Monday, November 4, 2013

U.S. Department of State's Office Of Children's Issues - Stop Child Abduction

What To Include When Contacting The Department Of State's Office Of Children's Issues:

If you are an at-risk parent who believes your child's other parent is planning or in the process of international parental child abduction, please contact the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Abduction Prevention Bureau to discuss potential measures that may be available to you to ensure the individual parent suspected of an international child abduction threat does not illegally depart the United States and remove your child in violation of a court order or in breach of your right of custody.

Please contact the Office of Children's Issues Prevention Bureau to discuss if there are potential prevention techniques unique to your case that may allow the Department of State to work with other federal agencies so to secure your child is not a victim of international parental child abduction.

The United States Department of State
Office Of Children's Issues
Abduction Prevention Bureau

                                                                   SA-17, 9th Floor  

Washington, DC 20522-1709 

                                           Phone: 1-888-407-4747   or   202-501-4444



To contact the I CARE Foundation concerning abduction matters including possible methods available to stop international parental child abduction please email us at

Individuals seeking to Department of State assistance and implementation of the Prevent Departure Program should make sure that they have the following information ready to submit to the Office of Children's Issues:

1.      Full name, date, place of birth of Potential taking parent.

2.      Full name, date, place of birth of Potential left behind parent (and PLBP’s contact info, including a surface address).

3.      Passport number and issuing country (if available, and not U.S.) for both parents.

4.      Full name of child.

5.      Date, place of birth of child.

6.      U.S. passport number of child.

7.      Passport number and issuing country of any dual national passport of child (if available).

8.      Copy of court order with travel restrictions.

9.      Full contact details, including a 24/7 phone and email (to email court documents, we do not have after hours fax access), for law enforcement contact.

10.   Details of potential travel plans.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stopping International Parental Child Abduction - Dual Passports and Dual Citizenship

Dual Citizenship Issues: How To Stop International Parental Child Abduction 

It is a mistake to think that the United States Government cannot help prevent the international parental child abduction of an American child-citizen by an abducting parent who possesses either sole American citizenship or is a dual citizen of the United States and another country.

For any parent, lawyer, or stakeholder who is involved in attempting to prevent an international child abduction originating from the United States whereas the suspected taking parent may possess secondary passports issued from a foreign country for the targeted child, I urge you to contact the indefatigable, dedicated team at the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Abduction Prevention Unit.

If you are an at-risk parent who believes your child's other parent is planning or in the process of international parental child abduction, please contact the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Abduction Prevention Bureau to discuss potential measures that may be available to you to ensure the individual parent suspected of an international child abduction threat does not illegally depart the United States and remove your child in violation of a court order or in breach of your right of custody.  

Please contact the Office of Children's Issues Prevention Bureau to discuss if there are potential prevention techniques unique to your case that may allow the Department of State to work with other federal agencies so to secure your child is not a victim of international parental child abduction.
The United States Department of State
Office Of Children's Issues
Abduction Prevention Bureau

                                                                   SA-17, 9th Floor  

Washington, DC 20522-1709 
                                           Phone: 1-888-407-4747   or   202-501-4444

To contact the I CARE Foundation concerning abduction matters including possible methods available to stop international parental child abduction please email us at

Many U.S. citizen children who fall victim to international parental abduction possess dual nationality. Being aware of the child's other parent's possession of a secondary passport issued from that parent's country of origin is critical in preventing abduction because children abducted abroad usually travel outside of the country on their foreign passport. Preventing the issuance of your child's secondary passport to a foreign country is possible, but not guaranteed, based upon the country of origin of the child's other parent and their laws.

In the United States, it was apparent that parents intending to illegally remove a child in a foreign country knew that if they possessed dual citizenship, that it would be rather easy to depart America using their foreign issued passport that they have had issued for them and more than likely, the child they are intending to wrongfully remove.  In part, this belief appears to have been circulated because it was commonly believed that the United States does not have exit controls, and, existing policies such as the Prevent Departure Program (discussed herein) does not apply to individuals who posses a right of American citizenship.

Well - I am here today to tell any individual who is thinking that you can illegally remove an American child-citizen from the United States using a secondary passport issued from another country in your and in the child's name - you better think again. 

For all parents, lawyers, court officials, policymakers, policy administrators, child advocates - and to any person who is thinking of aiding or abetting a person intent on committing the crime of international parental child abduction - here's what you need to know: The United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues and the branch's Child Abduction Prevention Bureau is deeply committed to stopping the abduction of American children.

Want a little proof?

Well, let me begin by saying that due to a host of factors, the global international parental child abduction rate appears to be growing at over 20% per year. Except in the United States of America, where the international parental child abduction rate declined by over 15% in 2011, declined by over 16% in 2012, and is expected to decline further in 2013.

Why is this happening?

Many reasons - first and foremost - it is because the Department of State has committed necessary resources to the Office of Children's Issues and their Abduction Prevention Unit. In turn, their has been real cooperation between the Department of State and other federal agencies who have the ability to assist in stopping a child's international abduction.

For those of you who may be a target of abduction, it is important to know the majority of international parental child abductions that occur are carefully planned schemes that attempt to catch the targeted parent off guard. A parent intending to snatch a child may use an assortment of reasons in order to obtain the secondary passport. Certain countries require signatures of both of the child's parents, while many require only the signature of the parent that possesses citizenship to that country.

In scenarios where only the parent who possesses citizenship to the country the child has a right to secondary citizenship to can apply for their child's passport, the grave risk and reality is that if abduction is planned, the abducting parent will attempt to conceal the existence of the secondary passport from the other parent. Additionally, in cases where dual signatures are required, it is possible that the taking parent can fraudulently submit the other parent's signature to the passport bureau of the other country as generally there are limited documentation controls in place set up to validate the application request.

While the Department of State will make every effort to avoid issuing a U.S. passport if the custodial parent has provided a custody decree, the Department cannot prevent embassies and consulates of other countries in the United States from issuing their passports to children who are also their nationals. 

All is not lost if you act thoughtfully. For example, you can ask a foreign embassy or consulate not to issue a passport to your child. On numerous occasions I or one of the attorneys associated with the I CARE Foundation have accompanied a targeted parent and personally visited a foreign embassy or consulate and requested that a secondary passport not be issued in the name of the child due to an abduction threat.

If traveling to an embassy or consulate is not a possibility, I suggest you contact the consulate, locate a supervisor who oversees their passport issuance program, and speak to them about your concern for abduction and specifically state you do not want that country to issue a passport. Immediately after that telephone call, you must submit a written request, along with certified complete copies of any court orders addressing custody or the overseas travel of your child you have. From experience, I strongly suggest you also include your marriage certificate, your child's birth certificate, and any other relevant documentation that establishes your marriage or legal partnership and establishes that you are the parent of the child or children. In your letter, inform them that you are sending a copy of this request to the U.S. Department of State

If your child is only a U.S. citizen, you can request that no visa for that country be issued in his or her U.S. passport. No international law requires compliance with such requests, but some countries will comply voluntarily.

With respect to your requests to a foreign country, there is one thing I would like to share from experience: you are likely to get more cooperation at times if you or your legal representative schedule an appointment in person. This is something I have seen first-hand in my capacity as a director of the I CARE Foundation.

What is dual nationality?

The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Persons may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth.

A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.  U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

Intent can be shown by the person's statements or conduct.  The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person's allegiance.

However, dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.

Information on losing foreign citizenship can be obtained from the foreign country's embassy and consulates in the United States. Americans can renounce U.S. citizenship in the proper form at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

Two Parent Signature Law for a Passport

U.S. law requires the signature of both parents, or the child's legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16. To obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians. If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport).


The law does provide two exceptions to this requirement: (1) for exigent circumstances, such as those involving the health or welfare of he child, or (2) when the Secretary of State determines that issuance of a passport is warranted by special family circumstances.

Prevent Departure Program

Since 2003, United States citizens have had available a very effective international child abduction prevention tool called ‘The Prevent Departure Program’. Unfortunately, many parents at risk of having their child internationally abducted are not aware that this incredibly useful tool is available to them.

In the aftermath of 911, the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Prevent Departure Program’ was created to stop non-U.S. citizens from departing the country. The program applies to non-US citizens physically located in America considered individuals at risk of child abduction. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees this program and it is monitored 24 hours a day.

What the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ does is provide immediate information to the transportation industry, including all air, land, and sea channels a single point of contact at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and provides a comprehensive database of individuals the United States believes may immediately depart to a foreign country.

The program only applies to aliens, and is not available to stop U.S. citizens or dual U.S./foreign citizens from leaving the country. CRITICALLY -  as I stated earlier, if  you are an at-risk parent who believes your child's other parent is planning or in the process of international parental child abduction, please contact the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues Abduction Prevention Bureau to discuss potential measures that may be available to you to ensure the individual parent suspected of an international child abduction threat does not illegally depart the United States and remove your child in violation of a court order or in breach of your right of custody. The Office of Children's Issues Prevention Bureau may be able to determine if there are potential prevention techniques unique to your case that may allow the Department of State to work with other federal agencies so to secure your child is not a victim of international parental child abduction.

Under Section 215 of the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ (8 U.S.C. 1185) and it’s implementing regulations (8 CFR Part 215 and 22 CFR Part 46), it authorizes departure-control officers to prevent an alien’s departure from the United States if the alien’s departure would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States. These regulations include would-be abductions of U.S. citizens in accordance to court orders originating from the child’s court of habitual residency.

If the abductor and child are identified, they will be denied boarding. In order to detain them after boarding is denied, there must be a court order prohibiting the child’s removal or providing for the child’s pick-up, or a warrant for the abductor.

