snatched, abducted, kidnapped, held hostage, or used as a pawn as part of a deplorable scheme, we take today to honor those who have had to endure so much as we affirm our commitment to assisting families in crisis due to abduction.

Today, May 25th, 2013 marks the 30th International Missing Children’s Day. First proclaimed by United States President Ronald Reagan as an American day of recognition over the epidemic number of missing children in the United States that has been observed by every administration since, the worldwide pandemic that impacts countries around the world is now recognized as a day to remember innocent children now gone, while reminding parents, guardians, and society as a whole of the major responsibility to make child safety a priority while raising awareness that abduction of children must be stopped at all costs.

The I CARE Foundation is committed to stopping child abduction and human trafficking. All forms of abduction, no matter who is kidnapping a child, places the child’s life in grave risk.

In the spirit of today, I ask that you please consider sharing on your various social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and any blog you administer the following essay focused on how summer is the time of year the vast majority of children are kidnapped, and what parents can do to protect them.  One thing is certain: there is no coincidence that since the I CARE Foundation launched a grassroots campaign to raise awareness of abduction, outbound kidnappings have declined by 15% the last 2 years after 30 years of growth.

As a parent of a child who was once abducted, I can’t thank you in advance enough for your support as we move forward in further protecting children.

It is estimated that at least 8 million children worldwide go missing each year or 22,000 a day. The majority of these child-victim disappearances, abductions and kidnappings could have been avoided if society was more proactive in protecting innocence.

Unfortunately, many countries do not view protecting children as a priority and thus don’t have appropriate mechanisms in place to recover missing children who are at high risk of being exploited into trafficking, prostitution, and parental abduction.

Today we ask all of our friends to take a few minutes out of your day and share the following two articles via your social media networks because, if history repeats itself, this information will reach a family at risk of abduction today.

Summer Vacations And International Parental Child Abduction

Protecting Against International Child Abduction: Dual Citizenship and Two Passports

Thank you in advance for your help!

On behalf of the I CARE Foundation family –

Peter Thomas Senese

Japan To Sign The Hague Convention: Will This Help Abducted Children Detained In Japan Today?

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Japan Moves Toward Ratifying The Hague Convention. Will This Help Abducted Children Wrongfully Detained In Japan Today?

After more than a decade of urging from the U.S., including a unwavering protest by a large number of American parents, primarily victimized fathers, Japan’s parliament on Wednesday finally gave the go-ahead for the government to ratify the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects Of International Child Abduction – an  international treaty for settling international child custody parental abduction disputes. The move by Japan’s parliament offers hope to many chasing parents who were left-behind as their children were whisked away across the Pacific primarily by their Japanese mothers. But realistically, how much can present chasing parents left behind in the wake of their child’s abduction count on unification with their children?

The move by the Diet (Japan’s parliament) will make Japan the 85th signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on Aspects of International Child Abduction appears on the surface to be a step in the right direction; however, Japan’s final ratification of the treaty is not expected for another year. And during that time a lot can go wrong, including, potentially, women right activists in Japan who wrongfully think that every mother abducting their child to Japan was fleeing abuse.  As study after study has demonstrated – both women and men equally cite abuse when they try to have a court sanction their act of kidnapping. The vast majority of these claims are not true.

Is there hope? Yes. But we need to be reminded that there is a long way to go and now is not the time to stop putting pressure on Japan’s government to ratify the Hague Convention under any circumstance.

For years, Japan has come under fierce criticism mainly from the U.S. fathers and more recently, American lawmakers, for its reluctance to join the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions due to cultural differences on how divorce and child custody is viewed and handled in their own homeland. Traditionally, during times of divorce in Japan, the courts grant the mother full sole custody, and the father of the children is permanently removed from the child’s life.

Welcome to insanity Japanese style.  In fact, it is estimated that there are well over 300,000 Japanese fathers seeking to reunite with their own children who have been removed from their lives by the courts.

Legal experts welcomed Wednesday’s decision, but said the treaty would have little effect unless it is accompanied by changes in Japan’s domestic law. Courts in Japan routinely favor the Japanese parent – usually the mother – in custody cases involving international marriages.

“I am concerned that Japan won’t implement the convention at face value,” says Takao Tanase, a law professor at Chuo University in Tokyo. Mr. Tanase points to numerous loopholes in Japanese family law that could be cited to prevent the return of children to their original country of residence, including the suspicion – without any burden of proof – that the child could be exposed to harm or that the mother’s welfare could be affected.

“Japanese law and the convention contradict each other, and this can be used as an excuse not to return the child,” he said. “The tradition of awarding sole custody was introduced 60 years ago, but Japanese society has changed dramatically since then.”

Yuichi Mayama, an upper house politician who has pushed for the legal change, was more optimistic. “This is a meaningful development,” he said. “I’m delighted that Japan is finally catching up with the rest of the world.”

But he added: “The tradition in Japan is to award sole custody, and that’s supported by the law. Unless we change that we won’t be able to use the convention properly. We take a very traditional view of the family in Japan, and changing that is going to take time.”

The convention is intended to protect children from being taken to another country by one parent without permission in bitter custodial battles. While 89 countries have signed the convention, Japan has been the last member of the Group of Eight major nations holding out. But with Wednesday’s parliamentary approval, Tokyo is expected to ratify the treaty by next March, 2014. (Of the Group of Eight, it should be noted that Germany is consistently considered a non-complying signatory member of the Hague Convention).

Japanese parliamentarians have long argued that the country’s single-custody tradition is incompatible with the Hague Convention. Unlike in the U.S. and many European countries, Japanese family law doesn’t recognize joint custody of children after divorce, and typically gives the mother full custody.

Like many other countries, Japan has seen an increase in mixed marriages—-a five-fold jump over the past 35 years. While these international marriages only account for about 4% of all marriages in Japan, they have a higher-than-average divorce rate. In 2011, about 40,000 international couples got married. In the same year, about 19,000 divorced, according to Mr. Mayama.

Given that a disproportionate number of American husbands make up the other half of mixed marriages, typical cases that would violate the Hague Convention consist of a divorced Japanese mother flying back to Japan with her child without permission or not allowing her child to return to the U.S. from Japan after a visit, then severing all contact with her American husband. Japanese women married more American men in 2011 than any other nationality except for Korean men, who are mostly permanent residents of Japan.

These international parental child abductions have landed a number of Japanese mothers suspected of child abduction on the FBI’s most wanted parental kidnappings list. The U.S. State Department says that as of 2011, there are 100 active cases involving 140 American children wrongfully detained in Japan by a parent.  However, activist groups in the United States, who have their heart on the pulse of the real situation, have estimated that the number of children wrongfully detained are well over 300 (this is due to the fact that many targeted parents may not have reported their child’s abduction to the Department of State since Japan is not a member of the Hague Convention). Additionally, the Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday that Britain, Canada, and France each claim over 30 cases of their children being wrongfully kept in Japan.

Despite international parental child abduction being a U.S. Federal crime, parents who have fled to Japan with a kidnapped child have not faced concern of criminal charges because since Japan’s laws do not make international parental child abduction a crime, Japan would not allow extradition proceedings to go forward against any of its citizens.  This theme – failure to extradite  – is something that the I CARE Foundation has spoken out about in the past, particularly in courts during abduction prevention cases whereas a sitting judge may think that they and U.S. law would have far reach abroad: it does not.

