Tuesday, March 4, 2014

U.S. Senate Committee On Foreign Relations Hears I CARE Foundation Testimony On International Child Abduction

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The I CARE Foundation firmly believes that increased efforts in diplomacy, along with meaningful judicial education and training programs, are the solution to the global abduction crisis. Working within those beliefs, it was a privilege, on behalf of the I CARE Foundation, to be able to provide testimony to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the issue of child abduction.  

The solutions that were offered to Congress are what we feel are the most viable, effective and global-reaching ideas which offer both immediate and long-term answers for families of abduction.

We would like to share a portion of this testimony - which deals specifically with the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form - which has been an incredibly effective tool in the area of international child abduction prevention since it was developed.

Key Child Abduction Prevention Suggested Mandates:

Mandate Execution Of An International Travel Child Consent Form Steep In Hague Law

Section I – The International Child Travel Consent Form

Perhaps the singular most effective tool to prevent the international parental child abduction of American children and ensure their safe and immediate return to their home country is for Congress to mandate the use of a Hague-centric international travel child consent form and direct various government agencies connected to the welfare of our American child citizens and travel related matters to widely disseminate this form.

Clearly, the majority of international parental child abductions under the rules of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention occur when a child is wrongfully detained in another country. Typically this occurs under the guise of a family vacation.

The I CARE Foundation has created a travel consent form that is steep in Hague-oriented case law with focus on Articles 1, 12, 13 and 20. The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form was created to remove a parent's legal defenses under Articles 12, 13, and 20 of the Hague Convention who may be scheming to abduct a child prior to an alleged 'family vacation' abroad while also establishing strong support for a child’s immediate return under Article 1 of the Hague Convention.

The Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law Dr. Christophe Bernasconi  recently made the comments concerning the I CARE Foundation travel form:
"I have had the possibility to look at the travel form and must say that I am impressed: this is the most comprehensive document of its kind that I have seen so far and there is little doubt in my mind that this is a most valuable and important effort to prevent child abduction."
We respectfully point out that there is a current trend for courts around the world to reconsider ‘The Best Interest of the Child’ and include ‘The Best Interest of the Family’ under Article 13 of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. Clearly, when courts engage in this analysis they create a direct contradiction to the expeditious intent of the convention, which inherently allow for ‘Well-settled claims’ to be lodged by the taking parent.

The I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form and the adjoining legal analysis was created as a mechanism to remove a would-be abductor’s legal defense of abduction prior to the act and cause either law enforcement or courts located in the in-bound country to quickly return the abducted child to their home country of original jurisdiction.

Section II - Conclusion and Recommendation Concerning Travel Consent Form

The I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form has been an effective child abduction prevention tool. Use of the form protects against schemes of abduction to Hague countries and may be useful when abduction occurs to non-Hague countries.

We respectfully suggest that the United States Congress direct the appropriate U.S. governmental agencies to discuss the mandated use of a formal international travel child consent form based upon the design of the I CARE Foundation model. In addition, we respectfully suggest that the Department of State engage with the Hague Conference and suggest that a global Hague Travel Consent Form be developed under the auspices of the Hague Conference and that its use be made mandatory. We are convinced that the mandatory use of a globally recognized Travel Consent Form signed by the left-behind parent (and possibly a notary) will dramatically reduce the number of (American) children who are abducted and equally will assist in the expeditious return of children wrongfully detained abroad if they were abducted.

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For more information or to download a copy of the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form please CLICK HERE

Kindest Regards, 

International Executive Director 
The I CARE Foundation

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The I CARE Foundation's Efforts To Stop International Child Abduction: 2013 Year In Review

The year 2013 was a very successful year in the fight to protect children from international parental child abduction.  In saying that, I invite you to read the I CARE Foundation's 2013 Year In Review. This overview is not only a look back at what was accomplished during the past year, but is also a plan on how we can, and will, end international parental child abduction and trafficking.

Though we still have a long way to go, we are heading in the right direction.

Our work continues...


The I CARE Foundation’s 2013 Year In Review Protecting Children From International Abduction and Trafficking
 
2013: Substantial Global Gains Made Working To Protect Children From International Parental Kidnapping With The Promise Of Substantial Continued Success In 2014.
We expect that 2013 will be viewed by stakeholders dedicated to preventing the inhumane crime of international parental child kidnapping and who work to reunite abducted children with their targeted families as a year when the daunting global fight to protect children from abduction and trafficking made real, measurable, and promising strides that are expected to have a far-reaching long-term positive impact for a substantial number of existing and future children and their families located around the world.  Nevertheless, real problems and challenges still remain. It is our strong hope that 2014 will build upon the important progress made in 2013 and become known as a year when new global initiatives hopefully under the leadership of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (i.e., the Intergovernmental Organization under the auspices of which the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention was adopted) and its Permanent Bureau (Secretariat), have a far-reaching positive impact protecting children everywhere.

International parental child abduction in itself is a highly abusive and at times deadly act that targets hundreds of thousands of children around the world each year.  In many countries, parental abduction is a crime, while in other less progressive countries parental abduction tragically remains a part of an unjust social and cultural climate where justice and equality, particularly for women, are fleeting concepts.