In order for an at risk parent to participate in the program (remember: the Department of State may be able to assist a parent targeted by another individual who is in possession of dual citizenship and find issues unique to your case that may enable them to work with other federal agencies in cases of American or dual citizenship), all of the following must be demonstrated:

1. Subject may NOT be a US citizen; and,

2. The nomination must include a law enforcement agency contact with 24/7 coverage; and,

3. There must be a court order showing which parent has been awarded custody or shows that the Subject is restrained from removing his/her minor child from certain counties, the state or the U.S.; and,

4. The Subject must be in the US; and,

5. There must be some likelihood that the Subject will attempt to depart in the immediate future.

With respect to the established guidelines listed above, note that in order to request the listing of the other parent, that person must be an alien of the United States.

The second mandate states a request to place an individual’s name on the Prevent Departure Program must include support by a law enforcement agency or from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, which has the authority of requesting for the Department of Homeland Security to list a suspected child abductor on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’.

The third criteria: possessing a custodial order, is essential. Regardless if the other parent has joint custody or rights of visitation, critically, you must make sure that there are injunction orders in place prohibiting the child from being removed from the jurisdiction of habitual residency. Unfortunately, many international parental child abductions are well planned out in advance of the actual abduction, and the targeted parent has no idea that an abduction is in progress until it is too late. This is why it is essential for parents in partnership with non-nationals to be fully aware of the warning signs associated with a potential international child abduction.

The fourth criteria states the obvious: in order to prevent an alien-parent suspected of abducting a child on U.S. soil, that parent must be on U.S. soil.

The fifth criteria requests that the applying parent demonstrate that the alien-parent has demonstrated the likelihood of abducting the child across international borders in the immediate future. Remember – you need to document and record as much evidence as possible.

For many parents who face the risk of having their child abducted and removed across international borders, the nightmare that both targeted parent and victimized child face is unbearable.

The Prevent Departure Program is not for everyone and should not be abused; however, in situations where an abduction threat is real and the targeting parent intent on abducting a child is a non-US citizen possessing the capacity to breach court orders and abduct a child of a relationship, the Prevent Departure Program may be a useful tool.

What To Include When Contacting The Department Of State's Office Of Children's Issues:

Individuals seeking to Department of State assistance and implementation of the Prevent Departure Program should make sure that they have the following information ready to submit to the Office of Children's Issues:

1.      Full name, date, place of birth of Potential taking parent.

2.      Full name, date, place of birth of Potential left behind parent (and PLBP’s contact info, including a surface address).

3.      Passport number and issuing country (if available, and not U.S.) for both parents.

4.      Full name of child.

5.      Date, place of birth of child.

6.      U.S. passport number of child.

7.      Passport number and issuing country of any dual national passport of child (if available).

8.      Copy of court order with travel restrictions.

9.      Full contact details, including a 24/7 phone and email (to email court documents, we do not have after hours fax access), for law enforcement contact.

10.   Details of potential travel plans.
The contact information for the Department of State is as follows:

The United States Department of State
Office Of Children's Issues
Abduction Prevention Bureau
SA-17, 9th Floor  
Washington, DC 20522-1709
                                           Phone: 1-888-407-4747   or   202-501-4444

In the United States, International Parental Child Abduction is clearly beginning to be taken as a serious crime against innocent children. The incredible efforts by the Office Of Children's Issues to protect American children from abduction has produced real, measurable, and impactful results. As the world's abduction rate spirals out of control, an anomaly is occurring in America: children are being protected from kidnapping. 

From our vantage point in the battle trench fighting abduction, and from our own measurable history of protecting a large number of children who have either been abducted or were targeted from abduction, the I CARE Foundation is fully aware that none of the successes we have had assisting targeted children would be possible if not for the Department of State and the tremendous cooperation protecting children provided by other agencies.

I think it is important to point out that in all cases where a secondary passport is a concern, one of the legal strategies the attorneys associated with the I CARE Foundation have successfully implemented is to seek an emergency order from the court possessing jurisdiction of the child whereas, the petition requests that 'responding parent' (parent believed to planning an abduction) provide formal documentation from the consulate or embassy of their country of origin that grants the consulate or embassy permission to answer a court subpoena concerning the issuance of a passport (the consulate or embassy is not required to do so even if a subpoena is issued), or, that the court order the responding parent to provide an official letter from their country of origin stating that neither a passport for the child has been issued from that country and no application for a passport has been submitted.

During the emergency application, the targeted parent (the 'applicant') has sought a host of measures, including seeking for the court or the applicant to take possession of the child's American passports; and, for the child being placed on the United States Passport Issuance Alert Program; and, for either removal of child access or limited, supervised access of the targeted child by the parent suspected of child snatching. If the Prevent Departure Program is applicable, attorneys have previously sought for the court to request that the U.S. Department of State petition the U.S. Department of Homeland Security place a person considered a high-risk child abductor on the secure screening list to ensure that person does not travel outside of the country with the child unless permitted to do so by court order.

However, as stated previously - each abduction prevention case is different. It is imperative that at-risk parents contact the Department of State.  Should a parent or attorney have questions they would like to address with the I CARE Foundation, they may do so by email at:  

I think it is also worth sharing the concern that a parent traveling by land or sea across international adjacent borders (For the United States this means travel to Canada, Mexico, or certain Caribbean island-nations) with a minor under 16 years of age does not need to present a valid passport for their child at the border-crossing (valid passports are required for all travelers regardless of age only when traveling abroad by aircraft) as established by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Thus, a parent planning to abduct a child could do so by boarding a closed circuit cruise, or by simply driving across the border. It is critical that an attorney attempting to prevent abduction familiarize themselves with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative loopholes and present these issues to the court they are litigating over. One other good idea is that they present to the court the statistical realities of child abduction return, including whether a country that appears to be a likely inbound country is a member of the Hague Convention, and whether or not they are a complying country. Of course, that's not all that should be presented to the court. A few other important issues include the potential for severe abuse to the child; and, the severe abuse to the targeted parent, the cost to litigate; and, the ability for the taking parent to disappear abroad, including departing the country they initially 'landed' in, and travel to another country; and finally, the likelihood that a child will be returned.

I invite you to read Summer Vacations and International Parental Child Abduction and to visit the official website of the U.S. Department of State, I CARE Foundation and Chasing The Cyclone for more information about abduction.

One little word of advice: the majority of parents who have had their child abducted never saw it coming. Do not stick your head in the ground and think this cannot happen to you. Educate yourself.

And for anyone who is thinking of either illegally removing an American child-citizen from the United States or who is planning on wrongfully detaining a child abroad, remember, international parental child abduction is a federal crime called kidnapping. Click here to read more about the International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act.

- Peter Thomas Senese -
- Executive Director-
- The I CARE Foundation-




Thursday, September 26, 2013

American Child Abducted To Nigeria Safely Returns Home I woke up this morning thinking of a beautiful child who was abducted from the United States to Nigeria. It took several months, but the child was safely returned home. This beautiful letter from the targeted parent of abduction about the I CARE Foundation's assistance is one that is very dear to me. It serves as a reminder of the importance of our work and of the need to make a difference in the world of international parental child abduction.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Peter Thomas Senese: Protecting Children From Abduction To Japan

Over the years I have been actively engaged in voluntarily protecting and helping children in crisis.  Of course a great deal of my work is focused on stopping child abduction.

During this period, I have been involved in a rather large number of abduction cases: either trying to prevent abduction or bring a kidnapped child home under the rules of the Hague Convention.

I would like to share a recent letter from a parent who had their child targeted for abduction to Japan. If the child was able to have been removed from the United Stated, the parent would have never been able to see their child again.

There are no words that can express the depth of the tragedy that would have occurred for both child and targeted parent if abduction occurred.

Fortunately the I CARE Foundation stepped in and we protected both child and parent. This Is How:
Read the Sworn Testimonial Letter From The Targeted Parent.

Now over the years, the I CARE Foundation has had to deal with many issues concerning abduction to Japan.  The reality is that Japan does not return internationally abducted children. They remain a non-signatory member of the Hague Convention. And critically, they place the lives of children of abduction at risk.

As for the targeted parent who was able to protect their child, I must say that he unquestionably is one of the kindest, gentlest, and loving parents I know.

To read a large number of select testimonial letters from parents who I and the I CARE Foundation have assisted, Please Click Here. 

Critically, parents need to know the Warning Signs Of International Parental Child Abduction.

Of great interest is the fact that the I CARE Foundation's groundbreaking International Travel Child Consent Form is being hailed as one of the most important child abduction prevention tools ever created.

On a personal note, it is my honor to be able to have helped as many parents and children as I and my colleagues at the I CARE Foundation have.

The shared select testimonials were provided in order to educate others of the severity parents around the world face when dealing with the abduction of their child.

Kind regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Most Effective Global International Parental Child Abduction Prevention Tool

Peter Thomas Senese, Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation's Fall 2013 Update

The I CARE Foundation's 
IS Quickly Becoming The Most Effective Global Tool Able To
Stop International Parental Child Abduction!

The I CARE Foundation Reports That 
100% Of All Children Around The World Who Had Their Parents Reportt Utilizing The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form This Summer 
Have All Returned Home!


Mr. Christophe Bernosconi, the Secretary General of the Hague Conference on International Private Law: the international tribunal governing international child abduction under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child said the   following of the I CARE Foundation and our International Travel Child              Consent Form:

"I have had the possibility to look at the travel form and must say that I am impressed: this is the most comprehensive document of its kind that I have seen so far and there is little doubt in my mind that this is a most valuable and important effort to prevent child abduction. I applaud your efforts and wish to congratulate you and your team . . . It is really impressive to see how quickly your international travel child consent form has started to yield practical results and how well you monitor its operation - this really is remarkable." 

