Friday, August 23, 2013

International Child Abduction and The Prevent Departure Program

Earlier this summer I had shared an article that I had written on Summer Vacations and International Child Abduction Warning Signs.  The article explained in detail some of the possible scenarios and techniques that a potential abductor may use in order to wrongfully remove a child from their home country of jurisdiction.  Even though that article was focused on the time of summer vacations, a time where approximately 85% to 95% of all parental abductions occur in the United States or abroad, even though summer is almost over international parental child abduction still poses a very serious threat for many families.

As always, the I CARE Foundation works toward the goal of preventing international child abductions.  One of the major keys to protecting innocent children from abduction is raising awareness of the realities of international abduction with the hope that our messages about the risks and warning signs that a kidnapping is being planned may allow a parent or other stakeholders the opportunity to prevent abduction.  Historically, the U.S. rate of reported cases of outbound abduction has declined by approximately 15% during the fiscal years 2011 and 2012, and that is after nearly 30 years of reported growth.  This tells us that abduction prevention efforts are working.

Now one of the most concerning risk factors that will lead to international child abduction is the use of a would-be taking parent to use a secondary passport not issued by the United States government in order to depart the country as shared in detail in the article published on behalf of the I CARE Foundation titled Summer Vacation. Child Abduction. Dual Citizenship. Two Passports. How To Prevent Abduction

I urge any parent who believes they are at risk of abduction to read both articles that I have listed.

One of the most effective tools available for at-risk parents trying to prevent abduction is the Prevent Departure Program, which is a secure screening program that lists any individual considered by the courts or law enforcement to be a high-risk child abductor.  In order to be placed on the Prevent Departure Program, there are certain requirements, one of which presently includes that the person cannot be a citizen of the United States of America.  Thus, only aliens residents (or non-residents) physically located in the United States may be put on the Prevent Departure Program at the request of the Department of State to the Department of Homeland Security.

Unfortunately, the caveat is that in order for a person to be considered a candidate for the Prevent Departure Program they are not American citizens, which presents a problem since individuals who possess dual citizenship, including American citizenship, cannot be placed on the Prevent Departure Program list.  Hopefully, there will be a modification in policy so that American citizens who are considered to be high-risk child abductors can be placed on a secure screening list.  The following press release provides details of the need to have the Prevent Departure Program policy modified:  Peter Thomas Senese & The CARE Foundation Supports GAO Recommendation to Create Departure Screening List for High-Risk U.S. Citizens Considered High-Risk Child Abductors.

So what is the Prevent Departure Program and how can it be applied?

Case Study 

Lets begin by suggesting Parent A is a citizen of another country but lives in the United States with Parent B. Parent B is a United States citizen. Parent A need not be married to Parent B.

During the course of A and B’s relationship, a child is born in the United States. When this occurs, the child is automatically a United States Citizen by birth.

In all likelihood, the child also will retain automatic citizenship to the nation that Parent A is a national of.

Let us assume both parents enjoy a right of custody to the child either through marriage, or, in cases where there is no marriage, either by state statue or by court orders.

During the course of time, Parent A decides to end the relationship and desires to return to their nation of origin with the child.

Now, Parent B, having great concern that Parent A intends to take the child and flee the United States and go to another country, obtains court orders forbidding Parent A from taking the child out of the country. The court orders for Parent A to turn over to the court the child’s US passport if one has been issued, and further directs the child’s name to be registered with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, thus essentially removing the potential abducting parent from being able to remove the child from the United States using an American passport issued in the child’s name.

In addition, Parent B successfully requests that the court notify the embassy of the country Parent A is a citizen of, whereas, the court informs the embassy that a child custody dispute is alive and well in the jurisdiction of the child’s country of habitual residency, and the court requests for that foreign embassy not to issue a passport in the child’s name, thus securing the inability of the child from departing until the court proceedings are finalized.

Problem solved? No

In many circumstances, a pending departure is already well planned before the targeted parent becomes aware of it. Parent A may already have in their possession a passport issued by their nation of origin for the child. If this is the case, it is very difficult for the US court to seize the foreign passport of the child, particularly if it is not known whether a passport has been issued in the child’s name.

If a passport has not been issued in the child’s name, then in all likelihood, Parent A will attempt to obtain one regardless if the child’s passport application requires Parent B’s signature or not. In fact, certain countries do not require the signature of the mother of a child, only the father.

In addition, each nation obtains a sovereign right to oversee their own citizens, and since the child may be considered a citizen of the country of Parent A too, the embassy is not required or obligated to follow the U.S. court’s orders. They have every right and may issue a passport in the child’s name despite requests not to do so. And make no mistake about this, in more cases than not, particularly if Parent A is very persuasive when communicating with someone from their own embassy, they will successfully obtain the passport.

If Parent A has possession of a non-US passport for their child, they very well may be able to physically leave the country with the child and illegally abduct the child. What is perhaps even more troubling is the fact that Parent B has no way or right to know if a passport was issued from the native country of Parent A in the name of the child.