In nearly all circumstances of parental abduction, children are used as pawns by their abducting parents to extract a premeditated plan, including but not limited to causing severe suffering to the child’s other parent. Of grave concern and perhaps one of the greatest challenges that children and their targeted parents face is the lack of accountability courts hold abductors or would-be abductors to either when an abduction scheme is prevented or after a child is successfully returned to their country of original jurisdiction. Without holding a parental child abductor accountable not only will many targeted parents remain in the cross-hairs of a vengeance-seeking abducting parent who has already caused both them and the victimized child considerable harm, but it also sends a dangerous global message that would-be parental child abductors have limited risks of legal accountability before courts and law enforcement.

As society becomes more aware and intolerant of these unforgiveable kidnappings against a child, there cannot be a contradictory message of responsibility in lieu of the abusive acts committed.  Most importantly, we point out that children who have previously been the target or victim of a parental abduction are at great risk of a second abduction. Failure to protect these children from new threats is to minimalize their lives and a right to happiness. In this spirit it is critical that courts act to safeguard the rights of children at risk of abduction: anything less would essentially legalize the spirit of parental abduction and that would be unthinkable.

There have been many sobering moments during 2013, including a U.S. government issued report published in June 2013 reiterating that children victims of parental abduction face extreme severe physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their abducting parents.

The fact that children of parental child abduction are at grave risk of filicide – murder by their taking parent – tells the real story as to why all members of society should be outraged at the very notion of international parental child abduction. Truth is, the majority of professionals who are dedicated to stopping abduction are not simply trying to prevent an abusive kidnapping, but a possible child murder.

Now if you’re like most individuals you may ask yourself, ‘How can a parent murder their child?’ Sadly, this is not the notion of extreme activist trying to play on your sentiment. The reality is thousands of children each year are murdered by their parents.

Combining the reality of filicide is the apparent ties to post-abduction suicide amongst adults who experienced the extreme violations of parental abduction in their childhood.

Of course, all targeted children of abduction have to deal with the fall-out of parental alienation and isolation. The reality is that a would-be abductor attempts to steal the identity of the child by denying their other parent’s existence. Make no mistake about this: children caught in the scheme of abduction face extreme emotional hardship that has serious short and long-term consequences.

The reality is that international parental child abduction continues to significantly grow outside of the United States (we take exceptional note that the majority of Hague-states signatory of the Hague Child Abduction Convention have not publicly or privately reported their inbound or outbound abduction cases in years: something that must change in 2014 and beyond as failure of transparency in reporting has only allowed the abduction epidemic to manifest by in essence concealing the very real global epidemic). For example it is reported that international parental child abduction has doubled in the past decade in the United Kingdom. This is intolerable, particularly when we consider that the United Kingdom is progressive in their activity to stop abduction. Now imagine what the true reported and unreported abduction statistics for countries such as Japan, the Philippines, India, or Nigeria?

We reiterate our unmovable position that international parental child abduction is a severe act of child abuse with far reaching consequences on a targeted child that will impact all phases of their life. Consequently, we equally acknowledge the high-degree negative impact abduction has on victimized targeted parents who tragically have every aspect of their life heavily impacted and who often have limited recourse during and post-abduction to defend against a predator parent’s behavior in a post-reunification aftermath.

We affirm at the highest degree that targeted parents of international parental child abduction are also real victims of the inhumane act of abduction directed at their child. We call upon all stakeholders who work to protect children to also take stake in the interest of targeted parent-victims.

Building On 2013 – What To Look For In 2014

On a global level there are several significant initiatives that can have extraordinary benefits on the global fight against international child abduction and trafficking in 2014. We fully expect these issues to have careful consideration and review by key global stakeholders. They include but are not limited to the following:

1. The creation of an International Judiciary College is perhaps the singular most important step that can create the greatest impact of protecting the hundreds of thousands of children each year who are targeted for international abduction and trafficking. The reality is the vast majority of judges overseeing international parental child abduction cases are not trained in the complex legal, psychological, political, financial, and logistical matters that all impact abduction cases. Given its expertise on the operation of all relevant Hague Conventions, including of course the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention, and experience in providing technical assistance to judges and other relevant actors involved in their operation, we suggest and hope that the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference can be prominently associated to this proposal and become an integral part of its realization.

We believe that the Hague Child Abduction Convention is the right mechanism that all nations must participate in and uphold; however, untrained judges and courts have in fact led to many previous failures including failure to properly and expeditiously oversee legal proceedings seeking the return of abducted children to their country of habitual residency.

In addition, failures to have a highly educated global judiciary deeply familiar with child abduction have caused diplomatic unease with the potential of severe long-term problems.  For example, in the United States, HR 3212 seeks the United States Congress to impose penalties and sanctions on countries that do not adhere to the Hague Child Abduction Convention. On the onset, HR 3212 may appear to have merit; however, any legislation that may remove the validity of the international treaty may in reality cause more children who are abducted to not be returned to their country of original jurisdiction particularly if countries take matters into their own hands and remove diplomacy.  In this sense, the United States Department of State's leadership within the Office of Children's Issues (the acting Central Authority for the Hague in the United States) has done an outstanding and exemplary job both preventing the number of children who are internationally abducted: the reported cases of international abduction amongst American children has declined by over 23% during fiscal years 2011 and 2012 and we fully expect the 2013 reported abduction cases to decline.  As the I CARE Foundation has assisted targeted parents around the country prevent abduction, we have seen first-hand the exemplary work and dedication of the Office of Children's Issues. Furthermore, the Office of Children's Issues has played an important and helpful role assisting targeted parents who have had their child abducted. The reality is there is a long way to go but the Hague Convention is triggering for the rightful return of children of more children each year. This is a considerable event when we take into consideration the limited power vested in the Office of Children's Issues by Congress. Truth is, intergovernmental diplomacy is working with meaningful strides being made each year. In contrast, the reality of creating a precedent for any one country to create self-imposed sanctions undermines the essence of the Hague Child Abduction Convention and the significant progress that has been made.  In addition, we must point out those failures to return children to their country of original jurisdiction are a global problem primarily perpetuated by indecisiveness and lack of understanding at a judicial level.  These failures at the court level amongst all signatory states are real, and no country is excluded.