With hardly any domestic attention given to the matter, though, there has been little incentive to ratify a treaty mostly detrimental to Japanese nationals. Lawmakers who have rejected submitting the treaty to parliament in the past point to the need to protect women and children from domestic violence and abuse should courts forcibly expatriate mothers and children to overseas residences they have escaped from. In itself, the domestic violence claim against women appears to be a deflective way for some of Japan’s politicians to not welcome change. And it clearly does not take into consideration the increase of domestic violence acts against men, or, more commonly, the use of false claims of domestic violence as a reason for a parent to abduct, knowing they may find protection under Article 13 of the Hague Convention.

But during a U.S. visit in February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surprised some by promising President Barack Obama he would seek approval for joining the convention. Mr. Abe’s visit was aimed at strengthening ties with Washington after a cooling in relations during the previous Japanese administration.

Progress?  Yes, however, Japan must still clear various governmental and legislative hurdles before the Hague Convention can take full effect. The government has said it aims for final ratification by the end of this fiscal year — March 2014.

A central authority will be set up in the foreign ministry to take charge of locating children who have been removed by one parent following the collapse of an international marriage, and to encourage parents to settle disputes voluntarily.

If consultations fail, family courts in Tokyo and Osaka will issue rulings.

The law will, however, allow a parent to refuse to return a child if abuse or domestic violence is feared, a provision which campaigners say is vital, but which some say risks being exploited.

It will also allow for parents who separated before its enactment to apply to get a child returned. But it contains a provision stating that the application can be refused if a child has been resident in the country for a year or more and is happily settled.

Few foreign parents have much faith in the Japanese justice system as a means of getting back their children once they have been brought to Japan.

Are there concerns about the Japan’s language in the new law passed that would make a child’s return difficult?  Yes.

There are others in Japan, primarily from women-rights groups that have concern about the Hague Convention.

Yumiko Suto, co-founder of a women’s rights group, took issue with the convention on the grounds it would leave youngsters open to violence when she said, “What’s worrying about the Hague Convention is that it won’t protect victims of domestic violence, mothers and children who barely escaped alive from their violent husbands. It is very difficult for women and children in shelters to hide their whereabouts for a year… so the provision is not very helpful to them,” adding that providing evidence of domestic violence in a foreign country is also difficult.

Kimio Ito, professor of sociology at Kyoto University, said he hopes Japanese domestic laws “will remove worries over domestic violence that the convention doesn’t fully address”.

Under growing pressure from Washington and other Western capitals, Japan has repeatedly pledged to sign the treaty into domestic law, but it has until now never made it through parliament.

With cautious reason to be excited that the nightmare of hundreds of children and their chasing parents left behind in the storms of abduction may soon be over for many, the reality still remains that Japan is at least one year away from final ratification, and in a country that has made promises to sign the convention many times in the past, there still remains a long road ahead for so many.

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The following information has been shared by Paul Toland regarding pro bono legal assistance that may be available to U.S. parents to obtain access to their children in Japan using the provisions of the Hague Convention once Japan ratifies the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Paul is the contact point for this and his email address is pptoland@yahoo.com.

If you wish to have your case listed, the following is the information that should be submitted:

Contact Information
Name:
Address:
Phone Number:
Email Address:
Child/Children information
Child name:
Child Sex: (Male or Female)
Child Birth Date:
Child Abduction Date:
Abductor:
Last known address:

The following is the email from Paul Toland:

Subject: Article 21 Hague Convention Access Application – Requesting your response

All,
Please forgive the length of this email, but it is important to be a thorough and clear as possible. With Japan nearing ratification of the Hague Convention, we have the opportunity to gain access to our children under Article 21 of the Hague, which reads:

“An application to make arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise of rights of access may be presented to the Central Authorities of the Contracting States in the same way as an application for the return of a child. The Central Authorities are bound by the obligations of co-operation which are set forth in Article 7 to promote the peaceful enjoyment of access rights and the fulfillment of any conditions to which the exercise of those rights may be subject. The Central Authorities shall take steps to remove, as far as possible, all obstacles to the exercise of such rights.

The Central Authorities, either directly or through intermediaries, may initiate or assist in the institution of proceedings with a view to organizing or protecting these rights and securing respect for the conditions to which the exercise of these rights may be subject.”

I know this is not what everyone wants, we want our children returned, but my attorney, renowned Hague attorney Stephen Cullen, has told me that if done properly and en masse, simultaneous delivery of dozens or perhaps hundreds of Hague Access applications in the immediate aftermath of Hague Ratification by Japan would severely test Japan and put them on notice that we’re watching their compliance. Stephen is perhaps one the foremost Hague attorneys in the US (Baltimorean of the Year in 2004, American Bar Association Pro Bono Attorney of the Year 2003, Maryland Trial Attorney of the Year in 2008, etc.) having litigated over 200 Hague Abduction Cases, with well over 100 successful returns. He has VOLUNTEERED to submit Hague Applications for ANY AND ALL JAPAN ABDUCTION CASES PRO BONO.

The plan would be to hold an event in DC shortly after Japan ratifies the Hague, where we march en masse from his office on K Street in DC to the State Department to deliver the Hague Article 21 Access Applications. We would do this march in front of members of the press and garner as much publicity as we can. Additionally we would do a symbolic delivery of the Applications in front of the Japanese Embassy as well (although the actual applications would be delivered from our Central Authority, the State Department, to Japan’s Central Authority). First, though, Japan has to ratify the Hague and Stephen has to prepare the applications.

Questions and Answers:

1. Question: Who can submit an Article 21 Hague Application:

    Answer: ANYONE who is a US Citizen and has a US Citizen or dual-national child in Japan that they do not currently have access to. This includes what have historically been referred to as both “Abduction” cases and “Access” cases.

2. Question: Will performing an Article 21 Hague Application affect my ongoing legal case in any way?

    Answer: No, if you have Warrants out for the arrest of your former spouse, those warrants still stand. This is simply a request to have access to your child under Article 21 of the Hague.

3. Question: I am American, but I do not currently live in the United States, can I still submit an Article 21 Hague Application to see my child?

    Answer: Yes.

4. Question: Will this process subject me to the Jurisdiction of the Japanese courts, and affect the US Court jurisdiction over my case?

    Answer: It will not affect your US jurisdiction of your case, but the Japanese court system may be utilized under the Hague in facilitating the access to your child. The extent to which the Japanese court system will be used is really a matter of how the Hague implementing legislation is written in Japan.

5. Question: I am not a US Citizen. Can I participate?

    Answer: Yes and no. You cannot file via Stephen Cullen with the US State Department. However, you can file an Article 21 Hague Access application through your country of citizenship, and I highly encourage you to do so to further test Japan’s system. 

6. Question: What will this cost me?

    Answer: Stephen, whose normal attorney fees are about $800 per hour, is doing this PRO BONO. There will probably only be small costs associated with copying, and filing fees.

So what’s the first step? Stephen has asked me to collect as many names as possible of as many parents who would be interested in filing Hague Article 21 Applications. We are hoping to get at least 50, and if we get 100 that would be a tremendous success. I will collect your information centrally for Stephen and then his office will be contacting you to begin the process. I am not sure if he will begin the process prior to Japan’s ratification of the Hague or after. I will let you know when I find out.

For now, though, please provide some basic information to me so I can collect it for Stephen. Your name, your current address, phone, email address, and the names and ages of your children. Stephen’s office will collect more information after the process begins, but for now, I’m simply trying to get a parent and child head count and contact information.

Please distribute this request as far and wide as you can among the community of US Citizen parents who have had their children taken from them to or within Japan. The more parents we get, the better!

