Summer Vacations and Parental Abduction: When School Ends… Abductions Occur

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As the summer vacation draws near, thousands of children will be victims of international parental child abduction – Peter Thomas Senese

f872b-icarelogocalltoarmsHi, I’m Peter Thomas Senese, the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation and as the summer school vacation period approaches, I would like to share with you the assortment of warning signs and risk factors associated international parental child abduction that targets thousands upon thousands of unsuspecting parents and defenseless children each year primarily who are a product of a multi-national relationship or marriage that is or has ended. In sharing some key warning signs today, it is my hope that children will be protected from kidnapping and overwhelming abuse.

Now if you’re like hundreds of thousands of parents around the world the term international parental child abduction may be one you are not familiar with. . . . . . until a child you know is kidnapped and illegally detained in a foreign country by the child’s other parent.

Before I go any further, let me say this: the vast majority of children abducted abroad never come home. Tragically, some can’t – they are gone forever.

According to United States Federal Law, the illegal removal of a child from the country without consent of a court or the child’s other parent is a criminal act of kidnapping. The conspiracy that leads up to the child snatching is generally filled with a host of illegal activities, including false allegations toward the targeted parent of abuse toward the child or other parent. This is something I will touch upon later. However, one thing more than anything else should be clear: parental child abduction is not just an act of kidnapping against an innocent child, but inherently, an abducted child becomes a prisoner of the kidnapper forced to follow and obey the predators instruction under the deplorable acts of parental alienation that the kidnapper deploys as they need to rationalize their behavior toward the child-victim.

Generally, the vast majority of abductions are well-planned and are orchestrated so that the other parent is off-guard when the abduction occurs. Blindsided by the act of international parental child abduction – that tragically is treated very differently than a stranger abduction by law enforcement despite the act being a federal crime of kidnapping – parents who attempt to reunite with their child often enter a dark and dangerous world that will change their world forever.

But what are we fighting for?

Lives.

We’re fighting for a child’s life.

Filicide – a term you may not know – is the act of child murder by a parent. In the United States, hundreds of children are murdered by their parents each year. This is not a phenomenon – parental child murder is a reality that knows no borders.

In cases of parental child abduction the kidnapper uses the child as a pawn to cause hurt and suffering toward the other parent. Denying that parent access to the child is a common theme and often the reason why abduction occurs.

The fear is – the reality is – that many abductors exhibiting sociopath behavior often believe that if they can’t have sole custody of a child – nobody will. Additionally, there appears to be a strong correlation of adult suicides connected to child abduction victims.

None of its easy to discuss yet we’re all only three degrees of separation from knowing someone who may be a target of abduction.

In the course of events leading up to the actual abduction or attempted abduction there are clear warning signs that may allow a parent to protect themselves and their children. And with the summer months upon us – the time of year when most child kidnappings take place – I hope that some insight I will share may be of use to you.

On behalf of my colleagues at the I CARE Foundation, one thing is certain: raising awareness and stewarding the message about the warning signs of international parental child abduction has played a role in reducing the number of reported outbound child kidnapping cases originating in the United States by 15% during the last two consecutive years after nearly 30 years of continued growth.

Make no mistake; the reality is that tens of thousands of children living in cities and on farms across our nation are targeted for kidnapping each year. It is carefully estimated that only 10% of these children will ever come home when we consider the ‘reported’ and ‘unreported’ cases of abduction.

Do you really want to play those odds?

Now before I get into a list of warning signs of international abduction you may ask yourself why is international parental child abduction affecting tens of thousands of families?

The answer is complex, but in general terms, we are seeing a substantial increase in multi-national relationships, which personally I think is great; however, with the notion of ‘global citizenship’ comes some challenges.

You see, as our world becomes a closer, more connected society, individuals from different nations develop relationships with one another, some leading to the birth of a child. Unfortunately, some of these relationships end, and when they do, the foreign-born national parent often desires to return to their home country – and when they do – they usually have a desire to take the child with them.

Except they have one problem: the other parent does not want their child to live abroad after being born and raised in their home country.

Knowing that the likelihood of a court granting them permission to live abroad with their child more than likely will not occur, the parent seeking to relocate to a foreign country often creates a clever, well thought-out plan to either abduct the child from the child’s country of original jurisdiction, or, they will create a deceitful scheme that will enable them to legally remove the child from the country they live in – such as plans to travel on a family vacation with intentions of permanent removal.

Once they are abroad, the scheming parent will often lay a host of criminal charges against the other parent, including domestic physical and mental abuse, threats of murder, and outlandish acts of child abuse and neglect – all for one purpose: to sever the other parent’s relationship with the child and to gain legal actions to the foreign courts they are now physically located in by having the targeted parent arrested and prevented from seeing either them or the child.

Now what most individuals do not realize is that once that child steps foot on foreign soil, that child’s temporary welfare becomes the responsibility of the rules of law and courts of the country they are located in.

Which means this: the police and courts must follow the procedures established under their law: the targeted parent more than likely will be arrested, issued restraining orders against them, and have their access to their child denied until an investigation is done. In the meanwhile, the scheming taking parent files a host of legal motions in the country that will further restrain the targeted parent.

