By Peter Thomas Senese
Several years ago, I found myself Chasing The Cyclone of something I had never even considered possible: the international child abduction of my child under the rules of the Hague Convention. Let me say the horrific experience I, along with tens of thousands of other parents who find themselves Chasing The Cyclone of international child kidnapping face each year, is unlike anything you may ever imagine. I know this was the case for me, and I make part of my living writing multi-layered, complex stories of intrigue.
You might be immediately saying to yourself that this issue has no bearing on your life. However, perhaps you should re-think this issue because a recent study conducted by the not-for-profit International Child Abduction Research & Enlightenment Foundation (I CARE Foundation) is pointing to the possibility that as many as 200,000 to 225,000 children living in North America will be internationally kidnapped over the next decade, and inconceivably, only 10% of these children are expected to ever come home. And that has nothing to do with the number of attempted international parental child abductions (IPCA), which numbers are expected to far exceed the actual international kidnappings exponentially.
Now you may be asking yourself how could this possibly be?
There are many reasons why the international child abduction rate is so high, and is growing well over 20% per year. One of the primary reasons for such a high number of abductions is because we are living in a global society, and individuals from different cultures and nations now, more than ever meet, fall in love, and eventually create a family. Divorce is an ugly part of the reality for many. Unfortunately, during times of separation in multi-cultural marriages, the parent who is a citizen of another nation often desires to return back to their native country. And when they do, they often desire to take their children of the marriage. However, knowing that a local court who has jurisdiction of the child or children of the marriage more than likely would not permit the children to be uprooted, nor deny the other parent their rights of custody, thousands upon thousands of parents quietly and carefully scheme to remove the child from the country without the other parent realizing what they are trying to do: abduct the child.
Unfortunately, too many abducting parents are successful at their scheme because parents like myself, and perhaps you, never even considered this type of scheme. They are blindsided. Caught off guard. Ambushed.
Being caught off guard is but one challenge a targeted parent has to face. But there are many others. And this includes a lack of stringent laws in the United States and Canada that allow for a parent or a court to act to prevent a child’s abduction. There are simply too many loopholes. And sadly, we really do have a judiciary that is uneducated about this issues and the extent of the severity of the crisis at hand that is destroying thousands of families each year.
And this is why I decided to not just write Chasing The Cyclone (fiction), or The World Turned Upside Down (nonfiction resource guide on IPCA), but to do my part in raising social awareness of this issues at hand because no parent ever wants to find themselves Chasing The Cyclone of international parental child abduction. Particularly since the reality is that it is so difficult to find and bring your child home even with the courts and the full weight and support of your government behind you.
What does 200,000 abducted children represent? Three professional football stadiums filled to capacity with innocent children suddenly disappearing. Or a human chain of children stretching from Los Angeles to San Diego and back again suddenly evaporating. Or 5,000 school buses filled with children taken. Gone forever. Are you outraged? I sure am. And I am not alone.
You may be asking yourself what exactly is international parental child abduction? The answer is simple, but the remedies are complex, confusing, extreme, and difficult to navigate, thus, why it is anticipated that only 10% of America’s and North America’s children will ever return home. International parental child abduction occurs when one of a child’s parents illegally removes a child of a marriage or relationship out of the country without the other parent’s consent or court order, or, when a parent illegally detains a child in a foreign country without a court’s order or consent of the other parent. Under United States federal law, this act is also known as kidnapping as mandated by the International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act. Additionally, every state has its own criminal laws that address this issue. Canadian and Mexican laws also make this a criminal act.
Now you may ask yourself, “Why isn’t anyone talking about this until now?”
The answer is rather simple: there was never a comprehensive study conducted and published that provided insight into the total number of international abductions until recently. The I CARE Foundation, which counts highly respected international child abduction prevention advocates and attorneys Joel S. Walter and Patricia M. Lee among other highly respected lawyers as Board of Director members, conducted an extensive research study on the issue of international child abduction. The study incorporated the total anticipated number of abductions by including the measurable yearly growth rate in ‘reported’ abduction cases and a measurable number of abductions that will occur directly related to yearly ‘unreported’ cases of abduction. According to the I CARE Foundation study, ‘reported’ and ‘unreported’ cases of international parental child abduction appears to be equal.
There are a few other serious challenges for parents who are targeted to have their child abducted abroad that are worth noting. The first is that despite certain countries being a member of the Hague Convention, and having formally entered into an international treaty concurring IPCA, many nations including those in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are not members of the Convention. In addition, nations that are members such, but not limited to Mexico, Brazil, and Germany are not complying members of the international treaty. Thus, it is near impossible to have a child ever returned home after their criminal abduction.
Another challenge – and this really hurts – is that the entire cost associated with the recovery of your child – everything from legal fees in your state of local jurisdiction to hiring lawyers in the country your child was taken to, to the investigation teams you may need in order to find your child, to travel costs, etc., are all your burden despite the fact that your child’s criminal abduction is just that – a criminal abduction under the Federal International Parental Kidnapping Crimes Act as well various state criminal statutes. So if you do not have a large sum of money available to you, then your chances of recovering your child have been dramatically reduced.