(End Paul Toland communication)

Today’s Heroes: Top Parenting Bloggers and Advocates Marvyn and Mary Cab Tinitigan

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Today’s Heroes: Top Parenting Bloggers & Advocates Marvyn and Mary Cab Tinitigan

A year ago, I had contacted Marvyn and Mary Tinitigan, who operate the delightful parenting – family blog site, ‘Marvyn and Mary’ and sought their assistance in stewarding the I CARE Foundation’s message about the pandemic of international parental child abduction so targeted parents may become educated about the realities of abduction.

Over the year, Mary and Marvyn have been extremely helpful in stewarding the messages of abduction prevention.  Their assistance has made a sizeable difference in the lives of many, including playing a key role in the recovery of an abducted child.

Specifically, a young girl was internationally parentally abducted from New Jersey. Her abductor had hatched a clever scheme that included use of flights to Florida, boarding a closed circuit cruise ship (a loophole under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) that would stop off in Mexico after visiting several ports-of-call in the Caribbean, debarking in Mexico’s Cancun, driving to Mexico City, where the abductor would then fly with the kidnapped child to Brazil.  However, the targeted parent, who had remained in New Jersey, unaware of the scheme of her ex-husband, read Marvyn and Mary’s various articles about international parental child abduction and the I CARE Foundation’s work.  Immediately, an investigation was launched that quickly uncovered the in-action plan.  And with a lot of effort and a great deal of work, the little girl was removed from the cruise ship and returned to her custodial mother.  Should the child’s abductor – her non-custodial father – gotten into Mexico, their passage to Brazil would have been clear.  And sadly, the child’s return would have been unlikely since Brazil is generally a non-complying signatory nation of the Hague Convention.

Mary and Marvyn’s willingness to get involved and to advocate for others demonstrates not just good citizenship, but undeniably is a demonstrative building block of excellent parenting.  If it was not for their blog writing and willingness to get involved, at least one child’s hatched kidnapping would have been carried out. But it was not because a caring, fun, and intelligent couple with a sense of civic responsibility decided to use their voice and make a difference for children and families in crisis.

I am pleased to share that Marvyn and Mary Tinitigin are Today’s Heroes.  They not only represent what can happen when each of us advocates issues that are geared toward enriching the greater good of others. Indeed, they are my heroes because, with nothing to gain other than the knowledge that they might be able to help others, they got involved.

Outside of their advocacy with the I CARE Foundation, Marvyn and Mary’s blog writing is delightful! Writing and posting as a family – which is awesome – the topics they write about and some of the photographs they share speak to readers around the world.

It is my honor to share with you my interview with Marvyn and Mary: compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and intelligent Heroes of Today who make the world a better place for all of us. When I think of the words ‘human connectivity’, I think of my dear friends Marvyn and Mary Tinitigin.

Here is my interview:

1. Your parent blog site ‘Marvyn and Mary’ is an absolute celebration of parenting and partnership. How do you and Marvyn collaborate on topics and issues you share with your readers?

We don’t really have a formal collaboration process. Instead we have a general idea of what our readers want and we stay true to that. We’re pretty loosey-goosey in that regard. – Marvyn

2. Why did you decide to create your parenting blog? 

Marvynandmary.com was originally a venue for us to share our wedding information with attendees. After our wedding, it eventually evolved into a blog. Marvyn has the know-how, so why not? – Mary

Eventually we were getting a lot of feedback on our posts of not-so-common products, so we took it from there.  – Marvyn

3. How has your writing and blog impacted others?

I’m hoping it gives the readers a few minutes of smiles and laughter. Everybody wants to see more of Jagger, right? – Marvyn

I am hoping that they find something in our blog that will help them in whatever they are searching for. Whether it’s laughter, wanting to relate to another parent or in need of help, I hope they find that on our site. – Mary

4. Parenting blog writers partially consist of mothers who have dedicated themselves to the incredible fulltime task of raising a family. What are the benefits for a stay-at-home mother or father who is considering creating a blog or using social media to have their voice heard?

Networking. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if it wasn’t for that, you know? – Marvyn

I am no longer a stay-at-home mom but when I was, I used our blog to just write about things that interest me like the I CARE Foundation. I also used it as something that I could take out my frustration on. – Mary

5. What are some of the fun or interesting aspects of being a well-respected parent blog writer?

You can take pictures of anything. When somebody gives you a dirty look, the instant response is “Don’t worry, it’s for my blog!” –Marvyn

That you can say anything you want and not worry about what people think – Mary

6. The way society obtains and shares information has changed dramatically over a short period of time. How important of a role do parent blog writers have in educating other parents about issues that they may face?

It is very important. When we were expecting, we looked to the web to provide us with answers that we needed and we wanted to do the same. Marvyn wanted to start writing reviews on products we bought in hopes that it would help people decide on whether to buy it or not, especially when it came to baby products.  We were constantly on Babies R Us reading reviews so we thought why not write our experience on our blog?

7. Would you say that a mobilized and united parent blog community has the ability of creating trends, swaying policy, and increasing the elevation of topical issues?

Absolutely! We as parents have a right to raise our voices because we are fighting for our children’s future. People tend to listen more when raising an issue comes from a parent. They know that we just want to do what is right and want to protect our children – Mary

8. On your blog site’s ‘About Us’ section, you post: ‘Let me write something about us. I promise I will make it entertaining. Come back later, okay?’ So, here is your chance: how about three sentences.

1)
2)
3)….come back later okay? 😉

9. Parent blog writer’s social activism is becoming more visible and influential. What responsibilities do parents have, if any, to become vocal with respect to causes or issues that impact society?

I think parents have such a big responsibility in society. After all, we are raising the future of this country. – Mary

10. How have you used your website to help others, particularly children and families in crisis?

I think your feedback is proof. A perfect example of how our website has helped those in need. –Marvyn

11. You have become visible in your advocacy with the I CARE Foundation to help prevent international child abduction and human trafficking. Why is this important?

Because we want to do anything we can to protect the innocent. It is such a cruel world out there and we want those horrible human beings (if we can even call them that)to know that we are out there, fighting you with everything we have to keep our children safe.

12. Your blog helped prevent an abduction of a young girl taken from the United States to South America. How did you feel knowing that you made a difference for a targeted family? 

We were completely blown away by the news. There were so many thoughts running through our mind. To unknowingly help someone get their daughter back, how do you find the right words to that? We are just so unbelievably happy that the child was returned. We never expected it would be our blog that would be of assistance to something like this. There are so many options when you Google something and the fact that our blog popped up and helped them, it’s just…WOW. It’s an honor really. It gives us comfort in some way that if something like this happens again, our blog and others like ours is able to provide someone with some assistance.  -Mary

13. Can you name three books that have inspired you? 

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. One of my all time favorite book/movie. I was always a believer in fairy tales (I mean, what girl doesn’t right) and that book gave me a hope at a time that I needed it most. Now this book inspired Marvyn too.  We met when I visited my family here in NJ during Christmas break. I was living in California at that time. He found out that my favorite book/movie is The Notebook. When it was time for me to leave, he wrote me this lovely letter that he made me promise not to read until I got on the plane. He pretty much confessed his love for me and that he really wished we could have met in different circumstances because he would have loved to get to know me better. Well, we all know how that turned out. A happy ending for us both =)

Another one is a book called Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo. I don’t know how much of the story is actually the truth but it gave me such hope that when it is our time, we are really going to be reunited with the people we love up there.

And lastly, Chasing the Cyclone, written by my wonderful friend, Peter Thomas Senese,  is another one that inspired me. It’s a story about a father’s love, how he would go to hell and back to get his son back. Reading that book, I never imagined it would introduce us to a great cause but also introduced us to a group of amazing people.