Should other states signatories of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention implement similar law or policy as that set forth in the HR 3212 bill, one of two things may happen. The first is (and we hope this is the case) that more states will comply with the spirit and intent of the abduction convention. The second possibility is that new laws and policies established to sanction non-compliance could lead to the demise and viability of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Creating an International Judiciary College, ideally under the auspices of the Permanent Bureau and capable of training on an ongoing basis a significant number of judges and other relevant actors involved in the operation of the 38 Conventions adopted under the auspices of the Hague Conference on Private International Law including the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention would have a dramatic impact on reducing the global abduction rate while also increasing diplomatic relationships amongst countries as it is highly conceivable that the existing issues of lack of judicial compliance and adherence to the abduction convention would be mooted as more judges become trained on Hague matters.

Unquestionably, we acknowledge the existence of significant failures amongst the judiciary around the world to understand the scope and nature of parental abduction and the tendency of untrained judiciary to allow abduction defense litigation to derail the very nature and scope of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention that’s very purpose is to determine which court has a right of jurisdiction on a child’s welfare and then to return that child to such jurisdiction.

In addition, a judicial college could provide a window of understanding amongst non-member states as to the benefits of participation in the Hague Conferences and become a signatory of its various conventions.  Understanding and knowledge opens the possibility for non-member states to participate in various conventions that they may have been hesitant to do previously.

The benefits of world-wide participation would in fact create an underpinning of global accountability on both social and economic matters covered by any of the relevant Hague Conventions.

These benefits would have far-reaching social benefits and economic advantages. For example, it would be reasonable to expect that convention compliance will increase due to increased understanding amongst the world’s judiciary. Economic benefits would be staggering: for example, costs associated with international child abduction would be dramatically reduced as cases are expedited at the ‘In-bound’ country level – saving both time and money for all parties involved.

We strongly point out that if the international community fails to create an International Judicial College, preferably under the auspices of the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law that would become a central education, research, and training center for the world’s judiciary, the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention is at risk of becoming an obsolete tool if countries begin to subjectively sanction one-another for failures to return an abducted child. The ramifications of countries issuing subjective sanctions against one another can become a very real problem and threat to the needs for increased diplomatic relations in our ever-increasing globally connected world.

2. It is believed that the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the origin of which goes back to 1893 and under the auspices of which 38 conventions have been adopted including the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention , has a total operating budget of less than 3,800,000 Euro per year.  This operating budget is paid for by the Hague Conference member states. The reality is that the small budget at the disposal of the Permanent Bureau is severely limiting its effectiveness and reach, including expanding activity in research, education, program development, outreach, and monitoring.

In order to increase the effectiveness of the Permanent Bureau, there must be an increase in public funding amongst member states combined with a collaborative funding effort amongst private-sector organizations.  Unquestionably, private-sector funding holds the key to the viability of the Permanent Bureau’s reach as society moves closer toward the ideals of global citizenship and where global economic accountability requires private-sector organizations to participate in upholding international treaties (the Hague Conference on Private International Law has not only adopted important and widely ratified Conventions in the field of child protection and family law, but also in the fields of cross-border civil procedure and legal cooperation, commercial law and finance law).

We believe there unquestionably exist significant financial resources available to expand the Permanent Bureaus’ activity through a variety of private financial sourcing pools and philanthropic organizations who understand the short-term and long-term benefits of increasing the capability of the Permanent Bureau. In a world where business, activism, and social understanding of one another now operates at a global level, there is a large and growing number of private-sector stakeholders interested in supporting the work of the Hague Conference on Private International Law and more specifically the numerous important tasks of its Permanent Bureau (which in fact is its Secretariat and which has a staff of less than 30 people).

Furthermore, we believe that every member state must increase their financial participation and support of the Permanent Bureau. The fact that a leading international organization that exists today to create and uphold international conventions that benefit our global social and economic realities operates on less than a shoe-string budget diminishes the true capability of the very institution that was created to establish critical multi-national treaties and protocols in the names of global cooperation, collaboration, and world peace. 

Without an increased operating budget, the true benefit of the Permanent Bureau will be dramatically reduced particularly if countries fail to comply with the various conventions, including the abduction convention.

3. It is critical Permanent Bureau create a global outreach and monitoring advisory program for Hague member states. A well trained central advisory division within the Permanent Bureau capable of traveling to various countries and working at a grass-roots level to educate key stakeholders on various convention issues would go a long way toward global compliance, economic prosperity, and increased diplomacy.  The benefits are staggering. Personnel for a central advisory division could originate from the proposed international judiciary college.

