There are currently only three Hague Cases involving missing children listed at the NCMEC as compared to 582 children listed as missing due to a Family Abduction. The NCMEC handles incoming Hague cases on behalf of the Office of Children’s Issues under a tri-party agreement with the Department of State, as U.S. Central Authority, and OJJDP but what is it’s role in outgoing cases?
While you will find plenty of information should your child be abducted abroad, or if a foreign child is brought to this country, it is not so easy to figure out where to turn if your child is abducted in the U.S. and taken out of this country.
The NCMEC, for example, lists 57 children who were abducted from the U.S. by a non-custodial parent where the abductor is suspected of traveling to Mexico as the possible location. Who is working with custodial parents to return those children?
The Hague Convention is a civil legal mechanism available to parents seeking the return of, or access to, their child. As a civil law mechanism, the parents, not the governments, are parties to the legal action.The countries that are party to the Convention have agreed that a child who is habitually resident in one party country, and who has been removed to or retained in another party country in violation of the left-behind parent”s custodial rights, shall be promptly returned to the country of habitual residence. The Convention can also help parents exercise visitation rights abroad.
Reading this statement from The Department of State, you might conclude the child has to be taken overseas to even qualify as an international parental abduction.
The Department of State considers international parental child abduction, as well as the welfare and protection of U.S. citizen children taken overseas, to be important, serious matters. We place the highest priority on the welfare of children who have been victimized by international abductions.
While non-family stranger abduction cases garner most the headlines, most missing children are either runaways or victims of family abductions. Do you remember these high profile international custody battles?
- Anna Mae He a Chinese girl in a Tennessee custodial dispute
- Mary Ann Barcaro the grandmother jailed in Florida for contempt serving four months until the childrens return from France
- Billy Ray Whisnant Jr. abducted his child from Canada and traveled to NC receiving two years probation
- Myriam Bédard the former Olympic skier accused of kidnapping her 12-year-old daughter now on trial. A judge has sentenced former Olympic champion Myriam Bedard to a conditional discharge and two years’ probation for violating a child custody order
Is your understanding your children would be returned with the help of the U.S. government if they were abducted by a spouse or other family member? Would you expect assistance in the case of an international child abduction involving a non-custodial parent?
Statistics reveal the lack of impact of the 1993 law designed to stop international child abduction. Records show there were 2,347 cases officially reported to federal authorities from 1994 to 1999, but only 503 children returned to the U.S. (Parents were granted access to their children in 50 other cases, though these children remained abroad. During this same period, the FBI launched criminal probes in 331 cases
— less than 15 percent of all the international parental abduction cases reported to U.S. authorities. Two-thirds of these cases wound up being handled by U.S. prosecutors, but only 62 cases resulted in criminal indictments. In the five-year period after Congress passed the law making international parental kidnapping a felony, there were 13 convictions
— roughly half of one percent of all these cases handled by the federal authorities.Experts say the official numbers seriously undercount the real numbers of abducted children still abroad illegally. The State Department reported that about half of all the reported cases were marked as officially “closed” during the period from 1994 to 1999. But the fine print in federal reports notes that 646 cases were “closed” because local courts refuse to hear the cases, because the left-behind parents didn’t follow through on their complaint, or because the case dragged on for so long that the abducted child is now over age 16, the limit for Hague cases. None of these 646 closed cases were “solved” with the return of an abducted child to America.
So why are there only three children ?
Recently, State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson was quoted as saying about 3,000 abducted U.S. children are currently in other countries, including 70 in Brazil, fifth most after Mexico, India, Japan and Canada.
You may want to view this NCMEC Publication, “The Kid is With a Parent, How Bad Can it Be?”: The Crisis of Family Abductions.
Update 01-31-09: There are now 37 children listed as Case Type: Hague cases at the NCMEC many dating back prior to this post.