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Child abduction or Child theft is the abduction or kidnapping of a child (or baby) by an older person.

Several distinct forms of child abduction exist:

  • A parent removes or retains a child from the other parent's care (often in the course of or after divorce proceedings).
  • A stranger removes a child for criminal purposes:
  • A stranger removes a child, with the intent to rear the child as their own

While cases have been reported from antiquity, this phenomenon has recently taken on greater awareness as a result of movies and television series (example: Without a Trace) depictions of the premise of people who remove children from strangers to bring up as their own often after the death of their own child.

Contents

Abductions by strangers

Perhaps the most feared (although not the most common) kind of abduction is removal by a stranger. The stereotypical version of stranger abduction is the classic form of "kidnapping," exemplified by the Lindbergh kidnapping, in which the child is detained, transported some distance, held for ransom or with intent to keep the child permanently. These instances are, however, rare.[1]

Child abduction for ransom: United States

The earliest nationally publicized kidnapping of a child by a stranger for the purpose of extracting a ransom payment from the parents was the Pool case of 1819, which took place in Baltimore, Maryland. Margaret Pool, 20-months-old, was kidnapped on May 20 by Nancy Gamble (19-years-old) and secreted with the assistance of Marie Thomas. On May 22, the parents, James and Mary Pool, placed an ad in the Baltimore Patriot newspaper offering a $20 reward for Mary’s return. When the child was recovered on May 23 — through the efforts of members of the community who conducted a search — it was revealed that the child had been badly whipped by Gamble and bore bloody wounds. Both Gamble and Thomas were tried for the crime of kidnapping and found guilty. The motive for the crime was demonstrated to be financial. She had kidnapped the child with the intention of waiting for a reward to be offered, then would return the child and collect the money. This is a technique favored by many ransom child kidnappers before the use of written ransom demands became the favored method. Nancy Gamble's crime and subsequent trial were reported in detail in Baltimore Patriot (Jun. 26, 1819). The June 26 article, as well as others on the case that had appeared in the Patriot, were reprinted in newspapers in other states including: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington D.C.

Child abduction for rape and sexual exploitation

The internet has become both a danger and an aid in the subject of child abduction. It is a place where online predators have more opportunities to find and communicate with potential victims. 1 in 25 youth (about 4%) got "aggressive" sexual solicitations and that included attempts to contact the youth offline. These are the episodes most likely to result in actual victimizations. (About one-quarter of these aggressive solicitations came from people the youth knew in person, mostly other youth.[2])

Because of the threat these predators pose, there have also been efforts to use the internet as a resource to prevent child abduction or to help the families of those who have been abducted.

Organizations have set up websites where users can go to gain knowledge or contribute help to stopping child abduction. Among these are the organizations Enough is Enough and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which have partnered with the online community Myspace to help keep the internet a safe place for children.

Children abducted for slavery

There are reports that abduction of children to be used or sold as slaves is common in parts of Africa.

The Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel paramilitary group operating mainly in northern Uganda, is notorious for its abductions of children for use as child soldiers or sex slaves. According to the Sudan Tribune, as of 2005, more than 20,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA.[2]

By stranger to raise as own

A very small number of abductions result in most cases from women who kidnap babies (or other young children) to bring up as their own. These women are often unable to have children of their own, or have miscarried, and seek to satisfy their unmet psychological need by abducting a child rather than by adopting. The crime is often premeditated, with the woman often simulating pregnancy to reduce suspicion when a baby suddenly appears in the household.

Parental child abduction

By far the most common kind of child abduction is parental child abduction and often occurs when the parents separate or begin divorce proceedings. A parent may remove or retain the child from the other seeking to gain an advantage in expected or pending child-custody proceedings or because that parent fears losing the child in those expected or pending child-custody proceedings; a parent may refuse to return a child at the end of an access visit or may flee with the child to prevent an access visit or fear of domestic violence and abuse.

Parental child abductions may be within the same city, within the state region or within the same country, or may be international. Studies performed for the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported that in 1999, 53% percent of family abducted children were gone less than one week, and 21% were gone one month or more.[3]

Depending on the laws of the state and country in which the parental abduction occurs, this may or may not constitute a criminal offense. For example, removal of a child from the UK for a period of 28 days or more without the permission of the other parent (or person with parental responsibility), is a criminal offense. In many states of the United States, if there is no formal custody order, and the parents are not living together, the removal of a child by one parent is not an offense. In Australia the absconding parent, usually the mother, is awarded with the Family Court's presumption of residency status quo after keeping the child for a minimum of three weeks. Only 18% of residency cases are won by fathers, mothers usually win due to allegations of violence or abuse and launched apprehended violence orders (AVOs).[4]

