Thursday, June 2, 2011

Peter Senese & Carolyn Vlk's Landmark Report on Child Abduction Statistics Illustrates Grave Challenges for Targeted Children & Parents

This article is based upon an exerpt published in Carolyn Vlk and Peter Senese's landmark research report on international parental child abduction rates in the United States titled 'Crisis In America: International Parental Child Abduction Today'. As the report demonstrates, international parental child abduction is an incredibly misunderstood and miscalculated phenomenon that will continue to rapidly spread due to global migratory populations and cross-cultural marriages. Alarmingly, the data that is often used and cited as U.S. government researched statistics is utterly and remarkably flawed, and has no place to be included in any discussion concerning either domestic or international child abduction. This excerpt provided below demonstrates the significance of the problem at hand. Clearly, without proper research and accurate statistics, targeted children and targeted parents of child abduction will continue to be at heavy risk

It is believed that United States children-citizens are being criminally abducted, illegally removed overseas, and wrongfully detained in foreign countries in shocking and seemingly advancing and unprecedented numbers. This despite U.S. court orders prohibiting their removal and/or demanding for their immediate return.

Remarkably, the necessary data required to accurately measure the total number of international parental child abductions (IPCA) does not exist due to the inability to measure what is believed to be a large number of ‘unreported’ cases, which is discussed in this report later on. Therefore due to the inability to measure ‘unreported’ cases, much of what has been previously reported in government and reputable organizations’ studies or statements should be considered as speculation due in part to the inability to measure ‘unreported’ cases, as well as forecasted numbers derived from immeasurable and highly questionable determining methodologies. The only measurable statistics are the number of cases reported to law enforcement and to The Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues (OCI).


The content of this report includes statistics from the two most current published annual reports which are dated April 2009 and April 2010 and titled Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Janice L Jacobs reports that during fiscal year 2009, the Office of Children's Issues experienced a significant increase in the number of reported international kidnapping cases. The 2010 report indicates that we can anticipate the current trends previously seen with respect to the increase in international parental child abductions to continue. In fact, the number of International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) cases has nearly doubled since the fiscal year 2006 from 64 to 1,135.

Carolyn Ann Vlk, the writer of Florida's Child Abduction Prevention Act, explains, "In response to a mandate of the 1984 Missing Children Act, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJPD) publishes periodic studies titled the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART). The NISMART publications are meant to identify the numbers of children who are reported missing and the number of children recovered in a particular year. These bulletins consist of comprehensive studies with an emphasis on examining trends in the incidence of missing children."

The NISMART I study (utilizing data from 1988 and published in 1990) reported that there were an estimated 354,100 family abductions annually. In order to derive data for that study in regards to the number of children that are victims of a family abduction each year a household telephone survey was conducted. The survey included a total of 10,367 interviews with adult caretakers. The Population Estimates Program of the Population Division U.S. Census Bureau estimated the U.S. population at 244,498,982 in 1988. To clarify, a sampling of telephone interviews from 0.0000413% of the U.S. population was utilized to provide the statistical data that is widely accepted as being an accurate accounting of the numbers of annual family abductions.

The NISMART - 2 study, which utilized data from 1999 and was published in 2002, reported that there were 203,900 family abductions annually. This study also utilized a household telephone survey and completed interviews with 16,111 adult caretakers. Additionally, this study surveyed 5,015 youth ages 10-18 who lived in the sample households. During the study year the estimated U.S. population was 272,690,813, thus reflecting completed interviews of 0.000059% of the U.S. adult population. Once again, a small fraction of the U.S. population was interviewed as the only method of determining the annual numbers of family abductions. Critically, and troublesome is the fact that the NISMART studies did not derive any of the data relating to family abductions from law enforcement or other governmental agencies. Data was entirely compiled from random computer-assisted telephone interviewing methodology. Neither study conducted a second survey.

According to the NISMART - 2 study that used data from 1999, only 28% of the 203,900 estimated abductions by family members or 56,500 abductions were reported by law enforcement. This illustrates a great reluctance by individuals to come forward and report their cases.

Now consider that an assortment of generally accepted reports or statements from leading authorities including The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). On April 22, 2002 NCMEC stated in a press release the following, “In an effort to educate the public and to provide more services to victims, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has released a new publication entitled Family Abduction: Prevention and Response and has recently formed a group for adults who were victims of family abduction as children. A commonly misunderstood and complex issue, best estimates indicate that there are 354,000 domestic and 16,000 international family abductions per year.”

