May 25 is National Missing Children’s Day, dedicated to raising awareness of child safety and preventing child abductions; Including International Parental Child Abduction.
As parents, guardians, and concerned individuals, it is crucial to prioritize the safety and well-being of children.
Unfortunately, parental child abductions still occur, and one of the most painful scenarios is international parental child abduction. It can be a frightening experience for both the child and the left-behind parent. In this blog, we will discuss what you need to know if you face this alarming situation. Here’s what you need to know.
NATIONAL MISSING CHILDREN’S DAY
Every year, the Department of Justice commemorates Missing Children’s Day by honoring the heroic and exemplary efforts of agencies, organizations, and individuals to protect children. President Ronald Regan proclaimed National Missing Children’s Day on May 25, 1983. The day honors Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who disappeared in New York City on May 25, 1979.
UNDERSTANDING THE HAGUE CONVENTION
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the leading international agreement that covers international parental child abduction. It provides a process through which a parent can seek to have their child returned to their home country.
Click here to see the participating countries of the treaty. Generally, the Hague Convention mandates that a child abducted in violation of the other parent’s “rights of custody” must be returned to the child’s country of habitual residence unless particular exceptions/defenses apply.
The Hague Convention also deals with issues of international child access. When a parent or guardian lives in a different country to the home country of their child, it may be hard to work out access to them. In 1994, the United States became a signatory to the Convention, which officially went into effect for the U.S. on April 1, 2008.
BECOME AWARE OF Parental CHILD ABDUCTION
Raising awareness is crucial in preventing the devastating effects of parental child abduction. Family members can often be the perpetrators, as they may believe they know what is best for the child. Young children are particularly vulnerable targets as they may not know how to seek help or alert others if their parent takes them.
It is essential to be mindful of warning signs and factors that may increase the likelihood of parental child abduction. Some of these include:
- A parent with no source of income/job.
- A financially independent parent.
- A parent with no real ties to the community they live in.
- A parent who abruptly quits their job sells their home and applies for passports.
- A parent who starts collecting the child’s medical and school records.
- A parent who has domestic violence and child abuse history.
Some additional steps to lower the risk of parental abduction or increase your odds of recovering your child if they are abducted would be:
- Have up-to-date pictures of your child.
- Fingerprints of your child.
- Have a written detailed description of your child, including height, weight, hair color, eye color, birthmarks, and noticeable physical characteristics.
- Copies of your child’s Social Security card and passport.
- Register your child with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP).
HOW TO KEEP CHILDREN SAFE
There are several steps we can take to help keep our children safe. Having a solid custody (now called “Parental Responsibilities“) and visitation plan in place is also essential. If a custody or visitation issue arises, it’s crucial to report it to the appropriate authorities right away, such as state or local law enforcement or a state judicial officer. This can help establish accountability and speed up the case.
Along with the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) can also be contacted at www.missingkids.org. NCMEC works closely with the State Department and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime and administers its Victim Reunification Travel Program. Eligible parents can request financial assistance to help them reunite with a child in another country. By taking these steps and working together, we can help ensure the safety and well-being of all children.
Finally, hiring a knowledgeable attorney highly experienced in Hague Convention cases can be invaluable.
How Masters Law Group Can Help
International custody disputes are almost always extremely complex and delicate situations, and you should not attempt to navigate them without the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. Serving clients in Cook County and DuPage County Illinois, Erin Masters and Anthony Joseph have extensive experience in cases involving international child custody disputes in both courts located in the State of Illinois and the United States federal court system.
National Missing Children’s Day reminds us of our ongoing efforts to reunite missing children with their families. One significant step towards this goal is for the U.S. and other countries to participate in the Hague Convention, which enables the negotiation of treaties to streamline international justice.
When dealing with international child custody/abduction cases, it’s essential to have the support of a knowledgeable family law attorney who understands the intricacies of the international legal system. With our guidance, you can navigate the complex legal processes involved in The Hague Convention and work toward a fast resolution, prioritizing the child’s well-being.
For more information on our featured Hague decisions, see here:
- Efthymiou v. Labonte, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
- Sulcaite, Memorandum Opinion, and Order
- Ho, Memorandum Opinion and Order
- Hinnendael, Decision, and Order
Contact us here today to learn more.