Family Kidnappings Are Actually Happening: What You Need to Know

Some strangers talk to you on the phone asking for a large ransom or you hear your kid screaming and crying — are these what come first to your mind for a kidnapping scenario?

The truth is stranger kidnappings only account for a small part of kidnappings. A statistical result of 2016 reported by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) said that family abduction is the most common reason for children to be reported missing. There are over 200,000 reported family kidnapping cases each year in the United States; however, the experts believe that many cases related to parental kidnapping are being unreported.

What is family kidnapping

NCMEC defined family kidnapping (also called parental kidnapping) as “the wrongful removal or retention of a child by a parent.” The parent might be the child’s biological parent or a stepparent. And the “wrongful removal” could be any action which intended to take the child away from his/her previously established place of residence.

Why does a parent kidnap his/her own child

Family kidnappings mostly happen when a parent is in a relationship breakdown or in a custodial dispute, and they happen as an act of desperation. By the time a custody order is made, both parents have equal rights and access to their children, that is, when a parent wants to pick up his/her child early from school and take the child away without noticing others, he/she still has the right to do so.

Parents who fear they will not be granted custody or will be prevented from seeing their kids see taking their children away as the only option open to them. And some of the desperate parents do it out of revenge for their partners.

International Parental Kidnapping

According to The United States Department of Justice, international family kidnapping of U.S. children have been reported in countries all over the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.

If your partner has citizenship of another country, you have to pay extra attention to his/ her action. There are some warning signs of him/her possibly planning an international kidnapping, for instance, he/she might start applying for a passport or visa for the child, liquidating his/her assets, closing his/her bank accounts, and obtaining documents that pertain to the child.

In an international kidnapping case, all of a sudden a victim child is isolated from anything he/she used to be familiar with, and being uprooted from his home and deprived of the other parent can cause depression, loneliness, anxiety, and thoughts of self harm. And in order not to be found by the left-behind parent, a kidnapped child may miss several months or years of schooling, or even have his name changed to stay hidden.

Family kidnapping is a crime, but worryingly, many people haven’t realized it yet. If you find that your child has been kidnapped by your partner, here are the immediate actions you have to take:

  • Contact the police and child protection authorities
  • Gather documents
  • Inform family and friends
  • Tell the child’s school/daycare and doctor
  • Add your child’s passport to the immigration watchlist
  • If your child has been taken abroad and you know the country they are in, contact consular services in that country
  • Contact a lawyer
  • Enlist the help of child abduction organizations

To know more facts about family kidnapping and what you should do to prevent it from happening, check out this Parents’ Guide to Preventing Kidnapping by KidGuard.