Saturday, March 23, 2013

The I CARE Foundation: Teaching Lawyers How To Protect Children From Abduction

Part of the I CARE Foundation's outreach strategy to assist targeted parents trying to protect their children from abduction is to have our leadership educate and provide legal advice and strategy to attorneys who may be representing a targeted parent and children who may not be too familiar with the vast complexities of international parental child abduction and abduction prevention. 

We take the time to carefully assist these attorneys, providing the details necessary so that they may be able to successfully litigate a case in order to protect a child or children.

And the more attorneys we work with and provide them with the vast resources of knowledge at our disposal, the more children at risk of abduction are actually being protected.

This past week the I CARE Foundation had a busier week than usual trying to assist targeted parents prevent the abduction of their children.

 In fact, Friday alone included three separate international parental child abduction prevention cases that we directly were involved in litigation with, and one case where we provided important counsel and advice.

Now, when the I CARE Foundation goes into court on behalf of a parent, I am generally very confident in our ability: our track record demonstrates this. However, I must say that in the past I was always on edge when it came to an attorney going into court trying to prevent an abduction who is not directly a part of our network and who has not had formal training on abduction.

This concern still exists, but it is decreasing as our track record with outside counsel continues to increase.

There is no question that the personality of a lawyer in court does have sway on what a judge may or may not permit during litigation. Yes, the law is suppose to be objective, but in reality people are subjective. And that is both good and bad.  This all said, the objectivity of our legal briefs and our the knowledge of what the I CARE Foundation's helps prepare does make a big difference.

And so today, a very special message to my friend Brian: I am very, very happy for you.  So go and enjoy the day with your child because today is a beautiful day!

I am very happy to have been able to help you my friend.

On a separate but relevant note, the first quarter of 2013 is shaping up to be a very busy one with respect to international parental child abduction prevention cases. The I CARE Foundation's intake of prevention cases is at 40% of the 2012 case load: clearly more parents are acting in preemptive ways in order to stop an international kidnapping before it happens. This is very important news as it may represent - I hope - that the number of reported abductions may drop again this year the way it declined in 2012 (A 15.3% decline in reported cases during 2012).

There is no question that the I CARE Foundation's along with other organizations' messages concerning international parental child abduction prevention is working. The number of reported kidnappings is dropping while the number of abduction prevention cases is increasing.

Step by step, we are making a difference.

Best regards to all,

Peter Thomas Senese

Author - Chasing The Cyclone

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Malice Of International Parental Child Abuctors

How easy is it for an abducting parent to legally remove a child from one country to another without the child's other parent consenting to such move?

How does evil fill the hearts of an abductor, who only seeks to have an outcome they desire, no matter what the emotional, spiritual, and financial costs involved for the targeted parent and the children?

How extensive is the malice?

What I am about to share in the shortest detail demonstrates the sociopath behavior and pure malice of a parent who knows how to utilize the legal system to legally remove a child from one country to another without the other parent's consent, and then further remove that parent's access rights all because the taking parent no longer desires to live in the country of the child or children's habitual residence.

Now imagine having every part of your life destroyed in less than 24 hours. Think it can't happen? You are wrong!