14. What would you tell other parent blogger writers about their role in using their voice to further social causes about children? 

That, believe us, your voice matters. We never knew when we started writing about the I CARE Foundation that our voice would be heard. You always told us, Peter, that our voices are being heard and it is helping, that we are heroes as well. We had a hard time seeing ourselves as heroes just by writing something important. With the news that we helped someone get their daughter back, we still don’t see ourselves as one. It really is all because of you Peter and the I CARE Foundation. You are the hero because with you and the foundation, we never would have had the chance to help give a voice to it. -Mary

15. Jagger seems to always be smiling, and the affection that is shared with him clearly genuine. What are some of the important aspects or techniques of your and Marvyn’s parenting that you would like to share with others? 

We shower Jagger with hugs and kisses every day. We don’t take our time with him for granted. His happiness means the world to us. Some may say he is spoiled but he gets disciplined too when he acts out.  Marvyn has been chatting with one of his aunts who lives in California lately. It’s been a while since they’ve talked. And he’s shown her pictures and one of her comments was the same thing: he is always smiling and looks very happy. I don’t know what we are doing half that time but obviously we are doing something right, right? I guess one thing I can tell parents out there is to not take life so seriously. Look at life through the eyes of your child every now and again. Also, no matter how hard you feel like you have to work so you can buy your child everything they want, remember that all they really want is your time. The material things are not what is important to them. As long as your child is happy and you’re happy, things will work out for the best. -Mary

16. What are three things that you love to do? 

There are just too many to name! This is hard. But I have to choose right? So here it goes: reading, watch basketball with my boys and shopping!

17. I consider you and Marvyn heroes for you acted unselfishly and came to the aid of the I CARE Foundation when we desperately sought assistance from the parent blog writer community to help raise awareness of abduction. You have posted several articles that have made an impact on the lives of others. How important is it for each of us to find our courage and share our voice?

It is so incredibly important to share our voice. You never know who you will reach. Someone out there is searching for something and your blog may just provide the right answer. Never in a million years would I have thought writing about I CARE Foundation would eventually reach that one person who really needed it. -Mary

18. If there is anything you would like readers to know that we have not covered here, what would that be?

That Marvyn and Jagger have more shoes than me!

(End Interview)

Marvyn and Mary Tinitigan demonstrate by act that each of our voices really do matter. They have made a resounding impact on others – something I am sure they will continue to do.  Their son Jagger is very fortunate, for he has two amazing parents that are connected to enriching the human experience by sharing the wonderments of their life.

Heroes can be defined by individuals chose to act for the greater good of others.  The heroic act is the defining moment, not necessarily the final act, but the willingness to act.  In Maryvn and Mary’s case, they have acted to help others, and have made a difference for others.  And that is more than very cool!

I invite you to visit Marvyn and Mary’s website.

– Peter Thomas Senese –

A Remarkable Hero: Mom-ology Parenting Blogger Jennifer Husson Cluff

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A Remarkable Hero: Mom-ology Parenting Blogger Jennifer Husson Cluff

Jennifer Husson Cluff Has Been Voted As One Of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting Bloggers

Over the past few years I have written a series of essays about real-life heroes – incredible individuals who act in kindness and compassion toward others and who inherently, by the nature of their spirits, enhance the lives of those around them. I am fortunate to call each a dear friend. These individuals have made me a better person. They have positively impacted the lives of so many others by direct act or through social activism. Nevertheless, they are what is right about our world.

Jennifer Husson Cluff
Voted One Of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting Writers

Needless to say, I feel honored and blessed to have these remarkable heroes in my life for they have not only enriched my own life, but they have profoundly and measurably made our world a better place. It is my privilege to share with you, insight about my dear friend Jennifer Husson Cluff of Ontario, Canada who not only is an active defender and protector of children in crisis, as well as children with special needs, but who also is one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate individuals I have ever had the privilege to call a ‘friend’. It is no wonder why Jennifer Husson Cluff has been awarded the honor of being called one of Canada’s top parenting bloggers through her incredible work discussing everyday parenting issues on her blog Mom-ology, but also issues revolving around autism and international child abduction and trafficking. From my perspective, Jennifer Husson Cluff is not only one of Canada’s top parenting bloggers, but she is one of the world’s most prolific parenting writers because through her writing and social media capability, Jennifer has measurably helped save the lives of children in severe crisis.

Before I go any further, let me say this simple thing about heroes: they are ordinary people doing extraordinary things for others during time of need or crisis, and in their act, they seek nothing but to hold the knowledge that they acted in kindness toward another, including individuals they know as well as individuals they may never know. In a hero’s compassionate act, they make the world a better place. And unquestionably, Jennifer Husson Cluff has made the world a better place for others.

Social media has clearly altered the way the world shares information, including a shift away from what may be previously considered traditional media outlets to the more nano-moment overdrive that occurs via social media outlets such as blog sites, TwitterFacebook, etc., etc. The paradigm of this is a massive world of what may be viewed as dormant voices erupted in the media. The volcano, if you will – the highly intelligent, insightful, connected voices known as parenting blog writers.

Speaking from first-hand experience in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, I have seen just how influential parenting blog writers are, particularly when they mobilize on a specific issue or cause. Fortunately for many at-risk children and their parents who have been targeted for international parental child abduction, a large and growing number of parenting bloggers decided to share their powerful voices and write about abduction. In doing so, the number of reported cased in the United States declined by 15% during 2012. This was more than a remarkable event. It was a miracle partially created by some extraordinary parents – mostly mothers who parent, who write, who live, who think, who care, and who stood unbowed. Among this remarkable group, and defining all of the above, is Jennifer Husson Cluff.

Over the past year, the I CARE Foundation has worked with Jennifer. Whenever we asked her for assistance in sharing messages that could possibly help families at risk, not only did she say ‘yes’ to our request, but asked ‘what else can I do to help?’

And help she did!

Jennifer Husson Cluff is my hero. She is what is right about this world. I value her friendship greatly and am inspired deeply by her belief in others, but more than anything, I value her incredible, insightful voice – a voice that always thinks of others while also being assertive, thoughtful, and at times, quite funny. And as a parent – there is not a day that goes by that I am not amazed by just how caring and attentive of a parent Jennifer is to her son Connor, who I think is one of the most remarkable young boys I have ever had the privilege of getting to know – in fact, I am blessed that Connor, who sees the world in its purest form – has been willing to share with me from time-to-time his unique, innocent, trusting, and wise perspective about so many things.

The other day, I was discussing with my fellow I CARE Foundation board of director member, attorney Joel Walter the amazing fact that the number of international parental child abduction cases declined by 15%. His words? “The reason why that happened more than anything is because of remarkable women like Jen [Husson Cluff] who answered our plea to help steward the message about abduction. They [the parenting blog writers] played a dramatic role in what was accomplished.”

I couldn’t agree more with Joel’s statement.

In asking Jennifer a list of questions below, I think you will understand just how remarkable a person she is. So with great pleasure, I share with you my interview with my hero, Jennifer Husson Cluff.

1. What is Mom-ology?

Mom-ology is a place where I share anything and everything mom-related… or in reality, parenting-related, as I do have some dad readers too. I originally started writing under another blog name and it was specifically about autism. As time went on, I started branching out into more general parenting topics, which allowed Mom-ology to be born. It allowed me to expand what I wanted to write about. It’s a place where I am able to be me and if that benefits someone else as well, that’s fantastic!