Welcome to a scheming kidnappers idea of a vacation.

Sometimes – and I have seen this happen many times – but a kidnapper will say that the other parent actually consented to have the child relocate . . . so that they can litigate ‘what’s in the child’s best interest’ abroad – in their country of origin – and at a tremendous disadvantage to the child’s other parent.

I want to make this very clear: the scheme of a parental child abductor does not discriminate by gender. Men and women generally abduct equally and often cite abuse and mistreatment as the reason why they abducted. They make the claim that they are not abductors but liberators fleeing abuse. The majority of these claims are false. They are lies created to defend against Federal kidnapping charges. They are lies created in hope a court would sanction the abduction under Article 13 of the Hague Convention – a rule that allows an abductor the ability to relocate if they can prove it is not in the child’s best interest to return to their home country. These lies are intended to cruelly cause the targeted parent suffering, including arrest in hope to make any litigation they may bring to reunite with their child difficult or impossible.

So if you think that since you may have a U.S. custody order, and that THAT order will allow you to simply go and bring your child home, you should know this: that once your child is in a foreign country, the pragmatic reality of the custody order you are in possession of may mean very little, especially if the abductor has made a criminal complaint against you and/or filed a civil action for custody. Usually, they happen at the same time.

And so here’s your reality: should you attempt to remove your child and take them home with you, you may be violating laws in the country you and your child are located in and you may be arrested . . . . Your custody order is at least temporarily, useless. Welcome to the world of parental child abduction.

But like Dante’ descending into the Inferno, your nightmare as a targeted chasing parent has only just begun. For example, as an American citizen, do you know that even though the abduction was a criminal act toward you and your child, you are responsible for 100% of all costs associated with finding, monitoring, and litigating your case, including the costs to bring your child home unless you become dead-broke – which often occurs for many targeted parents because the cost to reunite with a child often costs parents hundreds of thousands of dollars. So if you don’t have a large amount of money available, chances are you’re not going to bring your child home. But that’s not it: you still have to deal with the false charges and claims, and litigate abroad. If you don’t think foreign courts have prejudice, you are sadly mistaken.

And if you think you’ll simply be able to get an arrest warrant issued and seek extradition proceedings against the kidnapping parent, you’re in line for some serious disappointment because numerous countries that the United States has extradition agreements with do not have agreements in place regarding parental abduction. In fact, in certain countries, this is not even a crime!

Do you get the sense of hopelessness? If you do – welcome to the world of many chasing parents.

Add to it that while your child is gone, he or she is taught by the abductor to think you are a bad mother or father out to hurt them and their taking parent. Yes, parental alienation and parental isolation are alive and well – and in its abuse, it destroys the innocence and very fabric of your child.

So as the summer approaches, this is the time of year when parents need to be aware of the warning signs of parental child abduction.

I have often heard from parents who tragically stuck their head in the sand and didn’t pay attention to the warning signs that ‘Their partner was not that clever’, to find out just how cunning and deceitful they really were only after their child or children were gone.

The key to stopping child abduction is to prevent it from happening.

The MOST IMPORTANT WARNING sign of abduction is to understand the present relationship you have with the child’s other parent and ask yourself ‘May that parent have the intent, desire, ability, and means to take your child to another country without your permission, or possible intent to keep your child in a foreign country should you grant permission for your child to travel abroad with you, the other parent, or both of you?

Abduction often occurs as a prelude to parents separating or beginning divorce proceedings, though there are a significant number of abductions that occur post-divorce commencement litigation. In many cases, the abduction is a planned scheme, which means that generally, the parent intending to abduct a child will try to create an atmosphere that is opposite of their intent: meaning that they will try lull the other parent to thinking that they are committed to the relationship, when in fact they are not. This is a critical issue because it is easier to abduct a child when the targeted parent is not seeking to prevent abduction. So having the targeted parent think that there is a loving, committed relationship is critical for the abductor.

So – if you have been in a difficult, strained relationship with a person who has deep ties to a foreign country, and suddenly that person is demonstrating a new-found love or new-found commitment . . . and they eventually pose the idea of traveling abroad with the child so the child could visit that person’s family, THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS WARNING SIGN that abduction may be planned.

Remember, even if you are invited to travel with the other parent and child, this does not mean you or your child are safe. I know many parents who traveled abroad with the other parent and child who were in possession of custody orders – only to have false claims of abuse, neglect, or acts of violence made against them within days of touching down in the foreign country. Once that happens, the legal nightmare begins – despite possessing joint custody, there is very little that the targeted parent can do to remove the child from the inbound country because the abducting parent usually has filed legal documents seeking court relief to remain abroad – typically in their country of origin.

So here we are – the school summer vacation season is upon us. Parents need to ask themselves this question: Has my relationship with my child’s other parent been strained, and all of a sudden there is a new-found love or commitment by that parent – and is there a trip abroad being suggested or planned? Because if so – you should be very concerned.

As touched upon earlier, if you believe the other parent may remove or retain the child abroad in order to gain an advantage in expected or pending child-custody proceedings by seeking the jurisdiction of the courts located in their country of origin, you should be very concerned.

