International Travel Child Consent Form and Parental Child Abduction Prevention

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Child Custody Fights, Divorce, Summer Vacation and International Travel Child Consent Forms: The I CARE Foundation

The I CARE Foundation: Dedicated To Stopping International Parental Child Abduction

When parents are involved in high conflict child custody disputes, especially those of an international nature, where a child may be traveling abroad… parents need to think carefully and be very aware of the risks involved for their child in relation to international travel.

International parental child abduction associated with child custody disputes and litigation related to travel permission granted by a court is commonplace.  In reality, if a parent wants to abduct a child and not return them, they have a good chance of succeeding and not returning with the child.

Often, parents involved in international child custody disputes and who may be targeted for abduction think that their child is best protected from abduction when there is a court agreement in place for the child to return if the other parent is granted travel.

I speak from personal travel when I tell you that unless there is an international travel child consent form that has immediate ramifications attached to it, then a parent and child targeted for abduction are in serious risk. Abduction is not in the best interest of a child.

Often the best agreements do not work because they do not take into consideration a wide range of abduction-related defenses a taking parent may use. This is true despite the best intent of lawyers and judges trying to come up with a smart solution during child custody litigation.

Unfortunately, there are many times when a targeted parent consents to travel with their spouse or partner – not knowing that they are a target of abduction.

They are tricked.

Remember, fraud, schemes, and conspiracy to fraud and kidnap a child are commonplace in international parental child abduction.

In essence, they travel with the child and other parent to another country. Once abroad, the other parent puts into action a plan to permanently remove the child from the other parents life. Often the best efforts of a targeted parent fail.

International parental child abduction is complicated.

The Hague Convention offers civil remedies for children and parents of abduction. However, the process can be difficult at times and often does not work due to the complexities of law and the limited support a targeted parent may receive litigating their case to reunite with their child.

The best way to prevent abduction is to stop international parental child abduction.

The I CARE Foundation has created a unique International Travel Child Consent Form intended to assist ensure the child’s return home should there be an abduction.

With a significant number of international child abductions that will occur this summer based upon wrongful detention of a child abroad, the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form may be one of the best tools available to assist parents and children at risk of abduction.

The travel consent form for the child must be signed and notarized by both parents.

Please visit the I CARE Foundation website to download a free copy of the International Travel Child Consent Form.

Parents involved in child custody disputes, separation or divorce must be proactive in protecting their children.  Being proactive is the best way to protect your child.

Please visit The I CARE Foundation.

To read more about my writing and novels, including ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ please visit my official website.

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Kind regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese

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Preventing Abductions When Children Have Dual Citizenship And Two Passports

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I CARE Foundation Director Peter Thomas Senese Speaks About 
Dual Citizenship And International Child Abduction

Many U.S. citizen children who fall victim to international parental abduction possess dual nationality. Being aware of the child’s other parent’s possession of a secondary passport issued from that parent’s country of origin is critical in preventing abduction because children abducted abroad usually travel outside of the country on their foreign passport. Preventing the issuance of your child’s secondary passport to a foreign country is possible, but not guaranteed, based upon the country of origin of the child’s other parent and their laws. Nevertheless, it is important to strongly note the majority of international parental child abductions that occur are carefully planned schemes that attempt to catch the targeted parent off guard. A parent intending to snatch a child may use an assortment of reasons in order to obtain the secondary passport. Certain countries require signatures of both of the child’s parents, while many require only the signature of the parent that possesses citizenship to that country.

In scenarios where only the parent who possesses citizenship to the country the child has a right to secondary citizenship to can apply for their child’s passport, the grave risk and reality is that if abduction is planned, the abducting parent will attempt to conceal the existence of the secondary passport from the other parent. Additionally, in cases where dual signatures are required, it is possible that the taking parent can fraudulently submit the other parent’s signature to the passport bureau of the other country as generally there are limited documentation controls in place set up to validate the application request.

Of troubling concern is the fact that the United States does not possess border exit controls, thus there are limited ways to ensure that a child departing the country is doing so without violating a custody order. Granted, there are certain government programs that exist that have worked extremely well, such as the Prevent Departure Program; however, there are restrictions to such programs such as the Prevent Departure Program, including that a person considered to be a high-abduction risk cannot possess a right of American citizenship. Thus, if a parent who is planning to abduct a child possess dual citizenship, they cannot be placed on the secure screening list established to protect against international kidnapping. Additional difficulties abound, including the reality that a U.S. court has limited authority in obtaining records from a foreign embassy or consulate to determine if a parent has requested or obtained secondary passports for a child.

While the Department of State will make every effort to avoid issuing a U.S. passport if the custodial parent has provided a custody decree, the Department cannot prevent embassies and consulates of other countries in the United States from issuing their passports to children who are also their nationals.

All is not lost if you act thoughtfully. For example, you can ask a foreign embassy or consulate not to issue a passport to your child. On numerous occasions, I, or one of the attorneys associated with the I CARE Foundation, have accompanied a targeted parent and personally visited a foreign embassy or consulate and requested that a secondary passport not be issued in the name of the child due to an abduction threat.