2. You have recently been voted one of Canada’s Top Parenting Blog Writers. Why write and what topics do you focus on?

My main goal in writing is to write about personal issues that may be of interest to others. Becoming a stay-at-home mom after being in the workforce for almost 15 years was a difficult transition in one sense. Though I love my son more than anything in this world, I thought I lost a part of my identity as a person in the workforce. So in creating Mom-ology, and writing about the things I do, it has allowed me to share my voice with others again.

Outside of sharing life living with autism… the good, the bad and the funny… I am passionate about raising autism awareness. As a special needs parent, I learned very quickly how to advocate for my son. Society has a lot of misconceptions about autism, and to help reduce the amount of discrimination and unfortunately, ignorance, the views of society need to change. My goal is to do what I can to change those views… to make life easier for my son, his friends and anyone else on the spectrum.

I have also become a bit of an advocate trying to help raise awareness about international parental child abduction (IPCA). About a year ago, I was introduced to this world that I didn’t know existed. I was an outsider looking in… and I can sure say, I didn’t like what I saw. I have been incredibly lucky to be able to assist the I CARE Foundation in any way I can, as they fight to bring about changes in the laws that are necessary to protect innocent children from the abuse and cruel world that is IPCA.

3. You are a fierce advocate of children with special needs. What benefits, if any, has social media had in furthering society’s understanding of children who are on the autism spectrum?

Thank you for saying that Peter – it means an awful lot coming from you. As you are aware, education is the key for any type of advocacy. In my opinion, social media has been a huge benefit as we try to raise awareness and help change the way society looks at children or adults on the autism spectrum.

Social media has allowed many causes and advocacy programs to reach people that they would have never been able to years ago. There are bloggers out there advocating and raising awareness for autism, as well as organizations such as Autism Speaks, and the information and reach is unbelievable. For example, April 2nd has been recognized as World Autism Awareness Day and a big part of this day is Autism Speaks’ campaign called ‘Light It Up Blue’. Businesses, organizations and individuals from all around the world recognize and participate in this event. It’s something small but it shows that social media is making a difference and getting the word out there. It allows us to share with society and to help people understand. Many times people’s reactions are based on fear of the unknown, but those fears can be reduced simply sharing information and educating society. I like to think that one day my son will live in a world that will accept him for who he is and part of that will be due to the work that advocates are doing today… but we still have a long way to go.

4. You have stewarded the message of international parental child abduction prevention, and have directly played important roles in helping prevent children from being internationally abducted. How would you describe parental child abduction and how relevant is this in society today?

I would say any parent’s worst nightmare would be to have their child abducted. Making it worse would be to know that it was the other parent doing the abducting! It’s hard to imagine that a parent could do that to their child! Aren’t parents supposed to love and care for their children? I know many of you feel the same way as I do and just can’t fathom the idea. However, it happens… and it happens a lot!

International parental child abduction is a form of child abuse… there is no other way to describe it. The short-term and long-term effects on these innocent children are severe. Not only is the child subjected to parental alienation, but studies show there is an increased risk of being murdered by the abducting parent (filicide) and data indicating victims of IPCA are also at a higher risk of suicide.

If you look at the statistics you will see how relevant this is in society today. There may be as many as 20,000 Canadian children and 125,000 American children internationally abducted by one parent from the other over the next ten years. Of those numbers, only about 10% of these children will ever come home!

As a parent, protect yourself and protect your child… I encourage you to take a few minutes and educate yourself about the WARNING SIGNS of IPCA. The easiest and best way to protect these children is to stop IPCA before it happens!

5. You use your blog to educate others about a host of important topics relevant to society today. What would be two of your biggest success stories on how your blog writing has helped another?

One of the things that I love about blogging is hearing from readers. My favorite story by far would be when I was contacted by a mom here in Canada, after reading an article about international parental child abduction that was shared on Mom-ology. This mom discovered that her three children were at risk of being taken to Saudi Arabia by their father. Thankfully the I CARE Foundation was able to ensure that these children remained in Canada where they were safe. I will ALWAYS remember that day… being a part of ensuring these children were safe… that was truly an amazing feeling!

I have had ‘autism parents’ contact me looking for support for their struggles that mainly revolve around dealing with school issues. Most recently, a parent emailed me after their child was forced into a supposed ‘seclusion room’ at school. Many parents are unaware of their rights in these types of situations and even more are afraid to upset the school and the officials. Helping parents to understand their rights and assisting to ensure they are able to access the resources and support that they need is extremely important. In this case it was to protect a child’s safety… to preserve a child’s dignity… and help a parent to realize they need to be the voice for their child and stand up for what they believe is right.

6. How socially influential are parenting blog writers and mom bloggers in particular?

I wish I could remember where I read this, but it was research stating that in 2012 there were 4.2 million ‘mom bloggers’ in North America. Now each of those mom bloggers have a passion that they write about… it may be fashion, food or fighting for a cause… whatever it is, in those numbers, they carry a lot of weight in the social world. Many parenting bloggers are stay at home moms and we use our blogs to share our voice and with the accessibility of the internet we are able to share our message with more people than ever before. I read parenting blogs from all around the world… I don’t go to buy a newspaper anymore… I use the internet to see what is going on in the world.

7. You have been blog writing for a little more than a year, yet in your first year as a blogger you have become considered one of the most important parenting blog writers. Are there any lessons that you can share with other parents who are or may be considering creating a blog?

Mom-ology was not my first blog but it is the first one that I have actually stuck with and made into something that I am proud of. I struggled a lot trying to ‘find my groove’ so to speak. I can’t say exactly what it was, but everything just fell into place. I write about what I love. I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way. I proved that to myself many times over!! I like to think I’m heading down the right path now though because I sure love what I do.

In my opinion, you need to write about what you know… write about what you love! I think with blogging, you have to do it because you enjoy it. If you put too many expectations on yourself you will probably lose interest. Deciding what you want from your blog is also an important step. Do you want it to be a ‘diary’ that you can share with family and friends, or do you have a bigger goal in mind…making an income? Advocating for a cause? Most of all have fun!

8. I would like to play a little word game. What comes to mind when I say, “Finding Your Voice?”

Funny you should ask this question, seeing as it comes up so much in our conversations!

I believe that your ‘voice’ is who you are… your mind, your heart and your spirit. When you ‘find your voice’ you find who you are truly meant to be and what is your ‘gift’, so to speak. There is a passion inside everyone and the challenge is to find it, but when you do, you will know. I guess for myself, I found my voice after I started Mom-ology. It’s been an incredible journey!

9. How has social media changed the landscape of society?

Social media has made some pretty great changes in the world. If you look at the way we interact with each other there are some definite pros and cons. Social media allows us to stay in contact with friends and family like we never could before, but I also think there is a downside to that in that we have lost some of the social skills that used to exist in society. People sit in the same room with each other and converse via text messages rather than a good old conversation. I must admit that I find that funny when I see it happen. The definition of ‘friends’ has pretty much been redefined due to Facebook. How many of your friends on Facebook are really friends? But if you look at the area of social activism, the changes are amazing! Gone are the days of having a small group on individuals trying to fight for a cause…locally. Today, social media allows people to connect on a global scale which only benefits the area of education and raising awareness. Think about the decline in parental abductions. This information is going out over the internet through the I CARE Foundation and bloggers. Parents are finding out about IPCA and the risks through social media. Children’s lives are being protected because of social media! I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty impressive!

10. Three books that have changed your life?

OK, this is really going to show where my life is today! I don’t have a lot of free time to read so when I do, most of my focus goes into learning about autism. The first two books are written by individuals on the autism spectrum and each has taught me so much about my son.