A disaster waiting to happen? You bet it is.

But there is hope for those parents who find themselves in a scenario where Parent A is not an American citizen living in the United States with their child and, Parent A possess a foreign passport for the child of the relationship.

Since 2003, United States citizens have had available a very effective international child abduction prevention tool called ‘The Prevent Departure Program’. Unfortunately, many parents at risk of having their child internationally abducted are not aware that this incredibly useful tool is available to them.

In the aftermath of 911, the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Prevent Departure Program’ was created to stop non-U.S. citizens from departing the country. The program applies to non-US citizens physically located in America considered individuals at risk of child abduction. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees this program and it is monitored 24 hours a day.

What the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ does is provide immediate information to the transportation industry, including all air, land, and sea channels a single point of contact at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and provides a comprehensive database of individuals the United States believes may immediately depart to a foreign country.

The program only applies to aliens, and is not available to stop U.S. citizens or dual U.S./foreign citizens from leaving the country.

Under Section 215 of the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ (8 U.S.C. 1185) and it’s implementing regulations (8 CFR Part 215 and 22 CFR Part 46), it authorizes departure-control officers to prevent an alien’s departure from the United States if the alien’s departure would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States. These regulations include would-be abductions of U.S. citizens in accordance to court orders originating from the child’s court of habitual residency.

If the abductor and child are identified, they will be denied boarding. In order to detain them after boarding is denied, there must be a court order prohibiting the child’s removal or providing for the child’s pick-up, or a warrant for the abductor.

In order for an at risk parent to participate in the program, all of the following must be demonstrated:

  1. Subject may NOT be a US citizen; and,
  2. The nomination must include a law enforcement agency contact with 24/7 coverage; and,
  3. There must be a court order showing which parent has been awarded custody or shows that the Subject is restrained from removing his/her minor child from certain counties, the state or the U.S.; and,
  4. The Subject must be in the US; and,
  5. There must be some likelihood that the Subject will attempt to depart in the immediate future.
With respect to the established guidelines listed above, note that in order to request the listing of the other parent, that person must be an alien of the United States. The program does not apply to US citizens at risk of leaving the country.

The second mandate states a request to place an individual’s name on the Prevent Departure Program must include support by a law enforcement agency or from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, which has the authority of requesting for the Department of Homeland Security to list a suspected child abductor on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’.

The third criteria: possessing a custodial order, is essential. Regardless if the other parent has joint custody or rights of visitation, critically, you must make sure that there are injunction orders in place prohibiting the child from being removed from the jurisdiction of habitual residency. Unfortunately, many international parental child abductions are well planned out in advance of the actual abduction, and the targeted parent has no idea that an abduction is in progress until it is too late. This is why it is essential for parents in partnership with non-nationals to be fully aware of the warning signs associated with a potential international child abduction.

The fourth criteria states the obvious: in order to prevent an alien-parent suspected of abducting a child on U.S. soil, that parent must be on U.S. soil.

The fifth criteria requests that the applying parent demonstrate that the alien-parent has demonstrated the likelihood of abducting the child across international borders in the immediate future. Remember – you need to document and record as much evidence as possible.

For many parents who face the risk of having their child abducted and removed across international borders, the nightmare that both targeted parent and victimized child face is unbearable. 

The Prevent Departure Program is not for everyone and should not be abused; however, in situations where an abduction threat is real and the targeting parent intent on abducting a child is a non-US citizen possessing the capacity to breach court orders and abduct a child of a relationship, the Prevent Departure Program may be a useful tool.

For more information on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s website or contact the Office of Children’s Issues.

Finally, the Department of State's Office Of Children's Issues Abduction Prevention Division is in charge of requesting that an individual be considered a candidate to be listed on the Prevent Departure Program.  From our experience, it is critically important that a court order be issued stating that a specific person be listed on the Prevent Departure Program, and that person is restrained from traveling outside of the United States with the specified children of the partnership considered by the court to be at risk of possible abduction.  

For more information on international parental child abduction please visit the I CARE Foundation.  Some of you may be interested in also visiting the official website of my deeply inspired novel about abduction titled CHASING THE CYCLONE, which contains a great amount of information on abduction.

Kindest regards to all -

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Peter Thomas Senese and I CARE Foundation Launch International Travel Child Consent Form To Stop Child Abduction

Peter Thomas Senese & The I CARE Foundation's Hague Convention Oriented International Child Abduction Prevention Tool Provides Family Lawyers New Weapon To Protect Children

Family law attorneys worldwide are calling The I CARE Foundation’s groundbreaking International Travel Child Consent Form as a groundbreaking universal child abduction prevention tool that can be used to protect children at risk of international parental abduction.

The I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form is being viewed by highly respected international family law attorneys around the world who are deeply familiar with the grave challenges of international parental child abduction prevention and reunification as a significant new tool that may assist them and courts protect against abduction.