A Message From Peter Thomas Senese:

In my role as the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation, I am pleased to share that 100% of all reported cases of children who traveled abroad this summer under  the International Travel Child Consent Form have returned to their country of original jurisdiction.  This is an increadible achievement since it is strongly estimated that between 80% and 90% of all international parental child abductions occur when a parent wrongfully detains a child abroad under the guise of a family vacation.

Recently the Colorado Bar Association published an extensive 30 page article championing the I CARE Foundation and our International Travel Consent Form. The in-depth analysis includes our extensive legal analysis on how abducting parents legally attempt to sanction cross-border kidnappings under an assortment of articles under the Hague Convention.

I invite you to read a piece that the Colorado Bar Association wrote about the I CARE Foundation and the International Travel Child Consent Form

Generally speaking, international parental child abudciton occurs during 2 primary seasons: the summer vacation period and Christmas. Depending on what geographic area around the world you are located in, international child abduction is always in  high-season.

Today, parents need to be aware that with the Christmas season months away, parents intending to abduct a child abroad will begin carrying-out their plans now. So please be careful (For a list of 'Warning Signs of International Parental Child Abduction' please visit the I CARE Foundation's website).

In the meantime, the I CARE Foundation and our remarkable colleagues around the world will continue our efforts associated with the Special Commission created to report to Secretary General Bernosconi on the utilization of the travel consent form in our effort to create such a form as a mechanical instruement for all children traveling abroad.

Finally, I would like to share that it is strongly expected that the number of reported cases U.S. international parental child abduction cases is expected to sharply fall, incredibly, for the 3rd year in a row after nearly 30 years of growth.  To provide some insight, the past decase (excluding 2011 and 2012) had reported sustained outbound abduction growth of approximately 20% + per year. In 2011, the same year the I CARE Foundation commenced our extensive activity, reported cases of abduction declined by 15%. In 2012, there was an additional decline of 16%.  We still have a long way to go before we close the books of 2013, especially since one of the 2 major abduction seasons is the Christmas Holiday; however, I am extremely optimistic - based upon the I CARE Foundation's own extensive abduction prevention case-load - that we will see another dramatic decline of abduction when the 2013 statistics are reported.

There is no question there is a lot ahead of us. In fact, just in the past 5 days, the I CARE Foundation stopped international abductions of American children to Russia, Japan, Phillipines, and India, while playing a key role in dozens of ongoing abduction prevention cases around the world.

To read more about the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form and to download a copy of the form, please visit The I CARE Foundation's website. 

Kindest regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese
Executive Director
The I CARE Foundation

Friday, September 13, 2013

I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form Continues To Make A Difference Protecting Children From Abduction

The I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form continues to be a tool utilized by parents and the legal community on a global scale that is making an incredible impact on the fight to stop children from being internationally parentally abducted.

As many of you are aware, the summer months are a time where international abductions are at the highest levels and, in my role as the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation, I am pleased to say that every child that was expected to be returned home around the world, that used the Travel Consent Form, has indeed done just that... come home!

I invite you to read a piece that the Colorado Bar Association wrote about the I CARE Foundation and our groundbreaking International Travel Child Consent Form

To read more about the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form and to download a copy of the form, please visit The I CARE Foundation's website. 

Kindest regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese
Executive Director
The I CARE Foundation

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative: International Child Abduction And Human Trafficking Loopholes

Carolyn Ann Vlk and I spent a great deal of time and resources researching and publishing this landmark report on international parental child abduction and human trafficking as it relates to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.  This report may very well hold the answer as to how hundreds, if not thousands of children are being illegally stolen out of our nation's borders each and every year.



International Parental Child Abduction and Human Trafficking Prevention Report In Correspondence To The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative And Other Related Abduction Prevention Challenges Faced By The United States And Its Neighboring Countries.
Written By
Carolyn Ann Vlk 
 Peter Thomas Senese
Since beginning our work together on child abduction prevention we have remained actively involved in advocacy and education in this area. Recently our research has led us to uncover significant border control security vulnerabilities that we believe are currently being utilized in illegally transporting children across U.S. borders in both incoming and outgoing parental abduction cases as well as being capitalized by smugglers who trade in human life.
Our findings are a cause of great concern.
The purpose of the following report is to bring these facts to the forefront of targeted and victimized parents of international parental child abduction, activists involved in the war against human trafficking, leaders of non-governmental agencies, lawyers practicing family or human rights law, all levels of law enforcement, the judiciary responsible for our nation’s children, our local, state and federal legislative policymakers, and all government agencies responsible with oversight as they are related to cross-border child abduction and human trafficking. It is our hope that our findings will cause both short and long-term preventative steps and solutions to be taken at all necessary levels so that we may work together to further protect our nation’s children. To put it mildly, we have a serious, growing, and immeasurable problem on our hands, and its far-reaching tentacles lash out at society’s greatest resource: our children.
Our initial research evolved around the question “How are children illegally abducted into and out of the United States and our adjacent neighboring countries despite preventive measures that may be in place either by court order or by preventive laws and programs?”
The answers to this question varies and includes, but is not limited to a lack of or failure to uphold child abduction prevention laws, inept courts and uneducated or naïve judges who fail to consider abduction risk or fail to carry out the intent of the laws they oversee in order to protect the welfare of a child, carefully-orchestrated abduction plans conceived well in advance by an abducting parent or trafficker, or flaws in the legal system that enable would-be abductors to capitalize on various loopholes so that they may steal a child across international borders. Many of these issues have previously been well documented. Thus, we directed our investigation toward the possibility of whether there are any existing loopholes in present law. Specifically, do opportunities presently exist that enable abductors and traffickers to steal and transport children despite our government’s legal efforts to prevent cross-border child stealing from occurring?
Dual Citizenship
Our conclusions acknowledge the existence of cross-border child abduction via individuals who possess dual-citizenship, which enables them to possess foreign passports. Often, the children of these individuals possess dual nationality as well and may be issued a passport by another country.  The Department of State's Office of Children's Issues alerts parents to the possibility that "Your child might also be a citizen of another country (dual nationality)," and offers the following information on the subject of dual nationality. "The concept of dual nationality means that a person is a citizen of two countries at the same time. Each country has its own citizenship laws based on its own policy. Individuals may have dual nationality by automatic operation of different laws rather than by choice. For example, a child born in a foreign country to U.S. citizen parents may be both a U.S. citizen and a citizen of the country of birth." Conversely, a child born in the U.S. to a citizen of another country may automatically acquire citizenship of that country or in some cases the parent may apply for the child to be granted citizenship.
How Are Children Illegally Abducted Into And Out Of The United States
Security flaws that can lead to our children becoming victimized include, but are not limited to the following:
1.     Failures by courts and judges to properly assess abduction risk and attach court orders that would preempt international child stealing; and,
2.     Failure to create or uphold present child abduction prevention laws or other laws created to protect our children’s safety; and,
3.     Identity and travel documentation fraud; and,
4.     A lack of uniform requirements for travel documentation when departing or entering the U.S.; and,
5.     The ability under present law to easily illegally transport children under age 16 across borders during land and sea travel; and,
6.     Human error during verification of travel documents by CBP at a point-of-entry or departure; and,
7.     Failures by law enforcement to act expeditiously to a potential abduction threat; and,
8.     Inefficient communication and data sharing between government agencies responsible to assist in preventing or resolving an international child abduction case; and,
9.     The deficiency by our federal government to create and interlink a children's travel alert, travel restriction data base consisting of real-time family court decisions at the state level with all U.S. border control agencies and transport companies similar to capabilities available through the Prevent Departure Program; and,
10. A lack of or outdated or underutilized state or federal laws and programs that fail to prevent the abduction of a child and in fact may enable an abduction to occur.