Chasing the Cyclone… well, that’s kind of a given. Now certainly one of my favorite books, it has impacted my life in so many positive ways… as has the author!!

1. Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
2. Look Me In the Eye by John Elder Robison
3. Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas Senese

11. Your son has a golden retriever named Ollie. How important is Ollie to your family?

As a companion, a helper, a best friend and member of our family, Ollie is our son’s autism service dog. Quite simply, he brings peace back to our lives as he is our extra set of eyes and ears. He has the amazing ability to make a young boy’s tears disappear by sharing a little nuzzle, or a comforting lick on the cheek, and those tears are replaced with sounds of laughter. Things like providing a warm snuggle at night, Ollie helps our son to feel safe and comforted so that he is able to sleep. A simple cuddle can help reduce anxiety and assists with self-regulation (those things we all take for granted) which makes those daily routines more bearable. If you were to ask what the best thing about having Ollie is, our son’s reply would be, and has been, ‘He is my best friend’.

We have had Ollie for almost 4 years and he has made such an enormous change in our lives. He has a big job but he does it so well! As you can probably tell by all that, Ollie is an extremely important member of our family and we are truly blessed to have him!

12. International Parental Child Abduction rates declined for the second year in a row in the United States. How significant of a role would you say parenting blog writers played in raising social awareness so at-risk parents can protect their children?

First off, I am thrilled at this news. When you shared this information the other day it was, as you know, a reality check for me. As a blogger, you don’t generally see the effect that you have on things like social awareness. If you are blogging about healthy eating, you don’t see how your efforts change people’s health specifically… you have to trust that what you are doing is making a difference.

In the case of parental child abduction, getting the word out on a global scale is beneficial for all. With bloggers having access to the internet and the followers through social media sites, it is easy to get messages out on a massive scale. I guess you could say that the numbers speak for themselves. Though standing up for what you believe in on your own is better than not doing anything at all, I think it takes a strong team to really make a difference. The efforts of the I CARE Foundation and the parenting bloggers that have been working with them are making a difference! I am proud to be a part of that!

13. Who or what inspires you?

That’s an easy one… my biggest inspiration is, of course, my son.

14. What should others know about you and your writing?

One of my favourite phrases is ‘Live… Laugh… Love’. There are sure a lot of different ways you can interpret that phrase, but any way you look at it, it’s a great way to live! If I could give everyone the ability to at least laugh each day I would. Laughter is the best medicine… it doesn’t take batteries… and best of all, it’s free.

I would love it if people would stop by and check out Mom-ology… and of course let me know that you stopped by!

15. What would you like to tell anyone who thinks that their voice doesn’t matter or who thinks that they can’t make a difference in their own life or the lives of others?

Never let anyone tell you that your voice doesn’t matter because it does! Even one voice can make a difference. It took me a while to realize that, but thanks to a pretty good friend… namely Peter Thomas Senese… I am able to see that now. If I can make a difference, so can you!

(End Interview Questions)

There are people in this world that make the world a better place by simply existing, and Jennifer Husson Cluff sure is one of them.  Extremely intelligent, humble, considerate to others, a dedicated parent who has found her voice and who has used her voice for the greater good of others, she is what is right about this world.

While I sit here thinking about how I would like to end this interview, I have immediately found myself reflecting upon the time when Jen and I first met.  With a smile on my face, I remember after our first conversation thinking how intelligent and caring she is.  But I also remember thinking to myself, “She really doesn’t realize just how capable she is, nor how important her incredible insight is.”  Well, I can’t say how amazing of an experience it has personally been to see first-hand as Jennifer Husson Cluff, one of Canada’s Top 5 Parenting writers . . . has found her voice.  Undeniably, the world is a better place . . . and my life has been enriched in ways I could never possibly explain.

And Jennifer, should you ever read this – I want you to know you are a true hero in my eyes.

Kindest wishes to all –

Peter Thomas Senese

Author, Filmmaker, Advocate, and Believer In Miracles
Founding Director – The I CARE Foundation

Please visit Mom-ology.

Peter Thomas Senese Discusses The U.S. Decline Of Parental Child Abduction Cases

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A Special Message From Peter Thomas Senese On

The U.S. Decline Of International Child Abduction Cases

I am very pleased to share that the number of reported United States outbound cases of international parental child abduction (IPCA) has declined for a second year in a row.

Despite key factors that have led to increases in risk factors associated with IPCA such as global citizenship mobility, U.S. abduction rates have dropped from what was previously forecasted as a +22% to a +40% yearly growth rate to an average decline of 15% per year over the past two reporting years.

This is a remarkable series of events, and credit must be given and shared with those who have worked so hard to stop abduction.

Personally, I believe that there is no organization that deserves more credit than the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI).  The leadership of OCI is made up of some of the most caring individuals in the world who dedicate their lives to helping families at risk of abduction. Speaking from first-hand experience as a volunteer advocate who spends a significant part of my life fighting for children at risk of abduction, I can tell you that fighting this fight is not easy: which makes it even that more remarkable to think about the incredible committment displayed by many individuals at OCI. With attention to the decline in reported cases of abduction, significant credit must be given to OCI and its leadership, who continued with an assortment of educational public outreach programs created to help families in crisis.  Clearly, their effort is making a difference.

Outreach and education have been the primary catalysts behind the decline in abductions, and undeniably, the work of a select group of organizations, foundations, and individuals have made a sizeable difference in preventing abduction.  Unilaterally, the  work of child abduction prevention advocates have been able to not only educate families in crisis of abduction, but organizations such as the I CARE Foundation have assisted parents by providing legal counsel during court abduction prevention proceedings. Undeniably, stewarding the public message of abduction risk has made a measurable difference, and the tireless work of these non-government organizations have made a difference.  In addition, the vehicles used to reach parents have increased.  The books, articles, and reports written and published have mattered.  The educational documentary films have made a difference, as too have the creation of several educational websites.

In reflection, the power of social media and global connectivity via the Internet has allowed communities dealing with IPCA to form and grow. These communities have become visible and made a difference to many.  And they continue to grow.

Another aspect of why IPCA rates have fallen is that after 30 years since the United States became a member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction (1981), courts and judges charged with overseeing abduction risk are finally beginning to understand the gravity of the situation at hand, and their own limited authority once a child is illegally removed.

From the I CARE Foundation’s perspective, and keeping in mind that many of our lawyers have worked impressively to educate the courts and judges on the many issues of IPCA.  On a personal level, I have voluntarily provided expert testimony before numerous courts in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation at the request of counsel. In fact, at the request of the United States Department of State, the I CARE Foundation hosted a conference at the United Nations as part of the Department of State’s ‘Global Leadership Visitor Program’.

Finally, I must say that the incredible effort of a series of parenting bloggers who wrote extensively about IPCA reached millions of other parents, some of who were at risk of having a child abducted.  Made aware of their own circumstances (many parents never consider the possibility of IPCA), these at-risk parents were able to act to protect their children – something I know first hand because the I CARE Foundation assisted numerous families in crisis who turned to the foundation for assistance after reading an article posted by a parent blog writer. Remarkably, these amazing parents, all not having any direct association with IPCA, made a major contribution and help protect children.

Are we moving in the right direction? Yes.  However, it would be a major mistake to think that we can put our guard down and not push further to remove abduction risk.  Clearly there is a great deal to be done on all fronts, including the abduction prevention side and, equally, on the international compliance side once a child is kidnapped.  Sadly, it is anticipated that the total number of children returned home after they are abducted, when including reported and unreported cases of abduction (as defined in the report below), is less than 10%. Which means that approximately 90% of all kidnapped children never come home.  And the dangers of IPCA are real, and include severe abuse that has led to parental child murder and post-abduction suicide by kidnapped victims.  And that is why we must continue to fight against abduction.  Afterall, a child’s life sure is worth fighting for.