If traveling to an embassy or consulate is not a possibility, I suggest you contact the consulate, locate a supervisor who oversees their passport issuance program, and speak to them about your concern for abduction and specifically state you do not want that country to issue a passport. Immediately after that telephone call, you must submit a written request, along with certified complete copies of any court orders addressing custody or the overseas travel of your child you have. From experience, I strongly suggest you also include your marriage certificate, your child’s birth certificate, and any other relevant documentation that establishes your marriage or legal partnership and establishes that you are the parent of the child or children. In your letter, inform them that you are sending a copy of this request to the U.S. Department of State.

If your child is only a U.S. citizen, you can request that no visa for that country be issued in his or her U.S. passport. No international law requires compliance with such requests, but some countries will comply voluntarily.

With respect to your requests to a foreign country, there is one thing I would like to share from experience: you are likely to get more cooperation at times if you or your legal representative schedule an appointment in person. This is something I have seen first-hand in my capacity as a director of the I CARE Foundation.

But what is dual nationality?

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Intent can be shown by the person’s statements or conduct.The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person’s allegiance.

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there.Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship.Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.

Information on losing foreign citizenship can be obtained from the foreign country’s embassy and consulates in the United States. Americans can renounce U.S. citizenship in the proper form at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport

As stated earlier, The United States does not have exit controls on its borders for holders of a valid passport. This makes preventing a passport from being issued to your child without your consent very important. Generally, if your child has a passport, it can be difficult to prevent the other parent from removing the child to another country without your permission.

U.S. law requires the signature of both parents, or the child’s legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16. To obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians. If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport).

EXCEPTIONS:

The law does provide two exceptions to this requirement: (1) for exigent circumstances, such as those involving the health or welfare of he child, or (2) when the Secretary of State determines that issuance of a passport is warranted by special family circumstances.

Prevent Departure Program

Since 2003, United States citizens have had available a very effective international child abduction prevention tool called ‘The Prevent Departure Program’. Unfortunately, many parents at risk of having their child internationally abducted are not aware that this incredibly useful tool is available to them.

In the aftermath of 911, the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Prevent Departure Program’ was created to stop non-U.S. citizens from departing the country. The program applies to non-US citizens physically located in America considered individuals at risk of child abduction. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees this program and it is monitored 24 hours a day.

What the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ does is provide immediate information to the transportation industry, including all air, land, and sea channels a single point of contact at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and provides a comprehensive database of individuals the United States believes may immediately depart to a foreign country.

The program only applies to aliens, and is not available to stop U.S. citizens or dual U.S./foreign citizens from leaving the country.

Under Section 215 of the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ (8 U.S.C. 1185) and it’s implementing regulations (8 CFR Part 215 and 22 CFR Part 46), it authorizes departure-control officers to prevent an alien’s departure from the United States if the alien’s departure would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States. These regulations include would-be abductions of U.S. citizens in accordance to court orders originating from the child’s court of habitual residency.

If the abductor and child are identified, they will be denied boarding. In order to detain them after boarding is denied, there must be a court order prohibiting the child’s removal or providing for the child’s pick-up, or a warrant for the abductor.

In order for an at risk parent to participate in the program, all of the following must be demonstrated:

  1. Subject may NOT be a US citizen; and,
  2. The nomination must include a law enforcement agency contact with 24/7 coverage; and,
  3. There must be a court order showing which parent has been awarded custody or shows that the Subject is restrained from removing his/her minor child from certain counties, the state or the U.S.; and,
  4. The Subject must be in the US; and,
  5. There must be some likelihood that the Subject will attempt to depart in the immediate future.

With respect to the established guidelines listed above, note that in order to request the listing of the other parent, that person must be an alien of the United States. The program does not apply to US citizens at risk of leaving the country.

The second mandate states a request to place an individual’s name on the Prevent Departure Program must include support by a law enforcement agency or from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, which has the authority of requesting for the Department of Homeland Security to list a suspected child abductor on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’.

The third criteria: possessing a custodial order, is essential. Regardless if the other parent has joint custody or rights of visitation, critically, you must make sure that there are injunction orders in place prohibiting the child from being removed from the jurisdiction of habitual residency. Unfortunately, many international parental child abductions are well planned out in advance of the actual abduction, and the targeted parent has no idea that an abduction is in progress until it is too late. This is why it is essential for parents in partnership with non-nationals to be fully aware of the warning signs associated with a potential international child abduction.

The fourth criteria states the obvious: in order to prevent an alien-parent suspected of abducting a child on U.S. soil, that parent must be on U.S. soil.

The fifth criteria requests that the applying parent demonstrate that the alien-parent has demonstrated the likelihood of abducting the child across international borders in the immediate future. Remember – you need to document and record as much evidence as possible.

For many parents who face the risk of having their child abducted and removed across international borders, the nightmare that both targeted parent and victimized child face is unbearable.

The Prevent Departure Program is not for everyone and should not be abused; however, in situations where an abduction threat is real and the targeting parent intent on abducting a child is a non-US citizen possessing the capacity to breach court orders and abduct a child of a relationship, the Prevent Departure Program may be a useful tool.

Be aware that if a person has a right of U.S. citizenship, including possessing sole American citizenship or dual citizenship, they cannot be placed on the Prevent Departure Program (The I CARE Foundation is hoping to have the government change that policy since individuals who possess singular citizenship do abduct children abroad).

