Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Florida HB787 Moves Forward To House Committee. Lawmakers and Advocates Press For Child Abduction Prevention Laws in Florida

St. Petersburg, Los Angeles, New York

MARCH 16th, 2010


Lawmakers in Florida’s Legislature Move Forward On ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ Bill As A Growing Number Of Citizens Express Intolerance Of Acts Of Parental Child Abduction.

Florida’s legislature is moving forward on a strong parental child abduction prevention bill as lawmakers in the state and across the country have come to realize the unmistakable immediate necessity to place protective laws against abduction in order to protect the hundreds of thousands of defenseless children who are criminally stolen and abused.

The ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ (CAPA) bill, known in the Florida Senate as SB1862 and in Florida’s House of Representatives as adjoining bill HB787, if passed, will amend Florida Statute §61.45 by adding certain risk factors of child abduction and provides a list of preventative measures a judge may use to prevent these abductions from occurring. Inclusion of these provisions will strengthen Florida’s weak law and bring it into conformity with the ‘Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act’ (UPACA), which has been enacted by ten states. In a nation where there are over 370,000 parental child abductions that occur each year, a number that apparently is growing, the ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ clearly will prevent the number of abductions within the state of Florida, if passed.

The bill was filed by children’s advocate and champion Representative Daryl Rouson, and has been referred to Florida ’s House of Representatives ‘Public Safety and Domestic Security Policy Committee’. Representative Rouson has demonstrated throughout his career a willingness to take great initiative to assist children.

Representative Kevin Ambler, who heads the ‘Public Safety and Domestic Security Policy Committee’ is no stranger to the family law issues. A portion of Representative Ambler’s law practice focused on family law and children’s welfare. Representative Ambler has placed the bill on his committee’s hearing schedule for Tuesday, March 23rd. The hopes and safety of hundreds of thousands of children in the state who may one day be at risk now rest on Representative Ambler’s ‘Public Safety and Domestic Security Policy Committee’, and the committee chairman’s advocacy for innocent, defenseless children who are at risk of abduction.

Peter Thomas Senese, the author of the critically acclaimed upcoming book ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ and producer of the documentary film ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into the Storms of International Parental Child Abduction’ stated “Representative Ambler and the rest of the committee members have a very unique and exciting opportunity to make in immediate and long-lasting impact in Florida state law in the name of the best interest of children next week by passing through committee the ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ bill. I speak from personal experience when I say that if preventive laws, including a court’s ability to weigh and assess risk factors associated with potential parental child abduction did exist, I would not be speaking out on this issue the way I am. Unfortunately, that is not the case. But there is hope in Florida, and it now rests on Representative Ambler’s shoulders to demonstrate leadership for our children by passing this critically important bill.”

On Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 the State of Florida took a major first step in protecting that state’s children from the horror of parental child abduction. In a bill sponsored by Senator Eleanor Sobel, a unanimous vote of eight ‘Yeas’ and zero ‘Nays’ occurred before the Florida State Senate’s ‘Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee’, the Senate moved through its first committee the critically important ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’. The Senate’s next step is to have the bill voted on by its ‘Judiciary Committee’, which should happen in the forthcoming weeks. If the bill passes a Judiciary Committee vote, it will then move forward to the ‘Civil Justice Appropriations Committee’, before a final vote before the Senate.

In order to bring awareness of the ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ bill now before Florida’s lawmakers, a group of children’s advocates familiar with parental child abduction, including Carolyn Ann Vlk, Ken Connelly, Peter Thomas Senese, Larry Synclair, Charles Hamilton, Bryan Lee McGlothin, Tammy Searle, and Barbara Mezo have urged lawmakers to pass this much need bill. The group has created an informative website, including a petition site, that addresses the proposed ‘Act’ (

Carolyn Ann Vlk, the author of the ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ bill now before the House and Senate stated, “Please carefully consider what we are attempting to implement. In my humble opinion the biggest obstacle we face is a lack of education across the board . . . parents, judges, family court personnel, and policy makers. This deficiency has served to empower potential abductors and compromises the safety of children. Without risk assessment in determining where a credible risk exists, decisions are made that could place a child in unnecessary danger. Parental child abduction is a national tragedy and an immediate remedy is necessary. Please join us in our efforts to protect our most vulnerable members of society - our children."

Floridian resident Larry Synclair, the author of our nation’s first state preventive laws (California) adds, “HB 787 illustrates the need to prevent parental abduction and other states should take similar action. When I sat down to research and write the draft of a bill that would later become the Synclair-Cannon Act, I felt compelled to close gaps in a state’s legal system that allowed children to fall into the hands of abducting parents. California saw the need for the bill and quickly incorporated it into their family code. Today, parents from other states have boldly stepped up to demand laws that will protect their children from this horrific crime that is often ignored by judicial officials. Florida’s HB 787 calls for an implementation of measures that could hinder future acts of abduction. Children need more legislation like this to protect them from this escalating crime."??

Charles Hamilton, left-behind parent of Dakota Carmen Hamilton, stated that “If the ‘Synclair-Cannon Parental Child Abduction Prevention Act’ or a California version of Florida’s HB-787 had existed when my daughter was stolen, the courts would have been armed with the evidence to prevent my daughter’s kidnapping to Spain on December 8, 1996. Failure to sign HB 787 into law will only allow more children in Florida to become victims of this horrible and preventable crime just like my daughter.”

Tammy Searle, a left-behind parent and children’s advocate, now fighting desperately for the return of her daughter is a strong advocate of the present bill and intends to provide the House with testimony next week, along with many of the other children advocates.

Bryan Lee McGlothin, author of ‘Have You Seen My Mother: True Story of Parental Abduction’ stated it best, by reminding the citizens of Florida that "Children have rights and those rights include having both parents in the child's life.”

??Collectively, Florida’s lawmakers and advocates pass urge the citizens of Florida to contact their local representatives and urge them to support the ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ now before its legislative body.

“The reality is that none of us who speak out on this issue would be doing so if we did not experience first-hand the nightmare of child abduction. Truth is, most of us didn’t even know what parental child abduction was, or just how severe of a crime this is against our children,” Peter Thomas Senese added. “I personally urge every lawmaker to stand behind Representative Rouson and Senator Sobel’s initiative and draw a line in the sand, so to speak, in the name of protecting our children.”