So Much For The Wedding Vow - I Will Destroy Your Life - And This Is How
(Based Upon A Real Life Scenario)
  • American male citizen marries French female citizen in the US three years ago.
  • American citizen is a young attorney.
  • French citizen does not work.
  • The couple has two children, both born in the United States and under the age of 2.
  • Father, though practicing law, works from home on most days in order to provide care for children.
  • Mother is unhappy living in the United States and states that she wants to return to France with children.  Father wants to remain in United States, where children have lived, and where he is a practicing attorney.
  • Father compromises and travels for month long visit to France with wife and children in hope that continued access to wife's country of origin will satisfy her.
  • Mother makes numerous threats that she is going to take children and move to France without Father.
  • Father fears that children will be removed from America without his consent.
  • Mother has financial wherewithall and support system to relocate to France without children's father.
  • Father discovers that children's mother has been investigating how to remove children from America (abduction).
  • Father discovers that children's mother has a large amount of concealed money in Europe he was previously not aware of.
  • Mother hides children's US passports from father.
  • Mother escalates threats to children's father that she is leaving for France with children, stating there is nothing father can do about it (all while living together. No divorce proceedings at this time).
  • Father discovers children's mother has been in contact with French embassy. Father's concern that mother is in possession of French passports for children that he did not authorize or sign for increases significantly based on direct statements of mother that it does not matter if father has American passports and that nothing he can legally do will stop her from leaving America with children.
  • At no time have there been any claims of accusations that father has made any verbal threats or acted in any capacity of abuse; whereas, mother has made numerous threats of abduction and has demonstrated a violent temper in front of friends and family of couple.
  • Father discovers children's mother has a second phone which he was not aware of, providing mother with ability to communicate with others without father knowing.
  • Then late yesterday ----- Thursday ------ Mother threatens that she is taking children and moving to France immediatly. Father informs wife he is going to file for divorce and seek court to ensure children are not illegally removed.
  • Hours later, mother makes police report against children's father claiming that father made dangerous threats against her and children and that she fears for her safety.
  • Father becomes aware of wife's deceitful plot and that she is at police station.
  • Mother makes late afternoon police complaint against husband.
  • Mother tries to lure father back to house in order to have him arrested. Unknown to wife, father is able to see police car at house waiting for him to come back via video security system.
  • Mother's FALSE claim of domestic abuse sets up a 13B Hague Defense should she abduct.
  • Clear intent by mother to have father arrested today by police.
  • While father is arrested for domestic threats, wife, who is in possession of French passports can legally departs for France with children as father sits in jail cell.
  • While in jail, mother has the opportunity to clear out all finances of partnership.
  • Mother, who has means to disappear with children in France and Europe creates legal defense to have French courts sanction abduction under best interest of child due to father's arrest.
  • Father faces major legal fight to reunite with children, which will take a significant toll on his  professional life.
In essence, by making a false police report and seeking for her husband's arrest on a Friday with hope that her husband will be detained over the weekend, the children's mother, who is in possession of French passports could depart the United States legally with her children since there is no court order restricting her or the children's departure. In addition, the claim of domestic abuse toward her and/or her children provide mother to seek new jurisdiction of children and their custody in France. 

Tragically, what you have read above is not an isolated act, nor do false claims of abuse occur solely by women against men. In the world of international parental child abduction, it is the norm for an abductor to make false claims against a targeted parent.

If you noticed in the brief scenario described above, the abductor had planned her scheme carefully - from moving money to Europe, to concealed phone calls, to illegally obtained passports, to a malicious scheme that would prevent her husband to file any court action to restrain her from leaving the United States by making a false police report in hope he would be arrested and detained long enough for her to get to an airport and depart with the children of the marriage.

And in the meantime, the targeted parent has been arrested, had his children taken from him, had his assets taken, and is now Chasing The Cyclone of abduction. All in less than 24 hours.

For more information about international parental child abduction, please visit the I CARE Foundation website and the official website of Chasing The Cyclone.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When Parent Blog Writers Change The World: The Story of Laura Perkins Taff

There are people in the world that truly make it a better place, and my friend Laura Perkins Taff, happens to be one of those rare, exceptional human beings that gives of herself in a way that truly makes a big difference for others.  Not only has Laura found and shared her voice, but in doing so, she has come to the aid of children with special needs and their families in a very important way.    Humble, giving, caring, and a difference-maker for the community of children she advocates for, Laura Perkins Taff greatly inspires me and many around her.

Unquestionably, Laura exemplifies the best of what it means to be a parent blog writer utilizing social media to help others in need.  It is my honor to share with you my interview with Laura, for she belongs in the circle that is 'Heroes of Today'.

On behalf of the entire family of the I CARE Foundation, I would like to share our deep appreciation to Laura for all of her help advocating awareness of international parental child abduction prevention.  Laura went out of her way to raise awarenss of this challenging issue that destorys families even though this issue was remote to her.  Yet, understanding the challenges innocent children may face, Laura acted. But that is Laura - a compassionate lady who is willing to help.

Perhaps it is best that I get right to Laura's interview because I think what she has to say is incredible.

