Thursday, March 11, 2010

Florida Lawmakers, Authors and Children’s Advocates Urge Florida Legislature to Pass Child Abduction Prevention Act.

Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel and House Representative Darryl Rouson, along with authors and children advocates Peter Thomas Senese, Ken Connelly, Carolyn Ann Vlk, Bryan Lee McGlothin, Larry Synclair, and Charles Hamilton urge all Florida legislators to support the Child Abduction Prevention Act now before Florida’s Senate and House.

Peter Thomas Senese, author of Chasing The Cyclone stated “Any child or parent who has faced domestic or international parental child abduction knows the severity of this crime against an innocent child is a dangerous infraction against the child’s physical safety and emotional stability. Unfortunately, there still exists a wrong perception that this worldwide epidemic falls in the realm of a civil custody dispute rather than the criminal act against innocence that it is. For the growing number of parents who are unexpectedly thrust into the storms of having a child abducted, these parents know without question that their child’s safety is potentially at risk, that child abduction is not a civil matter, and the lack of legal remedy, including preventative laws all children have a right to, are poor at best. Each state, including Florida, must adopt strong preventive laws in the name of the best interest of their children-citizens.”

A staggering 370,000 children are parentally child abducted on average every year in the United States. Yet few states have abduction preventive laws in place.

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

Senator Eleanor Sobel commented that “I am pleased with the unanimous and bipartisan support that the Child Abduction Prevention Act received in the Senate. This law will help prevent children from the agony of being abducted from Florida by adding risk factors for the judge to consider and arming that judge with the increased preventative measures.”

Florida’s House of Representatives is expected in the near future.

The bill was filed by children’s advocate Representative Daryl Rouson and has been referred to Florida ’s House of Representatives Public Safety and Domestic Security Policy Committee. Presently, this committee's chairman, Representative Kevin Ambler, has expressed concern in the bill’s language that includes the psychological stability and risk factors associated with a parent who is considered paranoid, delusional or sociopathic despite these factors being well recognized risks associated with potential parental child abductors. Supporting these risks as factors that must be considered are a host of government agencies and children advocacies groups. If the bill passes the House’s Public Safety and Domestic Security Policy Committee, it will then move on to the Policy Council and then to the Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council.

Florida Senate’s SB1862 and Florida’s House of Representatives adjoining bill (HB787), if passed, will amend Florida Statute §61.45 by adding certain risk factors of child abduction and provides a list of preventative measures a judge may use to prevent these abductions from occurring. Inclusion of these provisions will strengthen Florida’s week law and bring it into conformity with the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UPACA), which has been enacted by ten states.

In 2002, the Synclair-Cannon Child Abduction Prevention Act was passed into law in California after Larry Synclair and Josef Cannon each had their children stolen and taken overseas by their mothers. Texas was the next state to pass legislation known as the Texas Prevention Act. Seven additional States have signed into law similar laws preventing and protecting children.
Through the dynamic efforts of Ms. Carolyn Ann Vlk, a mother desperately trying to protect her own child from the cruel fate of being internationally parentally abducted, Florida today has a real opportunity to protect its own children by passing their Child Abduction Prevention Act.

At stake is the welfare of tens of thousands of children in the state.

The proposed bill was filed this session (2010) as SB 1862 by Senator Eleanor Sobel, and, by Representative Darryl Rouson in the House of Representatives under HB787.

Representative Rouson stated “I am horrified that child abductions by family members are occurring at such a high rate. This legislation gives judges more discretion and the ability to fight family child abductions so our children remain safe. We can prevent these abductions.”

The children’s advocates, all with deep experience in child abduction matters, believe it is critically important for the citizens of Florida to contact their local representatives and urge them to pass the Child Abduction Prevention Act.

In a statement made before the Senate committee, Ms. Vlk stated, "I appear before you as not only a parent of an at risk child but as the voice of the thousands of families affected each year by the heart wrenching tragedy of child abduction. I implore you to please carefully consider what we are attempting to implement. In my humble opinion the biggest obstacle we face is a lack of education across the board . . . parents, judges, family court personnel, and policy makers. This deficiency has served to empower potential abductors and compromises the safety of children. Without risk assessment in determining where a credible risk exists, decisions are made that could place a child in unnecessary danger. Parental child abduction is a national tragedy and an immediate remedy is necessary. Please join us in our efforts to protect our most vulnerable members of society - our children."

Peter Thomas Senese, the author of Chasing The Cyclone, and, producer of the documentary film titled Chasing Parents: Racing Into the Storms of International Parental Child Abduction added, “It is critically important for the State of Florida to pass this imperative legislation in the name of not only the children of Florida, but by doing so, the actions of the state’s policymakers will provide much greater guidance for other states. This opportunity to demonstrate leadership in the area of education and prevention is now in Florida’s hands. Additionally, it is imperative that education associated with domestic and international parental child abduction continues to increase. Today, one of my great concerns is the lack of cooperation from countries around the world who are willing to issue passports to their adult citizens living abroad on behalf of that individual’s child despite court orders from a court who maintains jurisdiction of the child not to do so in cases of abduction risk. For example, if one parent of a child living in the United States has citizenship to another country, that parent can obtain a passport from their country of origin for their child, usually without consent by the other parent. When this happens, the risk of international parental child abduction increases exponentially. This is why it is critical for parents concerned about international parental child abduction to register the name of the concerned non-U.S. citizen other parent with the Prevent Departure Program. However, many parents at risk of having their child abducted are not even aware that this program exists. So in the end it all comes down to prevention and education. Florida's lawmakers have an opportunity to make a big difference in the name of children. Having personally chased into the cyclones of abduction, I urge Florida’s lawmakers to pass this bill.”

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

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

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

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

For more information on parental child abduction please visit

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