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Child Abduction Essay, Research Paper


“Although abductions by nonfamily members receive more public attention, a significant number of child abductions are committed by family members or noncustodial parents – commonly called parental kidnapping.” Contrary to common belief, a parental kidnapping can have a deeply traumatic effect on the child. They must suffer the consequences of being uprooted from the home, deprived of the other parent, and forced to spend a life on the run. Child abductions are difficult and complex to deal with when they occur within Canada. When they involve other countries, which is quite often the case, they are even more so. There are a number of methods, and steps, that may be considered when making provisions for the safety of children. After a child has been abducted there is an even more defined series of steps that should be taken. This is a bewildering and often prolonged experience. When it is suspected that a child may be abducted, or has already been so, there is a proper way to handle the situation which will be discussed here through preparation and prevention, and also search and recovery.

Preparation and Prevention

Knowing Who, Why & When

The act of parental kidnapping is often provoked in some way by the break-up of the child’s father and mother. It may be the actual courtfiling of divorce papers; the remarriage or serious emotional involvement of one parent with another partner; conflict over child support; child custody; or visitation. If there is the possibility of divorce, separation, or dissolving a non-marital partnership, do not ignore threats of abduction made by the partner. They may be indicating a growing frustration that may motivate him or her to disappear with the child. It may help to consult a family counsellor to explore the problems of co-parenting and abduction fears.

Healthy Home Atmosphere

The most important means of prevention is one that is to be worked on everyday whether there is the possibility of abduction by family members or nonfamily members; and that is healthy communication. Repeated assurance of love for the child is needed along with the fact that this is unconditional no matter what anyone else says. Children, at a young age, need to be taught their telephone number and area code and also how to dial the phone. Instruction on how to contact other family members or close friends may also be helpful. Trust and support should be built so that children feel secure is discussing situations that may have made them afraid.

Child’s Information List

There are several steps that should be taken to be prepared in case the child is abducted. Keep a complete written description of the child, including hair and eye colour, height, weight, date of birth, and specific physical attributes. A colour photograph of the child should be updated every six months and kept with the written description. This simply helps in the child’s identification.

Former Partner’s Information List

If a parental kidnapping is likely, keep lists of information about the former partner. Along with a written description of the person’s physical properties there should be included the person’s Social Insurance Number, driver’s license number, car registration number, checking and savings account number’s, and other information that may be of assistance in locating the abductor. Discretion is important in obtaining this information so as not to provoke a kidnapping or cause the other partner to change these pieces of identification.

Search and Recovery

Once an abductor leaves the province, or especially the country, the search becomes much more difficult. Unfortunately, this is usually the case. When it is believed that the child has been taken further distances, the provincial/territorial and federal governments co-operate closely in assisting parents. “There are hundreds of active cases that involve Canadian children who have been illegally removed from Canada, or who have been prevented from returning home by one of their parents.” To advance the process of the search and the anticipated return it is a good idea for the parent to be directly involved with officials.

General Advice

To discover a child is missing is very traumatic. It is important to remain as calm as possible and seek assistance from family, friends and appropriate professionals. Since the process can be complicated, the search and recovery efforts are sometimes lengthy and often unsuccessful. Because of this, unrealistic expectations should not be made, or results wanted within a few days or – in some cases – even months. “Reasonable goals and expectations may include:

Obtaining early confirmation of where your child is located;

Obtaining early confirmation of the well-being of your child;

Arranging a meeting, as soon as possible, between your child and a Canadian official;

Becoming informed about your legal situation both in Canada and in the country where your child is located;

Understanding the limitations and constraints that may affect the return of your child to Canada;

Learning about the legal process;

Understanding the potential financial implications for you and other members of your family in the search and recovery process.”

One of the most important things for a parent to do is establish friendly contact with the relatives and friends of the abducting parent. If the abducting parent were to return the child to Canada voluntarily, the quickest and most simple resolution would take place. Although the approach seems unlikely to work, the effort should at least be made.

Local Police

Immediately after knowledge of a child being abducted, the local police department should be contacted. The police should be provided with a copy of any custody order, photographs and descriptions of the child and the abducting parent. Any other information that could lead to the location of the child may also be presented. The local police can then enter the information into the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) computer system and all police forces in Canada will have access to it. A request that the information be entered in the United States National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) computer system may also be done. If there is belief of the child being removed from the country, the local police will immediately contact the Missing Children’s Registry of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Local police may initiate other steps that must be taken. They would suggest the notification of the child’s school authorities and the child’s physician/hospital that there was an abduction. These authorities should be advised to contact the parent or their lawyer should there be a request for any records. Copies of long-distance telephone calls that the abducting parent may have made prior to the abduction could also be useful in determining the whereabouts of the child. Close monitoring of credit cards should also be taken care of. Finally, the police will begin to review with the parent of the child and other authorities whether criminal charges should be laid against the abducting parent.


Publicity in child abductions, especially those that are international, can be both helpful and damaging. Before making any decisions, local police and a lawyer should be consulted. Since publicity in some countries could affect the willingness or ability of local authorities to assist in the return of the child, caution must be taken. Caution is also needed due to the possibility of the abducting parent going into hiding, causing the child to be under stress and danger.

Search Agencies

Many private organizations will carry out search activities for a fee and/or expenses. Before confirming with any one agency, advice and guidance should be obtained from local police and also non-governmental organizations. If the decision is made to seek the help of an agency, a lawyer should be involved with any negotiations. This protects the financial interests of the parent and ensures all activities planned by the agency will not further complicate the search and recovery of the child.

