The narrative of kidnappings is fixated on strangers. But contrary to this narrative, most child kidnappings are orchestrated by family members. Stranger kidnappings occur in rarity as compared to more than 200,000 children who have fallen victim to kidnappings by none other than a family member.
It's commoner than you think; one parent or a family member can take a child and leave without the other parent’s consent. Children are taken away from home, friends, and from other family members and are isolated into a life of uncertainty.
Mental illness can be a contributing factor to strangers kidnapping kids. According to the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention report, mental illness factors 9% as reason for acquaintance kidnapping a child.
Sometimes people suffering from acute emotional distress can trick a kid by pretending to be someone else and the kid accepts to go away with him or her. For example, Gloria Williams impersonated to be a nurse at a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, and walked away with a newborn Kamiyah Mobley.
Gloria later testified the cause of her emotional distress was because she had miscarried, undergone abuse by her boyfriend, and had lost two sons in the fight for custody.
One parent takes the kid or children away and refuses to return them. Typical parental kidnapping occurs when parents are about to divorce. One parent opts to take the child from the other in order to be at an advantage in the pending child-custody proceedings.
Another case is when a parent does not return the kid at the end of an access visit or goes away with the child to prevent the other parent from having access visit or for fear of domestic violence or abuse.
If there is abuse or potentially dangerous behavior towards the children or one parent, or there are acts of negligence, there must be proper documentation to help protect child custody rights. A few things to help in the documentation, include:
- Take note about every incidence that happens
- Report the abuse to the police
- Enforce a restraining order
- A private investigator can be hired to record video footage of incidence happening.
When a family member fails to return a child after scheduled visitation time is over or fails to provide a child for visitation, this is not considered kidnapping. This is a crime of interference with custody and applies when a court order is in session.
Why People Kidnap Their Children
Kids are kidnaped in the context of a variety of domestic situations. A kid can be kidnaped when parents are separated and also even when still married, a kid can be taken by a parent who has visited, and a kid can be taken by a family member fleeing domestic violence. Some children have close bonds with the parent who takes them, and others can be afraid of the parent.
The following are reasons why family members or a parent kidnap kids:
1. Custody Battle
What causes people to kidnap kids can be a custody battle. According to the U.S. Department of Justice in a study of kids’ abductions involving 203,900 children; 53%, the majority were cases of biological fathers taking away their kids. 25% were cases of biological mothers taking away their child.
When marriages become untenable, a parent may seek to have custody of children. Thus, he or she takes away children and goes into hiding.
2. Child Safety and Well Being
A person can kidnap a kid to protect him or her from the harm of the other family member. This could be due to incidences of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. A kid undergoing abuse can experience stigma and social isolation.
3. Kidnappings as Revenge Measure
A family member may decide to kidnap a kid as revenge against the other family members. It has nothing to do with the welfare of the child, rather it is malice to stoke ill-feelings in a parent or other family members.
This can be used as a tactic to sabotage the kid’s relationship with the other parent. The doer does not care about the well-being of the victim; it is secondary to him or her, but rather the aim is to agitate, cause psychological harm and provoke.
The Life of Kids Kidnaped
The sudden going away of kids from a familiar environment into living a life of hiding and always being on the move distresses children. The names of the child may constantly be changed, he or she fails to make real connections, or the kidnaper may settle the child in a completely new environment under a new identity.
While gone, the kid is undergoing rapid and significant change. After a while, he or she won’t be the same person he or she used to be back home.
Family kidnapping is easier to conceal than acquaintance abduction. A parent seeing with a child arouses no suspicion at all, so parental kidnappings can take months or even years to be identified.
A child may start forming stronger bond in his or her new identity, and it becomes significant than his or her old identity.
The kidnaper can spend time coaching the kid to weaken the existing bond between the child and the parent. An acquaintance to make a kid follow him or her may take some time to brainwash the kid before the kidnapping.
After the abduction, the kidnaper tries to weaken existing bonds to reduce chances of a reunion back with other family members.
The kid later can develop feelings of guilt; that he or she ‘willingly’ agreed to go with the abductor. The child feels guilty of leaving the other parent and starts to blame himself or herself. Take note; the responsibility fully lies with the kidnaper, not the kid.
A kidnaper can go to the extent of instilling in the kid false fear of the very people he or she was kidnaped from. In an attempt to hide the child away, the abductor may not allow the kid to access social amenities like education institutions, social and support services, and medical facilities. The welfare of the child is compromised in many aspects both socially and professionally.
Help with Parental Kidnappings, Regardless of Borders
The federal government in 1980 legislated the Parental Kidnappings Prevention Act (PKPA). This helps people address issues of kids kidnapping regardless of borders. It gives full authority to other states custody orders to pursue their case in conformity to the provisions of PKPA.
First things first, report the case of missing kid and file a missing person report with local law enforcement. The Committee of Missing Children, Inc., whose missing is to help find missing children, can assist you in the matter and we can have an attorney involved to file a case.