Familial Abduction, More Common Than You Think…

By the Numbers

According to FBI statistics, every year 460,000 children are reported missing. That averages out to nearly 1,300 missing children every day in America. In 1999 an estimated 203,900 children were victims of a family abduction. A family abduction is defined as the taking or keeping of a child by a family member in violation of custodial rights, where there is some element of concealment, flight, or intent to deprive the parent of custodial privileges. These types of cases are often cast to the side because of the familial aspect associated with these missing children. Although these types of cases are often cast aside, they are some of the most dangerous for a child caught in the web of these abductions.

What makes parental abduction cases so dangerous?

It is common belief that these children are not in harm’s way because they are with a family member. This way of thinking is critically flawed and can cause these types of cases to fall through the cracks. Law enforcement agencies report that it is common for parental abduction victims to experience:

  • Altered identities and appearances to avoid recognition
  • Medical and physical neglect
  • Unstable schooling
  • Homelessness
  • Frequent relocation

Early third-party intervention is especially important in these types of cases. Abducted children are often brainwashed by the parent and are led to believe lies about the abduction, law enforcement, and their family.

These child kidnapping victims live as fugitives: taught not to trust anyone, told to keep secrets about their past; unable to establish relationships with friends; and always on the run from the law. The consequences of this far too common form of kidnapping do not end when the child is rescued. In many cases, children experience psychological and emotional distress, like soldiers returning from war. Not knowing who to trust and how to function are a few hurdles that these child victims must learn to overcome with time and psychological help from trained professionals. It is important to note that children involved in family abductions are typically taken by the non-custodial parent out of revenge.

Below are a few tips provided by Utah.gov to prevent cases like this from happening and how to respond if it does.

Preventing a Family Abduction

  • Obtain legal custody of your child.
  • Specify in the custody order exact times and locations for visitation.
  • Ask for special prevention provisions.
  • Always keep current information of your child on file.
  • Notify schools, daycare centers, and babysitters of custody orders.
  • Keep current names and addresses of relatives or friends that the potential abducting parent might travel to.
  • Keep on file certified copies of your custody order

If Your Child is Abducted

  • File a missing person report with your local police and request an investigation.
  • Request your child be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center computer. (NCIC)
  • If you suspect the child has been taken out of the country, call the U.S. Department of State.
  • Contact the state Missing Children’s Clearinghouse.
  • Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
  • Obtain a court order for custody of your child if you do not already have legal custody.
  • Contact your State Vital Statistics to have the Child’s Birth Certificate Flagged.


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