In the wake of another international parental child abduction enabled because a parent-kidnapper was able to illegally obtain a valid passport for their child by alledgedly forging the signature of the child's other parent, one thing is certain: as the summer vacation approaces, many children will be targeted for international abduction. This past memorial day, news traveled across North America because a young Colorado child was parentally abducted from his assaulted mother, and illegally removed to Canada despite an Amber Alert.
The abduction of three year old Luke Turner sounds the alarm of several serious concerns regarding a parent and a nation's ability to protect children from abduction.
Of noteworthy concern are the following issues:
1. The abducting father was able to obtain a valid passport for the child by allegedly forging passport documents on behalf of the child's mother.
2. The Amber Alert that was issued failed to reach the Canadian Border Control, and was limited to only several states. Thus, creating concern over how local, untrained law enforcement charged with abduction cases may handle concern over illegal border exits based upon either a parent obtaining a valid passport under fraud, or, by traveling to an adjacent border (Mexico or Canada), or by traveling abroad by sea via a cruise ship under the existing Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative policy which requires a minor under 16 years of age to cross the bordre by land or sea by presenting a photocopy of a naturalization document.
3. The physical and potentially life-threatening lenght an abductor may go to cause the targeted other parent grave harm.
4. Concerns over international parental chld abduction associated to dual passports and the inability of countries to effectively safeguard against abduction when a taking parent has in their possession a passport for their child issued by another nation (this occurs when that parent is a citizen of another country, which is always the case in multinational relationships).
Luke Turner's abduction highlights many immediate challenges and grave concerns targeted parents of abduction are going to face as the summer approaches. Knowing the warning signs of international parental child abduction is critical. .
As stated by Detective Commander Jeff Satur, Mrs. Turner was not aware that Luke had an American passport. According to U.S. law, both Mr. and Mrs. Turner were required to sign the passport application for their child. Clearly this did not happen, as the notion of abduction to Canada was initially not considered by law enforcment because Mrs. Turner did not know of the passport.
In a similar case of international parental child abduction case that utilized illegally obtained passports the I CARE Foundation was heavily involved in and played a key role in reunification, another Colorado mother had her two-year old son abducted to the not-so-cooperative non-Hague Convention country of Nigeria last year.
At the time of her son's abduction, the child's father had illegally obtained a valid U.S. passport for the child by forging the mother's signature on the passport application. Then, under the guise of a weekend visitation, the father, who lived in Colorado, but possessed dual citizenship, fled to Africa.
I CARE Foundation during the reunification process said, "It is very troubling to see how these illegally obtained passports for children are being obtained with relative ease and are unknown to the targeted parent. The parallels between the two Colorado mothers and how the abductor was able to leave the country present a serious concern for society, particularly now as the summer months approach and abduction rates dramatically increase. I will never forget the sense of happiness I felt seeing the young child when he was returned from Nigeria."
Raising awareness of international parental child abduction is one of the main defenses against abduction.In fact, over the past two years, international parental child abduction reported outbound cases originating from the United States has declined by 15% per year. This was accomplished in great part because of social stewardship about abduction.
Clearly, the key to stopping child kidnappings is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
One of the things we can do is modify the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative policy so that all children traveling abroad, regardless if they are traveling by land, sea, or air, must present a valid passport.
In addition, we must create a stronger verification system in place when passports are being requested for children.
We must be mindful that parents who possess a right of citizenship to another country provide a child of a multinational relationship the same right of citizenship. Chldren who possess dual citizenship have a high rate of being victims of international parental child abduction when a marriage or relationship fails.
In the United States, one immediate remedy all parents concerned with possible child abduction can do is place their child on the U.S. Passport Issuance Alert Program.
For more information of international parental child abduction, please visit the I CARE Foundation and Chasing The Cyclone. In Canada, please visit I Cheapeau.