4. The vast majority of reported cases of global international parental child abduction occur when a parent wrongfully detains a child abroad without consent of the child’s other parent or a court order.  In June, 2013 the I CARE Foundation released a groundbreaking I CARE Foundation International Travel Child Consent Form that is Hague-centric in content and scope.  The I CARE Foundation’s travel form has been successfully utilized around the world to protect children from abduction as it guards against intent of travel and protects matters related to a child’s court of original jurisdiction.  With keen awareness of Articles 2, 12, 13, and 20 of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention this landmark travel consent form or a travel consent form based upon the I CARE Foundation’s travel form, we hope to bring the need for standardized, global travel consent form back on the agenda of the Special Commission that discusses the practical operation of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention (the last meeting of this Special Commission took place in 2012: if the usual rhythm of these meetings is maintained, the next one should take place in 2015). 

5. Expanded efforts amongst the Permanent Bureau and member states to urge non-member states to participate in the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention will continue and are expected to have positive results such as Japan’s participation in the abduction convention (Japan is expected to join the Convention in the early part of 2014).

Diplomacy must continue and must be nurtured carefully especially as the Hague Permanent Bureau’s outstanding leadership continually acts to bring non-signatory countries particularly those located in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa to join the table of nations at the Hague.

There have been noteworthy accomplishments during 2013 that have and are expected to continue to bring about further positive change that will protect children.

In fact, noteworthy efforts originating from the Hague Conference on Private International Law combined with initiatives by many Hague-signatory nation-states and their respective oversight agencies dedicated to protecting children have created an atmosphere of abduction intolerance. Joining these efforts by many governments sitting at the table of nations has been substantial efforts by private sector organizations that have also had also had a significant impact protecting children and their targeted families from abduction.
We are pleased to share that the reported cases of international child abduction in The United States declined by over 23% collectively during fiscal years 2011 and 2012 in contradiction of expected combined growth of over 30% during the same time period.

In addition, it is our expectation that the upcoming United States Department of State’s report to Congress on Compliance To The Hague Conventionconcerning international abduction of American children will demonstrate there was another significant decline in outbound child abductions during 2013. The Department of State report is expected out this spring.  Based upon the I CARE Foundation’s substantial efforts working with families we assisted combined with efforts made by other notable non-government organizations around the world, there is optimism that we will see a landmark three-year decline in the reported abduction rate.

Several primary reasons why the United States is experiencing a reduction in their international parental child abduction rate includes the incredible efforts by the men and women who work for the United States Department of States Office of Children’s Issue.  In the eyes of many stakeholders, ours included, the team at OCI are true heroes who work day-in and day-out trying to protect children. Despite operational and policy handicaps and restrictions, the reality is that there has been a decline of 23% in the reported cases of U.S. outbound abduction while the rest of the world’s abduction rate appears to be soaring.

We can’t stress this enough: diplomacy is working. The Department of State’s efforts at the table of nations to continue to foster other countries not only to participate and uphold the spirit of the Hague Child Abduction Convention combined with noteworthy operational steps to prevent abduction are worthy of emulating.

Are things perfect? No. Far from it.

Nevertheless, 2013 will be viewed as a year where seeds of change previously planted took root with the expectation that a paradigm shift will occur in 2014, particularly as efforts to create an International Judiciary College will hopefully move from the conceptual planning stage to a permanent fixture, and implementation of the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form continues to be utilized, upheld, and honored amongst member states.

Before sharing an overview of the I CARE Foundation’s 2013 activity and accomplishments, we would like to acknowledge that the gains made to protect children are due in great part due to indefatigable efforts of organizations in the private sector such as the I CARE Foundation, Reunite, BAC HOME, and theBring Sean Home Foundation coupled with collaborative efforts to assist children by individuals working within numerous government organizations dedicated to protecting children.

Clearly, there is a long way to go . . . but we’re on the road.

The I CARE Foundation’s 2013 Accomplishments

In 2013 the I CARE Foundation continued our efforts to protect children from abduction.  Our activity included but was not limited to the following accomplishments:

1. In June, 2013 the I CARE Foundation released the year-long development of the groundbreaking I CARE Foundation International Travel Child Consent Form and legal brief that has been hailed as a landmark Hague-centric international parental child abduction prevention tool focusing on critical issues revolving around a child’s travel abroad.  Concentrated development of the only Hague-centric global child abduction prevention tool that can be utilized amongst all Hague Convention and non-Hague Convention member states’ citizens initially occurred during 2012 and is the product of an I CARE Conference held at the United Nations.  

The positive impact of the I CARE Foundation International Travel Child Consent Form is best viewed by the large number of children around the world who have safely traveled to another country and successfully returned home without incident using the form. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, not only have all children who traveled using the travel form returned home, but equally, when a parent seeking to travel abroad with a child refused to sign the consent form, their action led to a court restricting travel while also directing additional abduction prevention measures.