For example, if a child is taken to a nation in the Middle East, there is a high probability that that nation will allow the abductor to keep the child abroad since the legal environment or cultural traditions may provide the abductor the safe harbor they seek.

In fact, there are many nations who simply do not return internationally kidnapped children, and this includes the majority of countries found in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, who outrageously, are not signatory members of international treaties on abduction. And before I let you think that having a child abducted to European or South American countries is any better you better think again. For example, I have a good friend who is a highly decorated police officer in New York who had his daughter abducted to Germany. For nearly 4 years this loving, honest, compassionate father has fought to reunite with his child. Yet she remains in Germany and he is as close as bringing her home today as he was when the kidnapping first occurred.

Unfortunately, there are countries, particularly in the Middle East, that have cultural environments that make it very difficult for a woman to recover their child. Cultural norms in Asia make it equally difficult for a man to recover their child. But child recovery and reunification is rare. In fact, there are many cases when the international courts order for a child to be returned to their country of original jurisdiction, and the kidnapping parent does not follow the court orders and does so without fear of retribution or arrest . . . . it’s a common theme.

Now back to the WARNING SIGNS – If the other parent threatens you that they will take your child abroad and you will never see them, don’t take this threat as a non-event. Many abductors who have successfully kept a child abroad did in fact make at least one threat that they were returning to their own country of origin.

Another WARNING SIGN is if the other parent presses you to sign a passport application for your child to obtain a passport from their country of their origin. Remember – your child has a right to dual citizenship if their other parent is a foreign-born national.

BEWARE that many nations do not require a second parent’s signature in order to obtain travel documents for a dual national child. . . for example France – so you very well may not know if the other parent has a secondary passport issued from another country. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT because even though the U.S. courts may obtain or even cancel your child’s American passports, they have no control on passports issued by another country. The fact is that even though a U.S. court order may restrict international travel for the child – passports issued by a foreign country are accepted without question at points of departure from the U.S. “

So if abduction is going to occur – there is a high probability that foreign issued passports will be used to leave the United States.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, if you discover a foreign passport for your child issued from another country that you were not aware of, you have a serious problem on your hand.

Often the scheming parent will use a sudden illness of a family member abroad as a scheme to play on the targeted parent’s heart, often seeking to have their child, ‘See their grandmother or grandfather before they pass away.’ I can’t even begin to tell you how many scenarios like that I am aware of – when the targeted parent who let their child travel with the other parent – soon finds out that there was no family emergency, but instead – an abduction scheme.

A CRITICAL WARNING SIGN is if you soon realize that the other parent is sending large sums of money or other personal belongings abroad – or if they are removing all financial ties to the country they presently live in . . . such as selling their home, quitting their job, selling their car. You get the idea.

There is one other VERY IMPORTANT WARNING SIGN that I would like to touch upon here: if there is a false police complaint and incident report filed by your child’s other parent against you, there is a likelihood that they are establishing a case against you based upon domestic violence and abuse which will be very beneficial to them in court should they abduct your child.

Disgracefully, both men and women abductors are known to make false claims of abuse toward the other parent when planning to abduct . . . if you think it can’t happen to you – you better think again.

With false police complaints in mind, there is something every parent should be aware of: generally, a parent seeking to abduct a child will often make a false police report against the other parent on Thursday afternoons thru Friday afternoon in hope to have their targeted parent arrested and detained by law enforcement over the weekend so that while the child’s other parent is in jail, they have an unimpeded path to depart the country.

When the abductor arrives in the inbound country where they had schemed to abduct the child to – they have established a paper trail of domestic abuse or violence reports that may provide the court in the foreign country with all the evidence they need to allow the abductor the right to keep the child there, thus becoming a ‘liberator’ as opposed to an ‘abductor’ because they created the false appearance that they had to run to protect their lives.

Remember, children under 16 years of age living in the United States, Canada, or Mexico are not required to present a valid passport when traveling within North America so long as they travel by land or sea under policies established by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative . . . . which means that a closed circuit cruise ship that starts and ends in the same port, but that may travel to foreign ports, is in fact a vehicle for abductors to use.

Hopefully the I CARE Foundation’s efforts will cause our government to modify this policy and mandate that children traveling abroad, regardless of age must present a valid passport.

The Truth is that there are a substantial amount of warning signs of abduction, and parents need to pay attention to them TODAY.

Should you believe that your child is at risk of abduction, please contact a qualified attorney who has true experience litigating international child abduction prevention cases.

If child abduction is in process, please contact law enforcement immediately as well as a qualified attorney familiar with abduction. You should also immediately contact the United States Department of State’s OFFICE OF CHILDREN’S ISSUES.

As the summer approaches, the reality is that thousands of children will be targeted for abduction. It is anticipated that several thousand children will be kidnapped abroad when combining reported and unreported cases of abduction.

Of these children taken, only a small number will ever return home . . . ever see their targeted parent again . . . ever return to the community they were raised in . . . ever see their family now left behind.

In the process, their identity will be stolen . . . who they are will be denied . . . they will learn to know hatred because that is what an abductor will preach to them in order to have that child hate their left behind parent . . . and they will live a life as a fugitive.

Most of all they will become prisoners illegally detained by a vengeful abductor who is using that child to cause harm and destruction to the other parent.