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) 
Our research drew us to focus on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).
Under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the WHTI was designed to strengthen border security and is a joint Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) plan that is carried out in part by the U.S. Customs Border Protection Agency (CBP). The intent of the initiative is to further protect and strengthen our nation’s borders by requiring all travelers to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda to present a WHTI compliant document that establishes identity and citizenship.
During the course of our investigation it became apparent that there is limited available research or data concerning international parental child abduction or human trafficking as it relates to travel document requirements for children crossing into contiguous countries by land or sea under WHTI policy. However, what is certain is that child abductions and human trafficking to our bordering nations of Mexico and Canada represent a great number of 'reported' international abductions and missing person cases originating from the United States. Additionally, we believe that a vast majority of 'unreported' child abduction cases are associated with Mexico and Canada. Our findings are cause for grave concern. It is clear that due to the varyingtravel documentation requirements for land and sea travel that there exist substantial loopholes in U.S. law that allow would-be abductors or traffickers to capitalize on the porous travel documentation requirements for children.
Today, very serious security gaps exist directly related to WHTI, especially as it pertains to a child’s travel document requirements. These stunning flaws and loopholes provide substantial opportunity for illegal cross-border family or stranger child abductions and human trafficking to occur to and from the United States.
Hague Convention Compliance Report On International Child Abduction
Congress mandates that under Public Law 105-277, Section 2803 the Department of States Office of Children's Issues (OCI) publish an annual report which indicates the effectiveness of securing the return of children whom have been unlawfully removed from their home country and for whom an application under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has been filed. The publication is titled Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Statistics from the two most current annual reports that are dated April 2009 and April 2010 demonstrate abduction crimes against children in the United States and abroad are substantially on the riseAssistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Janice L. Jacobs reports that during fiscal year 2009, the Office of Children's Issues (OCI) experienced a significant increase in the number of reported international parental kidnapping cases. The 2010 report indicates that we can anticipate the current trends previously seen with respect to the increase in international parental child abductions to continue. In fact, the number of International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) cases in which a Hague application has been filed has nearly doubled since fiscal year 2006 from 564 to 1,135 cases in fiscal year 2009.
The 2009 report utilized data that was collected during the period from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008 and is referred to as fiscal year (FY) 2008. This report reflects that 1,082 new cases were filed involving 1,615 children. During the study year, the U.S. was successful in the return of only 361 children.
The 2010 report covers the time period from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009 that is referred to as FY 2009. During FY 2009 1,135 new applications were received for assistance in an attempt to facilitate the return of 1,621 children who were wrongfully removed from the United States. Sadly, during FY 2009 the U.S. was successful in the return of only 436 children. The report does not indicate during which FY year a returned child was abducted.
2010                         2009              1,135                  1,621                        436
2009                         2008              1,082                  1,615                        361
2008                         2007                575                     821                         341
Now consider if the international child abduction growth rate continues at an average of 20% per year for the next ten years. This means that the projected number of 'reported' U.S. children-citizens that will be internationally abducted in the year 2020 would be 9,647. To put this into perspective, this loss would be the equivalent of 241 school buses carrying 40 children each suddenly disappearing.
Additionally, if we add the total number of 'reported' international child abductions that have occurred from 2007 and add the forecasted number of abductions anticipated to occur using a 20% growth rate, then a total of 53,285 children will have been ‘reported’ as internationally abducted from 2007 through 2020. To put this into perspective, this would be the equivalent of an entire major league baseball stadium filled with children simply vanishing.
As remarkably disturbing as these actual and projected numbers are, these forecasted statistics do not project the large and growing number of ‘unreported’ cases of international parental child abduction cases. Furthermore, they do not represent any international abductions related to stranger abductions and human trafficking, which we anticipate to be substantial.