Noteworthy insight of the dynamic potential of the consent form was offered by the Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law Dr. Christophe Bernasconi who stated during the summer of 2013:
“I have had the possibility to look at the travel form and must say that I am impressed: this is the most comprehensive document of its kind that I have seen so far and there is little doubt in my mind that this is a most valuable and important effort to prevent child abduction. I applaud your efforts and wish to congratulate you and your team . . . It is really impressive to see how quickly your international travel child consent form has started to yield practical results and how well you monitor its operation - this really is remarkable.” 
The global successful utilization of the I CARE Foundation travel consent form during the summer of 2013 combined with the high risk of international parental child abduction during the Christmas Holiday Season led Secretary General Bernasconi to publicly state in December, 2013:
"While the winter holiday season is often one which presents many opportunities for festive family celebrations, it is also a period in which sadly more parental child abductions occur. As a result, it is more important than ever to take steps to prevent the wrongful removal of children so that abductions which are covered by the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction do not occur in the first place. 
Prevention can be achieved in several ways. For example, when one parent intends to travel with his or her child without the other parent, the other parents consent to the travel should first be obtained. One of the ways a parent can demonstrate that they have the approval of the other non-travelling parent is by having him or her sign a clear, comprehensive travel consent form which includes a statement that the non-travelling parent agrees to the travel but also that the child is to return to his/her place of habitual residence on or before a specific date. A model travel consent form for this purpose has recently been developed by the I CARE Foundation and is, I understand, already widely used by parents in various jurisdictions. Use of the I CARE Foundation's comprehensive Hague-centric travel form that addresses key aspects of the Hague Child Abduction Convention pertaining to a child's international travel are central to protecting against a child's wrongful retention abroad. The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent form and similar comprehensive models deserve further encouragement so as to prevent child abduction and perhaps even limit instances of child trafficking in general. 
The Hague Conference on Private International Law, the Secretariat for the Hague Child Abduction Convention, wishes the I CARE Foundation and its constituents a happy holiday season and hopes that precautions such as the one described above are able to prevent unnecessary anxiety and trauma for parents and children who are affected by holiday travel plans." 

In 2012 the I CARE Foundation developed the concept of our travel consent form. In 2012-2013 the I CARE Foundation diligently created the travel document and supporting legal brief. In the summer of 2013 the I CARE Foundation launched the travel consent form worldwide to great approval by global stakeholders. During the same time period we worked diligently to educate attorneys around the globe as well as raise awareness amongst all Hague Convention Central Authorities of the existence of and implementation of this landmark abduction prevention tool. In 2014 we will continue to monitor the global implementation of the travel form under a Special Committee consisting of noteworthy international child advocates deeply familiar with abduction and report our findings to the Hague Permanente Bureau in anticipation and hope that a travel consent form will become a mechanized tool for the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention

2. In 2013 the I CARE Foundation’s efforts to raise global awareness of international parental child abduction continued as we increased our efforts in all areas of global outreach to both potential targeted parents of child abduction as well as to stakeholders in the legal community around the world in order to share our research and special reports on abduction.

Perhaps of greatest value once again was the incredible importance of our initiatives working with parent blog writers. This core reader audience is similar to the demographic core audience of targeted parent victims of abduction. Praise given to parent blog writers for raising awareness of international parental child abduction and the impact of these efforts cannot be high enough.

In addition and of equal note is the I CARE Foundation’s continued efforts to share our research findings and initiatives with attorneys around the world dedicated to preventing abduction. Our outreach continues to educate a global legal community who in turn are able to better protect at-risk children.

3. The I CARE Foundation has continued to conduct extensive research and publish our findings in the area of international parental child abduction.  Using these findings we have worked to educate lawmakers and policy administrators on key information and issues as they may arise in order to help create new policy or modify existing policy to better serve children.

4. The I CARE Foundation’s global efforts have played critical roles in preventing a large number of international parental child abductions while also being key stakeholders in the legal reunification of many abducted children.  Our work protecting children from abduction has come in many forms including incredible efforts by lawyers in our attorney network litigate abduction prevention cases, to providing expert testimony before a host of various courts in multiple jurisdictions, to educating members of the judiciary and members of the courts (lawyers) about the many facets of abduction and prevention.  In addition, we have continued our outreach programs focused on educating possible targeted parents of child abduction of both warning signs and how to act in the event of abduction.  In addition, we have successfully worked extensively with numerous parents, attorneys, and other key stakeholders from around the world safely and legally reunite with abducted children primarily but not limited to utilization of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention.

We take exceptional note that programs like the United States’ Prevent Departure Program became more widely utilized to help prevent abduction, while familiarity with abduction loopholes such as those created by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative policy allowed targeted parents and their legal advisors to guard against abduction possibilities.

We voice our strongest opinion that the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention does work. We take exception to individuals who attempt to re-abduct their children by not seeking assistance through courts of jurisdiction.

5. We continued our work advocating for new child abduction prevention and reunification policies around the world.

6. We continued to work with leading organizations dedicated to stopping child abduction in our effort to create solutions to the abduction crisis.

7. We continued to develop new tools that we expect will prevent abduction.

After near-steady 20% international parental child abduction growth per year over the past decade, the U.S. reported outbound abduction rate declined by over 15% in fiscal year 2011 and 16% in 2012. We look forward to the U.S. Department of State’s 2013 international child report to Congress due out the spring of 2014, as we anticipate another decline in the reported cases of international parental child abduction.

The second half of 2013 was a time when we realized the benefits of many of our initiatives.  However, perhaps the most important events of 2013 took place in the fourth quarter of 2013, when a series of high-level meetings that took place in Washington, D.C. laid the path for our global initiatives of 2014.

In the coming months, we look forward to sharing the size and scope of these initiatives and look forward to supporting in any way possible the leadership charged with oversight and implementation of these possibilities. It is for this reason that 2013 may be viewed as a paradigm in the fight to stop international child abduction and trafficking.