CONCLUSION:

The I CARE Foundation has assisted many families in crisis who are at risk of having a child internationally abducted from the child’s country of jurisdiction based upon one of the child’s parent’s scheme to remove the child by obtaining a secondary passport. In many of these cases, the targeted parent did not know that the other parent already possessed a secondary passport for their child. In certain situations the parent possessing a right of citizenship to another country did not need the other parent’s signature, and in other cases, a passport signature of the targeted parent was forged on the foreign passport application for the child.

Targeted parents and attorneys overseeing an abduction prevention case need to be aware that when there is an abductin concern that they should immediately contact the consulate where the child’s other parent is a national of and request if a passport has been issued in the child’s name. There are times when the consulate or embassy may provide this information. Often this is not the case.

In all cases where a secondary passport is a concern, one of the legal strategies the attorneys associated with the I CARE Foundation have successfully implemented is to seek an emergency order from the court possessing jurisdiction of the child whereas, the petition requests that ‘responding parent’ (parent believed to planning an abduction) provide formal documentation from the consulate or embassy of their country of origin that grants the consulate or embassy permission to answer a court subpeona concerning the issuance of a passport (the consulate or embassy is not required to do so even if a subpeona is issued), or, that the court order the responding parent to provide an official letter from their country of origin stating that neither a passport for the child has been issued from that country and no application for a passport has been submitted.

During the emergency application, the targeted parent (the ‘applicant’) has sought a host of measures, including seeking for the court or the applicant to take possession of the child’s American passports; and, for the child being placed on the United States Passport Issuance Alert Program; and, for either removal of child access or limited, supervised access of the targeted child by the parent suspected of child snatching. If the Prevent Departure Program is applicable, attorneys have previously sought for the court to request that the U.S. Department of State petition the U.S. Department of Homeland Security place a person considered a high-risk child abductor on the secure screening list to ensure that person does not travel outside of the country with the child unless permitted to do so by court order.

Obviously there are many other steps that can be taken, but one I think worth sharing is the concern that a parent traveling by land or sea across international adjacent borders (For the United States this means travel to Canada, Mexico, or certain Caribbean island-nations) with a minor under 16 years of age does not need to present a valid passport for their child at the border-crossing (valid passports are required for all travelers regardless of age only when traveling abroad by aircraft) as established by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Thus, a parent planning to abduct a child could do so by boarding a closed circuit cruise, or by simply driving across the border. It is critical that an attorney attempting to prevent abduction familiarize themselves with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative loopholes and present these issues to the court they are litigating over. One other good idea is that they present to the court the statistical realities of child abduction return, including whether a country that appears to be a likly inbound country is a member of the Hague Convention, and whether or not they are a complying country. Of course, that’s not all that should be presented to the court. A few other important issues include the potential for severe abuse to the child; and, the severe abuse to the targeted parent, the cost to litigate; and, the ability for the taking parent to disappear abroad, including departing the country they initially ‘landed’ in, and travel to another country; and finally, the likelyhood that a child will be returned.

I invite you to read Summer Vacations and International Parental Child Abduction and to visit the official website of the U.S. Department of StateI CARE Foundation and Chasing The Cyclone for more information about abduction.

One little word of advice: the majority of parents who have had their child abducted never saw it coming. Do not stick your head in the ground and think this cannot happen to you. Educate yourself.

– Peter Thomas Senese –
Founding Director – The I CARE Foundation

Parental Child Abduction Rates Show 15% Decline in 2011 and 2012

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The U.S. government has stated that the number of reported cases of international parental child abduction has dropped by over 15% during fiscal year 2012, marking the second year in a row that the number of reported cases of outbound child abductions have declined by over 15%. This current trend contradicts the previous 30 years, where there had been a significant increase in outbound abductions.

I invite you to read the report ‘Crisis in America’ – The I CARE Foundation’s report discussing international parental child abduction and where we are today.

Report on International Parental Child Abduction Growth
International Parental Child Abduction Today – 2013
Written By
Carolyn Ann Vlk and Peter Thomas Senese
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.

Peter Thomas Senese: 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children Filming At United Nations

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Film.  Books.  Advocacy.  Rescuing Children.  Heroes.  International Child Abduction.  United Nations.  The Hague Convention. Kidnapping.  Fighting Kidnappers.  Chasing The Cyclone.  Hope.  Murder.  Abuse.  Targeted Parents.  Hopelessness.  The I CARE Foundation.  Protecting Children.

In no particular order, these are some of the words that come to mind when I think of international parental child abduction (IPCA).

For those of you who are not aware, IPCA is the crime of child kidnapping.  It is a brutal crime against both child and targeted parent: one that is legally complicated to obtain true justice on, and one which in many ways, does not protect innocent children of kidnapping the way you might expect.

The reality is, every child of abduction is severely abused and some are murdered.

It’s a worldwide epidemic.  A plague that is finally being pushed back in the United States, but one that continues to spread in nations around the world.

The key to curing this plague is to educate society, particularly those parents who may be at risk of abduction … and who may not know that such risk exists.

Creating various tools that educate others has played a very important role in having the abduction rate in the United States decline by over 15% per year the last two years.

My work in this area continues.

I am very pleased to share that a portion of the film on international parental child abduction titled 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children, presently in production and being produced in conjunction with the I CARE Foundation, will add the United Nations as a key location to the film.