Recovery Of Internationally Abducted Children
It is important to include that as time passes, it becomes substantially more difficult to recover an abducted child. This is especially true in light of the fact that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction contains under Article 12 a policy that could allow a judge to order for the criminally abducted child to remain in the country they were stolen to if after one year the child is considered to have settled into their new environment and it is believed that removing the child would be detrimental.  As you may well imagine, there are numerous difficulties in locating and negotiating the return of a child who has been internationally abducted.  The likelihood of this type of case being resolved as expeditiously as one year is slim and essentially the chasing parent may be left to negotiate on his/her own after one year has passed. Undeniably, time is not a child or a chasing parent's friend.
Make no mistake, nearly every abducting parent who is required to defend their criminal action in the international Hague courts will use every conceivable stall tactic as well as every possible defense strategy available to them including but not limited to false allegations, slander and defamation of character. In applicable cases the child may not be returned due to provisions under Article 13 of the Hague Convention. Article 13 of the Hague Convention allows for the court overseeing a Hague case to allow for a child to remain with the abducting parent in the receiving country if the court determines that a return order would cause grave risk and harm to the child. Thus, child-abductors attempting to sanction their criminal act of international child-stealing will typically make horrendous false allegations against the left behind parent in order to not only sanction their criminal behavior but to also avoid prosecution for kidnapping under the federal International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act, the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, the federal Fugitive Felon Act and various other federal or state criminal laws where applicable.
Fortunately society has begun to take notice of the tragedies related to international child abduction and human trafficking. A more educated judiciary continues to evolve and new abduction preventive laws have been implemented to prevent child abduction and human trafficking. We have made substantial strides in social and judiciary awareness, and in certain states created new child abduction prevention laws. However, the fact is that the system in place today that was created to protect our children and their targeted parents from the nightmare of international child abduction does not work efficiently and needs to be substantially overhauled. At present, our judiciary, law enforcement, policymakers and the legislation they oversee, and the government agencies responsible for oversight fall significantly short from meeting the necessary needs of targeted children and parents. We must do substantially better at all levels of abduction prevention and child reunification. 
On August 31, 2009 a speech titled Child Abductions: Globally, Nationally and Along the U.S./Mexico Border was given by Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children.  Mr. Allen states, "The problem of missing, abducted, trafficked and sexually exploited children is large, growing, under-recognized and under-reported." On November 16, 2010 Mr. Allen delivered the keynote address at the National Amber Alert Symposium.  During his speech he revealed, "Children are the leading victims of violent and personal crimes in this country, victimized at a rate twice as high as the general population."  Continuing he stated, “Children are the single most victimized segment of our population.  Even with all of the progress we have made, most Americans still don’t understand that basic fact.  According to Justice Department research, more than 2,000 children will be reported missing in the United States today!" Additionally, Mr. Allen stated, "The numbers are staggering. The tragedies continue and too many children do not make it home."
One of the questions we must ask ourselves in connection to such statements is How are our children disappearing?
In relationship to parental child abduction cases, we acknowledge the failures of courts to act cautiously and prudently in preventing a potential abduction. There is no question that judges and the courts they oversee need to become better informed, and that more education is desperately needed to influence a judge’s decision making when it comes to protecting the welfare of a child. The existence of serious foul play and deceit by an abducting parent who steals a child across international borders without the targeted parents anticipation or knowledge is a serious concern. And we acknowledge extreme circumstances when a child is removed from the United States despite court orders because both the child and the abducting parent have dual citizenship and both possess a primary or secondary passport issued by the abducting parent’s country of origin. This circumstance renders programs such as the United States Children's Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) or Prevent Departure Program (PDP) useless.
This report focuses on the substantial loopholes available to would-be abductors and traffickers that presently enable them to commit their egregious crimes despite great efforts to prevent cross-border abduction. We believe there is a direct correlation between the high number of successful child abductions to our neighboring countries and the legal loopholes that allow minimum travel documentation requirements for children traveling by land or by sea under WHTI policy.
Documentary Requirements For Children Traveling Internationally
The WHTI requirements for air travel took effect on January 23, 2007. According to U.S. Customs Border Protection, “All U.S. citizens and non-immigrant aliens from Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico departing from or entering the United States from within the Western Hemisphere at air ports-of-entry are required to present a valid passport (or NEXUS card, if utilizing a NEXUS kiosk when departing from a designated Canadian airport).” We believe that this stringent mandate for verifiable documentary identification prior to air travel has significantly reduced the ability to unlawfully remove a child from the United States.
Additionally, the U.S. increased the security of its child citizens when on February 1, 2008 new requirements under Public Law 106-113, Section 236took effect requiring the permission of both parents prior to the issuance of a U.S. passport for children under the age of 16. According to the Department of State Office Of Children's Issues, “U.S. law requires the signature of both parents, or the child's legal guardians, prior to issuance of a U.S. passport to children under the age of 16. Generally, to obtain a U.S. passport for a child under the age of 16, both parents (or the child’s legal guardians) must execute the child’s passport application and provide documentary evidence demonstrating that they are the parents or guardians.  If this cannot be done, the person executing the passport application must provide documentary evidence that he or she has sole custody of the child, has the consent of the other parent to the issuance of the passport, or is acting in place of the parents and has the consent of both parents (or of a parent/legal guardian with sole custody over the child to the issuance of the passport)."
Due to the implementation of these new requirements, the ability to unlawfully transport children that do not possess dual citizenship across borders has become increasingly difficult.  The two-parent signature necessary for a minor child's U.S. passport issuance has strengthened our border security and reduced the ability to present incomplete or fraudulent documentation in order to travel with a child across international borders. Thankfully, our child citizens are better protected than they were just a few years ago.
The two-parent signature requirement necessary for a U.S. Passport to be issued for a child has greatly reduced the opportunity that a passport will be issued without another parent’s knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, documentation fraud is still very difficult to detect and remains a severe threat to our nation's children, especially if initiated by parental forgery. Tragically, for many targeted-parent victims of international parental child abduction this type of fraud is common. Unquestionably, it is critical that precautionary steps continue to be taken before issuing passports to children due to substantial evidence of documentation fraud.
Additionally, and to our great concern, it appears to be relatively easy to obtain fraudulent or falsified identification or residency documentation.
Tere Silva, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said in a statement issued on November 17th, 2010, "Among the various schemes and artifices being used by some unscrupulous persons are offers to provide immigration services, including ways to avoid the established channels for adjusting one's immigration status, offers to provide false and forged identity documents, even threats and false impersonation of immigration officials."
On November 19th, 2010 Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Sacramento, California stated,"Targeting those responsible for making and selling fraudulent documents is an enforcement priority for ICE HSI. Anyone who knowingly and indiscriminately sells phony identity cards is putting the security of our communities and even our country at risk. Documents like this could potentially be used by dangerous criminals and others seeking to obscure their identities and mask their motives." Agent Lane's comments came after ICE arrested four individuals for running a highly sophisticated forged document factory that included creating fraudulent California drivers licenses, permanent resident cards (Green Cards), U.S. birth certificates and other documents capable of removing a child from the U.S. under the WHTI.
In response to the rise of illegal entry and exodus to the United States, the implementation of WHTI policy has effectively narrowed the types of documents that are acceptable in proving identity and citizenship. Although this change is a critical step towards meeting the challenge of securing our borders there still remain significant security challenges due to certain allowable exemptions. Unfortunately, when it comes to cross border travel by children being transported by land or sea, numerous security defects exist. Unquestionably, individuals or organizations with intent to breach the law have exploited these policy flaws.  Our nation’s children as well as children from other countries are suffering either as defenseless victims of international parental child abduction or as helpless slaves taken into the world of human trafficking, where the worst types of crimes against humanity are the norm.
As a nation concerned with our children’s safety and welfare, it is unacceptable that large gaps in security protocol exist in our nation’s international travel document requirements for children traveling in the Western Hemisphere. In the 2009, annual Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Janice L. Jacobs, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs writes, "Unfortunately, current trends reflect a steady increase in the number of international parental child abduction cases and highlight the urgency of redoubling efforts to promote compliance with Convention obligations and encourage additional nations to join the Convention." She also writes, "Very few options exist for parents and children who are victims of parental child abduction." In the 2010 annual report Ms. Jacobs continues to voice concerns over the increasing numbers of our child-citizens who have been wrongfully removed or wrongfully detained.
Assistant Secretary of State of Consular Affairs Jacobs concern about the growing rate of international parental child abduction (IPCA) is alarming, yet our adjacent borders remain relatively open for those with the knowledge on how to circumvent border security protocol.  Make no mistake, nearly every IPCA case is well thought out and planned.
Human Trafficking
The buying and selling of humans is the second largest criminal activity in the world. In the U.S., this problem is much more severe than commonly discussed. Of particular concern is that it is estimated that over 70% of all humans trafficked into the U.S. originate from Latin America: countries such as Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador are well-known supply sources for human cargo. 
A significant number of these enslaved are young teenagers between 13 and 15 years old who originate from poverty-stricken communities, and who are lured into the dark world of slavery due to false promises of legitimate jobs and a better life in America. What awaits them is an inhuman slave world filled with torture, violence, and threats of death to family members they left behind if they ever attempt to flee their imprisoned ‘cantinas’ – prison-like brothels where they are never allowed to leave. Tragically, sure death awaits those imprisoned into this inferno: they are either murdered, die of drug overdose, or die of disease and infection. 
One of the grave concerns we must ask is How are these individual doomed to enter the awaiting world of human slavery trafficked into the United States from Latin America and crossing our border?
It is apparent that the majority of human cargo entering our borders due so illegally. Though limited data is available, sound reasoning leads us to anticipate that this number is substantial. 
Due to limited border documentation requirements under WHTI policy, particularly for minors traveling, there is substantial concern that human traffickers are currently using this loophole in order to move their young human cargo into the United States from Mexico and Caribbean island-nations. 
The world of human trafficking and slavery is very real. According to author of Free The Slaves, Kevin Bale, there are nearly 27 million people across the world caught in modern-day slavery. The United States Department of State Trafficking In Persons Report (TIP Report) estimates this number to be between 4 million and 27 million individuals. Additionally, the Department of State estimates that there are over 800,000 individuals each year being transported across international borders. And according to their 2005 report titled Facts About Child Sex Tourism, there were over 1 million children exploited by the global commercial sex trade every year. All of these numbers continue to increase. Human trafficking is a dark world without any peer and most organizations involved in human trafficking and slavery are highly sophisticated.
Yet our borders remain relatively unencumbered for children traveling abroad in the Western Hemisphere.
U.S. Passport Requirements For International Travel
For U.S. Citizens, a Federal Statute mandates that any citizen of the U.S. must possess a valid U.S. passport to depart from or enter the U.S. Following is the text of Federal Statute 8 U.S.C. 1185 (b).
(b) Citizens Except as otherwise provided by the President and subject to such limitations and exceptions as the President may authorize and prescribe, it shall be unlawful for any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States unless he bears a valid United States passport.
When WHTI requirements for land and sea became effective on June 1, 2009 exceptions to the Federal Statute passport requirement were allowed. The new regulation states that U.S. citizens and citizens of Canada, Bermuda and Mexico may present a passport or other WHTI-compliant documents when entering or departing the United States at sea or land ports-of-entry from within the Western Hemisphere.
Due to exceptions to the passport requirement, our research has concluded there exists distinct areas of vulnerability at the border for our children.
Fraudulent Documentation
The presentation of fraudulent documents at border points has long existed and is well illustrated in the publication of Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) Land and Sea Final Rule" that was released March 27, 2008 by the Department of Homeland Security. It was reported that CBP officers had intercepted over 129,000 fraudulent documents since January 2005 from individuals trying to cross the border over an approximate 3 ½ year period. This is a substantial number; however, we must ask ourselves how many fraudulent documents were never uncovered and successfully used?
To better demonstrate the severity of this problem we take note of a scenario that occurred several years ago in Texas and was reported by the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services. A women acting as a lay-midwife was charged and convicted with fraudulently filing and obtaining over 3,400 United States birth certificate claims over a ten year period: almost one American birth certificate a day was fraudulently obtained and sold on the black market over a decade by one woman alone. This individual was one of eleven individuals convicted of filing and obtaining false birth certificates that were sold on the black market in Texas during a federal investigation. Of immense concern to us is that WHTI allows a child to cross international borders by land or sea and in lieu of a passport an original or copy of a birth certificate may be presented.
As noted in language of the Federal Statute above, limitations and exceptions do exist. According to CBP passport exceptions exist when traveling with U.S. or Canadian citizen infants and children. Of grave concern are the deficiencies that could be utilized in the cross border unlawful removal by land or sea of at risk children. If traveling by air everyone, even infants require a passport. However, WHTI allows that U.S. and Canadian citizen children “will not require passports for travel by land or sea when the June 1, 2009 rule goes into effect requiring all land and sea travelers to have a passport. Children under the age of 15 will have a blanket exemption from this requirement – although they will be required to present a copy of a birth certificate and, if not traveling with both parents, a consent letter from the other parent(s).”
We are especially concerned about the ability to falsify travel documentation for children. The capability to easily present travel documentation without another parent's consent or to falsify travel documents for children in cases where a passport is not required appears relatively easy. The fact that simply a birth certificate or worse, a “copy” of a birth certificate and a letter of permission with no documentation to verify its validity, is sufficient to cross international borders is a serious security concern. And although it is also recommended that a parent or guardian possess a letter of consent from the absent parent(s) this may or may not be required or requested. We must also consider that there is no way to verify the validity of a parental consent letter.
These concerns should sound an alarm bell directed at courts presiding over child custody cases where there is concern for potential international parental child abduction. Peter Thomas Senese, the co-writer of this report wrote in Chasing The Cyclone, “I know first-hand of several international parental child abduction cases where a false international travel consent letter was either fraudulently produced or never produced by the other parent in order for that abducting parent to depart from Canada into the United States or from the United States into Canada. The court’s orders were not followed, as is the case with all abducting parents. More troubling is the fact that in each of these cases, none of the necessary consent letters were ever checked by either countries border patrol or immigration agencies. This is absurd, particularly when knowing many of these consent to travel letters were not notarized and not original documents. It must be a requirement on both sides of the border for all land and sea travelers regardless of age to use a passport, which is the policy in place for air travel.”
When we consider the growing rate of international abduction here in the U.S. and abroad, there is a very real concern that our borders are used not only as a final destination for an abducting parent or trafficker, but as the launching point for an abductor to travel to their intended final destination. Although most countries recognize that documentation fraud is a severe concern it is clear that the minimization of travel document requirements needed for a minor to travel across our borders enables would-be abductors to criminally abduct a child. For example, if a would-be abductor traveling by land from the U.S. to Canada has in their possession any child’s original or ‘a copy’ of a birth certificate and a falsified consent to travel letter, they have the capability to internationally abduct any child from the U.S.
Realistically, all a potential abductor may need is a copy of a birth certificate. Although it is recommended that children traveling alone or with one parent posses a consent letter from any absent parents this is not a requirement. In reference to the birth certificate requirement, many parents obtain several copies of a child’s birth certificate: it is not as if you are allowed only one copy such as a U.S. Passport. Unquestionably, if all cross-border travel for children of all ages does not include the much more secure and controllable use of a passport, then abducting parents and human traffickers will still be capable of abducting children.
The required travel document for an infant under age one who is traveling by land or sea between the U.S. and Canada is alarming. The CBP states that “If you have not yet received a birth certificate for a U.S. or Canadian citizen infant, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will accept either the birth record issued by the hospital or a letter on hospital letterhead providing details of the birth, including the name of the child, time and place of birth, and parents names. Birth certificates should be used for children over 1 year old.” Once again, the ease of fraudulently creating this type of “document” exists and a child could easily be smuggled across international borders.

