Child abduction

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Child abduction or child theft is the unauthorized removal of a minor (a child under the age of legal adulthood) from the custody of the child's natural parents or legally appointed guardians.

According to the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in the USA an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing every year, of which 97% are recovered.[1].

The term child abduction conflates two legal and social categories which differ by their perpetrating contexts: abduction by members of the child's family or abduction by strangers:

  • Parental child abduction: a family relative's (usually parent's) unauthorized custody of a child without parental agreement and contrary to family law ruling, which largely removes the child from care, access and contact of the other parent and family side. Occurring around parental separation or divorce, such parental or familial child abduction may include parental alienation, a form of child abuse seeking to disconnect a child from targeted parent and denigrated side of family.

Abductions by strangers[edit]

The stereotypical version of child abduction by a stranger is the classic form of "kidnapping," exemplified by the Lindbergh kidnapping, in which the child is detained, transported some distance, held for ransom or with intent to keep the child permanently. These instances are rare. However, child abduction cases by a stranger or strangers of a different nature are not so rare and are more common in society than reported.[1]

Child abduction for ransom: United States[edit]

The earliest nationally publicised kidnapping of a child by a stranger for the purpose of extracting a ransom payment from the parents was the Pool case of 1819, which took place in Baltimore, Maryland. Margaret Pool, 20-months-old, was kidnapped on May 20 by Nancy Gamble (19-years-old) and secreted with the assistance of Marie Thomas. On May 22, the parents, James and Mary Pool, placed an ad in the Baltimore Patriot newspaper offering a $20 reward for Mary’s return. When the child was recovered on May 23—through the efforts of members of the community who conducted a search—it was revealed that the child had been badly whipped by Gamble and bore bloody wounds. Both Gamble and Thomas were tried for the crime of kidnapping and found guilty. The motive for the crime was demonstrated to be financial. She had kidnapped the child with the intention of waiting for a reward to be offered, then would return the child and collect the money. This is a technique favored by many ransom child kidnappers before the use of written ransom demands became the favored method.[citation needed] Nancy Gamble's crime and subsequent trial were reported in detail in Baltimore Patriot (June 26, 1819). The June 26 article, as well as others on the case that had appeared in the Patriot, were reprinted in newspapers in other states including: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington D.C.

Children abducted for slavery[edit]

In 1597, Elizabeth I of England licensed the abduction of children for use as chapel choristers and theatre performers.[2]

There are reports that abduction of children to be used or sold as slaves is common in parts of Africa.

The Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel paramilitary group operating mainly in northern Uganda, is notorious for its abductions of children for use as child soldiers or sex slaves. According to the Sudan Tribune, as of 2005, more than 30,000 children have been kidnapped by the LRA and their leader, Joseph Kony.[3]

By stranger to raise[edit]

A very small number of abductions result in most cases from women who kidnap babies (or other young children) to bring up as their own. These women are often unable to have children of their own, or have miscarried, and seek to satisfy their unmet psychological need by abducting a child rather than by adopting. The crime is often premeditated, with the woman often simulating pregnancy to reduce suspicion when a baby suddenly appears in the household.

Historically, a few states have accepted child abduction as a form of punishment for political opponents or for profit. A notable case is Francoist Spain, during which an estimated 300,000 children were abducted from their parents.[4][5]

Some other abductions have been to make children available by child-selling for adoption by other people,[6] without adopting parents necessarily being aware of how children were actually made available for adoption.[7]

Parental child abduction[edit]

By far the most common kind of child abduction is parental child abduction (200,000 in 2010 alone)[8] and often occurs when the parents separate or begin divorce proceedings. A parent may remove or retain the child from the other seeking to gain an advantage in expected or pending child-custody proceedings or because that parent fears losing the child in those expected or pending child-custody proceedings; a parent may refuse to return a child at the end of an access visit or may flee with the child to prevent an access visit or fear of domestic violence and abuse.

Parental child abductions may be within the same city, within the state region or within the same country, or may be international. Studies performed for the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported that in 1999, 53% percent of family abducted children were gone less than one week, and 21% were gone one month or more.[9]

International child abduction[edit]

International child abduction occurs when a parent, relative or acquaintance of a child leaves the country with the child or children in violation of a custody decree or visitation order. Another related situation is retention where children are taken on an alleged vacation to a foreign country and are not returned.

While the number of cases which is over 600,000 a year consists of international child abduction is small in comparison to domestic cases, they are often the most difficult to resolve due to the involvement of conflicting international jurisdictions. Two-thirds of international parental abduction cases involve mothers who often allege domestic violence. Even when there is a treaty agreement for the return of a child, the court may be reluctant to return the child if the return could result in the permanent separation of the child from their primary caregiver. This could occur if the abducting parent faced criminal prosecution or deportation by returning to the child's home country.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international human rights treaty and legal mechanism to recover children abducted to another country. The Hague Convention does not provide relief in many cases resulting in some parents hiring private parties to recover their children. Covert recovery was first made public when Don Feeney, a former Delta Commando, responded to a desperate mother's plea to locate and recover her daughter from Jordan in the 1980s. Feeney successfully located and returned the child. A movie and book about Feeney's exploits lead to other desperate parents seeking him out for recovery services.[10]

By 2007, both the United States, European authorities, and NGO's had begun serious interest in the use of mediation as a means by which some international child abduction cases may be resolved. The primary focus was on Hague Cases. Development of mediation in Hague cases, suitable for such an approach, had been tested and reported by REUNITE,[11] a London Based NGO which provides support in international child abduction cases, as successful. Their reported success lead to the first international training for cross-border mediation in 2008, sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.[12] Held at the University of Miami School of Law, Lawyers, Judges, and certified mediators interested in international child abduction cases, attended.

International child abduction is not new. A case of international child abduction has been documented aboard the Titanic. However, the incidence of international child abduction continues to increase due to the ease of international travel, increase in bi-cultural marriages and a high divorce rate. Parental abduction has been defined as child abuse.[13]


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "NISMART National Non-Family Abduction Report October 2002 (A study commissioned by the US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that there were only approximately 115 stereotypical stranger abductions in 1999)" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  2. ^ Coughlan, Sean (17 June 2013). "Elizabethan child actors 'kidnapped and whipped'". BBC News. 
  3. ^ "Time may be running out for Uganda's LRA warlord - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan". Sudan Tribune. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  4. ^ Adler, Katya (18 October 2011). "Spain's stolen babies and the families who lived a lie". BBC News. 
  5. ^ Tremlett, Giles (27 January 2011). "Victims of Spanish 'stolen babies network' call for investigation". The Guardian. 
  6. ^ Child Trafficking: A Cruel Trade, in The Economist, January 26, 2013, as accessed July 14, 2013.
  7. ^ Raymond, Barbara Bisantz, The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption (New York: Union Square Press, 1st ed. 2007 (ISBN 978-1-4027-5863-8)), p. 245.
  8. ^ Maureen, Dabbagh (2012). Parental Kidnapping in America. US: McFarland. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-7864-6533-0. 
  9. ^ "NISMART National Family Abduction Report, October 2002" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  10. ^ &#8250 Donya Al-Nahi. "Rescue My Child: The Story of the Ex-Delta Commandos Who Bring Home Children Abducted Overseas: Neil C. Livingstone: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  11. ^ "Reunite International". Reunite.org. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  12. ^ "National Center for Missing and Exploited Children". Missingkids.com. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  13. ^ "Parental Child Abduction is Child Abuse". Prevent-abuse-now.com. 1999-06-09. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 

External links[edit]