Fighting Child Abduction

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 9, 2012
Two Adults Walk Holding Child's Hands

"Nancy came home one day and her son was gone. To her surprise, she found a note from her husband saying that they were moving to Japan and never coming back. Nancy remembered an international abduction case she had seen on the news and immediately called the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues. Nancy spoke with one of our Prevention Officers, and when we learned that her son did not have a passport, we enrolled him in the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP). When the father arrived at the San Francisco Passport Agency to apply for his son's passport, he found that a hold had been placed in the system. Meanwhile, Nancy and her lawyer obtained a court order barring her son's removal from the state without her consent. Nancy then filed for custody for her son and the case proceeded through the legal system. A child abduction was stopped, thanks in part to the CPIAP." *

International parental child abduction is an all too common occurrence. Thousands of children are abducted every year by a parent or relative and taken to a foreign country. While abductions share a common theme, each case is different. Some parents abduct their children after threatening the other parent or otherwise indicating their intent to do so. In other cases, the abduction occurs completely out of the blue. Many parents never think that their spouse would take such drastic measures.

The Prevention Branch in the Office of Children's Issues manages cases before abduction occurs. We work with parents, attorneys, and law enforcement across the country to assist parents with safeguarding their children against abduction. Our Prevention Officers are skilled in understanding the complex issues that are present in these types of cases. We partner with law enforcement around the globe to ensure children are not removed from their countries of habitual residence. While many parents contact us when their child is at imminent risk of abduction, others just want information and to know the steps they can take to prevent an abduction.

CPIAP alerts a parent or legal guardian when the Department receives a passport application for his or her child. This program is available to any parent, legal guardian, or court that is concerned that issuance of a U.S. passport might lead to a child's abduction. Federal regulation requires that any child under the age of 16 must have both parents' consent to apply for a passport. In some cases, one parent may try to circumvent this requirement and obtain a passport for the child without the other's knowledge or consent. CPIAP is designed to minimize this risk. Once a child is enrolled in CPIAP, a lookout is entered into the Department's passport system. When an application is received by a domestic passport agency or overseas embassy or consulate, the application is placed on hold. A Prevention Officer will review the application and contact the parent that requested the lookout. We will work with both parents to determine whether or not that passport can be issued properly under U.S. law and regulations.

While this program is not a guarantee that a passport will not be issued, it is used to help prevent a passport from being issued improperly. In addition to offering CPIAP as a way to protect your child, we also have a number of other resources available.

Be aware that if one parent is a citizen of another country, your child may be able to obtain a passport from that country without your consent. Contact the embassy of the country in question to learn more about their laws and regulations overseeing passport issuance to minors.

If you would like to discuss preventing international parental child abduction with our office, we urge you to contact us toll free at 1-888-407-4747 or via e-mail at {encode="" title=""}.

The Prevention Branch is located within the Office of Children's Issues, Overseas Citizens Services at the U.S. Department of State. The Prevention Branch overseas the management of the Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program.

*The example and story provided is fictional and is not based on an existing CPIAP case or past events.



Patrick M.
United States
March 14, 2012

Patrick in the U.S. writes:

The Office of Children's Issues is essentially worthless. They create a file, shove it in a drawer, and nothing happens.

The Department of State is *more* concerned about not making waves with foreign countries, than they are with protecting US children and US citizens.

In over 2 decades, the Department of State has never managed to get a single abducted child returned from the country of Japan. In addition, they have only managed to moved Japan to agree to sign a treaty that Japan is openly stating it has no intention of honoring (through domestic Japanese legislation which will make the Hague toothless). In fact, Japan is apparently *legislating* that

Japan is violating the UN CERD and the UNCRC, and DoS is afraid to push the issue, publicly condemn Japan, and file complaints with the appropriate international organizations.

Until DoS is willing to do these things, to take a hard stand and publicly condemn Japan - not *just* for the abductions, but also the overall discrimination - for the violation of human-rights and international law, DoS is not fixing anything and just acting in bad faith towards the US citizens that they are sworn to serve.

NOTE: I expect that you folks will not also this comment to stand. If not, I will start mailing it to every news outlet and blog I can find.

Arizona, USA
March 26, 2012

Katy in Arizona writes:

This story is one that is all too common in the United States. Unfortunately, when an abductor takes a child into another country it becomes much more difficult to ever get that child back. The reality is that we are at the mercy of the country's laws. The best step we can take is limiting the opportunity for a parent to take a child out of the country to begin with.


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