Peter Senese is not only the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation, a non-profit organization, but a relentless child abduction advocate that has played an important role in the reduction of outbound cases of U.S. children being kidnapped and detained abroad. Peter has been sharing the fact that, despite a worldwide increase in international child abductions, the rates in the U.S. have dropped by 15% over the past two consecutive years (2011 and 2012). The reality is, parental child abductions have shown a fairly consistent increase in occurrences over the past 30 years… and now a decline! How amazing is that? Prevention my friends… that is the key!
The I CARE Foundation can trace its roots to Peter’s critically acclaimed novel ‘Chasing The Cyclone’, a legal thriller which is inspired by events that took place in his own life. It’s a story of a father that heroically searches for his son, who has been internationally abducted and has disappeared at the hands of the child’s other parent. In fact, it has been said that Peter Senese’s ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ is a book of miracles… and you can see this statement is a view that is supported by many testimonial letters from parents around the world that Peter has assisted.
With a deep sense of dedication toward others, Peter has not only helped pass new laws and sought to change government policies aimed at protecting children, but along with the I CARE Foundation, Peter Senese has helped create many miracles. What kind of miracles? How about the number of kidnapped children that have been recovered and reunited with their families… or the even larger number of abductions that have been prevented… or the fact that in his generous spirit, Peter Senese also donates 100% of his book sales to the I CARE Foundation to further assist those families that are dealing with international abduction. Really, the ongoing work that Peter Senese and the I CARE Foundation is doing is really nothing less than miraculous! In fact, a few months ago Peter Senese and the I CARE Foundation hosted a conference on abduction at the United Nations at the request of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
Peter Senese and the I CARE Foundation have been warning parents about the high risk of child abduction connected to the summer vacations, particularly in families in high-conflict child custody disputes.
Unfortunately, the majority of targeted individuals are never aware that an abduction scheme is under way. And the trickery, fraud, and conspiracy that is involved in incredible! It’s imperative that parents who may be at risk of abduction know the warning signs of international parental child abduction because once a child is taken abroad it is almost impossible to bring them back. The sad fact is that only 10% of all internationally abducted children are ever returned. And making matters worse, last week the Department of Justice issued a report stating that children kidnapped by one parent from another are at grave risk of extreme violence, and could even be murdered by that parent! The threat of violence and death… it’s very real… and something that should concern us all!
We have previously spoken with Peter about his work as an author as well as his volunteer work in regards to parental child abduction, but with the importance of trying to raise awareness about the tens of thousands of children that will be targeted for abduction over the next few months, we decided to ask Peter Senese for an overview of abduction and find out what parents can do to protect their children.
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When children are abducted by one of their parents, are they really put into, what you would consider, a high-risk situation?
Yes. International parental child abduction is a criminal act of kidnapping that is highly emotionally and potentially physically abusive to the child. The Department of Justice, recently issued a report stating that children are put into grave risk of violence, and even murder by the parent kidnapper. So anyone who thinks that abduction by a parent can’t happen, they should consider that hundreds of children in America each year are murdered by their parents. And parent child-murder, like parental child abduction has no border.
How could a would-be abducting parent can use an international family vacation as a scheme to abduct a child?
Usually the parent intending to abduct the child will create a scheme to legally travel abroad with the child. Sometimes this parent will invite the child’s other parent to accompany them, while other times they may not. However, once they get the child onto foreign soil, they will state that they are not returning, and all too often – and men and women do this near equally – but they will state that the other parent is abusive and returning the child to the country of their original jurisdiction is a grave risk that puts the child in danger. So the abductor and child get to remain in the country they are now in and litigate their case. Usually they win because the other parent is set-up to fail under loopholes established under either Article 12, Article 13, or Article 20 of the Hague Convention. It’s complicated, but not so much for an abductor because they’re way ahead on the learning curve on how to dispose of and permanently remove the child’s other parent from the child’s life.
What percentage of abducted children are taken during the summer months?
It is estimated that nearly 85% of all international abductions take place during the summer with at least 50% of these cases revolving around a child was traveled abroad but who was not returned.
I have read a number of sworn testimonial letters written by parents you have helped, including reuniting many children from around the world. Can you share with us why you devote so much of your time to helping families that are dealing with parental child abduction?
It has been an honor to help other families. I wish I was able to provide more assistance. I try to do my best … sometimes my best is good enough, but other times, it is not. Abduction reunification and prevention is very difficult. But I made a promise to that I would try to help other families – and try to stand up to kidnappers and their supporters.
You have legally helped rescue and reunite a considerable number of children with their families. Is there any reunification that stands out?
They’re all memorable. Each one is unique. Each is extraordinary. But in looking at the big picture, I wish there were more . . . there is a lot of work to be done.
When a child becomes a victim of parental abduction, who is responsible for paying for the child’s return?
In the United States, the targeted parent does despite abduction being a criminal violation of the federal International Child Abduction Prevention Act. That’s why it is so important to stop the abduction from happening. The costs can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When a child is abducted, why can’t the custodial parent just go into the country where the child is being wrongfully detained and bring that child home?
Because once they attempt to, they could be charged with abduction in that country and put in jail. It’s insane.
Thinking about border crossings, how easy is it to remove a child from a country’s border?
Very easy. In fact, just last week a father abducted a little boy from Colorado to Canada despite an Amber Alert being issued. He was able to travel right across the border AND the father used the child’s passport!
Parents need to know what to do if an abduction is in progress.
Does the U.S. border have any policies in place that would stop children from being illegally removed from the country? Does Canada have any policies in place?