International parental child abduction is a complex matter that often ends with a child not being returned to their home country.  This is unacceptable. In this regard, we would like to acknowledge the grave challenges many chasing parents who were previously targeted for abduction face, knowing that a complex, uneducated judicial system combined with local politics often leads to heartbreaking futility. We remind each of you who chase the cyclone of international parental child abduction to know and never let go of your hope for it is the most powerful tool you have in your quest to reunite with your abducted child.

On behalf of the I CARE Foundation, we continue our commitment to protect children from international abduction and trafficking in 2014.

Our work continues.

We invite you to read a sampling of sworn testimonials from parents the I CARE Foundation has assisted.

Respectfully yours,

Peter Thomas Senese 

International Executive Director
The I CARE Foundation

Thursday, December 19, 2013

How To Stop International Parental Child Abduction During Christmas: Divorce - Child Custody Battles Trigger Worldwide Kidnappings

albero_natale-300x168What you are about to read is the harsh reality that can happen among families during the Christmas holiday season.  It's a story that is just too common!

Picture this scenario:  An individual travels abroad and ends up meeting someone during their travels.  The two enter into a relationship that results in a child being born.  After a period of time they start to experience some problems in their relationship and they separate which eventually leads to a divorce.  When this occurs, the non-national decides they want to take the child of the relationship and permanently return to their country of origin. As they know that the other parent would object to this, the parent that wants to leave creates an elaborate scheme to illegally remove the child from the country, outside of a court order and without permission from the other parent.

parental-child-abduction-is-child-abuse-073Taking this example a little bit further, and one of the biggest concerns over the Christmas holiday season, is that a parent that is planning an abduction may trick the other parent in traveling abroad.  Often, the reason of travel is disguised as family travel to visit relatives abroad, but the reality is, the parent has no intent of ever returning home with the child.  Once the family arrives in the other country, the would-be abducting parent may file false claims of abuse or neglect against the other parent and then notifies the targeted parent that they will not be returning to the country of original jurisdiction and neither will the child.

Parents that are involved in child custody disputes, separation or divorce must be proactive in protecting their children.  Often, parents that are 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.  For those parents that are allowing or are required to allow a child to travel to a foreign country need to strongly consider having the other parent sign the International Travel Child Consent Form.  Should that parent not be willing to, this is a very serious warning sign that they may be planning an abduction.  The truth is that unless there is an International Travel Child Consent Form that has immediate ramifications attached to it, the parent and child targeted for abduction are at serious risk.

Now, you might wonder why someone would go to such lengths to abduct their child.  Well, the majority of abducting parents use the child as a tool to cause the other parent pain and suffering by depriving the latter of 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.

As far as the abducted child goes, the reality is that children of abduction, regardless if they are taken by a stranger or a parent, are emotionally, spiritually, and often severely physically abused.  And sadly, too many children never come home: they can't. They are gone forever.

report from the Department of Justice states that children who are kidnapped by a parent not only face severe physical abuse but are also put at an extreme risk of being murdered.

In fact, Dr. Phillip Resnick, the Director of Forensic Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland stated in an article that was published by the Denver Post a few years ago about parental child killing, “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, 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.”

According to the Denver Post reports, “Researchers estimate 250 to 300 children are murdered by their parents each year in the U.S.  Now, filicide occurs everywhere... it is not a phenomenon isolated within American borders. Simply put, parents do kill children!  And we can’t put our head in the sand and think this does not exist.

So here is the question.  What can you do to stop this nightmare from ever happening to you or to anyone you know? There are a number of things that you can do.

warning1. ALL parents need to be aware of the WARNING SIGNS of international parental child abduction, but you should be most diligent if you are a parent in a high-conflict relationship, especially if your partner has ties abroad.  These are parents that would be considered at the highest risk.  If you are in such a relationship, you need to think carefully and be very aware of any travel plans... and know the risks involved for your child in relation to international travel.

2. Use the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form when your child is travelling with the other parent. The Travel Consent Form was created to prevent international child abduction by focusing on the wrongful detention of a child while traveling abroad, and with an estimated 85% of all international parental abductions dealing with wrongful detention, it is geared at potentially stopping the majority of these parental kidnappings.

3. The Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) is one of the Department of State's most important tools for preventing international parental child abduction.  Parents are able to register their U.S. citizen children under the age of 18 in the Passport Lookout System.  If at some point a passport application is submitted for a child that is registered in the CPIAP, the Department of State contacts and alerts the parent(s).  This system provides the parent(s) with advance warning of possible plans for international travel with the child.

The Charleston Passport Center is responsible for administering the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program:

U.S. Department of State
Passport Services, Charleston Passport Center

Attn: Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program
1269 Holland Street, Building D
Charleston, SC 29405

E-mail: ChildrensPassports@state.govPhone: 1-888-407-4747
Fax: 843-746-1827

4. The Prevent Departure Program (PDP) is another critical tool used in the fight to protect children from international abduction.  In the past, American parents at risk of having a child illegally removed from the United States had to deal with the reality that it was extremely difficult to stop an international child abduction if the other parent possessed a right of American citizenship (sole or dual citizenship). Part of the problem is that the United States has limited exit controls and government published information regarding programs that could be utilized to stop international parental child abduction such as the Prevent Departure Program require a suspected international parental child abductor to not have a right of American Citizenship, among a host of other requirements.

Today, parents who are at risk of having a child internationally abducted by a parent who possesses citizenship to the United States of America or who has dual citizenship may be able to protect their children from abduction.