Filming at the United Nations is no easy task. I am very thankful to the team at the United Nations for granting the necessary access required to film on location.

However, having previously sponsored a conference and spoken at the United Nations in my capacity as the founding director of the I CARE Foundationconcerning the issue of international parental child abduction (IPCA) in conjunction with the United States Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, it is both an honor and only fitting to have an important portion of the film take place at the United Nations.

I am very excited about the potential positive impact that 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Children may have on others, including parents who may be targeted to have a child internationally abducted by the child’s other parent or by a stranger.

Previously, and in an ongoing effort, I produced the rather straight-forward educational documentary series on international parental child abduction titled Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction which discussed a wide-range of issues associated with international parental child abduction, including warning signs and risk factors, what to do if your child is targeted or taken, the Prevent Departure Program, and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative amongst many critically important topics associated with child kidnapping.

Judging from the tens of thousands of views of the Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms of International Parental Child Abduction along with the rather large number of parents who personally contacted me and shared that the information contained in the educational documentary series made the difference between having their child remain at home as opposed to being internationally abducted, there is a clear international need for a film such as 150,000 Internationally Kidnapped Childrenone that not only shares critically important new research conducted by the I CARE Foundation concerning IPCA, but a film that clearly shows both the incredible dangers of stranger and non-stranger abduction in a way that gives light to ways which these kidnappings may be prevented.

Of course, at the core of all the information that I create concerning IPCA is the unbending desire and commitment to help educate society and targeted parents so that children will not face the dangerous, and at times deadly ordeal of IPCA.

There unquestionably is a great crisis on our hands as too many children around the world are being abducted. However, if the statistics of reported cases of abduction originating from the United States demonstrate anything – there has been a two-year consecutive decline of over 15% per year the last two years – it is that stewarding the message that IPCA is a real threat, and enlightening society of the reality of IPCA does in fact mean something: after nearly 30 years of near-consistent growth in the number of IPCA cases, we’ve pushed back the proverbial mountain in the United States . . . and though there is a great deal to still be done, there is measurable indicators that raising awareness has made a sizeable difference in protecting children from abduction.

On a very personal note, and as a storyteller and writer, when I first began my journey as an international parental child abduction prevention advocate by writing the critically acclaimed novel Chasing The Cyclone that was deeply inspired by my own experiences, I never thought that so many miracles would happen as a by-product of these efforts. But that is what happened because through it, dozens of internationally kidnapped children have been reunited while an even larger number of targeted children of abduction have remained safe.

And that is very cool.

-Peter Thomas Senese-

Peter Thomas Senese and The I CARE Foundation: Parental Testimonials

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Acting in kindness is rather easy if you live in Uhuru, that is,  to know and embrace freedom by living unbowed to and within your morals, values, and ethics.

I understand the importance of being unbowed to child abductors and traffickers. For those of you who understand this world – you know of its darkness and the danger placed on children.

International parental child abduction remains such a serious issue around the world and protecting children from abduction is such an important issue.

Over the years, it has been my pleasure to assist many other parents protect their children from having their children kidnapped.

Every once in a while I have shared a letter written by one of these parents to give insight on the world of abduction as well as to share a humble lesson that we can all make a difference in the lives of others.

Today I would like to share with you one of these letters written by a parent I have deep respect for and who I am proud to call friend.

Click Here To Read The Sworn Letter Concerning The I CARE Foundation

Most of all, I would like to leave you with this simple message: don’t be afraid to be kind to another person.

~ Peter Thomas Senese

Parental Child Abduction: Imagine A Life Destroyed In 24 Hours Or Less

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How easy is it for an abducting parent to legally remove a child from one country to another without the child’s other parent consenting to such move?

How does evil fill the hearts of an abductor, who only seeks to have an outcome they desire, no matter what the emotional, spiritual, and financial costs involved for the targeted parent and the children?

How extensive is the malice?

What I am about to share in the shortest detail demonstrates the sociopath behavior and pure malice of a parent who knows how to utilize the legal system to legally remove a child from one country to another without the other parent’s consent, and then further remove that parent’s access rights all because the taking parent no longer desires to live in the country of the child or children’s habitual residence.

Now imagine having every part of your life destroyed in less than 24 hours. Think it can’t happen? You are wrong!

