Looking back at the past few years, I have to admit that I am very pleased with how my novel Chasing The Cyclone has helped raise awareness on the issues of child abduciton, and how, through its publication, the I CARE Foundation was eventually created. For those of you who are not familiar witth the I CARE Foundation, the non-profit organization I am the Founding Director of has helped protect a large and growing number of children around the world who are at risk of abduction.
I am very pleased to share that the number of reported United States outbound cases of international parental child abduciton (IPCA) have declined for a second year in a row, as shared in an extensive report issued by the I CARE Foundation titled 'Crisis In America - 2013' (co-authored by Peter Thomas Senese, Carolyn Vlk, and Joel S. Walter, Esq.).
Despite key factors that have led to increases in risk factors associated with IPCA such as global citizenship mobility, U.S. abduction rates have dropped from what was previously forcasted as a +22% to a +40% yearly growth rate to an average decline of 15% per year over the past two reporting years.
This is a remarkable series of events, and credit must be given and shared with those who have worked so hard to stop abduction.
Personally, I beleive that there is no organization that deserves more credit than the United States Department of State's Office of Children's Issues (OCI). The leadership of OCI is made up of some of the most caring individuals in the world who dedicate their lives to helping families at risk of abduction. Speaking from first-hand experience as a volunteer advocate who spends a significant part of my life fighting for children at risk of abduction, I can tell you that fighting this fight is not easy: which makes it even that more remarkable to think about the incredible committment displayed by many individuals at OCI. With attention to the decline in reported cases of abduction, significant credit must be given to OCI and its leadership, who continued with an assortment of educational public outreach programs created to help families in crisis. Clearly, their effort is making a difference.
Outreach and education has been the primary catalyst behind the decline in abductions, and undeniably, the work of a select group of organizations, foundations, and individuals have made a sizeable difference in preventing abduction. Unilaterally, the work of child abduction prevention advocates have been able to not only educate families in crisis of abduction, but organizations such as the I CARE Foundation have assisted parents by providing legal counsel during court abduction prevention proceedings. Undeniably, stewarding the public message of abduction risk has made a measurable difference, and the tireless work of these non-government organizations have made a difference. In addition, the vehicles used to reach parents have increased. The books, articles, and reports written and published have mattered. The educational documentary films have made a differene, as too have the creation of several educational websites.
In reflection, the power of social media and global connectivity via the Internet has allowed communities dealing with IPCA to form and grow. These communities have become visible and made a difference to many. And they continue to grow.
Another aspect of why IPCA rates have fallen is that after 30 years since the United States became a member of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction (1981), courts and judges charged with overseeing abduction risk are finally beginning to understand the gravity of the situation at hand, and their own limited authority once a child is illegally removed.
From the I CARE Foundation's perspexctive, and keeping in mind that many of our lawyers have worked impressively to educate the courts and judges on the many issues of IPCA. On a personal level, I have voluntarily provided expert testimony before numerous courts in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation at the request of counsel. In fact, at the request of the United States Department of State, the I CARE Foundation hosted a conference where I had the opportunity to speak at the United Nations as part of the Department of State's 'Global Leadership Visitor Program'. It has been deeply rewarding to know that the I CARE Foundation's efforts have also included rescuing numerous kidnapped and trafficketed children.
Finally, I must say that the incredible effort of a series of parenting bloggers who wrote extensively about IPCA reached millions of other parents, some of who were at risk of having a child abducted. Made aware of their own circumstances (many parents never consider the possibility of IPCA), these at-risk parents were able to act to protect their children - something I know first hand because the I CARE Foundation assisted numerous families in crisis who turned to the foundation for assistance after reading an article posted by a parent blog writer. Remarkably, these amazing parents, all not having any direct association with IPCA, made a major contribution and help protect children.
Are we moving in the right direction? Yes. However, it would be a major mistake to think that we can put our guard down and not push further to remove abduction risk. Clearly there is a great deal to be done on all fronts, including the abduction prevention side, and, equally, on the international compliance side once a child is kidnapped. Sadly, it is anticipated that the total number of children returned home after they are abducted, when including reported and unreported cases of abduction (as defined in the report below), is less than 10%. Which means that approxiamately 90% of all kidnapped children never come home. And the dangers of IPCA are real, and include severe abuse that has led to parental child murder and post-abduction suicide by kidnapped victims. And that is why we must continue to fight against abduction. Afterall, a child's life sure is worth fighting for.
I offer to you the report 'Crisis In America - 2013' (written by Carolyn Ann Vlk, Joel Walter, and Peter Thomas Senese). Carolyn and Joel are two of the hardest working child advocates on the planet. The I CARE Foundation is very fortunate to have their leadership.
Click here to read the report 'Crisis In America -2013'.