You may not realize that each year around 350,000 children are kidnapped by
a family member. This is monumentally more children than are kidnapped by strangers. The good news is that family abductions can often be prevented.
Many custodial parents are not aware that parental kidnapping can happen. The following information can help you keep your children safe.
Why Do Parents Kidnap Their Own Children?
Child custody kidnapping experts say that people kidnap their own children:
To force a reconciliation or continued interaction with the left-behind parent.
To spite or punish the other parent.
From fear of losing custody or visitation rights.
In rare cases, to protect the child from a parent who is perceived to molest, abuse, or neglect the child.
Are You At Risk for Parental Child Abduction?
A direct threat of a child abduction should always be taken seriously. If your relationship with the other parent is volatile, and you argue over visitation, be concerned.
Here are some common warning signs. If the other parent:
Has threatened abduction or has actually abducted the child in the past.
Is suspected of abuse, and these suspicions are supported by family and friends.
Is paranoid delusional or severely sociopathic.
Is a citizen of another country and is ending a mixed-culture marriage.
Feels alienated from the legal system, and has family/social support in another community.
Has no strong ties to the child’s home state.
Has no job, is able to work anywhere, is not financially tied to the area.
Is planning to quit a job, sell a home, closing bank accounts, applying for passports, obtaining school or medical records.
Tips to Prevent Family Child Abduction
These are important steps you can take to clearly establish your legal custody of your children, and help prevent a kidnapping.
Respect the other parent’s custody and visitation rights. Anger, frustration and desperation are leading causes of family abduction.
Attempt to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex-spouse and his/her family. If a kidnapping does occur, you will need the support of the kidnapper’s family to bring your child home safely.
Consider counseling. As little as 10 hours of intervention can reduce the stress, anger and frustration that lead to family abduction.
Begin the custody process immediately. You cannot prove your custody rights without a custody order.
Include abduction prevention measures in the custody order.
Keep a certified copy of the custody order with you at home.
Record and document abduction threats. Report them immediately to family court or your lawyer.
Ask the police to intervene and warn the non-custodial parent of criminal consequences—family abduction is often a felony.
Notify schools, healthcare providers, day care and baby sitters of custody orders. Certified copies of custody orders should be on file at the school office etc.
Keep lists of identifying information about the non-custodial parent, including social security numbers, current photos, license plate numbers and bank and credit card accounts.
File a certified copy of the custody order in the non-custodial parent’s state, so that state’s courts know about the order.
Obtain a passport for your child, and notify the passport office that your child is not to leave the country without your written permission.
Keep completed child ID documents for each child. Update them every six months.
Teach your children:
Their full name. Your full name, address and phone numbers.
How to use cell, home, and pay phones to call for help.
Every day, reassure your children:
You will always love them.
You will always look for them if they don’t come home.
When the Kidnapper Leaves the Country
Sometimes a family abductor will take the child out of the United States. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on international child abductions and the policies of specific countries, the following US State Department, Office of Children’s Issues resources are recommended:
U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues
International Parental Child Abduction
Text of the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
List of Participating Countries
Application For Assistance Under the Hague Convention on Child Abduction
International Parental Child Abduction Booklet
Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program
Resources for Judges on International Parental Child Abduction
Source: The Polly Klaas Foundation