Contiguous Countries – Mexico and Canada
Contiguous and adjacent countries seem to allow for the possibility of additional serious security breaches that need to be immediately resolved. While WHTI appears to remedy much of the ability to present fraudulent documentation at the border, it does allow for certain exceptions to the rule.
CBP reports this security vulnerability for children when it states, “U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 16 arriving by land or sea from a contiguous territory may present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.” Contiguous territories are defined as countries sharing a common boundary with the United States. Canada and Mexico are both contiguous to the U.S.
In regards to outgoing cross-border abductions to Mexico (a contiguous country), the U.S. Department of State (DOS) reports “Mexico is the destination country of the greatest number of children abducted from the United States by a parent.” Additionally, “65% of all outgoing international parental abductions from the United States to Hague Convention countries are to Mexico, and that 41% of all incoming international parental abductions to the United States are from Mexico.” It is also important to note that according to the DOS, “Since March 1, 2010, all U.S. citizens – including children – have been required to present a valid passport or passport card for travel beyond the “border zone” into the interior of Mexico. The “border zone” is generally defined as an area within 20 to 30 kilometers of the border with the U.S., depending on the location.” Concerns arise when you consider that entry into Mexico is allowed without a passport if a representation is made that you intend to remain within the designated “border zone”.
Although Mexico acceded to The Hague Convention on June 20, 1991 and entered into force with the U.S. on October 1, 1991, Mexico has consistently been labeled non-compliant with the Convention. The 2010 Hague Compliance Report states that for fiscal year 2009 there were 474 children involved in new outgoing (from the U.S. to Mexico) Hague applications. The 2009 Hague Compliance Report states there were 533 children abducted to Mexico, representing a 67% increase of reported abduction cases from 2007 (320 cases). The ‘reported’ cases do not include the immeasurable anticipated ‘unreported’ cases of parental child abduction occurring between the United States and Mexico previously discussed in Crisis In America: International Parental Child Abduction Today (2010). Mexico’s non-compliance with the Hague Convention is unquestionably appalling; however, the suffering and danger that must be endured by the thousands of abducted U.S. child-citizens stolen from their American homes to Mexico, nor the pain of their chasing parents left behind in the wake of the criminal act of child-stealing will never be fully understood by others unless it is experienced first-hand.
More insight should perhaps be shared on Mexico’s decade-long atrocities against children and their consistent and ongoing failures to follow international laws pertaining to the world’s children and their safety. The U.S. Department of State’s annual compliance report has documented Mexico’s history of non-compliance over the past decade. A Texas courts made a landmark decision when it went so far to find Mexico's legal system ineffective and lacking legal mechanisms for the immediate and effective enforcement of child custody orders. The court stated that Mexico posed a risk to children's physical health and safety due to human rights violations committed against children, including child labor and a lack of child abduction laws. This ruling was not rendered without insight and reason: in fact the U.S. Department of State, who has consistently posted travel warnings to U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico, recently issued a warning to authorize the departure of children dependents of U.S. government personnel in U.S. consulates and offer financial assistance to relocating families.
Nearly every year since The Hague Compliance Report was ordered to be prepared for Congress the DOS has sited that one of the gravest challenges in having a U.S. child-citizen stolen to Mexico is Mexico’s inability to locate abducted children. This problem remains severe today despite Mexico’s Central Authority claims that there has been slight improvement. Maura Harty, Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs for the U.S. Department of State previously commented, “Among the underlying causes of Mexico's poor performance overall under the Hague Convention appear to be a woefully understaffed and underfunded Central Authority in the Foreign Ministry; a judiciary unfamiliar with, and not infrequently hostile to, the Convention; and law enforcement and court authorities unable to locate children even in cases in which we and the left-behind parents can provide exact addresses. In general, Mexico has only partially implemented the Hague Abduction Convention into its legal, administrative and law enforcement systems."
Our concern regarding Mexico is magnified due to this nation's poor record to stop human slavery.
In a written statement made in the U.S. Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report in June 2009, "Mexico is a large source, transit, and destination country for persons trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Groups considered most vulnerable to human trafficking in Mexico include women and children, indigenous persons, and undocumented migrants. A significant number of Mexican women, girls, and boys are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, lured by false job offers from poor rural regions to urban, border, and tourist areas. According to the government, more than 20,000 Mexican children are victims of sex trafficking every year, especially in tourist and border areas."
Additionally, Anne Keehn, the 2010 Zimmerman Fellow recipient of the world renown human rights and anti-slavery advocacy group 'Free the Slaves' recently stated, “Unfortunately, [Mexico's President] Calderón’s attack on drug cartels has left few resources to combat human trafficking. Mexico has tried to address the issue through legal changes to combat trafficking as recently as 2007, when ‘federal legislation to prohibit all forms of drug trafficking’ was passed. Nonetheless, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking of Persons Report 2010, ‘some local officials tolerate and are sometimes complicit in trafficking, impeding the implementation of anti-trafficking statutes.’”
Due to the overall consensus of the significant dangers related to child abduction, exit controls for U.S. citizens departing the U.S. through all modes of travel need to be immediately implemented. If passports were required for all travelers to travel abroad, it is reasonable to believe there would be a significant reduction in the number of international parental child abductions and children missing due to human trafficking.
Under the present travel requirements, children in specific circumstances may be transported across borders without a passport. We believe this security deficiency has allowed hundreds if not thousands of defenseless children to be transported out of the country.
Due to the circumstances stated above and further disturbing information provided in this report, it is imperative that we attempt to hinder the possibility of illegal passage of children into Mexico due to the non-compliance exhibited in areas of law enforcement and judicial performance and the myriad of difficulties encountered in regards to a return application.

International Child Abduction Statistics
We must also consider the incoming cases of children that are consistently illegally transported into the U.S. The 2010 Hague Compliance Report indicates that 75 new Hague return applications were filed that represent 120 children that crossed from Mexico into the U.S. in violation of law. One can surmise that the security vulnerability that exists for outgoing cases could also be utilized in the illegal transport of children in incoming cases.
Cross-border abductions between the U.S. and Canada (a contiguous country) are also reported in the 2010 Hague Compliance Report. It indicates that there were 74 new outgoing cases involving 104 children and 29 new incoming cases representing 39 children. These are only cases in which a Hague application was filed and it should be noted that the number of Hague applications in no way accurately represents the actual number of children abducted in either incoming or outgoing cases. In statistical data compiled by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police there were over 60,000 children reported missing annually from Canada each study year between 1998 and 2007.
Within the U.S. the most recent National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-2), reports that of the 203,900 children that are estimated to be parentally abducted annually in the U.S. that only 28% (56,500) of these abductions were reported to law enforcement. Additionally, the NISMART 2 statistical data is certainly outdated as it was compiled with information from cases studied that were concentrated in 1999. These facts lead us to surmise that we have an incalculable number of children abducted annually.

Adjacent Island-Nations
Currently, according to CBP "closed loop" travel to adjacent islands allows for the same documentary exceptions under WHTI, as do contiguous countries.  Specifically, "Travelers on "closed loop" voyages are NOT subject to the same documentary requirements for entry to the United States as other travelers."
The CBP website indicates at least thirty-seven countries currently meet this definition. Adjacent islands are defined by statutes and regulation, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act § 101(b)(5) and 8 Code of Federal Regulations §286.1. CBP reports that adjacent islands to the U.S. are: “Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonfire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galantine, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.”
As previously discussed, the 2010 Hague Compliance Report reflected during FY 2009 there were 1,621 children for whom a Hague application was filed.  Alarmingly, 833 of these children were victims whose cross border abduction was into or out of a country that is considered either contiguous or adjacent to the U.S.  The report indicates that 652 children were taken OUT of the U.S. and into contiguous or adjacent countries. An additional 181 children were brought INTO the U.S. from contiguous or adjacent countries who are Hague treaty partners. The annual Hague Compliance Report does not indicate how many children are abducted into the U.S. from countries that are not Hague Treaty partners. We believe that the available data indicates a substantial security breach exists due to a lack of uniformity in documentary requirements while crossing international borders within the Western Hemisphere.

The opportunity for trafficking of children in the Caribbean is substantial. As Anthony M. Davis, the former U.S. Coast Guard Officer and the best-selling author of ‘Terrorism and Maritime Transportation System’ shared, “There's significant potential for illegal cross-border travel off the shores of Puerto Rico and other U.S. island territories. Generally, there is a consistent flow of people on small, low vessels called ‘Yolas’. During my Coast Guard time I saw many of the boats involved with illegal travel were from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico’s west coast. However, there also exists a substantial number of boats traveling from Puerto Rico to other island-nations. While Coast Guard and other assets look for these hard-to-spot vessels, they typically search for those heading toward Puerto Rico, not leaving it. In many cases of incoming vessels, it was common to have undocumented women and children of all ages traveling on these boats.
“Due to the close proximity of many of the island-nations to U.S. territory including Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. John, there’s a substantial opportunity for parents and traffickers to criminally remove a child from the United States across international borders to carry out an illegal act.  The reasons:  difficulties related to logistics in inspection and documentation requirements.  Unquestionably, illegal inter-island travel originating from a U.S. territory to another Caribbean island nation is a serious matter, one easily capitalized on by individuals involved in crimes against children. In order to prevent individuals who seek to capitalize on our exit controls in U.S. island territories, it is important for the courts to recognize the relative ease of illegal travel connected to the Caribbean.”