So Much For The Wedding Vow – I Will Destroy Your Life – And This Is How
(Based Upon A Real Life Scenario)
  • American male citizen marries French female citizen in the US three years ago.
  • American citizen is a young attorney.
  • French citizen does not work.
  • The couple has two children, both born in the United States and under the age of 2.
  • Father, though practicing law, works from home on most days in order to provide care for children.
  • Mother is unhappy living in the United States and states that she wants to return to France with children.  Father wants to remain in United States, where children have lived, and where he is a practicing attorney.
  • Father compromises and travels for month-long visit to France with wife and children in hope that continued access to wife’s country of origin will satisfy her.
  • Mother makes numerous threats that she is going to take children and move to France without Father.
  • Father fears that children will be removed from America without his consent.
  • Mother has financial wherewith all and support system to relocate to France without children’s father.
  • Father discovers that children’s mother has been investigating how to remove children from America (abduction).
  • Father discovers that children’s mother has a large amount of concealed money in Europe he was previously not aware of.
  • Mother hides children’s US passports from father.
  • Mother escalates threats to children’s father that she is leaving for France with children, stating
    there is nothing father can do about it (all while living together. No divorce
    proceedings at this time).
  • Father discovers children’s mother has been in contact with French embassy. Father’s concern that mother is in possession of French passports
    for children that he did not authorize or sign for increases significantly based on direct statements of mother that it does not matter if father has American passports and that nothing he can legally do will stop her from leaving America with children.
  • At no time have there been any claims of accusations that father has made any verbal threats or acted in any capacity of abuse; whereas, mother has made numerous threats of abduction and has demonstrated a violent temper in front of friends and family of couple.
  • Father discovers children’s mother has a second phone which he was not aware of, providing mother with ability to communicate with others without father knowing.
  • Then late yesterday —– Thursday —— Mother threatens that she is taking children and moving to France immediately. Father informs wife he is going to file for divorce and seek court to ensure children are not illegally removed.
  • Hours later, mother makes police report against children’s father claiming that father made dangerous threats against her and
    children and that she fears for her safety.
  • Father becomes aware of wife’s deceitful plot and that she is at police station.
  • Mother makes late afternoon police complaint against husband.
  • Mother tries to lure father back to house in order to have him
    arrested. Unknown to wife, father is able to see police car at house waiting for him to come back via video security system.
  • Mother’s FALSE claim of domestic abuse sets up a 13B Hague Defense should
    she abduct.
  • Clear intent by mother to have father arrested today by police.
  • While father is arrested for domestic threats, wife, who is in possession of French
    passports can legally departs for France with children as father sits in jail
    cell.
  • While in jail, mother has the opportunity to clear out all finances of
    partnership.
  • Mother, who has means to disappear with children in France and Europe
    creates legal defense to have French courts sanction abduction under best
    interest of child due to father’s arrest.
  • Father faces major legal fight to reunite with children, which will take a significant toll on his  professional life.

In essence, by making a false police report and seeking for her husband’s arrest on a Friday with hope that her husband will be detained over the weekend, the children’s mother, who is in possession of French passports could depart the United States legally with her children since there is no court order restricting her or the children’s departure. In addition, the claim of domestic abuse toward her and/or her children provide mother to seek new jurisdiction of children and their custody in France.

Tragically, what you have read above is not an isolated act, nor do false claims of abuse occur solely by women against men. In the world of international parental child abduction, it is the norm for an abductor to make false claims against a targeted parent.

If you noticed in the brief scenario described above, the abductor had planned her scheme carefully – from moving money to Europe, to concealed phone calls, to illegally obtained passports, to a malicious scheme that would prevent her husband to file any court action to restrain her from leaving the United States by making a false police report in hope he would be arrested and detained long enough for her to get to an airport and depart with the children of the marriage.

And in the meantime, the targeted parent has been arrested, had his children taken from him, had his assets taken, and is now Chasing The Cyclone of abduction. All in less than 24 hours.

The only thing that is a bit different about what I described above is that in the scenario shared above, the abductor did not plan into their illicit scheme on obstacle: THE I CARE FOUNDATION and the organization’s understanding of abduction, and how to stop it.

And so on this day, there was no abduction though clearly there was an long-planned, well thought out scheme to do so.   And today there was no arrest based upon a false complaint.  And today, two young children have not been tossed into the storms of international abduction. And an innocent parent who loves his children did not sit in a jail cell saying to himself that his biggest nightmare came true. And most of all, children who were about to be put into imminent danger . . . were not in good part because of the I CARE Foundation and one really good parent who was willing to do what was necessary so his children would not be used as pawns in some horrible scheme.

It is days like today, when your actions and all you have experienced actually help another parent that makes it worth continuing the good fight.

For more information about international parental child abduction, please visit the I CARE Foundation website and the official website of Chasing The Cyclone.

Respectfully,

Peter Thomas Senese

The I CARE Foundation

Today’s Hero – Author and Advocate Elisabeth Hirsch

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Today’s Hero – The Remarkable, Inspiring Author and Advocate Elisabeth Hirsch

Okay, I am a true fan of my friend Elisabeth Hirsch for she represents all the good things I believe in: a tremendous parent, incredible storyteller, active advocate, and philanthropist who has used her voice to help enrich the human condition while assisting others who might have lost their sight of life’s magic.

Elisabeth inspires me.  And though she may not have realized the magnitude of the words I am now sharing, Elisabeth put a unique fire in me a year ago to fight for children in crisis: that fire leading to the accomplishments of the I CARE Foundation, and the organizations various
accomplishments protecting children around the world from abduction.

For those of you who do not know Elisabeth Hirsch, she is best-selling writer who has written a collection of diverse, enjoyable, empowering, and entertaining books under the pen name E.C. Stilson. When she is not writing, raising money for such notable organizations such as Angel Watch, Primary Children’s Hospital, Pregnancy Resources, or the American Diabetes Association, Elisabeth is speaking for and playing a key role in the healing process for families in crisis who have experienced the loss of an infant or young child.