Tragically, these children will lose their innocence. As I said earlier, many will never come home . . . some simply will never have the opportunity to . . . . they can’t.2570b-chasingthecyclonehardcoverjacket

For more information I urge you to visit the I CARE Foundation’s website. You may also visit the official website for Chasing The Cyclone, which is the website of my deeply inspired novel about international child abduction that contains an extensive amount of resources. And of course, you should visit the United States Department Of State Official Website, particularly if abduction is in progress.

Protect yourself and your child. Educate yourself.

~ Peter Thomas Senese

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Peter Thomas Senese Discusses International Parental Child Abduction and Murder

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An Abduction That Won't Happen This Holiday SeasonWith the festive Christmas Holiday Season upon us, this is not the kind of information that I want to have to share, however it’s a very serious reality that Christmas is one of the most prominent times of the year when children are internationally abducted from one parent by another.  And sadly, as various government studies indicate, a large percentage of children who are murdered have their lives taken by one of their parents.

When child abduction prevention advocates, such as those that are a part of the I CARE Foundation, raise our voices and try to raise awareness of international parental child abduction, I think many of us are not only trying to prevent a child’s severe abuse from occurring, but what we are trying to do is prevent the murder of an innocent child.

Patricia Hoff, now with the United States Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, and who oversees the State Department’s Hague Convention Attorney Network has been a long-standing and tremendous child advocate who has clearly dedicated her life to helping children: I cannot say strongly enough that children all over the world have benefited from Ms. Hoff’s indefatigable dedication to making a positive difference in their lives and pushing back the mountain of child abduction. Previous to her role at the United States Department of State, Ms. Hoff was the Legal Director for the Parental Abduction Training and Dissemination Project sponsored by the American Bar Association on Children and Law.

In the much heralded report titled International Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse written by Nancy Faulkner, Ph. D. that was presented to the United Nations Rights On The Child (Special Session, 1999), the report begins with Ms. Hoff’s statement that, “Because of the harmful effects on children, parental kidnapping has been characterized as a form of child abuse.” Dr. Faulkner also share Ms. Hoff’s statement that, “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.”

But is there a correlation between parental alienation, international parental child abduction, and murder of a child by a parent (Filicide)?

Yes. All that needs to be done is view the long arch of severe act of child abuse a topic none of us ever what to think about: the reality that hundreds of children each year in the United States and Canada are murdered by one of their parents. One of the main reasons why innocent lives are taking? Family disputes, including separation and divorce.

In fact, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports on their website that a report cited by Marlene Dalley Ph.D. (2000) indicates that of all the child murders that occurred at the hands of a parent “the findings of a two-year research project indicates that over 5% of all children murdered in Canada were related to a custody dispute. Additionally, the findings showed that 23% of the killing incidents were influenced by divorce and separation stressors and mental instability.”

Did you notice the words “mental instability?”

Going back to the Faulkner report, Dr. Dorothy Huntington, who was one of the leading advocates warning how abduction is severe abuse, and who published the article Parental Kidnapping: A New Form of Child Abuse states that, “child stealing is child abuse . . . 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.”

So, do parents who abuse their children and who kidnap them abroad, stealing their identity and sense of self have the capacity of taking their life?

Clearly. And it has happened too many times.

In late 1993, the Criminal Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office undertook a 3-1/2 year research project, partially funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, to study the investigation of child abduction murder cases. Their study was updated in 2006.

In this first research project, published in 1997, researchers reviewed more than 600 child abduction murder cases across the United States, then interviewed the investigating detectives. The 2006 updated report the Attorney General’s Office released included 175 additional solved cases. One of the glaring findings in this study is that in 44% of the cases studied, the victims and killers were strangers, but in 42 percent of the cases, the victims and killers were friends or acquaintances and about 14% of the cases studied involved parents or intimates killing the child.

The Denver Post published an article about parental child killing a few years ago. The article cited Dr. Phillip Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who stated, “Historically, one out of 33 homicides is a parent killing a child younger than 18.” Dr. Resnick, who conducted a study on filicide in 2005 states “Filicide is the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own child, is the third-leading cause of death in American children ages 5 to 14.”

The Denver Post reports, “Researchers estimate 250 to 300 children are murdered by their parents each year in the U.S.

The Denver Post’s statistics are reflected in FBI Uniform Crime Reports indicating the murder of sons and daughters accounted for 3.1 percent of the 90,869 homicides in the U.S. from 1995 through 2000.

Now in a highly publicized report on the United States Department of State’s website written by the highly respected Honorable Judges William Rigler (Dec.2012) and Howard L. Wieder, “Parental kidnapping is the abduction and/or concealment of a child without the consent of the other parent child snatching, child stealing, and child abduction are synonymous with parental kidnapping. Id. at 364 n. 13.. Parental kidnapping one of the worst forms of child abuse.McKeon, “International Parental Kidnapping; A New Law, A New Solution,” 30 Fam. L.Q. 235, 244 (1996); see, Note, “Access Rights: A Necessary Corollary to Custody Rights Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction,” 21 Fordham Int’l L.J. 308, 318 & n.64 (1997). The mere threat of child abduction is also a form of patent abuse. People v. Beach , 194 Cal. App. 3d 955, 240 Cal. Rptr. 50 (1987).”