Sea Travel Closed-Loop Voyages
We are also very concerned that the documentary requirements for a “closed loop” cruise ship or other water vessel’s voyage or itinerary to contiguous countries or adjacent islands allows travelers to be exempt from the documentary requirements necessary for other types of travel. The CBP defines “closed loop” as occurring when “a vessel departs from a U.S. port or place and returns to the same U.S. port upon completion of the voyage. U.S. citizens who board a cruise ship at a port within the United States, travel only within the Western Hemisphere, and return to the same U.S. port on the same ship may present a government issued photo identification, along with proof of citizenship (an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Naturalization). A U.S. citizen under the age of 16 will be able to present either an original or a copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by DOS, or a Certificate of Naturalization issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”
Travel requirements for children traveling at sea are quite alarming. The porous documentation controls in place due to the WHTI facilitate child abduction opportunity at sea in unthinkable ways. For example, there are certain cruise ships that have ports of call in other countries that cater specifically to children. These cruise ships hold over 5,000 passengers and typically have weekly departures. With thousands of children boarding one of these cruise ships, we acknowledge it is clear there is substantial opportunity for a parental or non-parental child abduction to occur.
In a likely scenario for cruise ship related international parental child abduction or child trafficking, an individual could presumably board a cruise ship with a targeted child with limited or fraudulent documentation for the child, travel to WHTI designated foreign ports, disembark with the child at a port of call and simply choose not to re-board the ship, effectively circumventing the necessity of a passport which is required for other types of travel.
The potential to illegally remove a child across international borders via cruise ship travel is substantially magnified because currently there are nosystematic data base controls and other security measures that would prevent a child's illegal departure from the United States. Exemplifying this grave concern are direct statements made from the security departments of two of the world's largest cruise lines operators. In statements made by both companies, neither have a security database that would enable a parent nor a court of law to place a child's name on a 'no embarkment' list due to specified court order. So even if a court order is issued that either directly names the cruise ship company as part of the action or if the court order references the cruise ship company to prohibit a child's departure but does not list the cruise ship as part of the legal action, the cruise ship companies have nothing in place that would enable them to comply with the court order.
When representatives in the security departments of both cruise ship companies were asked what could be done with a court order prohibiting a child's departure, each spokesperson suggested that if the targeted parent knew what cruise ship and departure date their child was scheduled to travel on, then it would be up to the parent to contact local law enforcement.
Obviously, the ability for a single parent trying to protect their child's abduction to run from cruise ship port to cruise ship port hoping to determine if their child is traveling on one of the ships is more than daunting and unrealistic, particularly since the vast majority of international child abductions are well planned, and cleverly orchestrated.
In a time of increased international security concerns, it is inconceivable that the only type of data bases most cruise ship operators have in place is a data base that flags previous passengers from traveling on their fleet due to past conduct on board one of their ships.
Remarkably, there is no systematic check to determine if a child’s name has been placed on any law enforcement or government travel alert lists. However, if a U.S. passport was required and the U.S. passport was scanned, then a border patrol agent would have immediate access to potentially critical information regarding the safety of the child. We call upon the cruise ships to act responsibly by establishing security procedures including a 'no-embarkment' database that would assist in the prevention of international parental child abduction and human trafficking.
When we consider there are approximately 760 cruises scheduled to depart from the U.S. and travel in a ‘closed loop’ to the Caribbean during fiscal year 2011, this becomes very concerning. Our worry increases after we consider there are 47 "closed loop" cruises scheduled to depart the U.S. to Canada during the same period. And finally, our concern surges when we realize that there are 379 cruises scheduled to depart the U.S. and travel in a "closed loop" to Mexico.
As previously discussed in this report, Mexico is a hotbed for ‘reported’ and ‘unreported’ incoming and outgoing international parental child abduction cases.  A substantial number of U.S. parents have filed a Hague application due to the criminal international abduction of their child or children.  Unfortunately, very few abducted children return to the U.S. despite court orders demanding the child’s return.  These opinions are substantially backed by the U.S. Department of State, as Mexico has repeatedly been reported to Congress as a non-compliant member of the Hague Convention. In addition, Mexico’s record as a country known for its criminal activity of human trafficking is substantial.
We express our grave concern that cruise ships may be utilized to transport children illegally to and from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada as well island nations of the Caribbean.
It is inconceivable that U.S. children are still permitted to travel to specific foreign countries in accordance with the WHTI without a passport.  Today, nearly 30% of all U.S. citizens possess a passport. As that number continues to grow substantially each year it is unthinkable not to require a passport for a child to travel abroad.  In 2011 cruise ships are scheduled to originate from the U.S and travel to 63 ports of call in Mexico, 48 ports in the Caribbean, and from 20 ports of call in Canada. We contend that a failure to require children to present a passport for all international travel is an act of misguided negligence.

Closed-Loop Foreign Destination        Number of Cruises       Number of Ports
Caribbean                                              760                                63
Canada                                                  43                                  20
Mexico                                                  379                                48

The CBP does state that a U.S. Citizen “may” be required to present a U.S. passport if disembarking at a foreign port but that this requirement is up to the individual ports-of-entry. We must also consider that smaller personal watercrafts traveling to foreign ports under a “closed-loop” journey offer distinct opportunity for child abductors and human traffickers to circumvent our nation’s laws or court orders. The lack of formidable travel documentation for cruise ship or other water vessel excursions originating from and returning to the United States is a black hole for would-be child abductors or traffickers.
The fact that cruise ships are being utilized in human trafficking is not unrecognized within the U.S. or in other countries. The following statements come directly from a human rights watchdog organization in Belize.
The Belize Organization for Responsible Tourism (ORT) issues this appeal to cruise lines bringing passengers to Belize, a superhighway for human trafficking. “We are asking for your help in stopping human trafficking in Belize. In particular, we appeal to Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines, which bring a combined 700, 000 tourists to Belize annually. 
Cruise lines have a moral responsibility to help stop human trafficking in Belize. Each year thousands of human trafficking victims are transited through Belize via its porous and corrupt borders. Many are exported to other countries and never seen again by their families. Many endure lives of forced prostitution in Belize ficha bars.”
As these serious challenges come to light, we need to create a comprehensive short-term and long-term strategy that will prevent child abduction and human trafficking from occurring due to limited WHTI child travel documentation requirements for land and sea travel. There remains a significant amount of work necessary to enhance border security so that current weaknesses will no longer be available to be exploited. Our children must become a priority and the risk of abduction and human trafficking be lessened through mandating legitimate and uniform travel documentation.
The issues of child abduction and child slavery have received relatively limited public exposure. There has been limited government reaction directed toward changing public policy, government agency operations and protocol, and reform of laws that may facilitate or enable international abduction. It is important to recognize that over the past two years there have been over 1,000 ‘reported’ cases of U.S. child citizens being criminally abducted to Mexico and untold numbers of unreported cases. Imagine how our nation would act if:
1.     25 school buses containing 40 defenseless 5th grader American students disappeared in Mexico; or,
2.     4 Boeing 757 passenger jets containing 250 middle school children each was hijacked; or,
3.     A cruise ship with 1,000 high school students on a spring break trip was pirated off of Mexico’s borders; or,
4.     A train traveling with 1,000 students and their teachers was hijacked.
Undoubtedly, there would be public outcry and reform at every level. However, our public and government concern has not reached levels that it should. The many voices of this unthinkable crime tend to be diluted due to the singular reporting methodology. It is imperative that immediate revisions in law and government policy be initiated including reform of the WHTI land and sea travel requirements for minors.

U.S. Passport Concerns and Statistics
International parental child abduction and human trafficking are extraordinary issues where there is no such thing as ‘collateral damage’. In the past, certain legislators have expressed concern that possession of a passport as a requirement to travel by either ground or sea to our neighboring countries would have a direct impact on commercial trade.  One additional concern expressed by some of our policymakers is the requirement for a passport for all travel may be an expensive proposition for the average American family, particularly since a child’s passport alone costs over $80.00. The cruise ship industry, with many of its fleet of ships bearing the flags of nations other than the United States, has petitioned against the use of passports for ‘closed loop’ travel since the conception of the WHTI.  Obviously, the industry is concerned that the additional cost associated with a passenger having to obtain a passport may cause a potential traveling customer to view a cruise as too costly.
However, statistics for new passport issuances effectively dispute these claims.
According to Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty, “there were over 60 million U.S. citizens who had a valid passport in 2005.” Further research shows substantial increase in the number of U.S. Passports issued since 2005. They include:
1.              2006: 12,133,537 new passports; and,
2.              2007: 18,382,798 new passports; and,
3.              2008: 16,208,003 new passports; and,
4.              2009: 13,486,000 new passports.
Thus, there were over 60 million new passports issued during the past four years, excluding the number of passports presently issued during FY 2010. Unquestionably, we have become a passport-friendly society. We contend that a previous position that a passport requirement results in financial disadvantages to commerce are inaccurate, clearly outdated, and are misguided.
Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty, a proponent of harmonized passport travel stated, “For increased security and increased document integrity . . . State and DHS together rarely, singly or together, visit with a foreign entity without touching that very point, that the better and more secure documents are, the better and more easy it is to facilitate legitimate travel by legitimate travelers.”
Admittedly, passport requirements for all children traveling internationally under all circumstances will result in increased cost to the potential international traveler.  However, this additional level of security will help ensure the safety of all children. Furthermore, the heavy financial burden associated with the recovery of criminally abducted or trafficked children should be paramount to any economic conversation.
Unequivocally, we take the position that a passport requirement for international travel can potentially protect thousands of our nation’s innocent children from the cruel fate of international abduction or from entering into the infernos of human slavery. Our U.S. child-citizens are entitled to the fundamental rights of freedom, justice and liberty and we must protect them.
We recommend that the documentary requirements implemented for air travel in Phase One of WHTI be the same requirements necessary for cross-border land and sea travel. In the interest of the safety of all children, we request that there be no exceptions to the passport mandate for contiguous countries, adjacent countries or "closed loop" voyages. Specifically, that all children, regardless of age must posses a passport for any cross-border travel. Harmonization of the documentary requirements for all modes of travel and at all international borders will help us achieve a reduction in the heinous crimes of child abduction and human trafficking.