So it is my privilege to share with you Today's Hero - Laura Perkins Taff - an incredible lady who has exemplifies the incredible capability of a parent blog writer.  More importantly, Laura, by her act, faith, and committment, is the definition of 'good parenting'.

I am very honored to have the privilege of writing about you and the incredible child advocacy work you do, particularly with children with special needs or in crisis.  In fact,  not only have I laughed quite often when I read your parenting website that you cite is about 'A HodgePodge Mom Blog About Life, Parenting, Special Needs Children, Product Reviews and More' because in reality, your wonderful parenting blog is so much more than a 'HodgePodge', it is an extraordinary, informative parenting website with a tremendous purpose, in particular because it also happens to be an incredibly informative sources of information on MECP2 Duplication syndrome and Rett syndrome   Why did you create the Anna and Essie parenting site?

Laura Perkins Taff
Well, first thank you so much for reading. Time is so valuable and it's always an honor to me when people take a moment or two of their time to read anything I have written. It started so simply. I was reading other blogs and enjoying them and I thought to myself, "Hey I could do that!" I started more because I had loved blogs that talked about using coupons and saving money and I was always thrilled when I could actually find free and deeply discounted products. Soon after, it started to hit me that I could use my blog as a voice for something more

No one expects to become a special needs parent. You find out you are having a baby and you start to daydream about how life is going to be based on your friends and family who you've seen go through the experience. When it turns out to be different, it's a big shock and a huge adjustment. I dont' always mention having a special needs child right away when I meet people because I want them to see life is still good and worthwhile and happy as a special needs parent. It's a huge part of my life but it doesn't rule my life. Yet, it's still hard. As I began to share my experiences and other parents would find my posts, they could relate to me and they would contact me. It grew and developed from there. 

As a multiple cancer conqueror who was previously diagnosed with nuerofibromatosis, I have a great appreciation for all individuals who elevate awareness of different challenges that life may bring to us, such as the MECP2 Duplication syndrome your beautiful daughter Anna has been diagnosed with. You write extensively about MECP2 Duplication.  Can you explain what this is, and tell us  what organizations are working for a cure?

It's a very complex syndrome that wasn't even discovered until 2005. To put it as simply as possible, the MECP2 gene is located on the x chromosome, and is responsible for creating a protein that is essential for normal brain development.Those who have MECP2 Duplication Syndrome have extra pieces of that gene on the x chromosome. Because it's still so new, experts disagree on whether the entire gene has to be duplicated (or even triplicated) or just parts of it, but Anna has only small parts duplicated. Because it is an x-chromosome disease, it's very very rare for girls to have it because girls have the phenomenon of inheriting two x-chromosomes, one of which will inactivate during fetal development. Usually that causes women to be carriers but not show symptoms, in which case they pass it along to their male children. Males only inherit one x-chromosome from their mom, therefore having the duplication in every cell of their bodies and very severe symptoms of mental retardation, hypotonia, seizures, inability to develop a vocabulary, most are immobile, and incur repeated cases of pneumonia. Life expectancy is a very short 21 years. With the very few girls that show symptoms it's not as severe because they do typically have some normal x chromosomes active in their bodies. We have seen some girls with the same severe symptoms as the boys due to the fact that the duplication trans-located to another chromosome which is located in every cell of the body.

Currrently, the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas is conducting basic science research and clinical research in hopes for a cure. There are a few organizations that have formed for MECP2 awareness, but all of their proceeds go to Baylor, so I direct everyone I can straight to Baylor to cut out the "middle man". There is donation information on my MECP2 page on the blog about how to donate to Baylor.

How has the information you provided helped other parents who are attending to the needs of their children with special needs?

This is an emotional question for me because of the responses I have gotten. Mostly it just gives them hope and encouragement. They see me moving forward and dealing with life as it comes. They also see me break down and get weak at times, but in that we band together to know there's someone else out there going through the same thing we are and it gives us strength. I had one special needs grandmother write to me and tell me she had found my blog and request that I write an email to her daughter who had just found out that the baby had MECP2. I did, and that mom and I have kept in touch since. She has started her own blog to help her have an outlet to reach out to others and vent about the tough days. That's just one example, but it's been so wonderful for me to get a response and know that everything I have gone through is not for nothing. I can reach out a hand when someone needs it and I can get a hand when I need it. 