The State Department report continues, “When non-custodial parents resort to kidnapping, they believe they are acting in the best interests of their children. Although a minority of parental kidnappers may actually save their children by taking them out of the reach of the other parent, the motives of most parents who steal their children are not at all altruistic. Parents find a myriad of reasons or self-justification for stealing a child from another parent. Some abductors will find fault with the other parent for nonsensical transgressions; others will steal a child for revenge.”

Did you notice the keyword, “revenge?”

The Honorable Judge Rigler and Judge Weider’s report further states,“A representative of Child Find said at a congressional hearing on missing children: “Searching parents worry and wonder, constantly tormented by this act. It is revenge far sweeter and longer lived then a beating or even murder, for it never ends. “Note, “Children as Pawns in Their Parents’ Fight for Control: The Failure of the United States to Protect Against International Child Abduction,” 21 Women’s Rts L. Rep. 129, 132 (2000).

Again the keyword here is “revenge.”

But what if the act of revenge fails and a child is going to be returned back to the targeted parent? What type of “revenge” will be served?

Remember, the narcissistic and sociopathic behavior of an abductor removes all rational thinking.

Back to the Honorable Judge Rigler and Wieder report, the judges state,”A kidnapping parent may also be controlled by feelings of frustration and inadequacy and thus, may want the children to reassure his or her worth. Often, children who are abducted are placed in the role of the other spouse and receive the emotional and, sometimes, physical abuse meant for the non-abducting parent. Moreover, because the children are stolen in a fit of anger or revenge, the abductors eventually realize that they do not want the child once their anger has subsided.”

The reality of international parental child abduction is, as cited by Judge Rigler and Wieder that, “Although most parents who steal their children attempt to justify their actions as the only way to ensure the best interests of the child, the child’s best interests are usually not considered. In fact, the best interest of the child mandates that parents ask themselves what the consequences of the abduction will be on the child. If parents had the foresight and emotional empathy of the impact of lying to a child across time and deriding the custodial parent, then they would not do it.”

Clearly, in the vast majority of cases of international parental child abduction, we are dealing with severe instability, narcissism, and sociopathic behavior.

New  York attorney Joel Walter, who is a board of director member of the I CARE Foundation, and who has a long and extensive history  that stretches nearly 40 years of fighting to protect children and their rights, including protecting children from international child abduction, added, “Who suffers because of a kidnapper’s uncontrollable rage and desire to hurt the other parent? The innocent child does! Once removed from their home, the child becomes a hostage who is put into more danger than being alienated from their other parent and family, being forced to live the life as a fugitive, having their identity stripped away – no, there is much more at risk than all of this: there is the risk that filicide – the murder of a child at the hands of one of their parents – will occur. And this is the reality that we all keep in the forefront of our thoughts: child abductors have demonstrated their cleverness and willingness to scheme and break the law as exhibited by their criminal act of kidnapping, the vast majority of abductors kidnap their child because they have lost control of their emotions and use the child as a pawn for revenge against the other parent and are willing to go to nearly any length to cause pain and suffering to their target, even if it is at the expense of their own child, and conceivably, as has been demonstrated in various forms and ways as exhibited by the number of filicide cases, a parental child abductor could murder their own child as the ultimate act of revenge – especially when a child’s return to their country of original jurisdiction has been ordered or is imminent. This is a very serious issue.”

What Mr. Walter points out, I think, more than anything else is what all international parental child abduction prevention advocates are fighting to stop.

It might not be openly talked about – especially when you consider the majority of activist who vocalize their concern about international child kidnapping are parents still searching – but this issue is for many, their gravest concern.

And with the United States possibly facing between 100,000 and 125,000 international parental child abductions over the next 10 years, and Canada facing anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 children who will actually be kidnapped abroad – this issue is worth screaming about!

As an author, child advocate, and parent, and in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, every time the foundation gets involved in a child abduction case, my stomach twists and turns and rolls into a knot because of the grave concern I have for all children who are parentally kidnapped.

So I remind each of you who read this to remember that you are only three degrees of separation from knowing someone who is a target of international parental child abduction.  Please support all initiatives created to prevent international parental child abduction.

Thank you –

Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation

Author Of The Critically Acclaimed
Chasing The Cyclone (100% Author Proceeds donated to the I CARE Foundation)

Parenting Bloggers Raise Awareness of Child Abduction Risks During Christmas Season

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I and my fellow board members of the I CARE Foundation have been sharing for several weeks now that the Christmas Holiday Season is one of the most active times of year when children are internationally abducted by one parent from another.

Jennifer Cluff, who was recently voted as one of Canada’s Top 5 Mom Bloggers recently wrote an incredible article about Christmas and child abduction risks that I think every parent should read.

Seriously friends, international parental child abduction is only three degrees of separation away from affecting you or someone you may know.  Sadly, if a child is taken or illegally detained abroad, there is only about a 10% chance they will ever return home.

On top of the actual kidnapping, the mental abuse placed on this child is so severe.

Don’t let abduction happen to you.  Take some time and educate yourself!

Read the Mom-ology article.  It is that concise and informative.

