By virtue of their efforts, this remarkable team has created many miracles demonstrated by the significant decline of reported outbound American child-citizen abduction cases over the past two fiscal reporting years (2011 and 2012) while parental kidnappings in countries around the world continue to soar.
As the summer months of international parental child abduction is now upon us, we hope the sound work of OCI continues to educate targeted parents about the warning signs of abduction so children may be protected from abduction.
|Peter Thomas Senese's|
CHASING THE CYCLONE
In the near future, I will be sharing a more detailed retrospective, including coverage in the documentary film 150,000 Internationally Abducted Children now in production concerning the Office of Children's Issues and this dedicated team, many mothers and fathers themselves, who work tirelessly fighting child abduction under the legal guidelines established by the United States Congress when our government acceded to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Within Congressional guidelines, OCI diligently works to assist American citizens either protect their targeted children from outbound abduction, or provide help in a chasing parent's quest to find and reunite with their abducted child who was illegally kidnapped from the United States. Equally, individuals working at the Office of Children's Issues try to assist chasing parents who have had their child abducted to the United States.
In its role as the United States' Central Authority with respect to the Hague Abduction Convention, the Office Of Children's Issues is responsible for taking certain action as outlined by Congress in cases involving international child abduction. OCI also provides information in response to inquiries about international child abduction, visitation rights and abduction prevention techniques. Like other Central Authorities around the world, it's responsible for working closely with other agencies and Central Authorities to ensure the speedy return of children under the Hague Convention.
The Office of Children's Issues and the broader U.S. State Department has received sustained criticism by parents of children abducted to and from the United States and the lawyers who represent them for failing to treat international child abduction as a human rights issue rather than a diplomatic irritant, and taking a non-partisan, impartial role rather than effectively advocating for victimized parents and abducted children.
I CARE Foundation
has assisted numerous families.
This said, we must be mindful of the authority Congress vested in the Office of Children's Issues when it became a signatory of the Hague Convention. The reality is an organization is as only as good as their governing guidelines and resources that are made available to them. So despite their limited operational reach and resources as dictated by Congress, the fact is the individuals who work in the Office of Children's Issues happen to be some of the most dedicated and concerned stakeholders in the world who work in the never-ending storms known as international parental child abduction.
As a group of individuals with direct first-hand insight at being on the front-line in the war against child abduction, the I CARE Foundation recognizes the incredible tasks all individuals working with the Office of Children's Issues face.
Truth is, when you deal each and every day with international child abduction: trying to assist children and families of internationally kidnapped children while having limited means to do so; and, while you try to comfort the targeted parent who is emotionally and often financially overwhelmed at the abduction of their child; and, while you try to manage the large case load you are tasked to oversee because Congress has limited the resources the Office has been given; and, while you see what appears to be an unending parade of abduction cases (inbound and outbound) come through your door, there is no question that abduction pulls out you.
Reality is that the individuals who dedicate their lives trying to aid families in crisis of abduction know heartbreak. Sometimes, they succeed in assisting a family. Sadly, sometimes, they do not. Unfortunately, fighting abduction is very complicated.
However, despite the limited resources made available to them, the Office of Children's Issues has been making one heck of an impact as demonstrated by hard statistics.
Due to the significant decline in outbound U.S. international parental child abduction cases that the Office of Children's Issues is a key stakeholder in, combined with a general, though limited increase of abduction return cases (see 'Extreme Difficulties In Returning Internationally Abducted Children'), I speak for the I CARE Foundation when I say OCI is made up of many heroes of children.
This past December, 2012 the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 543, condemning international parental child abduction. The resolution was a powerful statement concerning the reality of abduction. In it's passage, we can hope that OCI will receive more funding and broader power to further assist children and their families of abduction.
Reported Cases Of Outbound Child Abductions From The United States Declines: Contradicts Global Trend For Second Year In A Row
Impressively, the Office of Children's Issues abduction prevention outreach has done something that apparently no other country in the world has accomplished: as international parental child abduction continues to soar around the world, with abduction rates surpassing anywhere from 10% to over 80% per year based upon countries reporting abduction (note: Canada has stopped reporting abduction since 2008), the reported outbound cases of American child abduction has declined by over 15% per year during fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
This is nothing short of a Herculean effort that has created miracles for a large number of families. When considering that primarily due to a large number of anticipated unreported cases of outbound child abductions from the United States associated with the slightly over 11.1 million unregistered alien residents living in America that has been forcast to represent at least 100% of the reported outbound abduction rate according to several I CARE Foundation published studies, the decline in the outbound abduction rate may represent several thousand children, and that, is nothing short of a miracle.