In looking at the wonderful group of parenting blog writers the I CARE Foundation has worked with over the past year, it seems that one of the most active groups are mom blog writers who are raising a child with special needs.  What have been the benefits of social media and Internet forums for parents who are raising a child with special needs?

Well, social media is just so popular and allows an outreach to so many people. I'd say that's the biggest benefit, just having such a huge audience to get in touch with right from your living-room. Special needs parents have so much to say and share that without social media we wouldn't be able to reach so many people.

Has creating a parenting blog allowed you to share your voice - and your incredible knowledge - on subjects that have benefited others, and if so, how?

Definitely so. Whether someone grabs a recipe, learns tips on what worked for me in potty training, or bonds with me over a bad day I'd say it benefits readers in some way. My most recent example is getting a comment from a reader on a post I wrote about how single dads often make visitation time super-fun and moms are left feeling like the warden who has to enforce all the rules and be a bore. In my experience I learned that dads feel like they need to do that because their time is so limited, and their house isn't home to the kids. (In many cases.) No matter how much fun you have on vacation, you always want to go home. The reader told me she really needed that as she awaited her daughter's return from the "fun house" and she was happy to remember that "there's no place like home". It's such a benefit to me as well. As I mentioned earlier, writing can be such an outlet and way to vent. When someone reads it and tells me that they got something from it, it blesses me doubly!

The Internet has changed the dynamics of not only how we obtain information, but clearly social media has allowed people from all around the world to mobilize. I think of how the Arab Spring swept through many Middle Eastern nations.  How has social media mobilized parents who are raising their children with special needs?

I can tell you in my situation I have heard from parents in the UK and in China who were looking up information on MECP2. It was great to be able to compare notes and see the similarities and differences in our girls. Without social media there wouldn't have been a way to accomplish that. 

I have learned a long time ago that children with special needs are in fact teachers. In fact, I have a little buddy in my life, his name is Connor, who has taught me so much about life.  What are some of the things that Anna has directly or indirectly taught you?

That question brings tears to my eyes. Anna teaches us all so much. I think the first thing she indirectly taught me was that she's happy with her life as long as I am! I used to catch myself looking at children her age and seeing where she would be and what she would be doing if she had developed normally, and it would break me. Anna is such a happy, loving child. She is happy just like she is. There's no reason for me not to be. Directly she teaches us all so much about love and laughter. She becomes so excited over the things she enjoys. Her face lights up and it illuminates the room. We were at a conference one time and as I turned to sit down I found a piece of paper laying in my seat. It was a poem written about Anna from the lady that had been sitting behind us just based on Anna's love for life and her facial expressions. She teaches us to celebrate all the great moments of life! She teaches us how to love deeply. A mouse ran out in our kitchen one day and I screamed! At first she was scared but I calmed her down and helped her understand I had just been startled. She took me by the hand, looked in my face and said, "Don't worry mom, we'll figure this out together." I tell you there's nothing I can't face with her by my side. 

You have demonstrated a great deal of courage in sharing all you do on your website. How has demonstrating courage impacted your life?

Oh thank you. I try to tell other parents dealing with my situation that courage and strength are learned more than something you come equipped with. It's that fight or flight instinct that kicks in. You can't run away from it so you have to fight. You have this situation dumped in your lap and you have to learn to cope. I tell them don't beat yourself up at weak and trying times because we all go through them. Sharing my courage with others just helps me to continue being courageous. 

There was a time when a person staying at home and raising their family may have felt that they lost their voice. Today, the traditional workplace has changed, and with it, social media has changed the way voices are heard. Can you provide some insight on this?

The only thing I can really think to say is what we've touched on already, that we can reach so many people sitting right in our homes. I'm very grateful to social media outlets for that.  

How do you select the topics you write about?