If you should happen to be an at-risk parent that believes your child's other parent is planning or is in the process of an international parental abduction, please contact the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Abduction Prevention Bureau to discuss potential measures that may be available to you to ensure the individual parent suspected of an international child abduction threat does not illegally depart the United States and remove your child in violation of a court order or in breach of your right of custody.

Individuals that are seeking the assistance of the Department of State and the implementation of the Prevent Departure Program should make sure that they have the following information ready to submit to the Office of Children's Issues:

1. Full name, date, place of birth of Potential taking parent.

2. Full name, date, place of birth of Potential left behind parent (and PLBP’s contact info, including a surface address).

3. Passport number and issuing country (if available, and not U.S.) for both parents.

4. Full name of child.

5. Date, place of birth of child.

6. U.S. passport number of child.

7. Passport number and issuing country of any dual national passport of child (if available).

8. Copy of court order with travel restrictions.

9. Full contact details, including a 24/7 phone and email (to email court documents, we do not have after hours fax access), for law enforcement contact.

10. Details of potential travel plans.


The United States Department of State
Office Of Children's Issues
Abduction Prevention Bureau
CA/OCS/CI
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Phone: 1-888-407-4747   or   202-501-4444
Email: prevention@state.gov

To contact the I CARE Foundation concerning abduction matters please email us at legal@stopchildabduction.org. 

U.S. Reported Cases Of Parental Abduction Decline For Two Consecutive Years:


In 2011, the forecasted increase for the abduction growth rate in the United States was 25%.  Increases in reported abduction rates has been the story for nearly 30 years, ever since America became a signatory of the Hague Convention. Now, the reality of what happened in 2011 is pretty remarkable!  There was an actual decline of 15% in the reported cases or abductions originating from the U.S.  But not only did this happen in 2011, but also 2012 with a reported decline of over 16%.  With the numbers soon to be released for the year 2013, we are expecting another significant decline in the international parental child abduction rate.

Worldwide abduction rates have not been reported since 2008. This has little to do with the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference, but instead a failure by signatory countries to report their inbound and outbound abduction rate. However, it is believed that the global rate of abduction continues to steadily climb out disturbing rates. With that being said, in conjunction with the worldwide launch and utilization of the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form, we are expecting to actually see a decline in the global rate of abduction.

The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form:


I CARE Logo (1)

One of the best tools that parents can use to protect their children this holiday season is the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form.

In the short time that this ground-breaking abduction prevention tool has been in use, not only has it made an enormous impact in the world of international child abduction, but it has also been acknowledged by major child abduction prevention stakeholders around the world, including Hague Conference on Private International Law Secretary General Mr. Christophe Bernasconi, who stated:

"I have had the possibility to look at the travel form and must say that I am impressed: this is the most comprehensive document of its kind that I have seen so far and there is little doubt in my mind that this is a most valuable and important effort to prevent child abduction. I applaud your efforts and wish to congratulate you and your team . . . It is really impressive to see how quickly your international travel child consent form has started to yield practical results and how well you monitor its operation - this really is remarkable."

Peter Thomas Senese, the I CARE Foundation's Executive Director, reports on the success of the Travel Consent Form thus far:

To the best of our knowledge, since the creation of the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form, all children traveling abroad from Hague Convention signatory countries who were expected to return to their country of original jurisdiction have come home. There have actually been several cases where one parent initially refused to sign the International Travel Child Consent Form, and in each of those cases, the overseeing judge would not permit travel.  At that point additional measures were put into place in order to prevent a future parental abduction.
It is critical for all parents who are allowing a child to travel abroad to understand is that there are numerous traps and schemes that a would-be abductor will use in order to legally keep a child abroad. Most of these schemes revolve around Articles 12 and 13 of the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Defending against these potential strategies is critical. It is the thrust of the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form.  And with tens of thousands of children around the world targeted for international parental abduction each year, our travel consent form may be the most effective tool that could help prevent abduction or help return a child to their country of original jurisdiction under the spirit of Article 2 of the Hague Convention.

An Important Message Regarding Abduction Prevention From Secretary General Christophe Bernasconi:


While the winter holiday season is often one which presents many opportunities for festive family celebrations, it is also a period in which sadly more parental child abductions occur. As a result, it is more important than ever to take steps to prevent the wrongful removal of children so that abductions which are covered by the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction do not occur in the first place.
Prevention can be achieved in several ways. For example, when one parent intends to travel with his or her child without the other parent, the other parents consent to the travel should first be obtained. One of the ways a parent can demonstrate that they have the approval of the other non-travelling parent is by having him or her sign a clear, comprehensive travel consent form which includes a statement that the non-travelling parent agrees to the travel but also that the child is to return to his/her place of habitual residence on or before a specific date. A model travel consent form for this purpose has recently been developed by the I CARE Foundation and is, I understand, already widely used by parents in various jurisdictions. Use of the I CARE Foundation's comprehensive Hague-centric travel form that addresses key aspects of the Hague Child Abduction Convention pertaining to a child's international travel are central to protecting against a child's wrongful retention abroad. The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent form and similar comprehensive models deserve further encouragement so as to prevent child abduction and perhaps even limit instances of child trafficking in general.
The Hague Conference on Private International Law, the Secretariat for the Hague Child Abduction Convention, wishes the I CARE Foundation and its constituents a happy holiday season and hopes that precautions such as the one described above are able to prevent unnecessary anxiety and trauma for parents and children who are affected by holiday travel plans.
With Best Wishes,
Christophe Bernasconi
Secretary General The Hague Conference on Private International Law

A recent press release regarding the International Travel Child Consent Form not only shares the support from Secretary General Bernasconi but also other top lawyers and judges from around the world.  You can view this release HERE.