Worldwide, international parental child abduction increases substantially during the summer months when children are on summer school break. One of the primary methods behind these abductions under the rules established by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction occurs when a parent wrongfully detains a child in a foreign country outside of a court order or without consent of the other parent after the ‘taking parent’ is initially granted permission to travel with the child to a foreign country.

In many of these cases the ‘taking parent’ carefully conspires to mislead and defraud the courts and the ‘targeted parent’ of their true intent: to relocate in their country of origin with the child while removing the targeted parent's contact with their child. Detecting abduction schemes is often not easy. In fact, some parents conceal their true intent to abduct by inviting the child's other parent to travel abroad with them in an attempt to avoid suspicion of abduction. However, once in a foreign country (often the conspiring parent's country of origin), the conspiring parent unleashes a horrible scheme intended to remove the other parent’s rights to the child. They often succeed.

The I CARE Foundation’s comprehensive 'International Travel Child Consent Form' was created to prevent these types of international parental child abduction schemes by calling for both parties to affirm key components central to the ability for an abductor to mount a false and misleading legal defense while also creating additional affirmations for an expeditious return of a child who has been wrongfully detained.

Steep in Hague-oriented case law with focus on Articles 1, 12, 13 and 20, the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form was created to remove a parent's legal defenses under Articles 12, 13, and 20 of the Hague Convention who may be scheming to abduct a child prior to an alleged 'family vacation' abroad while also establishing strong support for a child’s immediate return under Article 1 of the Hague Convention.

Silvia A. Sejas Pardo, a highly respected Argentinean and Spanish international lawyer based in Spain and who is a Founding Member of FASIM, an international association of attorneys dedicated to preventing child abduction commented, "We need to continue to treat child abduction and prevention of kidnapping as something extremely exceptional as we are dealing with children's lives. The uncertainty and abuse related to abduction is not in their interest. The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form is workable and would make child abduction more difficult as this document is a legally strong piece of evidence that may result in protecting many children. I hope all Hague-member states embrace this initiative."

Peter Thomas Senese of the I CARE Foundation and author of the critically acclaimed Chasing The Cyclone and lead creator of the consent form added, "The new abduction prevention tool was created to help provide clarity and directional paths for any court or law enforcement agency overseeing international parental child abduction associated with the wrongful retention of a child abroad. As the new international travel consent form reaches into Central Authorities and courtrooms around the world, and as attorneys dedicated to protecting children implement this tool or one similar to what the I CARE Foundation has created, we hope that there is a dramatic decline in abusive child abductions. We may not have created a new law, but we have created a universal child abduction prevention tool the entire world can use."

Mexico’s Carlos Alvarado, a renowned international family lawyer specializing in international parental child abduction prevention and reunification issues, and who is actively involved in new legislation initiatives in Mexico focused on protecting children of abduction added, "As a law practitioner deeply familiar with Hague Convention law and the great challenges parents and lawyers have protecting children targeted for international abduction, it is critical that new and creative abduction prevention tools are utilized to protect children. The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form is an important tool that can and should be used to prevent children from being wrongfully detained in a foreign country. We intend to widely implement this new tool to protect children in Mexico and whenever possible, assist parents who have had a child abducted to Mexico who have utilized this agreement. This is a tool all attorneys should use." 

Adding further insight, renown Florida family law attorney Denise Gunn, who is a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Hague Convention Attorney Network and who recently prevented the abduction of two minors from Florida to a non-Hague Middle Eastern country in a complex custody dispute added, “New and applicable international child abduction prevention resources such as the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent form is a critically needed tool to stop the abusive criminal act of parental abduction. Once implemented, the foundation's groundbreaking Hague Convention-oriented travel consent form should protect a large population of at-risk children around the world who are targeted for wrongful retention under the rules of local and international law. The ingenuity and thoughtful creation of this agreement illustrates the expertise and commitment of the I CARE Foundation to protect children."

Linda Hammerschmid is Secretary of the Family Law Association of Quebec and a Family Law practitioner in Montreal Canada with over 30 years’ experience in the field. Ms. Hammerschmid commented, “The creation of the new International Travel Consent form is a MUST have, not only for Government Departments, Family Law Attorneys and divorcing couples, but also for INTACT families, and should be kept at the homes of ALL parents to use whenever one or the other wishes to travel alone with their children. Far too often the traveling parent only informs the other, AFTER departure, of their intention not to return the children.” The I CARE Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child abduction.

Jennifer Cluff, one of the world’s foremost parenting blog writers who has stewarded the message of child abduction prevention on her Mom-ology parent site added, “Parents at risk of having a child kidnapped often are not aware of the scheme against them. The I CARE Foundation's tool is something all parenting-focused writers need to share with their readers, especially since the majority of our reader-base is the near-identical demographic of targeted parents.”

To download a copy of the 'International Travel Child Consent Form' in English or Spanish please visit the I CARE Foundation's official website. For more information about suggestions on how to implement the form and to obtain the legal analysis used to create this abduction prevention tool, please contact by email: or call 310.882.3967.

*NOTE: The press news release does not constitute legal advice. Should you require assistance please consult with a qualified attorney.