Imagine taking a summer vacation abroad to visit your husband or wife’s family, when all of a sudden you realize that your child’s other parent has no intention of returning back to your home country with the child, and that they actually tricked you into legally removing the child from their home country? Worse, imagine as part of their scheme, they make false police reports saying that you threatened them and/or the child so that they can them obtain a restraining order against you in the country you have traveled to. While you’re stuck in a hotel or possibly in custody, they then file for divorce and custody of your child in the local courts, citing grave risk to either them or the child, and petition the court to take jurisdiction of the welfare of the child.
You can kiss the sunscreen and the long-expected days on the beach or at the pool goodbye.
According to Peter Thomas Senese, the Founding Director of the highly respected I CARE Foundation, a self-funded non-profit organization that has been influential in significantly reducing the number of international parental child abductions originating from the United States by 15% during each of the last two consecutive years, schemes like this are very common during the summer school vacation.
It’s troubling news, and the loopholes that allow a parent to remain abroad are fairly extensive.
Unfortunately, many parents have never even heard of international parental child abduction, yet alone know the warning signs or what to do if an abduction takes place.
Tragically, it has been reported that less than 10% of all children who are victims of international parental child abduction are ever returned home. Most concerning is a report by the Department of Justice his past week that states that children who are parentally abducted are often victims of serious physical violence and even murder.
So, if you have ever thought a child abducted by one of their parents is, well, with one of their parents, you better think again. Parental child abduction is serious abuse against a child. And it should not ever be viewed any other way.
Stewarding the message of abduction prevention, Peter Thomas Senese and the I CARE Foundation have become key stakeholders in the fight against kidnapping by conducting significant research in this area and publishing their findings to the masses. Along the way the foundation has helped pass new laws, helped build the Department of State’s Hague Convention Attorney Network, and actually helped reunite numerous abducted children while preventing the kidnapping of other targeted children.
The I CARE Foundation can trace its roots to Peter’s widely critically acclaimed novel ‘Chasing The Cyclone’; a fast-paced legal thriller about a father heroically searching for his internationally parentally kidnapped child who had disappeared into a sea of billions of faces.
From his own personal experiences, Peter has become a highly visible and outspoken child abduction prevention advocates: the I CARE Foundation – which Peter has donated 100% of his book sales to the I CARE Foundation. In fact, it has been said that Peter Thomas Senese’s ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ is a book of miracles; a view supported by many testimonial letters from parents around the world.
During the summer school vacation period, international parental child abductions will devastate a large number of unsuspecting families around the world. The majority of these child kidnappings originate from families with parents born from two different countries. Often when the marriage or partnership of a multinational relationship dissolves, the parent who was born in a foreign country may want to return to their country of origin, and do so with the child of the relationship. Knowing that the other parent probably will not consent to having their child move abroad, the parent who has intent to leave creates a scheme to internationally abduct the child. Unfortunately, the majority of targeted individuals do not even know that an abduction scheme exists, or the relative ease that exists to abduct.
I had an opportunity to ask Peter several questions concerning abduction that I think are important to share.
How prevalent are summer vacation schemes like what you just described?
Sadly, they are the norm. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 85% of all international abductions take place during the summer.
When a child is victim of parental abduction, who pays for the child’s return?
In the United States, the targeted parent is responsible for all reunification costs. It’s terrible. Costs can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And there is no guarantee that you will be able to recover your child.
If a parent has custody, why can’t they just go into the country where the child is being wrongfully detained and bring that child home?
Because once they attempt to, they could be charged with abduction in that country and put in jail. It’s insane. But it’s a reality. In fact, the U.S. Department of State specifically states that parents should not ‘re-abduct’ their child. Instead, they should turn to the Hague Convention . . . which based upon the inbound country, is not the most effective tool.
Does the Hague Convention work?
I am a full supporter of the Hague Convention. However, many signatory countries do not uphold the spirit and intent of the convention. Additionally, many countries such as those found in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa are not signatory members. Add to this the extreme cost to litigate a Hague case … that is, if you know where your child is, and you may begin to understand the problems of reunification. Now you better include the reality that abductors think they have immunity and can disobey the law or court orders. This is exemplified by the fact that international parental child abduction is a federal crime. Yet few abductors are ever concerned with this. Instead, nearly every abductor tries to claim they are liberating parents running from abuse. Both men and women equally make this claim.
In a variety of sworn testimonial letters written by parents you have been called a hero. Why do you use your own resources and fight to help other parents?
It has been a privilege to assist other parents and their children. I wish I and the I CARE Foundation could help more parents who are trying to reunite with their kidnapped child. As for why I chose to help, it’s pretty simple: I know first-hand the nightmare of abduction. And using my knowledge and resources, trying to help others is the right thing to do.
What should a parent do if they believe their child is at risk of abduction?
Time is not on their side, and they must act immediately and contact a qualified family law attorney. If international abduction is in progress, parents must contact law enforcement immediately, and then they should contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues. They should also open up a case with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And they should read as much information about abduction as possible by visiting websites that extensively cover abduction such as the I CARE Foundation.
What’s the most difficult personal part of fighting against abduction outside of seeing the hardship of families in crisis or not being able to help a family in need?
Well, those two are by far the most challenging. But you know, we’re standing up to sociopathic kidnappers who have used a child in order to destroy the other parent’s life. Standing up to abductors does not make you the most popular person in the school yard, especially when these abductors think they can threaten, defame, or bully you so you will back down.
You are one of the most published writers covering international parental child abduction and have dedicated years of your life stewarding the message of abduction prevention and risks to a child. Have you seen any results?
I think the drop in the reported cases of outbound abduction by 15% during 2011 and 2012 speak for itself especially when the previous growth rate was nearly 20% per year, but there is another part of this story. The unreported cases of abduction associated with undocumented residents is believed to be at least 100% of the abduction cases, and though not measurable, I know the number of undocumented residents the I CARE Foundation helped has increased dramatically. I also know the number of abduction prevention cases has increased dramatically. And that’s because parents are becoming aware of abduction. Now let me make this clear: the decline in U.S. abductions is because child advocates everywhere have acted to raise awareness and stop these kidnappings. The work of active advocates today has been built on the trailblazing work of those who proceeded us.
You’re a best-selling author who has written a diverse collection of geopolitical thrillers, yet you have spent several years of your life dedicated to helping families in crisis. What can fans of your writing expect in the near future?
There was sacrifice needed in order to play a role in helping prevent abduction, including an extensive amount of my time and resources. I think the work of the I CARE Foundation speaks for itself. And I am very proud of that work. As for my writing, I am eager to return to the world of storytelling as I love that magical world. I am truly looking forward to the hardcover release of Chasing The Cyclone for all my work on behalf of children in many ways starts there. And I am so eager to finish the nearly completed novels titled ‘Predators Games’, which is the sequel of ‘The Den of the Assassin’, and the sequel of ‘Cloning Christ’, titled ‘Quest’.
For those of you who think you or someone you know may be at risk of abduction or to learn more about this issue, please visit the official website of the I CARE Foundation.
For more information on Peter Thomas Senese, please visit his official website.
And if you would like to get involved and lend your voice to help stop international child abduction, please contact the I CARE Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org
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