Remarkably, Elisabeth used the hardships that she and her family faced during one extremely challenging period in their life when she lost her young son, Zeke, and acts so others will benefit from her experience.
And as explored in this interview, Elisabeth’s willingness and desire to help others means that she must go back to those incredible storms whenever she comes to help other families in crisis. As a parent who had to search the world over for an abducted child, and as a person
who, after finding and safely bringing my child home and becoming a highly visible advocate and activist against abduction and trafficking, I know all too well the challenges of advocacy Elisabeth faces because whenever she comes to the aid of those who may be experiencing infant loss, the fiber of her memories are part of her.  Fortunately, Elisabeth Hirsch has such tremendous strength – a strength she has found because of her strong faith in God, her strong relationship and partnership with her husband, the love of her family, and her courage to find her voice.

It is quite remarkable just how much a person can do when they find their voice. Clearly, Elisabeth Hirsch lives in Uhuru, and somehow, I think Noble Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai is looking down from heaven at Elisabeth with a big smile on her face, knowing that this indefatigable women lives unbowed in her morals, ethics, humility, and kindness
– and it all of this – Elisabeth Hirsch makes the world a much, much better place.

Raising four beautiful children with her husband Cade, while running her publishing company Wayman Publishing, Elisabeth came to the aid of the I CARE Foundation this past year and stewarded the message of international parental child abduction prevention. Elisabeth’s help was incredible, as is exemplified by the fact that after nearly 30 years of consistent rocketing growth in the U.S. international parental child abduction rate, the reported rate of abductions dropped by 23% over the past two years – the same period when the I CARE Foundation launched a global abduction
awareness and prevention campaign that utilized the tremendous reach of parenting writers such as Elisabeth Hirsch.

Elisabeth Hirsch is a hero to so many, including her family, her friends, and all those she has directly helped; however,
Elisa’s work, her spirit, and her willingness to help others in need – and the impact she has made, represents all that mankind aspires to be. She is what ‘Today’s Heroes’ symbolizes – and represents the best in all of us.

It is my privilege to share this interview with my friend and hero, Elisabeth Hirsch.

1. You have written several best sellers under the
name E.C. Stilson, including notable titles such as one of the most important
books I have ever read, The Golden Sky. Can you share with us a little about
this story, and what your purpose was in writing it?

I was nineteen years old, already a pregnant mother and lonely wife, when I found out the child I carried had serious birth defects. I wrote everything down, detailing how my baby died and my marriage fell apart, but through it all I found hope, redemption, and even forgiveness in the most unlikely of places.

A few years later, I reread my own words and found miracles that only hindsight could bring. So many amazing things had happened, showing me God was there, always with me, always guiding me.

I knew others going through hard times could read my story and see the miracles throughout their own trials. And understand that at the end of every storm, there is a golden sky.

2. Why did you choose the name E.C. Stilson to pen under?

My nieces and nephews called me “EC” because “Elisa” was hard to say. I always thought that was fun since my first name starts with an “E” and my husband’s begins with a “C.” Cade’s helped me so much with my memoirs, I wanted the “EC” to represent both of us. “Stilson” is my maiden name, and I used it to honor my dad.

3. During World War II, women in the media such as Jacquelyn Saix (one of television’s first producers) and Mary Walsh Hemingway (one of the first women war correspondents) began to transform who, how, and what news was reported, and how this information was shared. Moving forward nearly 70 years, parenting
blog writers are changing the landscape once again on how information is shared and utilized. Which makes the ‘The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom’ irresistible! Can you tell us about this blog and what value do you see in it?

Humor and laughter have more power than most realize. As parents, it’s easy to get lost in the stressful circumstances; we forget how much fun life can be. My blog tries to bring that back, by telling silly stories about parenting, potty training, school bullies, etc. My hope is to help people see how any circumstance can be humorous, if looked at differently. A happy parent, who’s involved with their children, will most likely raise happy kids.

4. How important of a role do parents who write and share their views and perspectives on the Internet play in directing or cultivating public perception or creating new trends?

Parenting blogs have grown substantially in the last few years. When googling terms, it’s amazing how many times I’m directed to parenting blogs. My blog alone has been viewed over 360,000 times. The blogging community has a strong
voice, the ability to be heard more easily by so many people–it’s phenomenal. These writers’ insights and knowledge are guiding others, making them feel less alone in our technologically evolving world.

5. Would you say a mobilized group of parent blog writes has the ability of creating a major impact on an issue or social cause, and if so, can you give a specific?

I think anyone with a strong voice has the opportunity to influence others by standing for what they believe in. Blogging has been a gift to those willing to speak out. With good blog titles and topics, writers now have the capability to be heard. I remember seeing this first-hand when I wrote about my son who died. I went to over 100 other blogs and asked them to join me in a 3-day event where we’d each share stories about our loved ones who have passed on. This event
exploded and was everywhere within the following days. That single event jump-started my writing career.

You can see that promo post here:

http://ecwrites.blogspot.com/2011/09/only-50-more-days-until-golden-sky.html

6. It seems to me that it took a certain amount of courage when you found your voice. What would you tell others who struggle to find the courage to find their own voice, and what could they do to alleviate any fear they may have?

It’s still hard for me to believe in myself and my voice. Even while being interviewed on the radio, or while talking at signings, I’m still nervous. But then I remember why I started in the first place. What was so important that this journey became worth the fight? That’s when I think of my son. I wanted his story out there, something that he’d left behind so he could look down from Heaven and realize I will never forget him. His life was important–it had meaning. That strength keeps me going strong.

