International child abduction often has serious consequences for both the child, oftentimes taken by a foreign-born parent to a foreign country, as well as the left-behind parent or guardian. For the parent who has effectively lost custody of his or her child in the wake of international parental child abduction, the legal process for trying to secure that child’s return may be a lengthy, complex and expensive one.
Moreover, the experience may be a very trying time emotionally, as the left-behind parent could be racked with feelings of guilt and disconsolation. On the child’s end of things, emotions are likely to run high, too.
In all, a sense of isolation may deeply affect the abducted, as they have been forcibly removed from family and friends in their home country and the experience of a new country with different customs and a foreign language may prove frightening to the young traveler.
While sometimes both parties will be able to adjust relatively well considering the circumstances, international parental child abduction has the potential to completely break up a family and otherwise end in tragedy. Spouses may not get a chance to ever see their husbands or wives alive again in the event their partners die while in that foreign country.
Noting the potential for heartache and hardship, international child abduction is a phenomenon that needs to be guarded against, not only for the sake of the families involved, but for the relief of diplomats and family courts alike. The following are ways international child abduction and international parental child abduction may possibly be prevented at a number of levels:
At the local level – Although international parental child abduction is the most common way children will cross boundaries between country-states illegally, especially in foreign countries where lawlessness is of concern, children may be kidnapped at will and exploited for the financial gain of others in neighboring territories. As such, the battle against international child abduction starts at home.
Kids should be instructed by a parent or guardian to never get into a car with a stranger or to run away screaming from a situation where a stranger tries to force the issue, to never indicate to strangers that they are home alone, and to know who to turn to in case of an emergency. Meanwhile, parents should only leave their children with trusted guardians and babysitters, and also regularly update their children’s identification (e.g. photos, fingerprints) as well as their own custody information.
On a national level – while the United States does not have any exit visa requirements or procedures, if an international parental child abduction is intended but the child does not yet possess a passport, it may be harder for an abducting parent to make a getaway. In a majority of cases, a petition for a minor’s passport must feature signed consent of both parents.
So, if a request is made for a passport by an estranged parent at a consular office and the left-behind parent has requested his or her child’s name appear on the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, this may help to track the status and location of the criminal parent and the child.
At the international level – In the United States and Europe, one of the major treaties that deal with international child abduction and parental custody is the 1980 Hague Convention.