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Thursday, July 7, 2011

What About Parental Abduction?

Most parents worst nightmare is that their child will be abducted by a stranger, but the odds are much higher that the kidnapper will be a relative. In fact, statistics show parental or family abduction as one of the largest contributors to missing children only behind runaways/throwaways.  But far too frequently, we hear parental abduction is not a law enforcement problem.  It is commonly regarded as a civil problem, domestic relations issue, or something lawyers should work out. After all, the child is with a parent. How bad can it be?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Parental abduction (or family abduction) of a child often scars children and their left behind families for life. In addition to psychological trauma, these abducted children often suffer from inadequate schooling, poor nutrition, unstable lifestyles, neglect, or other forms of abuse while in hiding. The abducting parent often poisons the child against the left behind parent until the abducted child believes the left behind parent is dead, no longer loves or cares for them, and/or will harm them if found.

The victimization that children suffer when taken by a parent is no less than that of children taken by a stranger, yet the response of society varies considerably. It is this variance that lessens the chance of aggressive investigation by law enforcement or from the public intervening. The left behind families are left in a constant state of emotional turmoil, never knowing if their children are safe, where they are, whether they will ever see them again, or if their even alive.

Parental abductions need to be treated as what they are – crimes against children. Parental abduction is a crime in all 50 states. In the State of California, child abduction – even by a family member – is a felony and punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Communities, law enforcement, and the courts need to recognize parental abduction as child endangerment and treat the crime and perpetrator accordingly.

Child Quest International believes parents who abduct and conceal their children should be held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If a case is filed and the defendant found guilty, judges need to hand down sentences that are equal to the crime. Parental abduction is a nationwide epidemic and will continue to be until the justice system takes more of a hard line position on this crime.

Resources:
NISMART II (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children) "Children Abducted by Family Members: National Estimates and Characteristics," Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Heather Hammer, David Finkelhor, and Andrea J. Sedlak (October 2002).

"The Kid is With a Parent, How Bad Can it Be? The Crisis of Family Abduction," by Ernie Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (1991)

“America’s Hidden Crime: When the Kidnapper is Kin”, A Polly Klaas Foundation Report on Family Abduction (March 2004)

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