We all have stories to tell. The reason we initially started looking for our voices, is the same force that will inspire us to find our way.

7. You are a very humble lady, yet your writing and advocacy has helped so many others. Can you share with us one story of how one of your books helped another?

. . . where to begin. I’ve been so blessed, and many of the things that have happened to me seem a bit miraculous. The one story that sticks out happened in winter of 2011. I’d just started Wayman Publishing and published “The Golden Sky.” It was an emotional time because Cade and I both thought about Zeke’s short life. On November 18th, Zeke’s birthday, we went to his grave and left “The Golden Sky” there. It was my final way of saying goodbye. I can’t describe how that felt. It was very bittersweet. At the time I had a romantic notion that God and Zeke were guiding me. I’d somehow leave the book and then the right person would find it and read it.

Well, it happened! In December I received an amazing email. It started like this:

“Hi, I am sure you do not know me. You see Zeke’s grave is right next to my sister’s grave.”

The email continued, telling me how she’d read my book and now hoped her sister was taking care of Zeke in Heaven! We’re still in contact through Facebook. I’m so thankful that she read Zeke’s book.

8. Losing a young child is a parent’s biggest fear, and it is something you have not only written about, but you have become a teacher, healer, and friend to so many others who have had to face this issue. What are a few important things that you teach others facing this crisis that can also carry over to others not facing this issue?

Keep Going
Some days it might seem simpler to stop facing our problems. But that’s not the easy way out. Giving up and repressing feelings leads to worse problems later on–trust me, I know. Whether you want to be a warrior or a wimp, give yourself time to grieve (and deal with things) so you can eventually find the issue and thus the resolution.

Find the Issue–Find the Resolution
We all go through tough times and grieve in different ways. If we can discover what’s truly upsetting us about any situation, then we can discover how to change things. For example, when Zeke died I had the hardest time thinking that
he’d never grow up–I’d never get to see him become a man. Why? Was there something I could do to make things better? He’d died and the sadness lingered for years, just causing more pain and hurt. When I identified the problem’s
root, I realized I could release his book, in that way his memory would live on even if he could not. By Identifying this deep issue, I found a resolution. And it worked!

The loss still hurts sometimes, but I feel much better, as if I’ve done as much as I can to make a bad situation better somehow.

9. You have helped raise money for such organizations such as Angel Watch, The Pregnancy Resource Center, and Primary Children’s Hospital. Why?

All three of these places helped me and Zeke. The Pregnancy Resource Center encouraged me to continue with the pregnancy. Angel Watch sent counselors to our house. They helped us cope before and after Zeke was born. They also helped Cade and I mend our failing marriage. And Primary Children’s, because that’s the only home Zeke even knew.

10. When the I CARE Foundation sought your assistance by asking you to lend your voice and help steward the messages about the realities of international parental child abduction, you did not hesitate to do so. Why?

I believe in the I CARE Foundation. They fight for the well-being of children, for the solace and strength of parents who are facing terrible tragedies. I don’t know what it’s like to face child abduction, but I do know what it’s like to lose a son. For these reasons and many more, the I CARE Foundation is close to my heart.

11. During the 2012 fiscal year, outgoing cases of international parental child abduction declined by 15% that originated from the United States because there was an increase in abduction prevention litigation. How important is it that other parent blog writers write about social issues that impact children?

Bloggers have more power than they know. If people would band together and write about this, our voices would be heard–and readers would take action. Think about “The Golden Sky”; if a single book–from a previously unknown other–can become a success from a single blogging launch, then imagine how an event like this could raise abduction prevention awareness!

12. Can you name three of your favorite books?

The Bible–because you can’t get better than that.

“Gone With the Wind”–because Scarlett is so real, loathsome and likable–all at the same time.

“The Sum of All Men” in David Farland’s Runelords series. He weaves social injustice into a fantasy story that I’ll never forget. Imagine a world where people could sell their intellect, beauty, and physical strength. Now imagine that same world, where these attributes can be taken by kings, leaving peasants brainless, ugly and physically marred as long as the omnipotent king lives.

13. I just ordered ‘The Sword of Senack’ – a magical YA adventure story about three siblings trying to find one of their lost siblings. Where did this story originate from, and can you give us a little insight?

When Zeke died, my oldest daughter had a very hard time. She’d ask what death is, and why Zeke never came back. I answered the best I could, but when answers no longer helped, I started telling her an allegory. The story is about a brave boy who takes an underwater adventure. “He had to go,” I told my daughter. “It was his destiny.” And through that story, my daughter slowly came to terms with her brother’s death. Few know of the story’s deeper meaning, they just think it’s a fun MG fantasy. But it’s a special book to me, because it represents how my daughter found healing.

14. You’re a wife, a mother, a writer, a publisher, an activist, and an advocate. What do you do for fun that is . . . well, just for you?

I love hiking. I also enjoy playing my violin in the mountains. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does I feel like all of my worries fade–even if only for a moment.

Don’t tell my mom, but I’d also like to get into skydiving. I went once and now I can’t stop dreaming about doing again–it was UNREAL!

15. The word ‘Uhuru’ means to live in freedom by being and living unbowed in your morals, ethics and principles. How important is it to live in freedom? 