The Hague Convention

To find a solution to child abduction problems, different countries began to recognize the need for co-operation. In 1976, The Hague Conference on Private International Law, an international organization based in The Netherlands, accepted a Canadian proposal to lessen some of these problems. “Canada, along with some 30 other countries, actively participated in the negotiations that led to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction” , commonly known as The Hague Convention. With the current involvement of 53 countries this has become the main international treaty that assists parents whose children have been abducted to another country. Over 300 Canadian children have been returned under its arrangements so far.


There are two main objectives that the Hague Convention abide by:

“to secure the prompt return of a child wrongfully removed to or retained in any contracting state, to the environment from which the child was removed; and

to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are effectively respected in other contracting states.”


The Convention holds a few basic requirements that must be proven in order for their service to apply to the case. The child, first of all, must be under the age of 16 years and prior to their removal, or retention, was a resident of Canada. At the time of the abduction, which must be within the last year, the Convention must have applied to the country that the child was taken to. Finally, the removal must be a breach of custody or access rights, which is determined either in law or by judicial order.

Applying for the Return of a Child

Once there is an awareness of the child’s location, the provincial Attorney General’s office and/or the Minister of Justice’s’ or the territorial Department of Justice should be reached. These departments will have special designated sections as the central authority for the province or territory, which are responsible for the administration of the Convention. The federal Department of Justice itself is also a central authority. The central authorities can provide information on the country that will be dealt with, including laws, and how to proceed with an application. They may also help with finding the location of the child, and will prevent further harm to them. Legal aid and advice, including the participation of legal counsel and advisors, may too be provided depending on the circumstances.

The provincial/territorial central authority will provide a copy of the Convention-approved application form to be filled out. All known information on parent, child and abductor’s identity and location is needed. A statement of custody rights is made accompanied by supporting documents, and the foreign central authority is granted the right to act.

The foreign central authority will submit the application to appropriate judicial authorities. If the child is not returned voluntarily, a court hearing will take place where the central authority will appoint a lawyer to act on the parent’s behalf and the abducting parent may hire a lawyer to fight the application and represent his/her case. If the conditions of the Hague Convention are met, the child is returned. The judicial process of the country concerned must be followed though, and any decision could be appealed. The final result can take time, depending on the nature of the legal proceedings that are involved, including appeals.

There are some exceptions that could cause the court decision to be made in favour of the abductor. If there is a risk that the child would receive physical or psychological harm when returned or would be put into an intolerable situation the decision is quick and definite. If the child is old enough and mature enough to have their views taken into consideration, the child may object to being returned. Finally, if the abducting parent were to prove that the custody rights were not of the other parent at the time of the abduction, the case would be over.

Other Actions

If the child has been abducted to a country that is not a participant of the Hague Convention, other actions may be taken both in Canada and internationally. In Canada, the civil justice system can reinforce the custody rights, and if necessary, the criminal justice system can initiate criminal action against the abductor. In other countries, the same type of action may be possible. Before taking any action, it is important to seek legal and other professional advice and guidance since every case is unique. When dealing with other countries, a lawyer may be required from that country to provide knowledgeable and experienced advice on custody cases involving foreigners.

Recommendations for Future Government Action

“Minister of Justice Anne McLellan and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy welcomed the recommendations of the Sub-Committee’s report, promised prompt follow-up action, and reiterated Canada’s commitment to the protection of children’s rights and well-being. Specifically, the Government of Canada indicated that it will take actions to:

implement a mandatory reporting system on parental child abduction;

promote adherence to the Hague Convention and consult with key authorities prior to the next meeting of its Special Commission;

encourage non-Hague Convention states to comply with related obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other multilateral treaties they have ratified (as an alternative to pursuing new bilateral treaties);

support the training of police to improve their response capabilities;

clarify how sections 238 and 282 of the Criminal Code should be applied without formally amending these provisions;

encourage other countries to make international child abduction a cause for extradition, while acknowledging their rights as sovereign states;

review certain policies and procedures for identifying children in travel documents, without, however, requiring mandatory passports for children or joint in-person applications;

help customs authorities identify and respond to parental child abductions;

encourage discussions among appropriate authorities on the role of airport security and airline staff in curbing child abductions; and

consider the possibility of establishing an annual conference on international child abduction.”


When it is suspected that a child may be abducted, or has already been so, there is a proper way to handle the situation which was discussed here through preparation and prevention, and also the search and recovery. The benefit to parental child abduction is being aware of the abductor’s character and having the opportunity to prepare in advance, and possibly prevent, the incident. Preparation of an information list for both the child and abductor will also be used in the application for the return of the child. With this prepared, the parent can concentrate on the return of the child and the appropriate goals that one might make for oneself. Following through with the simple series of steps, including contact with the local police, media and search agencies, the parent will receive all of the proper advice needed. Through the help of organizations such as the Hague Convention, all of the legal proceedings seem to fall into place. Changes will continually occur in the legal system, like suggested with the recommendations made by the Sub-Committee report that was welcomed here. They will always reflect society’s changes and needs, and will only improve the system. If society does not continue to provide the help that it does now, including the steps that can be taken through all of the different levels, the whole process will become even more complex and strenuous on the parent. Each child abduction is unique, however, and so the steps needed in each case may differ slightly. As long as the resolution is in the best interest of the child, the legal system has done it’s task.

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