I offer to you the report ‘Crisis In America – 2013’ written by Carolyn Ann Vlk, Joel Walter, and myself.  Carolyn and Joel are two of the hardest working child advocates on the planet. The I CARE Foundation is very fortunate to have their leadership.

Here is the report:

Report on International Parental Child Abduction Growth
International Parental Child Abduction Today – 2013
Written By

Issued On February 25th, 2013

INTRODUCTION

United States child-citizens continue to be criminally kidnapped, illegally removed overseas, and wrongfully detained in foreign countries in shocking numbers by their non-custodial parent. The global plague of international parental child abduction significantly continues in America in a similar capacity as it does in the majority of nations abroad. However, the United States Department of State has now reported in two consecutive years that the number of reported outbound cases of American child-citizen abductions has declined. Clearly, this is very significant, particularly since previously reported growth trends demonstrated an average growth rate of reported American child abductions of over 20% per year during the previous decade.

Specifically, during 2012 there were 799 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority representing a total of 1,144 children.  Previously, in 2011 there were a total of 941 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority, representing a total of 1,367 children.

Thus, the reduction by 142 filed cases represents a decline of 15% of reported abduction cases from 2012 from 2011.  During the same reporting period, there were 223 fewer children internationally kidnapped in 2012 from 2011, representing a 16.3% decrease of total children abducted.

Comparatively, there were 1022 reported international parental child abduction cases in 2010 representing 1,492 children.  Thus, there has been a reduction of 223 reported abduction cases from 2010 to 2012, representing a total decline of 348 children between the two years. This represents a two year decline from 2010 to 2012 in reported cases by 21.8%, and a 23.3% reduction over the same two year period in the number of children kidnapped.

Year                      Reported Cases           Number of Children

2010                             1022                                       1,492
2011                               941                                       1,367
2012                              799                                        1,144

The decline in the reported number of international parental child abductions of American citizens represents a significant development and bespeaks of the tremendous educational outreach effort by the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’sIssues as well as non-government organizations such as but not limited to the I CARE Foundation and the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children to raise awareness of parental abduction amongst lawyers, judges, law enforcement, and targeted parents to that children may be protected.  However, it is important to note that despite a groundbreaking shift in child abduction statistical growth trends previously realized, we strongly affirm that criminal international parental child abduction continues to be a destructive epidemic in the United States and abroad that must be met with new abduction prevention laws and government policies, while significant efforts to educate courts, law enforcement, social workers, and at-risk parents of the many issues of child kidnapping diligently continue.

It is important to note that while the number of ‘reported cases’ of international parental child abduction have declined, the number of ‘unreported cases’ of abduction remains a significant concern for both government agencies and non-government organizations dedicated to preventing abduction.  Previously, the I CARE Foundation issued a report that the number of yearly unreported cases of abduction is believed to equal between 100% and 125% of all reported abduction cases.  We have no reason to change this forecast.  Thus, though there are no measurable statistics on unreported abduction cases, it would be reasonable, though not conclusive, to anticipate that the number of unreported cases of international child abduction have also declined.

While there is much to be pleased about regarding the significant decline in the reported international parental child abduction rate and forecasted decline in unreported cases of abduction, a great concern critically worth noting is that the number of children actually legally returned home after they are kidnapped remains to be estimated at only 10% when considering the total number of reported and unreported cases.

The reality is that children who are internationally abducted do not come home.  Sadly, many are lost forever.

One of the major facets of abduction prevention is education, and raising awareness of abduction threats to at-risk parents clearly has demonstrated a clear and measurable impact on the number of reported abduction cases.

Clearly and unquestionably, educational outreach programs directed toward raising international parental child abduction awareness are working!  Still, there is a long way to go.

The I CARE Foundation and the organization’s leadership have been actively involved in increasing awareness of child abduction while assisting a large number of parents protect their at-risk children.

One of the I CARE Foundation’s most dynamic and significant educational outreach programs that have had measurable results is the ‘Parent Blogger Educational Outreach Program’.  Under the program, highly influential parenting bloggers with a large global readership of followers have written a series of informative educational articles concerning the pandemic of international parental child abduction, including warning signs, risk factors, and actionable steps an at-risk parent may take to prevent abduction.  This grassroots effort led primarily by mothers who write and blog to raise awareness has been a tremendous success and has resulted in a significant number of successful child abduction prevention cases to occur.   Collectively, the extraordinary participants of the ‘Parent Blogger Educational Outreach Program’ have reached millions of parents, some who may have been directly at risk, or who may have known another parent and child at risk of abduction. In addition, the reach of these incredible parents willing to help protect children at risk of abduction has had a global impact on the prevention of child abduction as blogger participants were located on every continent and the millions of their readers blanketed the globe.  Clearly, the effort of these parent writers has made a significant difference in protecting lives, both in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere!

With the recent success of efforts put forth by child advocates everywhere to stop abduction, we are reminded that child abduction is a cruel and dangerous act against a child.

With grave concern we acknowledge that hundreds of young children each year are murdered by their parents in the United States, and that there is a clear statistical correlation of filicide in nations abroad and abduction similar to reported United States and Canadian government statistics of parental child murder.

As this report cites in detail, international parental child abduction is a severe criminal act of kidnapping committed by a parent against a child and the targeted left behind parent. International parental child abductors commit grave crimes against their child, including the act of abduction as well as the acts of child abuse and neglect.

According to numerous studies and reports including those issued by the United States Department of Justice and Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police, an abductor exhibits significant sociopathic tendencies, and generally does not act in the best interest of a child, but conversely, the act of abduction and the acts after the child-snatching cause both serious short-term and long-term damage that may, on many occasions, be irreversible. Sadly, acts of identity stripping, parental isolation, and removal of the bond between the abducted child and targeted parent speak nothing of the fact that filicide: the act of parental child murder is real. So too, tragically, is the reality that children who have been abducted and who have had their identity stripped during an abduction exhibit an alarming number of characteristics that are exhibited in individuals who commit suicide.

For the majority of child advocates who work tirelessly to protect children, especially advocates who are not in the business of profiting due to the tragedy of a child being kidnapped, what we fight for are lives – children’s lives.

In our capacity as directors of the not-for-profit I CARE Foundation, which has successfully assisted reunited numerous internationally kidnapped children with their targeted left-behind parents taken from around the world, while also preventing an exponentially larger number of children from international parental child abduction, we and our colleagues have worked tirelessly at conducting extensive research in the area of child abduction.

The I CARE Foundation’s volunteer activity has included playing key roles in legally reuniting many abducted children, writing and working diligently in the passing of abduction prevention laws and leading in lobbying efforts to have existing policies modified so that the capacity to protect children from kidnapping would be increased, in our creation of a national attorney network of educated lawyers willing and ready to assist at-risk children and their families,  in our capacity as researchers and educators to study the global issues of international parental child abduction and publish our findings in a way that may drive policy, and in our efforts to create a grassroots educational awareness movement by working with leading parent bloggers and writers with large followers, who have shared with their audiences the grave issues of abduction.

Though great strides have been made over the past two years, and we hope that the child abduction trend will continue to decline, we do have reason for concern.  Our apprehension is due in part due to the reality that though abduction rates have declined in the last known reporting fiscal year of 2012, there remains a glaring failure by the courts and law enforcement to punish international parental child abductors even though the act itself is a federal criminal act that is a known form of child abuse.  Without concern to be held accountable for their actions, parents who contemplate or carry out abduction will do so with a sense of immunity.  Without holding kidnappers accountable, children at-risk of abduction remain vulnerable.

