Child abduction and the Aditya, Ravichandran and Vijayasree Voora International Child abduction
Child abduction is the abduction or kidnapping of a child (or baby) by an older person.
Several distinct forms of child abduction exist:
A stranger removes a child for criminal purposes:
for child sexual abuse, torture, or murder
for extortion, to elicit a ransom from the child's caretakers
A stranger removes a child, with the intent to rear the child as their own
A parent removes or retains a child from the other parent's care (often in the course of or after divorce proceedings).
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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, Harry Tindall, to take it to NCCUSL; he is a Tx commissioner with NCCUSL. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) has drafted a uniform state law dealing with parental abduction, UCAPA. By 2009 about seven states have adopted UCAPA, while many more have pending legislation.
Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
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.
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, 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. 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. 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. Parental abduction has been defined as child abuse.
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.
Child abduction and the Internet
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.)
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.