Many US States have criminalized interstate child abduction. The first state to pass parental kidnaping prevention law was California. Written by Larry Synclair, the father of a child abducted to Russia, the law was called the Synclair-Cannon Act. Texas soon followed. Teresa Laudedale, also a parent, litigated to prevent the abduction of her children, along with Cathy Brown. They made a lot of enhancements to the Synclair-Cannon Act. This resulted in the creation of a prevention law for Texas. Lauderdale and Brown encouraged Brown's former attorney to take it to National Conference of Commissions on Uniform State Law (NCCUSL); he is a Tx commissioner with NCCUSL. NCCUSL drafted a uniform state law dealing with parental abduction, UCAPA (Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act). By 2010 about nine states have adopted UCAPA, while many more have pending legislation.[5]

Parental child abduction: History

Because newspapers did not begin printing modern-style articles on crimes until the 1820s, most of the surviving documentation of the parental child abduction phenomenon is to be found in legal debt disclaimers placed as (usually formulaic) ads in newspapers. One these, placed by William Holt in the New Hampsire Gazette (Portsmouth) on May 9, 1760 describes the father's desire to have his child returned to him, his willingness to cover his wife's debts if this were done, and his offer to forgive his wife Beulah if she were to return to him. Debt disclaimer ads which describe parental child abductions were common from the mid-18th century through the 1830s. Many scores of these ads are to be found in surviving copies of newspapers.

The Tuthell case supplies a rare exception, in that the resolution of the case was reported in newspapers due to the fact that the searching parent, Edward B. Tuthell of Monroe New York, had published and ad (which was reprinted in other newspapers) offering a hefty reward of $300 (a combined reward, with a $200 reward for locating the two adults and $100 for returning the child to the father safely). In one appearance the ad was headlined: “300 Dollars Reward. The Public is earnestly requested to apprehend a finished villain,” (Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia, Pa.), Jul. 16, 1810, p. 4)

Mrs. Tuthell had run off on July 3, 1810 with one Charles D. Walsingham, who apparently was wanted for fraud in another matter, taking the 7-month old baby, Susan. Eventually the adulterers and child were located and Walshingham, faced with capture, committed suicide.

International Parental Abduction

See Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

International Parental Abduction occur when a parent leaves a country with a child or children in violation of custody decree or visitation order. Another related situation is retention where a parent take children legally to their home country for such reason as holiday but then fail to return in violation of court order.

While, the number of cases international parental abduction is small in comparison to domestic cases, it is often the most difficult to solve due to involvement of international jurisdiction. In many countries, parental abduction is not legally a crime but civil tort dispute. Moreover, unless there is a treaty agreement, family court is not obliged to return children to honour ruling by foreign family court. Lastly, 2/3 of the case of international parental abduction involve mothers who are the primarily care giver and in most cases domestic violence and abuse is alleged, which is difficult to assess. Lastly, even if there is a treaty agreement to return the child, the court is reluctant to return the child if this result in permanent separation of child from primary caregiver. This happen when the abducting foreign mother will face criminal prosecution and deportation if returning countries are criminalising this type of abduction. Another problem with the Hague Treaty is that frequently the national body which signed the treaty has no means or motivation to force the local judge to honor the goal of the treaty, ensuring children have optimal contact with both parents.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty and legal mechanism to recover children abducted to another country by one parent or family member. The Hague does not provide relief in many cases. A private industry emerged to address this gap. Covert recovery was first made public when Don Feeney, a former Delta Commando, responded to a desperate mother's plea to locate, and recover her daughter from Jordan in the 1980s. Feeney successfully located and returned the child. A movie and book about Feeney's exploits lead to other desperate parents seeking him out for recovery services.[6]

By 2007, both the United States, European authorities, and NGO's had begun serious interest in the use of mediation as a means by which some international child abduction cases may be resolved. The primary focus was on Hague Cases. Development of mediation in Hague cases, suitable for such an approach, had been tested and reported by REUNITE,[7] a London Based NGO which provides support in international child abduction cases, as successful. Their reported success lead to the first international training for cross-border mediation in 2008, sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.[8] Held at the University of Miami School of Law, Lawyers, Judges, and certified mediators interested in international child abduction cases, attended.

Interest in developing an international professional standard for mediators handling international child abduction cases continues to grow. Current US law as well as State policy and standards governing the training and certification of mediators reflects the same standards and training as the UE. Public data bases hosted by State Governments in the USA list certified mediators. As well, those NGO's involved in the mediation projects have lists of those that have completed the Cross-Border training.

International child abduction is not new. A case of international child abduction has been documented aboard the Titanic.[9] However, the incidence of international child abduction continues to increase due to the ease of international travel, increase in bi-cultural marriages and a high divorce rate. In US., parental abduction has been defined as child abuse while in elsewhere this may be treated as a private matter.[10]

See also

References

External links








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