But let's put this in a clearer light in order to truly understand the remarkable effort by the Office of Children's Issues team.
Using a five year reporting period from 2006 to 2010, average international parental child abduction growth in the United States surpassed 20% per year. Additionally, abduction appears to have increased each year during the three decades the United States took part of the Hague Convention.
Why is international parental child abduction occurring?
The answer is rather direct. Our world is becoming filled with global citizens. Individuals from different countries travel abroad to study or work. Some enter into relationships with a person from the country they are visiting, and a child is eventually born from that relationship. During the course of the time, some of these relationships fail. Divorce is a reality. However, often, the foreign-born national living in a foreign country may feel isolated and may desire to return to their country of origin with their child, who more than likely possesses a right of citizenship to that parent's country of birth. Realizing that the child's other parent probably would not consent to having the child relocated abroad, and that a court more than likely would not grant mobility to relocate either, that parent often creates a deceitful scheme to illegally remove the child from the child's country of jurisdiction without consent from the other parent or consent from the court. This is called international parental child abduction. And it is not only an abusive act against a child, but it is a serious, and at times, dangerous crime of kidnapping that has both short and long term effects on the victimized child.
The sad fact is that a large number of marriages, estimated to be between 40% and 50%, in the U.S. end in divorce. The divorce rate increases to nearly 70% during multinational marriages. And as recently reported by The New York Times, the whole concept of marriage really is . . . well, 'Why Do People Still Marry? Why Bother? - which I think says a great deal about the shift in committed partnerships in a mobile world.
Another Way To Measure The Office Of Children's Issues Effectiveness: Immigration Migration and Its Affect On Child Abduction CasesRegardless of the side of the debate you may be on regarding immigration reform, and your view of unregistered alien residents living in the United States today, the fact is that if a child is born in the United States by two unregistered residents, that child is an American citizen.
This fact as it is associated with abduction is that just like failed marriages or relationships between legal residents living in the United States, partnerships between unregistered residents fail. And when this occurs, there are times when one of the child's parents may seek to return to their native country, and take the American child-citizen with them.
Unfortunately, when the threat of abduction occurs, undocumented residents have not realized that they can turn to the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues for legal assistance as OCI. I know this first-hand as the I CARE Foundation's legal team of attorneys has in the past worked with OCI when dealing with undocumented residents and child abduction.
Has the Office of Children's Issues been effective in assisting unregistered parents with abduction cases?
The answer is not one that can be statistically determined; however, insight can be provided by the increase in abduction prevention cases originating from unregistered residents. For example, the number of unregistered abduction prevention cases the I CARE Foundation assisted in during fiscal year 2012 to 2013 increased by 175% from the number of cased we assisted in during fiscal year 2011. In addition, during the first 5 months of 2013, the I CARE Foundation's outreach assisting undocumented residents is already at 70% of the case load during fiscal year 2012. We fully expect that the number of undocumented alien abduction prevention cases we will assist on during 2013 will double our case load of 2012.
One of the primary reasons why the number of abduction prevention cases is occurring is because the Office of Children's Issues has in fact worked hard to reach Hispanic communities and share a strong and honest message that OCI is there willing and able to help these often forgotten families.
The I CARE Foundation, with our view from the trenches fighting abduction, applauds OCI's commitment.
So What Can The Office Of Children's Issues Do, and What Can They Not Do?
- OCI can provide you with information about various resources that may assist you in your efforts to return your child to the United States;
- If your child was abducted to a country that is a U.S. partner under the Hague Abduction Convention, as appropriate, OCI may accept your Hague application, forward it to the foreign central authority in the country to which your child has been abducted, and monitor developments concerning your child’s case through the Foreign Central Authority;
- OCI can provide a list of attorneys in the country where your child is located;
- OCI can answer questions from local and federal law enforcement about the Department’s role in international parental child abduction cases;
- OCI can facilitate your communication with U.S. government agencies and non-governmental organizations that may be able to assist you.
- OCI will not recover your child for you;
- OCI will not assist you with any financial costs associated with reunification;
- OCI will not provide you with legal advice;