Now you may be thinking that all you need to do is get an arrest warrant out for the abductor. That is sound thinking. Except many countries do not uphold extradition orders when it comes to a parental abductor, and in certain countries (for example, the majority of nations in the Middle East), there are not criminal laws against a parental abductor (particularly if the abductor is a man). So, for all intensive purposes, extradition is not a solution.
What is a solution is to make sure that your child never leaves to begin with. It is not easy; however, it is possible.
Obviously education and awareness are key, and I have been on a personal mission to increase awareness for other parents so you may be able to protect your own child or help a friend or relative you know protect their child or children. I mean, 200,000 children over the next 10 years out of North America represents the anticipated number of children who will be successfully internationally stolen. The number of targeted children is exponentially larger. One of the ways that I have attempted to create awareness is by writing Chasing The Cyclone, and as shared herein, this lessons shared in my novel that was deeply inspired by my own experiences has helped other parents protect their children.
If you are a fan of legal thrillers that dart you across the globe . . . and if you love a good old fashion love story then I would like to suggest you consider picking up an e-book copy of Chasing The Cyclone (the hardcover book will be available in late May, 2012 wherever books are sold) and in doing so, increase your education on this issue, because truth is even though this may not happen to you, there is a good chance someone you know has a child who is targeted for IPCA. I am also I have and will continue to donate 100% of my e-book royalties to the I CARE Foundation. As for Chasing The Cyclone’s book reviews, I am both humbled and honored at what some of our nation’s top book critics are saying about Chasing The Cyclone:
The highly influential New York Journal of Books said of Chasing The Cyclone, “Chasing The Cyclone is a well-written thriller . . . Senese shares myriad emotions by writing in the first-person as he weaves through the action in this suspense-filled story . . . This novel might also be considered a treatise on international child abduction. Cyclone, while full of actual strategies and resources to assist parents in international abductions, is above all else a love story about a father and son … From Los Angeles, to Canada, to New Zealand, and eventually, Macau, a special administrative region of China, Cyclone is rife with international intrigue and suspense. The protagonist, Paul Francesco, orchestrates a master plan that he hopes will reunite him with the love of his life – his son. Along the way he finds himself swamped in red tape and drenched in frustration. Filled with a plethora of powerful characters and puzzling predicaments and dead ends, the story moves quickly . . . Cyclone will leave you informed and satisfied . . . you will be reluctant to put down.”
The renown Guilty Pleasures Book Review, known as one of the nation’s top book critic book review sites by women for women said, “If I had to use one word to describe Chasing the Cyclone by Peter Thomas Senese it would be phenomenal. As in remarkable. Extraordinary. I have read many books over the years, for enjoyment, for education, because I had to, because I wanted to. I cannot think of any other book that comes close to making me feel as I did when I read this book. I believe these feelings will stick with me forever. This story, inspired by horrific events, is about the love between a father and a son. And that love is beautiful . . . Mr. Senese’s is evidenced by a large number of sworn testimonials by many thankful parents who Mr. Senese has directly helped in either reuniting with their own child or preventing their child from being internationally abducted. Establishing the I CARE Foundation and being closely involved in the rescue attempts of abducted children is but one of the many impactful acts of Mr. Senese. Clearly, ‘involved’ for Mr. Senese means financially, emotionally, legally, and investigative support. His selflessness is inspiring. He is hope.”
The nationally syndicated Examiner stated, “Peter Thomas Senese is a gifted storyteller who takes readers on a heart pounding journey around the globe through the eyes of Paul Francesco, a father whose 7-year old son is abducted by his mother. The writing is raw and the emotions are real . . . The story is filled with twists and turns that will leave readers scratching their heads, seething in anger, and hugging their children a little tighter . . . I highly recommend Chasing the Cyclone as a must-read. You will not be able to put it down. It may very well change the way you look at life, child custody, and interactions with your child’s other parent. I cannot endorse this book strongly enough.”
The highly respected True Crimes Book Review added, “Chasing the Cyclone is a gripping story. Writing in a style that reads much like a diary, Senese blends cold, hard facts with a fictional plot – a plot which will evoke heartbreak, rage, disgust, and a whole host of other emotions you can’t put a name to . . . I never realized just how prevalent international child abductions are and the ridiculous hoops a Chasing Parent must go through to be reunited with their child . . . And last, but definitely not least, hug your child. Tightly. To know where your child is, is something many of us take for granted. Too many parents would give anything just to know where to start looking.”
But book reviews alone don’t tell how severe a problem we now face. Again, 5,000 bus loads of children disappearing forever simply is not acceptable. The following are a few excerpts from testimonials on how Chasing The Cyclone has become a very useful aid for other parents (note: I am only removing the parents name in order to keep their privacy; however, each cited statement comes from a sworn testimonial and has been provided to the Health Moms Magazine site administrator for record keeping purposes).