I find subjects based on what I'm doing in my life at the time. Sometimes I get so full of ideas I have to make a list of things I want to write about when I get the chance. My sister and I ate barbecue pork nachos last week and since then I keep thinking I want to do a recipe-post about it and share how my sweet neighbor brought them to me one day and how much I've enjoyed them since. It's written on my chalk-board right now as a reminder.  Moments with Anna just sprout up all the time and sometimes I miss writing about them, but I try to share as much as I can because I know other parents are reading. My youngest daughter Essie provides quite a bit of inspiration as well. 

You have faith in the God you believe in as shared in your writing. Sometimes, God puts us through challenges that we may not necessarily want.  When these challenges come into your life, as they do, other's live, how does your faith guide you?

That is a question I've dealt with since realizing I was a special needs parent. I have to refer to my favorite Bible verse on this one. John 16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer! I have overcome the world. See, we are not promised that no bad thing will happen to us as believers, but we are asked to take heart and know that God will be with us. I like the version that says, "Be of good cheer" because it reminds me of my cheerful sweet Anna. Sometimes I feel like all I know for sure is GOD IS REAL and GOD IS WITH ME. It keeps me hanging on.

What do you think it means to have 'Courage in Faith?"

That's such a great question because faith takes a lot of courage. People and life can hurt us and it can shake the very foundation of our faith. I think to have courage in faith means to keep daring to believe even when it seems like there's nothing to believe in anymore. When it feels like if we put our hearts on the line to believe that we could get hurt again, and we still keep pressing on...that's courage in faith.

Your daughter Essie likes to have potato sack races with you? Who usually wins?

She wins! She's so full of life and energy and youth and excitement. I wish I could bottle it up and drink it when I need an extra boost. Thank you for asking about Essie as well. I think the Lord made her full of extra-tough stuff because some day she will surpass Anna's development and become the "older" sister even though she's 6 years younger. Her spunk is a lot to keep up with now, but she's a joy and a blessing just like my Anna.

Over the past year, you have played an important role in the I CARE Foundation's educational outreach to help raise awareness of international parental child abduction and trafficking.  Why?

When I became aware of the outreach it was my hearts desire to do whatever I could. As a parent there's nothing scarier than the thought of losing your child. Having this voice and this outreach we've talked about throughout this interview is such a blessing so that I can have some way to lend a hand. I can't imagine why any parent or any person with the ability to raise awareness and help would not do it.

After nearly 30 years of consistent growth in reported cases of child abduction, including recent forecasts that growth would continue by 20% per year, the Department of State reported a 15% decline in the reported abduction rate. During this time, a grassroots campaign was launched that included utilizing the influence of parent blog writers like yourself who wrote about abduction prevention.  How important of a role do you think parent blog writers have on influencing social issues?

Very very important. I think people are just starting to "get" how influential bloggers can be. I'm so very excited to be a part of it all.  

Do you think parent bloggers should dedicate a specific amount of their writings toward discussing social issues?

I hadn't thought about it before you asked me, but yes. I think we have a responsibility to use our influence in a positive ethical way. Anyone with a sense of "power" can abuse it if they are not careful. I'm not sure how much of their writing should be dedicated to discussing social issues but I definitely believe when given a chance to give a positive, informative, helpful message they should. 

Can you name three books that have influenced your life?

Does the Bible count? I can't think of another book that influences my life more than that one. "Every Woman's Battle" by Shannon Ethridge, and "Praying Gods Word" by Beth Moore have influenced me as well. I get inspired by books quite often. I just finished "The Circle Series" by Ted Dekker and found so much inspiration in faith even though it's a work of fiction. I also love the classics. My brother and I used to do a Classics book club. We both found so much to talk about reading, "The Catcher in the Rye" and my personal favorite was, "The Old Man and the Sea". I think those were more inspirational than influential but I definitely love the written word. 

Can you name three things that you are most proud of about your Anna and Essie website?

My number one would have to be that it's a sounding board and a source of hope and inspiration for other special needs parents. It's been a thrill to be able to earn some extra income through the blog which is desperately needed as a single special needs parent. Also, I have been invited several times to appear on television news programs through the blog. These are all things I had no idea would happen when I first started writing. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of raising your beautiful daughters? 