We are unable to ascertain where NCMEC determined their 16,000 international child abductions per year. What we do know is that according to the Department of State, in several of their published statements, that there were approximately 16,000 international parental child abductions over a two-decade long period. What these inconsistencies demonstrate is a lack of data. Unknown is whether the NCMEC statement included an estimate of ‘unreported’ cases or perhaps was an error as the same ‘16,000’ yearly number is identical to the Department of State’s ’16,000’ two decade number.

Peter Thomas Senese is the author of the upcoming book titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ which critics have praised as an extraordinary story on international parental child abduction, love, and parenting. He stated, “Criminal parental cross-border abduction appears to be increasing in the United States and abroad at significant rates despite the fact that there is not enough accurate data required to establish growth trends in cross-border abductions. The rise of abduction in our country as well as that seen in other nations indicates that we have a global pandemic on our hands. And as more children from different nations are stolen and not returned, including our own children, citizens will inevitably voice their growing anger over the fact that their nation’s children-citizens have been abducted. The stealing of children across international borders can, and very well will inevitably create grave challenges for all nations who sit at the world’s political and economic tables."

The report 'CRISIS IN AMERICA: International Parental Child Abduction Today' researched and published by Peter Senese and Carolyn Vlk unequivocally demonstrates that new, carefully constructed research initiated by our government is immediately needed, and that the number of international parental child abductions is increasing despite efforts to stop this terrible act directed at our children-citizens.

As Senese and Vlk's report indicate, the data used and ALWAYS cited by those involved in child abduction issues are completely flawed. One of the greatest concerns that the authors express in their report is the extraordinary increases of population growth due to migratory population movement. Additionally, there are increased concerns related to abdution due to multicultural marriages or partnerships. What is clear is this: as often as we cite various statistics, some of which are indeed measuarble such as the number of reported cases to the Department of State's Office Of Children's Issues, the fact is we really do not know how many abductions are occurring because of the anticipated large number of unreported cases that exist. And as for the NISMART and NISMART II studies, the methods and technics of these surveys are highly questionabl.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Peter Senese: Honesty and Integrity In Child Custody Matters

As the rapidly expanding malignant tentacles known as international parental child abduction cruelly grasp at defenseless innocent children in countries around the world it is imperative that governments everywhere defend against this malice by passing and upholding local and national child abduction prevention laws. Critically, lawmakers must create abduction prevention laws while law enforcement and the judiciary must carefully uphold these laws that were created to protect innocence: our children.

As the vast majority of individuals around the world who advocate for targeted children will testify to, the most crucial component needed to fight the global war of international parental child abduction – and make no mistake: it is a war – is for child abduction prevention laws to be created and fully enforced.

Unfortunately, one of the heartbreaking issues that targeted parents face today is the great challenge and difficulties of having a court actually uphold new laws pertaining to risk factors associated with a potential child abduction. Judicial ignorance can no longer be an unspoken acceptable truth, and Lady Justice must remove her blindfold in the name of defending a child at risk of the horrific crime of parental kidnapping.

Lady Justice, hundreds of thousands of children each year targeted for cross-border criminal abduction need you to see. Today.

Before I go further, I will share an opinion many other targeted parents of abduction I have spoken to share with me: If a court handling a potential child abduction case establishes a zero tolerance policy toward any form of perjury, then the chicanery and intended fraudulent actions of a parent intending to mislead the court and abduct a child may actually be re-considered. A pretty simple policy: if you lie to the court, particularly when it comes to a child’s welfare, then you better be prepared to pay the consequences for your action: sitting in a cell for a period of time and losing your access privileges to your child that you previously may have been entitled to.

Presently, I am voluntarily assisting in several potential abduction cases, including a few cases that are located in the State of Florida. For those of you who may not be aware, on January 1st, 2011 Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ that was drafted by child abduction prevention advocate and my good friend, Carolyn Vlk, became law. The law mandates judges to assess risk factors associated with a potential international child abduction and issue orders that will protect the targeted child and parent from a possible abduction.

However, in certain cases to which I am familiar with, there have been notable failures by the courts to fully utilize the new child abduction prevention law and carefully consider risk factors associated with a potential abduction as has been mandated under the new law.

Tragically, when a judge fails to uphold any child abduction prevention law, they have broken their fiduciary responsibility to protect a child. Equally, when a court fails to consider the criteria established under the new law, they are sending the worst type of message possible: that child abduction prevention laws mean nothing and would-be abductors will not be held accountable for their conspiracy to criminally abduct a child. And this – particularly when it comes to our children – is unthinkable.