In addition, it is critical to recognize that chasing parents who attempt to legally reunite with their kidnapped child face incredible difficulties in doing so. The challenges faced are discussed in this report in detail; however, they include but are not limited to failures by nations to uphold international treaties such as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the outright failure of nations to enter into any international treaty, receiving-country prejudice at the trial court level on legal action taken by a left-behind parent, grave financial challenges faced by a targeted chasing parent, and direct physical dangers faced by a targeted parent if they should attempt to reunite with their abducted child.

Clearly, child abduction prevention advocates are making an impact through an assortment of outreach programs that are raising awareness at the at-risk parent level, the trial lawyer level, and within the courts, as demonstrated by the second consecutive year of abduction rate declines. However, for parents presently attempting to reunite with their kidnapped children, the challenges they face are grave as explained herein.

REPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

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.” In the 2010 annual report Ms. Jacobs continues to voice concerns over the increasing numbers of our child-citizens who have been wrongfully removed or wrongfully detained.

Similar sentiment has been shared in reports issued by the U.S. Department of State since this time. There is no question that the challenges that parents and children of abduction face are significant.

However, during 2012 there were 799 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority representing a total of 1,144 children.  Previously, in 2011 there were a total of 941 reported international parental child abduction cases filed with the United States Central Authority, representing a total of 1,367 children.  Thus, the reduction by 142 filed cases represents a decline of 15% of reported abduction cases from 2012 from 2011.  During the same reporting period, there were 223 fewer children internationally kidnapped in 2012 from 2011, representing a 16.3% decrease of total children abducted.  Comparatively, there were 1022 reported international parental child abduction cases in 2010 representing 1,492 children.  Thus, there has been a reduction of 223 reported abduction cases from 2010 to 2012, representing a total decline of 348 children between the two years. This represents a two year decline from 2010 to 2012 in reported cases by 21.8%, and a 23.3% reduction over the same two year period in the number of children kidnapped.

UNREPORTED CASES OF INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION

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 so few 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 (IPCA). 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.

PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION IS A SEVERE FORM OF CHILD ABUSE

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.

EXTREME DIFFICULTIES IN RECOVERING AN ABDUCTED CHILD

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.

REASONS WHY ONE PARENT CRIMINALLY ABDUCTS A CHILD

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. Their intent is simple: to make the other parent suffer as much as possible by depriving that targeted parent with the love and connection to their own child. Nearly every published study on this subject has concluded that an abducting parent has significant, and typically, long-term psychological problems and may in fact be a danger to their child.

We take the time to acknowledge that in certain cases of parental child abduction, a parent claims to have no other choice but to flee the other parent due to serious, grave, and ongoing forms of abuse. We acknowledge that in many abduction defenses found under Article 13 of The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an abducting parent will often claim mental, emotional, and physical abuse by the other parent as part of their defense to sanction their criminal behavior of abduction. However, we must also acknowledge that domestic violence is a very real, measurable, and in many cases, an ongoing crime that has limited law enforcement safety controls. We acknowledge that there are parents who must flee for their and their child’s safety due to failures by law enforcement and courts to protect their safety, combined with an habitual abuser who aims to cause grave hurt to the targeted parent.

In addition, and 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 and signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist. Florida’s new preventative legislation will take effect on January 1, 2011. 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.”

IMMIGRATION MIGRATION AND ITS AFFECT ON CHILD ABDUCTION CASES

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.”

DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S OFFICE OF CHILDREN’S ISSUES

The Office of Children’s Issues has worked diligently to educate at-risk parents of abduction via an assortment of outreach programs.  The leadership at OCI has placed a particular emphasis on abduction prevention, which in turn has demonstrated remarkable and measurable results including two consecutive years of significant abduction rate declines.

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.

About the Authors:

Peter Thomas Senese is the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, a highly respected child abduction prevention advocate and a successful chasing parent in accordance to the rules of international parental child abduction law established under the Hague Convention.  Under Peter’s leadership, the I CARE Foundation has assisted reunite many children who have been internationally kidnapped with their left-behind parents while also working tirelessly to prevent the abduction of an exponentially larger number of children. Peter advocated for the passage of the State of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ (CAPA), heavily contributed to raising public awareness of the previously widely underutilized federal child abduction prevention program; specifically, the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ (PDP) that is now more commonly implemented in aiding targeted parents and their child from abduction in certain case scenarios, worked diligently to have ‘Senate Resolution 543 – the International Parental Child Abduction Resolution’unanimously passed calling for a complete revamping of how the United States government handles abduction. In addition, Peter has spoken as an expert witness before numerous government bodies, including hosting a forum on international parental child abduction at the United Nations at the request of the U.S. Department of State in his capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation.  Peter is the creator/writer/producer of the educational documentary film series ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction’, a best-selling author whose upcoming world-wide book release focusing on international parental child abduction and titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ has been critically acclaimed as a call-to-arms against child abduction. Peter is the writer of an extensive number of influential articles and essays pertaining to IPCA. He has created and oversees a comprehensive website dedicated to child abduction prevention and good parenting (www.chasingthecyclone.com) where numerous essays and may be found, including the eye-opening report ‘International Parental Child Abduction And Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere’ Peter co-authored with Ms. Carolyn Vlk. Dedicated to bringing about new child abduction prevention laws while creating dialogue that may reform certain government programs and protocols so that they may better serve targeted children and their parents, Peter Senese is a strong supporter of The Hague Convention and The Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues.

Carolyn Ann Vlk is a renown child abduction prevention advocate and a Founding Board of Director Member of the I CARE Foundation as well as a member of the Special Advisory Board of the Amber Watch Foundation. Carolyn drafted the landmark State of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ that will be enacted on January 1st, 2011. Ms. Vlk was highly influential in raising the public’s awareness on the little-known, highly effective child abduction prevention federal program titled the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ and  worked diligently to have ‘Senate Resolution 543 – the International Parental Child Abduction Resolution’ Carolyn is also a writer/producer of the highly educational documentary film series titled ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction’, and, is the author of numerous essays and studies on parental child abduction, including the groundbreaking report titled ‘International Parental Child Abduction And Human Trafficking In The Western Hemisphere’ (2010). Carolyn is dedicated to assisting parents and their children who are targets of international child abduction, and is committed to bringing about positive reform and change in law and government protocol that has been established to aid at-risk children. Ms. Vlk is a supporter of The Hague Convention, The Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues, and the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA). Carolyn is a loving and dedicated mother to her children, and fought rigorously to protect her own child who was a target for potential abduction that she went so far as to draft legislation that has now become new law in her home state of Florida.

Joel S. Walter is a practicing attorney licensed to practice law in New York State and is admitted into numerous United States Federal Courts, where he has practiced law for nearly 40 years.  Mr. Walter is a Founding Board Member of the Board of Directors of the I CARE Foundation, where he has worked diligently in assisting parents and children in crisis at risk of abduction, including playing key roles in reuniting numerous children of international kidnapping with their targeted parents.  Joel’s active role with the I CARE Foundation also includes conducting legal research on a variety of issues related to abduction and trafficking.  A highly respected trial lawyer by nature, Joel is known within the law community as an outstanding litigator.  Joel has worked diligently on numerous I CARE Foundation legal initiatives and has petitioned various lawmakers on a series of policy issues related to child abduction and trafficking.