I have quite a few interests actually. I enjoy singing very much, and I'm not too bad at it. I enjoy crafts like painting and sewing. I've become a great cook...and baking is a favorite pastime of mine. Of course I've already mentioned I love reading as well. I'm learning to garden this year, and I have no clue what I'm doing but it's great for for me and the girls. We check the plants each day and go outside together to plan out where we will put them. They help me water the seedlings. It's been a great hobby for us all to develop together. 

(End Interview)

It is my honor and privilege to call Laura my friend. The world, and particularly children in need, are in a better place in many ways not just because of Laura's diret advocacy, but, her advocacy sets an example for others to follow.  By act, Laura demonstrates time-and-time again that each of us has a responsibility to make the world a better place - something she surely does.

To read more about Laura, please visit her delightful parenting website,


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Parenting Heroes. Jennifer Cluff of Momology

Today's Heroes - Jennifer Husson Cluff of Mom-ology
Where Being A Mom Is A Way Of Life

Jennifer Husson Cluff Has Been Voted As One Of Canada's Top 5 Parenting Blogs
Over the past few years I have written a series of essays about real-life heroes - incredible individuals who act in kindness and compassion toward others and who inherently, by the nature of their spirits, enhance the lives of those around them. I am fortunate to call each a dear friend. These individuals have made me a better person. They have positively impacted the lives of so many others by direct act or through social activism. Nevertheless, they are what is right about our world.

Needless to say, I feel honored and blessed to have these remarkable heroes in my life for they have not only enriched my own life, but they have profoundly and measurably made our world a better place. It is my privilege to share with you, insight about my dear friend Jennifer Husson Cluff of Ontario, Canada who not only is an active defender and protector of children in crisis as well as children with special needs, but who also is one of the kindest, caring, and compassionate individuals I have ever had the privilege to call 'friend'. It is no wonder why Jennifer Husson Cluff has been awarded the honor of being called one of Canada's top parenting blog writers through her incredible work discussing everyday parenting issues on her Mom-ology website, but also issues revolving around autism and international child abduction and trafficking. From my perspective, Jennifer Husson Cluff is not only one of Canada's top parenting writers, but she is one of the world's most prolific parenting writers because through her writing and social media capability, Jen Husson Cluff has measurably helped save the lives of children in severe crisis.

Before I go any further, let me say this simple thing about heroes: they are ordinary people doing extraordinary things for others during time of need or crisis, and in their act, they seek nothing but to hold the knowledge that they acted in kindness toward another, including individuals they know as well as individuals they may never know. In a hero’s compassionate act, they make the world a better place. And unquestionably, Jennifer Husson Cluff has made the world a better place for others.

Social media has clearly altered the way the world shares information, including a shift away from what may be previously considered traditional media outlets to the more nano-moment overdrive that occurs via social media outlets such as blog sites, TwitterFacebook, etc., etc. The paradigm of this is a massive world of what may be viewed as dormant voices erupted in the media. The volcano, if you will – the highly intelligent, insightful, connected voices known as parenting blog writers.

Speaking from first-hand experience in my capacity as the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation, I have seen just how influential parenting blog writers are, particularly when they mobilize on a specific issue or cause. Fortunately for many at-risk children and their parents who have been targeted for international parental child abduction, a large and growing number of parenting bloggers decided to share their powerful voices and write about abduction. In doing so, the number of reported cased in the United States declined by 15% during 2012. This was more than a remarkable event. It was a miracle partially created by some extraordinary parents – mostly mothers who parent, who write, who live, who think, who care, and who stood unbowed. Amongst this remarkable group, and defining all of the above, is Jennifer Husson Cluff.

Over the past year, the I CARE Foundation has worked with Jennifer. Whenever we asked for assistance in sharing messages that could possibly help families at risk, not only did she say ‘yes’ to our request, but asked ‘what else can I do to help?’

And help she did!

