International Child Abductions: The Challenges Facing America


International child abductors often escape domestic law enforcement and disappear without consequence or resolution. International child abductions occur too frequently; in the United States alone, the number of children abducted abroad every year has risen to over 1,000. Currently, 11,000 American children live abroad with their abductors. These abductions occur despite international treaties and the Congressional resolutions that have significantly stiffened the penalties for those caught. Effectively combating international child abductions requires drafting resolutions that are acceptable across the diverse societies and cultures of the international community. Without such resolutions to fill the gaps of current treaties this problem will continue and the suffering endured by children being uprooted and hidden from one of their parents will continue.

The rise in both international marriages and divorce rates along with increased ease of travel has correlated with the rise in child abductions. Statistics from the Missing Children’s Registry show that abductions by parents are five times greater than by strangers. The Justice Department reported that of the 358,700 children abducted in the U.S. each year 354,100 were abducted by one of their parents. Law enforcement agencies’ reluctance to get involved in international child abductions, though understandable, is regrettable as it leaves the vast resources of these agencies off limits to left-behind parents. The cost of locating an international child abductor is very high, especially for a third world nation with strapped resources struggling to adequately combat “local murders, inner city crime and ‘real’ kidnappings.” Finding ways to offset resource utilization and for participation of these crucial nations is necessary for more effectively combating international child abductions.


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Date of this Version

April 2004