Happy Holidays – Seriously …. let this be a happy holiday.  Don’t find yourself Chasing The Cyclone of abduction.

Peter Thomas Senese
Founding Director
The I CARE Foundation

Gay Partnerships, Unions, and Marriages and International Parental Child Abduction

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Gay & Lesbian Unions:
An Increase In International Parental Child Abduction Cases
  By
As same-sex partnerships, unions, and marriages become more
commonly visible as an integral part of our society,  the I CARE Foundation has been contacted by numerous parents of these unions who have expressed concern surrounding their particular
partnership’s failure and how the end of their relationship may impact the child or children of the relationship, particularly when one of the partnering parents desires to remove the other partnering parent from the child or children’s lives, and relocate to another state or country.
In another set of words, what I am referring to is ‘Inter-State or International Parental Child Abduction’.

On occasions, the communication exchanges the I CAREFoundation receives include queries by a parent seeking insight concerning
issues such as jurisdiction, parent-rights, mobility, relocation, and
tragically – though not directly stated – legal defenses on interstate or
international abduction should a parent be inclined to violate a court order pertaining to parental rights (I offer a heart-felt plea to those who are considering illegal removal of a child: I speak from experience as a chasing parent – please do not do this. The ramifications on your child will be severe).

Obviously, the challenges all children face during divorce or
separation are harsh.  When one of the child’s parent’s attempts to break the child’s bond with their other parent, including relocating from one state to another, or in certain cases, relocating without permission to another country (this is abduction), the challenges and hardship that child faces grows exponentially.  Clearly, in all child custody cases, the longer the litigation takes the more strain that is placed on an innocent, defenseless child of a failed relationship.  Unfortunately, there exists a new frontier in family law: how local, federal, and international courts uphold the rights of children to both of their parents in failed gay and lesbian legal unions and marriages.  To say that a legal minefield exists, would be an understatement.
Tragically, in cases of high-conflict separation that include issues of jurisdiction and the upholding of a non-biological ‘birthing’ parent’s rights, the conflict can become extreme.  Everyone suffers. The child suffers. The former partners suffer. And from what I have seen, the pain and anguish for all is extraordinary.
In my capacity as the Founding Director of the not-for-profit International Child Abduction Research & Enlightenment Foundation (the “I CARE Foundation”), our foundation has seen and assisted numerous high-conflict families challenged by issues of both mobility and
abduction.  Our activity includes conducting extensive research in the area of child custody and cross-border conflict, working to create (successfully) new laws and government policies
directed to help protect children from cross-border conflict, and when possible, assisting in the reunification of internationally kidnapped children.
These cases are never easy.
In reflection, when I think of the hardships involved in any case concerning mobility or child abduction regardless if we’re addressing a heterosexual or homosexual partnership, the reality is all parties involved face severe emotional, spiritual, and financial hardship no words could ever accurately express.

However, it appears that children caught in the cross-hairs of gay or lesbian partnership custody disputes where there are contested questions of mobility or risk of abduction, or an actual instance of abduction face potentially greater hardship than heterosexual partnerships because of the legal minefield of litigation their parents must navigate through due a wide range of legal issues, including but not limited to questions revolving around local, federal, and at times, international law (or lack of laws and policies) that is specific to same-sex unions.

So if you are a mother or father who is involved in a child custody dispute that originates from a same-sex union, remember that the longer the litigation goes on, the more your child will suffer because litigation of any kind does have a direct, ugly impact on the lives of all involved.  
Now, I do not have my head in the clouds and think that all separations will end amicably.  
However, sharing my birds-eye view of witnessing some of the most difficult, extreme high-conflict family disputes, many involving international litigation, I can undeniably attest that in all of these cases, it is the child who will always suffer no matter what any of the child’s parents
thinks (obviously cases of abuse are the exception and should never be tolerated under any circumstance).

Recently, I have been following Erik Eckholm’s of the New York Times fascinating, yet heart-breakingcoverage of the story
of ten year old Isabella Miller-Jenkins

The young girl has two mothers and is the product of a same-sex union that took place in Vermont between Ms. Lisa Miller and Ms. Janet Jenkins in 2002. Isabella was conceived by Ms. Lisa Miller in 2002. The couple separated in 2003. 