Jennifer Husson Cluff is my hero. She is what is right about this world. I value her friendship greatly, am inspired deeply by her belief in others, but more than anything, I value her incredible, insightful voice – a voice that always thinks of others while also being assertive, thoughtful, and at times, quite funny. And as a parent – there is not a day that goes by that I am not amazed by just how caring and attentive a parent Jennifer is to her son Connor, who I think is one of the most remarkable young boys I have ever had the privilege of getting to know – in fact, I am blessed that Connor, who sees the world in its purest form – has been willing to share with me from time-to-time his unique, innocent, trusting, and wise perspective about so many things.

The other day, I was discussing with my fellow I CARE Foundation board of director member, attorney Joel Walter the amazing fact that the number of international parental child abduction cases declined by 15%. His words? “The reason why that happened more than anything is because of remarkable women like Jen [Husson Cluff] who answered our plea to help steward the message about abduction. They [the parenting blog writers] played a dramatic role in what was accomplished.”

I couldn’t agree more with Joel’s statement.

In asking Jennifer a list of questions below, I think you will understand just how remarkable a person Jennifer Husson Cluff is. So with great pleasure, I share with you my interview with my hero, Jennifer Husson Cluff.

1. What is Mom-ology?

Mom-ology is a place where I share anything and everything mom-related… or in reality, parenting-related, as I do have some dad readers too. I originally started writing under another blog name and it was specifically about autism. As time went on, I started branching out into more general parenting topics, which allowed Mom-ology to be born. It allowed me to expand what I wanted to write about. It’s a place where I am able to be me and if that benefits someone else as well, that’s fantastic!

2. You have recently been voted one of Canada's Top Parenting Blog Writers. Why write and what topics do you focus on?

My main goal in writing is to write about personal issues that may be of interest to others. Becoming a stay-at-home mom after being in the workforce for almost 15 years was a difficult transition in one sense. Though I love my son more than anything in this world, I thought I lost a part of my identity as a person in the workforce. So in creating Mom-ology, and writing about the things I do, it has allowed me to share my voice with others again.

Outside of sharing life living with autism… the good, the bad and the funny… I am passionate about raising autism awareness. As a special needs parent, I learned very quickly how to advocate for my son. Society has a lot of misconceptions about autism, and to help reduce the amount of discrimination and unfortunately, ignorance, the views of society need to change. My goal is to do what I can to change those views… to make life easier for my son, his friends and anyone else on the spectrum.

I have also become a bit of an advocate trying to help raise awareness about international parental child abduction (IPCA). About a year ago, I was introduced to this world that I didn’t know existed. I was an outsider looking in… and I can sure say, I didn’t like what I saw. I have been incredibly lucky to be able to assist the I CARE Foundation in any way I can, as they fight to bring about changes in the laws that are necessary to protect innocent children from the abuse and cruel world that is IPCA.

3. You are a fierce advocate of children with special needs. What benefits, if any, has social media had in furthering society's understanding of children who are on the autism spectrum?

Thank you for saying that Peter - it means an awful lot coming from you. As you are aware, education is the key for any type of advocacy. In my opinion, social media has been a huge benefit as we try to raise awareness and help change the way society looks at children or adults on the autism spectrum.

Social media has allowed many causes and advocacy programs to reach people that they would have never been able to years ago. There are bloggers out there advocating and raising awareness for autism, as well as organizations such as Autism Speaks, and the information and reach is unbelievable. For example, April 2nd has been recognized as World Autism Awareness Day and a big part of this day is Autism Speaks’ campaign called ‘Light It Up Blue’. Businesses, organizations and individuals from all around the world recognize and participate in this event. It’s something small but it shows that social media is making a difference and getting the word out there. It allows us to share with society and to help people understand. Many times people’s reactions are based on fear of the unknown, but those fears can be reduced simply sharing information and educating society. I like to think that one day my son will live in a world that will accept him for who he is and part of that will be due to the work that advocates are doing today… but we still have a long way to go.

4. You have stewarded the message of international parental child abduction prevention, and have directly played important roles in helping prevent children from being internationally abducted. How would you describe parental child abduction and how relevant is this in society today?

I would say any parent’s worst nightmare would be to have their child abducted. Making it worse would be to know that it was the other parent doing the abducting! It’s hard to imagine that a parent could do that to their child! Aren’t parents supposed to love and care for their children? I know many of you feel the same way as I do and just can’t fathom the idea. However, it happens… and it happens a lot!