The bottom line in weighing risk factors for a court is that a judge must ask this rather simple questions to themselves: ‘What if I am wrong and the child disappears? What true recourse does the targeted parent have to recover the child?”

Well, any knowledgeable judge will know that once a child is removed from their local jurisdiction and taken to another country, the jurisdiction of their court ceases to exist for all intensive purposes. Now jurisdiction belongs to the international courts, so long as the arriving country (the country where the child was illegally taken to) participates in an international treaty such as the 'Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction'. Regrettably, too many nations, including most Asian and Middle Eastern countries are not members of the Hague Convention, while other countries such as Mexico and Brazil are known to not uphold the international treaty they freely signed.

Truly, attempting to navigate an international parental child abduction is like ‘Chasing The Cyclone’.

Consider this: presently there are approximately 230 American children criminally detained in Japan due to a parental kidnapping. Japan is not a member of the Hague Convention. No American child-citizen abducted to Japan has ever been returned. Ever.

Or perhaps a judge should consider the difficulties that a targeted mother would face if her child were kidnapped to Saudi Arabia or any other Middle Eastern country. The prospect of mom safely bringing their child home is near non-existent.

So what exactly is it that a judge must do?

Act prudently at all times and in all circumstances while carefully investigating every aspect of each unique case. Additionally, the court must realize that for many, the international courts are extraordinarily difficult to navigate, that is, if a venue really even exists for a targeted parent to attempt to seek judicial intervention.

One component not often spoken about when considering risk factors is when a parent who may abduct files a (false) police report against the other parent. In scenarios such as this, the court must be mindful that international parental child abduction is a premeditated and well-planned act against both the abducted child and the left behind targeted parent, and that the parent planning an abduction is more than likely familiar with the international laws available to them that they may use to sanction their disobedience before the court.

Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding Article, the judicial or administrative authority of the requested State is not bound to order the return of the child if the person, institution or other body which opposes its return establishes that –

a) the person, institution or other body having the care of the person of the child was not actually exercising the custody rights at the time of removal or retention, or had consented to or subsequently acquiesced in the removal or retention; or

b) there is a grave risk that his or her return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.

The judicial or administrative authority may also refuse to order the return of the child if it finds that the child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views.

In considering the circumstances referred to in this Article, the judicial and administrative authorities shall take into account the information relating to the social background of the child provided by the Central Authority or other competent authority of the child's habitual residence.

When a parent who is believed to be a potential abductor files a police report against the other parent the court must consider the validity of the complaint and move with great caution because the potential abductor may have now created a plausible but misleading defense under Article 13 of the Hague Convention that a return of the child back to the child’s country of origin may not be in the best interest of the child.

Thus, court’s must be especially mindful that if a parent is able to illegally depart the country of origin with the child, the difficulties of the targeted parent being able to legally return the child has grown exponentially. This said, the court’s must also consider if a complaint may be valid and act accordingly in the name of the best interest of the child.

The bottom line is this: we’re living in a multi-cultural society where individuals from around the world meet and have a child. At times, like in any other relationship, couples will separate or divorce. Unfortunately, too often the child of the partnership is used as a pawn in order to cause great hardship and pain to the targeted parent. International child abduction occurs, and is growing at substantial rates as shared in the report Carolyn Ann Vlk and I have published titled ‘Crisis In America: International Parental Child Abduction Today’. And most concerning is the fact that certain government policies such as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative have created loopholes for abduction (Click Here to read Peter Senese and Carolyn Vlk's report)

Therefore in lieu of the rapidly growing epidemic now at hand, it is the courts and their sitting judges who offer children with their best defense so long as these judges do not put their head in the sand and mistreat the issues of a potential threat of abduction with an uneducated view of the seriousness of the matters at hand. In order for a court to fulfill its duty to the child-citizens they are obligated to protect, a judge must consider all the risk factors of a potential abduction and act swiftly, boldly, and with action that will secure the safety and welfare of both targeted child and targeted parent.

Perhaps the best overall indicator of an abduction threat is when a parent with strong ties to another country is found to be dishonest to or mislead the court during any matters when it comes to the welfare of a child. Perhaps if the courts upheld the integrity of the procedures before them, including holding a parent accountable for perjury or contempt, judges may be able to prevent the cruelty of storms from descending on a child. Perhaps each court hearing involving a child’s welfare should begin with a judge saying, “Welcome to my courtroom. I want both parties to know that if either of you act in any dishonest way or fail to obey my direction in any capacity, I will hold you in contempt of court. Now let’s proceed.”

For more information on international parental child abduction please visit Chasing The Cyclone. To visit Peter Thomas Senese's official website, please Click Here.