However, since 2009, the child has been living the life of a
fugitive in impoverished Nicaragua with one of her mother’s, Ms. Lisa Miller, who under American law, is considered to be a fugitive and an abducting mother now wanted for international abduction.
Unfortunately for Ms. Jenkins, Nicaragua is not a signatory country of the Hague Convention on theCivil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and legal reach under international law appears to be limited.
According to Mr. Eckholm’s New York Times coverage, Ms. Miller no longer desired to allow Janet Jenkins any contact with their daughter Isabella. Since the former couple’s separation, Ms. Miller apparently violated Ms. Jenkin’s rights of custody on numerous occasions that were previously established under Vermont law and upheld in Virginia (where Ms. Miller relocated with Isabella). 
So three years ago, in another act to separate Isabella from Ms. Jenkins, Ms. Miller decided to flee the United States and relocate to Nicaragua without Ms. Jenkins knowledge or permission.
Like the vast majority of international parental child abductions, Ms. Miller had a great deal of help. 
You see, Ms. Miller sought and received the assistance of Mr. Kenneth Miller, the leader of the conservative Beachy Amish Mennonite Church of Stuarts Draft, Virginia.
Under the religious beliefs of the Amish Mennonite, gay and lesbian life is a sin, and apparently Ms. Miller embraced this idea during the child custody dispute she had with Ms. Jenkins.
So it appears that perhaps, and I say this with some reservation, that the possibility exists that Ms. Miller may have adapted a condemnation of her lesbian lifestyle she previously shared with Ms. Jenkins in order to defend against the criminal act of abduction and her desire to not obey a Vermont judges court orders regarding Ms. Jenkin’s access and co-parenting of Isabella once the couple separated prior to the abduction.
Of course, it is conceivable that Ms. Miller actually now believes that her anti-gay or lesbian lifestyle is correct and in accord with her new found Christian beliefs?
However, what is of interest is how religion or persecution for following your religious beliefs will inevitably be used to defend against the act of international parental child abduction by a taking parent.
Today, from what I understand, the child Isabella remains on the run, living a life of a fugitive in Nicaragua (or perhaps someplace else) with Lisa Miller, while the child’s other mother, Ms. Janet Jenkins, continues to seek legal remedy to have her rights of parenthood that were established under Vermont law, and upheld in Virginia enforced.  I would imagine Ms. Jenkins is also deeply concerned about how her daughter is holding up considering that she is being
wrongfully detained by Ms. Miller.
According to numerous child psychologist, the Isabella could be seen as a prisoner of a fugitive parent who has been highly abused and neglected, as child abduction is considered child abuse.
Is Ms. Miller using religion and new-found religious beliefs as the basis for her to continue to flee, or could it be possible that Ms. Miller has actually rejected all things connected with a gay or lesbian lifestyle and actually believes living a same-sex lifestyle to be sinful?
Is Isabella safe, or is the life she has had to live for the past three years had a deep and troubling influence on her, and if so, can the impact be reversed or treated?
As for the Beachy Amish Mennonite Church leader Kenneth Miller, he was found guilty of abetting an international parental child kidnapping this past August and is facing up to three years in federal prison.  Mr. Miller’s sentencing date has not yet been determined.
As for the legal issues that present themselves in this case, it is going to be interesting to see if Ms. Miller will be able to remain outside of the United States and the reach of law established by its courts.  Of course it is also going to be interesting to see how a parent’s religion and sexual orientation will be viewed from country to country with respect to international parental child abduction cases.
For example, in cases where a child is abducted to a Hague signatory nation, will a parent who once lived a gay or lesbian lifestyle who had a child from a same-sex union seek protection for an act of abduction under Article 13 B of the Hague Convention by making a claim in a country they abduct their child to that they are unable to receive fair treatment under the laws of the child’s nation of original jurisdiction based upon religion and how their religious beliefs juxtaposes itself with their past or present sexual orientation.
Is the situation for Isabella and other children of abduction who will come after Isabella a mess?
You bet it is. All international parental child abductions are terrible. 
Did Ms. Lisa Miller really reject her lesbian lifestyle or is she using her newly embraced Mennonite religious beliefs to push away Ms. Janet Jenkins from Isabella’s life?
I don’t think anyone really knows.
However, one thing cannot be dismissed in cases of international parental child abduction, and that is that in many of these cases, the taking parent carefully creates a plan of abduction that is well thought out, and typically involves the assistance of others. 
Lisa Miller’s abduction of Isabella was certainly well thought out and she was certainly aided as demonstrated by the conviction of Mr. Miller for aiding in Isabella’s abduction.
Again – it is a mess and one terrible tragedy for this innocent child – who remains on the run . . . perhaps in Nicaragua or perhaps someplace else.
Of course there is the argument presented by Ms. Lisa Miller and her supporters that she was acting to protect her daughter from a gay and lesbian lifestyle that she no longer participated in and rejected as sinful.
Not too long ago, one of my pals whom I have been very close friends with for all of my adult life recently separated from his partner.  Together, these two wonderful fathers, ‘Dad’ and ‘Papa’, raised one incredible little girl together who I am convinced will one day have a far-reaching and positive impact on our wonderful world.  Dad and Papa were the definition of two
loving, dedicated, kind, nurturing, and caring parents.
Then something happened, and the relationship came to an end.
Did the relationship end because of some ungodly act by one of the men? No.
The relationship ended because their needs and expectations of one another and what they desired from life had changed.
Was there hurt and anger?
Of course, particularly by the father who did not want the relationship to end.
So, what did that upset father do?
He decided at first that since he had some legal leverage associated with the young daughter both fathers raised, that he was going to relocate to another state and severely limit the other father’s rights of custody on their daughter.
And in fact, that is exactly what happened.
Sadly, the relocation occurred without the other father knowing.
And as you may imagine, the situation became rather ugly.  Then uglier.