Recommendations And Strategies 
We hope that this report will educate victim parents, legal professionals, and members of the judiciary about an assortment of viable exit strategies that would-be abductors and traffickers can capitalize on in order to commit crimes against our and other nation’s children. Child abduction prevention strategies are critical and must include efforts to prohibit a child’s potential travel to or around our neighboring countries by land or sea, including specific court ordered prohibition for cruise ship travel by any at-risk child who may fall prey to a would-be abductor. 
Notwithstanding the vital need to raise awareness of the issues presented herein, we urge that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is immediately and urgently amended to include mandating that all international travel of any kind, including all travel for children, require a valid passport. By establishing all citizens to present a valid passport at a border crossing, the opportunity to reduce criminal activity as it is related to illegal border travel is substantial. If we are to close the existing loopholes that present child abductors and human traffickers the substantial opportunity to capitalize on the weak travel document requirement protocols presently in place under WHTI, the most effective and efficient way to do so is to establish an all-passport travel requirement for all international travel.
We recognize there must also be high priority short-term protocols implemented that will reduce the possibility of child abductions related to WHTI travel document requirement loopholes while moving to an all-passport travel requirement policy. Court-ordered prevention orders are critical to reduce child abduction threats; however, we acknowledge that under present WHTI travel requirements the use of documentation fraud is a strong reality. In addition, due to the limited existence of databases capable of flagging a child traveling under the present minimum travel documentation requirements established for children under WHTI and who are potential targets for abduction, we call for the implementation of substantially more training of CBP officers and for thorough security travel documentation checks for all children traveling abroad without a valid passport until such time that the desperately needed passport requirement is harmonized for all individuals regardless of age traveling abroad. 
Pamela Michell, the founder of Survivor On A Mission and Heroes In Training stated, “As an advocate and survivor of human trafficking, I realize first-hand all types of abduction and abuse are widely unreported. Despite the spirit of the WHTI, international parental child abduction and trafficking of human cargo are rapidly increasing. An unacceptable and minuscule percentage of children and adults are ever recovered. Any loopholes in legal flaws in travel documentation requirements for international travel that may allow monsters to prey on others must immediately be changed. In the case of WHTI’s expansive flaws, we are not simply speaking about several isolated cases of targeted abduction, but of many thousands of at-risk children who could potentially fall into a dark world no words could ever possibly express. I call upon our political and governmental leaders to modify these laws in order to protect our children.”

If you believe your child is at risk of international abduction by their other parent, it is critical you immediately seek the assistance from the court overseeing your child’s welfare in order to obtain court-ordered abduction prevention orders issued by the court against the other parent. In initiating any urgent action, we strongly advise you seek the assistance of a lawyer familiar with both family court law and child abduction prevention strategies. We have provided a list of websites below that offer an array of prevention techniques and additional useful information that should be considered by you and your lawyer before you go into court. However, we also urge you to bring to the court’s attention potential exit strategies an abducting parent may attempt to capitalize on that are discussed specifically in this report, as the information we have exposed regarding land and sea exit options abductors may seek to capitalize on under the WHTI have, at the time of this report, have not been widely discussed until now.

It is not necessary to have a custody order for law enforcement to assist in the recovery of your child and any subsequent criminal proceedings. However, a custody order is often critical in recovery efforts if the other parent has abducted your child. A well-executed custody determination will establish the guidelines and protocols once your child is recovered. You must immediately seek civil remedies by going to court and obtaining a custody order and other civil relief that you may be entitled to. 

If you believe the illegal removal of your child across international borders is in progress, we suggest you immediately and simultaneously, follow the action list below. 

  1. 1. Immediately file a report with local law enforcement. Request local law enforcement to contact the FBI and enter information about your child in to the National Crime Information Center – Missing Person File (NCIC-MPF).

NOTE: The Adam Walsh Act and the PROTECT Act of 2003 (Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today) require every local, state and federal law enforcement agency to report missing children, under 21 years of age, to NCIC within two hours of receiving the report. We advise that two hours after the report is made that you confirm the entry of your child into the NCIC system.

  1. 2. Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)– Missing Child Division (MCD) at 1-888-24-NCMEC or 1-888-246-2632. Their website is:

  1. 3. Urge the law enforcement agencies involved to contact the United States National Central Bureau (USNCB)-INTERPOL. This agency serves law enforcement only (not parents), so requesting INTERPOL involvement must come directly from law enforcement.

  1. 4. Critically, contact the Office Of Children's Issues at the U.S. Department of State at 202-736-9090 Monday-Friday and at 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
    1-888-407-4747 after hours, weekends or holidays. Their website is as follows: 

  1. 5. Request that local law enforcement immediately begin a missing persons investigation under The Missing Children's Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C., 5780 (3)(B), (C).

  1. 6. Contact the Missing Child Clearinghouse for your state (every state has one).

  1. 7. Contact NCMEC's Team HOPE (Hope Offering Parents Empowerment), which matches searching families with trained volunteers at 866-305-4673. Their website is:

  1. 8. For serious health and welfare concerns for a child, on occasion, the International Social Services, United States of America Branch, Inc, may be of assistance. Their phone number is 443-451-1200. Their website is:
As parents and activists we have directly and indirectly experienced the myriad of issues involving the tragedy of international child abduction and the difficulties in preventing it from occurring. We are committed to focusing our efforts on uncovering the deficiencies that currently exist that continue to make international child abduction an all too common occurrence. In coming forward, we encourage everyone involved with protecting the welfare of at-risk children, including parents, members of the judiciary, policymakers, and members of law enforcement to recognize the existing risks we have shed light on, and to do whatever is necessary to protect our nation’s children in conjunction with the laws of each child’s state as well as existing federal legislation. As a parent, it is imperative that you ensure your legal counsel and family court personnel are well informed as to the risks that exist in your particular case. For more information on international child abduction and prevention, we suggest you visit the following websites:

  1. 1. The United States Department of State ( [The Official website of The Office Of Children’s Issues offers substantial information regarding IPCA].
  2. 2. National Center For Missing and Exploited Children ( [The Official website of NCMEC offers vast information on missing children and child abduction]
  3. 3. Amber Watch Foundation ( [Provide educational programs and innovative technologies that proactively and preemptively protect children against abduction, predators, and the dangers of the digital world]
  4. 4. Chasing The Cyclone ( [The Official website of Peter Thomas Senese’s Chasing The Cyclone provides a wealth of information on IPCA, including over 3 hours of educational documentary film footage].
  5. 5. The Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA) (The Official website is:
  6. 6. Team HOPE ( [Hope Offering Parents Empowerment official website: you will be matched with a trained volunteer). 
We remain optimistic and hopeful that together we can raise awareness in order to create the changes necessary to better protect all children. We offer the following recommendations to educate and enlighten those whose duty and responsibility it is to protect our most treasured and vulnerable asset, our children.
It is critical that parents, lawyers, judges, policymakers, law enforcement, and all other individuals who are intricately involved in the welfare of our nation’s children who are at risk of international abduction to carefully consider the information we have provided in this report when implementing or overseeing policy or direction on behalf of an at-risk child. Failure to do so will lead to additional cross-border abductions.
If a policy is implemented where all foreign travel by U.S. adult and child citizens, requires the traveler to present a U.S. passport, we believe we will see a dramatic reduction in the total number of ‘reported’ and anticipated ‘unreported’ cases of international parental child abduction.  We would also anticipate a substantial reduction in the number of human trafficking cases passing through our borders as well.  
Protecting one child’s life from the fate of international abduction or human slavery is reason alone to seek the changes recommended above.  However, with thousands of potential child victims each year at risk, the necessity of protecting our borders is critically urgent. We must act now to change current WHTI travel documentation policy.

About the Authors:
Carolyn Ann Vlk is a child abduction prevention advocate who drafted the landmark State of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ that will be enacted on January 1st, 2011. Ms. Vlk was highly influential in raising the public’s awareness on the little-known, highly effective child abduction prevention federal program titled the ‘Prevent Departure Program’. Carolyn is also a writer/producer of the highly educational documentary film series titled ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction’, and, is the author of numerous essays and studies on parental child abduction, including the groundbreaking report titled ‘Crisis in America: International Parental Child Abduction Today’ (2010). Carolynis the co-author of the highly informative, extensively researched book on IPCA titled 'The World Turned Upside Down'Carolyn is dedicated to assisting parents and their children who are targets of international child abduction, and is committed to bringing about positive reform and change in law and government protocol that has been established to aid at-risk children. Ms. Vlk is a supporter of The Hague Convention, The Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues, and the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA). Carolyn is a loving and dedicated mother to her children, and fought rigorously to protect her own child who was a target for potential abduction that she went so far as to draft legislation that has now become new law in her home state of Florida. To contact Carolyn Ann Vlk, please e-mail her at
Peter Thomas Senese is a child abduction prevention advocate and a successful chasing parent in accordance to the rules of international parental child abduction law established under the Hague Convention. Peter advocated for the passage of the State of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ (CAPA) that will be enacted on January 1st, 2011. In addition, he contributed to raising public awareness on the previously widely underutilized federal child abduction prevention program; specifically, the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ (PDP) that is now more commonly implemented in aiding targeted parents and their child from abduction in certain case scenarios. Peter is the creator/writer/producer of the educational documentary film series ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms Of International Parental Child Abduction’, a best-selling author whose upcoming world-wide book release that focuses on international child abduction titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ has been critically acclaimed as a call-to-arms against child abduction. Peter is the co-author of the highly informative, extensively researched book on IPCA titled 'The World Turned Upside Down'. In addition, Peter is the writer of an extensive number of influential articles and essays pertaining to IPCA. He has created and oversees a comprehensive website dedicated to child abduction prevention and good parenting ( where numerous essays and may be found, including the eye-opening report ‘Crisis In America: International Parental Child Abduction Today’ Peter co-authored with Ms. Carolyn Vlk. Dedicated to bringing about new child abduction prevention laws while creating dialogs that may reform certain government programs and protocols so that they may better serve targeted children and their parents, Peter Senese is a strong supporter of The Hague Convention and The Department of State’s Office Of Children’s Issues. Paramount to all things, Peter is a loving father deeply dedicated to raising his young son. To contact Peter Thomas Senese, please e-mail him or at