Parent 1, whose child was abducted and living in Africa for eight years said, “On January 16th, 2012 I received a telephone call from Peter Thomas Senese. He said to me that my son was on an airplane 30,000 feet high over Africa and on his way home to the United States . . . As for Peter Thomas Senese, what can I say about this incredible man who led the efforts on all fronts to rescue my son? He asked for nothing other than for me to help others one day when my child was home, he provided financial support, emotional support, and all the necessary legal support required. I will be forever grateful to Peter Thomas Senese and the I CARE Foundation for the selfless acts and considerable kindness.”
Parent 2, who has successfully defended against an abduction threat added, “Chasing The Cyclone and Peter Thomas Senese have assisted me and my family significantly in protecting my daughters from being parentally abducted to Saudi Arabia, where women like myself have no rights. If my children were abducted there, I would never see them again. Ever. Today, I sleep a little better due to the incredible efforts of Peter Thomas Senese, knowing that Mr. Senese has helped ensure my children’s safety and has helped protect us from Chasing The Cyclone of international child abduction. Along the way, he has never asked for anything.”
Parent 3 said, “Unequivocally, Peter Thomas Senese is a tremendous person of great honor and integrity, he acts selflessly on behalf of children all across the globe, he is honest, sincere, unbowed, and willing to stand up against those that act against others. My abducted child is coming home, finally after all these years, in no small way because of the great assistance I received from Peter Thomas Senese. There is no doubt in my mind the world and our children are safer because tragically, Peter Thomas Senese found himself once Chasing The Cyclone.”
Parent 4, a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy (reserve) and a mother said, “Mr. Senese has assisted me during legal proceedings I have initiated in order to prevent my at-risk daughter from being abducted to Brazil . . . Chasing The Cyclone as a matter-of-fact guide as to the risk factors that may indicate an abduction and legal steps to take in order to prevent this from happening. Today, my daughter resides, and this is in no small way due to the knowledge gained directly from reading Chasing The Cyclone. Mr. Senese’s work and network continue to protect my daughter and other targeted children.”
Parent 5 added, “Chasing The Cyclone provided me with the necessary insight both my attorney and I required in order to prevent the international abduction of my children, but it has raised the bar of awareness for at risk parents like myself. God bless Peter Thomas Senese and the relentless work he does on behalf of parents.
Parent 6 who presently has a daughter abducted in Asia said, “Due to Peter Thomas Senese and his ability to put together a team of experienced lawyer who are highly trained in the areas of child abduction and child welfare, a complex, but sound legal action that appears to ensure my child’s safety and our reunification is fully underway. This all came about after I read the e-book version of Chasing The Cyclone. Like the book I read, I met a knowledgeable and compassionate ma who really does care.”
Well, there are no fool-proof warning signs that your spouse or ex-spouse is thinking of taking your child across international borders, with or without your permission and knowledge. However, there are in fact many signs and signals that can provide you with insight that your spouse or former spouse is intending to abduct with your child. Most of all, trust your instincts. If you have reason to believe that your spouse is in the process or is contemplating the abduction of your child, you must not wait: contact your local police and a lawyer familiar with family law and custody matters. You may need to file an ex parte (an Emergency without notice filing) motion to the court of jurisdiction where the child lives, seeking court intervention prior to when the abduction or wrongful retention occurs. Under most laws, the judge will have to hear your application so long as you present enough strong and credible evidence that your spouse or ex spouse is planning to take your child across state or international borders.
The most obvious warning sign is if the other parent communicates in any way that they have intent or a desire to remove the child of the relationship out of the country. In most instances, if the other parent threatens you with the idea that they are going to abduct your child, the fact is that in most cases, the abduction is already planned and may be in progress.
Here’s a word to the wise from a parent who hopes you will never have to find yourself Chasing The Cyclone of IPCA: educate yourself and help support any initiatives that will help parents protect their babies from abduction. I have provided an extensive tutorial on IPCA at the Official Website of Chasing The Cyclone for your viewing pleasure.
About The Author:
Peter Thomas Senese is a best-selling author and child advocate. Mr. Senese is the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation. He has written extensively on international parental child abduction, including the critically acclaimed novel inspired by his own experiences titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’, and, the extensive resource guide on international parental child abduction titled ‘The World Turned Upside Down’. Mr. Senese has also written numerous articles on this issue, and has written and produced the educational documentary film on child abduction titled ‘Chasing Parents’. Mr. Senese has been highly involved in various legislative initiatives created to protect children from abduction, and has spoken at numerous tribunals about this issue. In addition, as a Board of Director of the I CARE Foundation, Mr. Senese is highly involved in various legislative initiatives intended to stop abduction. ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ is presently available in e-book and the hardcover will be available in May, 2012. Mr. Senese’s books include the inspirational Christian novel Cloning Christ and the geopolitical thriller The Den of the Assassin.
The Official Website Of Peter Thomas Senese