Unfortunately, there are no exit controls in the U.S. or Canada. In fact, as exemplified by the abduction case of Mr. Stephen Watkins in Canada, his children were illegally removed from Canada using invalid passports. After entering the U.S. on invalid passports, they then traveled to Poland: where they remain despite Canada issuing an arrest warrant on the abducting mother, and her father being found guilty of aiding in his children’s abduction. This goes straight to the point I have previously shared: it is very hard to bring home an abducted child.
It all goes to this very real point: parents need to prevent an abduction from happening.
Why should parents of children with dual citizenship be concerned about the risks of parental abduction?
Dual citizenship offers a very unique problem for parents living in the United States or Canada. The problems that exist include the fact that neither country has passport exit controls. Additionally, a court in either country does not have the authority to take possession of a secondary passport issued by another country. So if a court believes that an abduction is possible, they can take away the passport issued by the country they are in, but they cannot take away that foreign passport, especially if the other parent denies that it exists. And sadly, most foreign embassies will not provide information on whether a passport from their country was issued. That is beginning to change … but we have a long way to go.
Is there something that we can all do to help stop international child abduction?
I think each of us has the capacity to act heroically and to be heroes to children.
I’ve said it often: the role of parent blog writers in raising international child abduction awareness has helped stop a large number of kidnappings, and has been nothing short of heroic. Parent blog writers have become heroes to at-risk children and their families.
Are there specific things that a parent should do if they believe their child is at risk of abduction?
Yes. The first thing is to immediately contact a qualified family law attorney. If international abduction is in progress, parents must contact law enforcement immediately, and then they should contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues. They should also open up a case with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And they should read as much information about abduction as possible by visiting websites that extensively cover abduction such as the I CARE Foundation.
You are one of the most published writers covering international parental child abduction and I know you have dedicated years of your life stewarding the message of abduction prevention and risks to a child. Have you seen any results?
I think the drop in the reported cases of outbound abduction by 15% during 2011 and 2012 speak for itself especially when the previous growth rate was nearly 20% per year, but there is another part of this story. The unreported cases of abduction associated with undocumented residents is believed to be at least 100% of the abduction cases, and though not measureable, I know the number of undocumented residents the I CARE Foundation helped has increased dramatically. I also know the number of abduction prevention cases has increased dramatically. And that’s because parents are becoming aware of abduction. Now let me make this clear: the decline in U.S. abductions is because child advocates everywhere have acted to raise awareness and stop these kidnappings. The work of active advocates today has been built on the trailblazing work of those who proceeded us.
As a respected best-selling geopolitical author… one who has spent many years of your life dedicated to helping families in crisis… why and what can fans of your writing expect in the near future?
I am looking forward to finally publishing the hardcover of Chasing The Cyclone, which is presently available in e-book everywhere. And I am truly looking forward working on the nearly completed novels titled ‘Predators Games’, which is the sequel of ‘The Den of the Assassin’, and the sequel of ‘Cloning Christ’, titled ‘Quest’ . . . but right now, there is a war against international parental child abduction going on. Targeted parents may not realize they are about to become victims of abduction – so it’s our job to scream the alarm by letting them know the warning signs of abduction.
I understand that you have an upcoming film that will be focusing on international parental child abduction. Would you care to share anything about this film?
We have been working on this for six months. It is being carefully produced and includes a lot of raw footage of abduction related issues. It is a very different type of abduction awareness tool that I am creating, and in contrast to the very straight-talk educational series ‘Chasing Parents‘ that I created. I hope and anticipate that 150,000 Internationally Abducted Children will have a positive impact on other families the way the educational series has. The fact is, we must continue to raise awareness of the realities of international parental child abduction not only to prevent these type of kidnappings from occurring, but to also have the number of children abducted returned.
I know that you have some exciting news to share! The I CARE Foundation has just released an International Child Travel Consent Agreement for families that will be traveling abroad with children. What do you hope will come from creating this document?
What is your definition of a hero?
I think a hero is a person who attempts to address injustice or create positive change in the world despite pressures to do otherwise. It may involve coping effectively in unclear or emergency situations, helping others in need, or may involve setting and achieving goals to promote the well-being of others. Habits of wise and effective acts of heroism can be learned, encouraged, modeled, and are achievable by anyone at any point in their lives. We all can be heroes. And in the world I volunteer my time, there are many amazing heroes who advocate for children, including the incredibly large number of children who have been targeted for abduction.
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Recently, Peter Senese and the I CARE Foundation produced this short documentary film about summer vacation and parental abductions. Please take a few minutes and watch: International Parental Child Abduction: A Pandemic. As a parent, educating yourself about the warning signs of international parental child abduction, is the best way to protect your children – or perhaps another child you may know. Peter Senese shares that we are all three degrees of separation from knowing someone who will be affected by parental abduction. Once again, prevention is the key!
On a final note, I’d like to thank Peter for taking the time to share this information with us today. Now, Peter is a friend but not only that… when one talks about the definition of a hero, Peter is, without a doubt, the person who comes to mind for me. But you know what? I’m not the only one that would say that! You could ask any of the families that he has assisted – and there are many! You could ask anyone who is lucky enough to be able to call him a friend! You could ask my son, who frequently describes Peter as a ‘superhero that rescues children’ and wonders what colour cape he is going to be wearing each day! Peter Senese… a man who gives so much of himself to others while expecting nothing in return… you are a hero my friend, and thank you for doing what you do!
For more information on Peter Senese, please visit his official website.
For more information about the I CARE Foundation, please visit their official website.
And if you would like to get involved and lend your voice to help stop international child abduction, please contact the I CARE Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.