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International Parental Child Abductions – What is it? Why you should care?

Most societies recognize crimes against children, however lines are blurred when a crime is committed by a parent or a family member, instead of a stranger.

International parental child abduction (“IPCA”), is the illegal removal of children from their home by a “taking” parent to a foreign country. The taking parents is either violating existing custodial order or custodial rights of the other parent (children are taken without the other parent’s consent), and wrongfully retained in a foreign country.

* IPCA is child abuse and a crime against children, perpetrated by a parent, not a stranger;
* Children are deprived of the love and affection of the parent left behind, often subjected to sustained mental manipulation to believe the parent left behind is the cause of their problems, and robbed of their sense of security, leading to parental alienation and other consequences;
* Taking parent resorts to “forum shopping” to thwart laws of the child’s home country. Cases often take years to resolve, victimized children and families often suffer emotion, psychological and financial trauma.

Victims often struggle to get the support they need from law enforcement, government officials and society at large, who fail to recognize IPCA as a crime. In the United States and most western countries, Governments have enacted laws against parental child abductions. India has not, as such children abducted to India are rarely returned.

Each year more than a 1,000 American children are reported abducted from the United States to other countries. Between 2010-14, 6,000 cases were reported. Less than 40% of the abducted children are returned.

According to the FBI’s annual report on missing children, about 467,000 missing children entries were recorded in 2014. About half are “run-away” children. Approx. 40% (based on 1999 research) are children victims of “family abductions”. Remainder of the entries relate to children victims of stranger abductions and others.

While data for international parental child abductions (“IPCA”) isn’t tracked by the FBI, based on historical trends, assuming 10-12% of the “family abductions” are IPCA related, an estimated 18,000-22,000 American children could be victims of IPCA based on 2014 data.