Caught in the cross-hairs was their little daughter who I would often take to the Magnolia Bakery for a “perfect cupcake.”
And my heart broke for my little friend who was more interested in Dora The Explorer and Cinderella than the fighting that took place between her two fathers, who mind you – are both truly remarkable, amazing, loving individuals.
But these child custody cases – they sure know can make anyone look terrible.
I will never forget that while my two friends volleyed in a sea of nasty litigation (that cost them such an enormous amount of EVERYTHING), I had the opportunity of visiting the parent who had relocated with their daughter four months after the initial separation.
It was my first visit since their unexpected relocation.
As you may imagine there was a great deal of frustration that was vented by this particular father (similar to the other father). He shared his feelings about the failed relationship, what was best for his daughter, what was best for him, and the awful litigation that took place.
As we spent the late morning together, I sensed that my friend had a little sense of paranoia that perhaps I came to visit him in my capacity as a director of the I CARE Foundation. 
This was not the case, as I expressed that I came to visit because he too was my friend, and that I was concerned about the overall ugliness that was depleting so much from his daughter’s family’s life.
The key words being that both the young girl had a family: a ‘Dad’ and a ‘Papa’, and that no matter what would occur, both ‘Dad’ and ‘Papa’ were loved by their child, and that as this lovely child’s fathers, they had an incredible responsibility to stop their feuding and to truly act like the
remarkable, compassionate, understanding, brave, courageous, and intelligent individuals they were.
Well, as there was a long history between us, one that included my friend knowing I am very direct, my words were accepted.
So too was my suggestion.
I asked my friend if he would excuse himself from the room (and make us lunch) so that I could talk to his daughter alone. I also suggested that he hear the truth of her heart, and asked him to listen in so he could hear my conversation.
And that is exactly what happened.
What was heard?
This little amazing girl just six years old shared that she missed both of her fathers and loved both of them very much.  Remarkably, she understood that parents get divorced sometimes. But she said that even when parents do not live together any more, they should be nice to one another. Real nice.  And she also said that she was taught that her family was different than other families. That her family was really special.  Super Special. Then she said that they weren’t acting really special.  Then she asked me why her ‘Dad’ and ‘Papa’ would lie to her and say that she was part of a special family, when they were so mean to one another?
Now let me say this. Her words about how special her family was resounded within like Quasimodo’s Notre Dame’ bells would cover Paris. 
Indeed her two fathers were both incredibly special individuals. As I saw and still see it, they were brave in saying to the world, “this is who I am” and living the life they each believed in. They were both caring and compassionate and active members of their micro and macro communities. They were successful. They had many friends. And they were incredible – no incredibly ridiculous – as in amazing – fathers.
And somehow these incredible parents, these incredible individuals . . . forgot how incredible they were.
Now as you can imagine, my friend who was in the kitchen hearing my conversation with his daughter realized what his daughter was saying: that it’s okay to not live with my other father, but remember, we’re still a very special family because the two of you are both very special, and the two of you – your my ‘Dad’ and my ‘Papa’, and you have to continue to be special because of me.
I must say, that later that afternoon, after his daughter decided to take a little nap, my friend said something to me that I think is truly remarkable.  And I wrote it down. 
This is what he said. “Sometimes it is easy to forget how special we are.  Raising a daughter as a gay couple requires being special – and holding ourselves more accountable to one another, even in separation for our child’s sake.”
Fast forward four months from the time of that conversation and a true, sound parenting plan was created and actually was working, and working well. Both fathers – my friends – were peacefully and civilly rebuilding the trust that was necessary so they could in fact continue to be
the special persons they were.  The healing had begun . . . and in fact the healing really started as soon as the messy, ugly litigation stopped.  In fact, they live in the same town and in the same community (again).  They have embraced the wonderment of being fathers – their daughter’s ‘Dad’ and ‘Papa’.
And though my little friend does not live with both of her fathers at the same time, she is being raised by both of them, and she does see each of them equally, and regularly.
And thank God peace, friendship, and good parenting is prevailing.
As I write this, I can’t help but think how my two wonderful friends acted with great courage and bravery and love for their daughter and found a way – to act in their love of their daughter.
Before I go, I would like to simply say that the nasty  litigation that occurred between my two friends was not necessary.  And they will be the first ones to say this.
But sometimes, when in the midst of child custody cases, parents can get sucked into the vortex of the cyclone of litigation. 
When they do, it is easy to forget the good things you are litigating about: the love and rights of your child.
Breaking the magnetic pull of continuing to litigate is not an easy task. It takes courage. It takes fair play. It takes putting your ego in check. And it takes acting in fairness for your child.
And it may not be easy to do.
But it can be done. 
And your child or children will be much better off if you do.
Of course this is not to say that working things out in order to co-parent is easy.  Each separation has its own challenges, and as I stated, it appears that child custody cases regarding mobility present an even harder burden onto the child.
I would like to add this: please remember that open and honest dialogue is always the best choice if your choice revolves around what is best for your child or children.
So in parting, I would like to share that all child custody cases concerning mobility and/or abduction cause extreme hardship on children of the relationship, and this is particularly true in same-sex partnerships in part due to the challenges in law all parties must face.  If at all possible, try to mediate your differences reasonably, fairly, and respectfully with one another, and remember . . . you do not have to be a biological birth-giver, regardless if you are gay or straight, to be one great, loving parent.
One last thing . . . Thanks B and Z for letting me share a part of your story. I am very proud of the two of you  . . . and so happy for your daughter.