Chasing The Cyclone coverSo yes, there is hope to prevent this nightmare. If you’d like to learn more about international parental child abduction and how to prevent it, read Peter Senese’s best-selling novel, Chasing The Cyclone.  It's a story about a father’s search for his internationally abducted son and is based on Peter's own personal experiences.

In addition, Chasing The Cyclone has enabled something remarkable: it has helped reunite children with their parents, as Peter Senese has so generously donated 100% of his author royalties to the I CARE Foundation.

In the words of Peter Senese,  "The I CARE Foundation is actively trying to reunite other children who have been internationally abducted with their families. I think my readers have a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that when they purchase one of my novels, they are making a measurable difference in the life of a defenseless child - and that is pretty cool."

Testimonials Regarding Peter Senese And His Advocacy Work


testimonials_signClearly, protecting children from parental abduction requires an incredible commitment to stand unbowed so children and their families may never know the nightmare that is the world of international abduction.  Peter Senese made a promise years ago, one that would have him doing what he could to ensure that parents wouldn't have to experience what he did while he was chasing the cyclone.  He has proven time and again that he is deeply committed to his goal of preventing child abduction.

There are dozens of sworn testimonial letters from individuals regarding the advocacy and volunteer work that Peter does each and every day.  Many of these letters are related to recovering and bringing home children who were abducted or who were targeted for abduction, however there are also several letters that share his deep desire for helping others who may be facing severe medical issues.

The cornerstone for all his and the renown I CARE Foundation’s work originates from Mr. Senese’s fulfillment of a promise, of which, "Chasing The Cyclone" is a part. Unquestionably, our children are well-served by its publication and the kind, compassionate, and generous assistance of Mr. Senese.

The advisory capabilities of Mr. Senese cannot be underestimated . . . Mr. Senese played a pivotal role in assuring and securing my child’s safety . . . Extraordinarily, Peter Thomas Senese’s dedication to children in crisis does not stop with those at risk of abduction: Peter’s work assisting children and their families fighting life-threatening health conditions is equally significant.

Not only is ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ educating others about the crisis at hand, a call-to-arms accurately fitting the bill, but it is a story that’s publication has had a major impact on society. Specifically, Peter Senese has donated 100% of his book royalties to the I CARE Foundation, a not-for profit child abduction prevention organization that is doing some truly remarkable things to help protect children and parents targeted for abduction

If reading this post has educated, shocked or touched you in any way, the best thing you could do is to share it on your social media networks and in your blogs – this message has the potential to save the lives of children and their families. Even if it helps to save one life, it’s worth it!

As well, over the holidays, in an effort to help prevent international child abduction, take a few moments and educate yourself about the WARNING SIGNS of international parental child abduction.  It not only protects your children but perhaps other children you might know.... isn't that worth a few minutes of your time?

If you would like to learn more about the criminal act and schemes of parental child abduction, or to download a free copy of the International Travel Child Consent Form visit the I CARE Foundation website.

If an international parental child abduction is imminent or is in progress, click here.

And lastly, to purchase your copy of Chasing The Cyclone, please visit Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Wishing you the best of the holiday season!
 
 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Prevent Departure Program - How To Stop International Parental Child Abduction

The Prevent Departure Program:
What To Include When Contacting The Department Of State's Office Of Children's Issues


If you are an at-risk parent who believes your child's other parent is planning or in the process of international parental child abduction, please contact the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Abduction Prevention Bureau to discuss potential measures that may be available to you to ensure the individual parent suspected of an international child abduction threat does not illegally depart the United States and remove your child in violation of a court order or in breach of your right of custody.

Please contact the Office of Children's Issues Prevention Bureau to discuss if there are potential prevention techniques unique to your case that may allow the Department of State to work with other federal agencies so to secure your child is not a victim of international parental child abduction.

The United States Department of State
Office Of Children's Issues
Abduction Prevention Bureau

                                                                      CA/OCS/CI
                                                                   SA-17, 9th Floor  

Washington, DC 20522-1709 

                                           Phone: 1-888-407-4747   or   202-501-4444

                                                       Email:  prevention@state.gov

 

To contact the I CARE Foundation concerning abduction matters including possible methods available to stop international parental child abduction please email us at legal@stopchildabduction.org.


Individuals seeking to Department of State assistance and implementation of the Prevent Departure Program should make sure that they have the following information ready to submit to the Office of Children's Issues:


1.      Full name, date, place of birth of Potential taking parent.

2.      Full name, date, place of birth of Potential left behind parent (and PLBP’s contact info, including a surface address).

3.      Passport number and issuing country (if available, and not U.S.) for both parents.

4.      Full name of child.

5.      Date, place of birth of child.

6.      U.S. passport number of child.

7.      Passport number and issuing country of any dual national passport of child (if available).

8.      Copy of court order with travel restrictions.

9.      Full contact details, including a 24/7 phone and email (to email court documents, we do not have after hours fax access), for law enforcement contact.

10.   Details of potential travel plans.