Without morals, ethics, principles and freedom of our minds, who are we? If we expect to take life by the reins and truly live, we MUST understand ourselves.  That is true freedom, knowing ourselves and having the strength to be who we are. I’m still trying to learn this myself, but I feel as if writing my memoirs has helped me grow more than anticipated.

Living in freedom may be the single most important aspect of living, because being “free” entails so much.

16. As an accomplished writer who has created an impressive, diverse body of work, what three things would you tell inspiring writers?

Make a Goal and Stick to it!

Many writers don’t go anywhere because they can’t finish a book, or they won’t commit to writing consistently. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, if someone wants to be a writer they must take the time to write. Writing needs to be taken seriously. Find time. I get up at 5am just so I can write. If I stop being consistent, my writing will suffer.

Don’t Let Anyone Pull You Down

I could probably line a swimming pool with the rejection letters I’ve received.  It’s hard hearing criticism from publishers, editors and even friends. But you have to keep going. Yeah, I could swim in the hundreds of rejection letters I’ve gotten. You know what else I could do? I bet I could make a book using the wonderful letters I’ve received from people who’ve read my books and enjoyed them. I’ve met amazing people. I founded Wayman Publishing. I helped donate thousands of dollars to different organizations. None of that would have happened if I just gave up and swam in my own doubts. Now think of your writing–imagine what you could do!

Find Your Purpose and Hold onto it

Everyone is special. Everyone has something important to offer the world. Once you’ve found what inspires you to write, keep that close. Just like I wrote in question #6: The reason we initially started looking for our voices, is the same force that will inspire us to find our way.

17. When creating a story, how do you map out the direction you’re going?

Since most books are about 60,000 words long, and I write nearly 2,000 words per chapter, I start by creating 30 chapter titles. These must obey the arc of a good story, with the mid-point and climax carefully placed. I usually think
of my resolution and then start my story in the complete opposite place. For example, if my story will end with a confident woman who is financially stable and happy, in the beginning she’ll be poor and insecure. Every chapter must
describe her growth through subplots etc.

18. What is next for E.C. Stilson?

I’m currently working on “Quest for Larin,” the second book in the Mer-son Cycle.

19. What comes to mind from the phrase, ‘Global Citizen’?

I love this concept; it brings such a feeling of unity and hope. This really is a small world. With the way things are going, we’re all so easily connected, unique citizens, all equal with the ability to help each other succeed.

20. Can you tell us something funny that happened to you during your life?

I’ve had so many hilarious things happen to me. But just this morning I talked with a friend about my husband. Cade’s fine now, but recently, he was very ill.  I had no idea he was actually that sick. I kept saying, “Honey, you need
to get out of bed. You’ll feel better.”

“I can’t move,” he groaned.

Was he serious? Suddenly I had a flashback of myself being in labor. I breathed through each contraction. My mom and mother-in-law looked worried, praying for me. Then Cade started hyperventilating in the back of the room. Everyone
gasped.

I was the one in labor! I didn’t have a epidural, thinking I’d save my baby from any drugs. Yet Cade pulled out a damn paper bag, breathing into it, clutching the thing like it held the secrets of life. Then my mother-in-law and MY mother left me as another rolling contraction came. I breathed. Cade breathed. Apparently Cade breathes harder because everyone held his hands and wiped his sweaty forehead! Our families left soon after to get Cade a sandwich–my favorite kind. I couldn’t eat, yet he ate the thing, taking big breathes in between each bite. The ketchup from the sandwich kept falling, splashing beautifully onto a napkin on Cade’s lap, all during my intense contractions.

“I can’t move,” Cade groaned again, bringing me back to the present moment.

We went to the hospital. This time Cade rested in the hospital bed while I watched from the sidelines. “You have an infection in your lungs,” the doctor said. He had such wild white hair, like Einstein. “Another day and you might have died,” he told Cade.

It was my turn to start hyperventilating. I hadn’t thought Cade was sick. I’d been so rude! I sat down and breathed hard, trying to ground myself. My mother and mother-in-law instantly ran over to make sure I was okay. They held my hands. They wiped my forehead. . . .

After the doctor left the room, I caught Cade’s eyes. He kept staring, wondering why everyone was fawning over me when he was the one in pain.

(End Interview)

As I have gotten older and perhaps a bit more thoughtful, I have often thought about God’s will.  In these thoughts, I have come to believe that God so much bigger than any one religion, but the message God shares with all who believe in the Divine’s existence crosses all faiths: be courageous in your life to be kind and compassionate to one another.  In doing so, I think we allow the God each of us respectively believes in to come into our heart and guide our life.

When I think of the goodness of having God’s spirit exist on our earthly world, it is rather easy to see the Divine’s presence in the nature of mankind by simply paying attention to my remarkable friend, Elisabeth Hirsch for Elisa, as she is also referred to, is what is right about this world.

On one final note, my life has become enriched over this past year that Elisabeth and I have become friends.  I not only have been open to the lessons she teaches by her action, but I have been empowered to share my voice.

Elisabeth Hirsch exemplifies what it is to be a Hero for she has made our world a better place for many.  Be inspired – I invite you to read about ElisabethHirsch and Elisa’s publishing company, Wayman Publishing.  Click here to purchase any of EC’s publications on Amazon.