International parental child abduction is a form of child abuse… there is no other way to describe it. The short-term and long-term effects on these innocent children are severe. Not only is the child subjected to parental alienation, but studies show there is an increased risk of being murdered by the abducting parent (filicide) and data indicating victims of IPCA are also at a higher risk of suicide.

If you look at the statistics you will see how relevant this is in society today. There may be as many as 20,000 Canadian children and 125,000 American children internationally abducted by one parent from the other over the next ten years. Of those numbers, only about 10% of these children will ever come home!

As a parent, protect yourself and protect your child… I encourage you to take a few minutes and educate yourself about the WARNING SIGNS of IPCA. The easiest and best way to protect these children is to stop IPCA before it happens!

5. You use your blog to educate others about a host of important topics relevant to society today. What would be two of your biggest success stories on how your blog writing has helped another?

One of the things that I love about blogging is hearing from readers. My favorite story by far would be when I was contacted by a mom here in Canada, after reading an article about international parental child abduction that was shared on Mom-ology. This mom discovered that her three children were at risk of being taken to Saudi Arabia by their father. Thankfully the I CARE Foundation was able to ensure that these children remained in Canada where they were safe. I will ALWAYS remember that day… being a part of ensuring these children were safe… that was truly an amazing feeling!

I have had ‘autism parents’ contact me looking for support for their struggles that mainly revolve around dealing with school issues. Most recently, a parent emailed me after their child was forced into a supposed ‘seclusion room’ at school. Many parents are unaware of their rights in these types of situations and even more are afraid to upset the school and the officials. Helping parents to understand their rights and assisting to ensure they are able to access the resources and support that they need is extremely important. In this case it was to protect a child’s safety… to preserve a child’s dignity… and help a parent to realize they need to be the voice for their child and stand up for what they believe is right.

6. How socially influential are parenting blog writers and mom bloggers in particular?

I wish I could remember where I read this, but it was research stating that in 2012 there were 4.2 million ‘mom bloggers’ in North America. Now each of those mom bloggers have a passion that they write about… it may be fashion, food or fighting for a cause… whatever it is, in those numbers, they carry a lot of weight in the social world. Many parenting bloggers are stay at home moms and we use our blogs to share our voice and with the accessibility of the internet we are able to share our message with more people than ever before. I read parenting blogs from all around the world… I don’t go to buy a newspaper anymore… I use the internet to see what is going on in the world.

7. You have been blog writing for a little more than a year, yet in your first year as a blogger you have become considered one of the most important parenting blog writers. Are there any lessons that you can share with other parents who are or may be considering creating a blog?

Mom-ology was not my first blog but it is the first one that I have actually stuck with and made into something that I am proud of. I struggled a lot trying to ‘find my groove’ so to speak. I can’t say exactly what it was, but everything just fell into place. I write about what I love. I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way. I proved that to myself many times over!! I like to think I’m heading down the right path now though because I sure love what I do.

In my opinion, you need to write about what you know… write about what you love! I think with blogging, you have to do it because you enjoy it. If you put too many expectations on yourself you will probably lose interest. Deciding what you want from your blog is also an important step. Do you want it to be a ‘diary’ that you can share with family and friends, or do you have a bigger goal in mind…making an income? Advocating for a cause? Most of all have fun!

8. I would like to play a little word game. What comes to mind when I say, "Finding Your Voice?"

Funny you should ask this question, seeing as it comes up so much in our conversations!

I believe that your ‘voice’ is who you are… your mind, your heart and your spirit. When you ‘find your voice’ you find who you are truly meant to be and what is your ‘gift’, so to speak. There is a passion inside everyone and the challenge is to find it, but when you do, you will know. I guess for myself, I found my voice after I started Mom-ology. It’s been an incredible journey!

9. How has social media changed the landscape of society?

Social media has made some pretty great changes in the world. If you look at the way we interact with each other there are some definite pros and cons. Social media allows us to stay in contact with friends and family like we never could before, but I also think there is a downside to that in that we have lost some of the social skills that used to exist in society. People sit in the same room with each other and converse via text messages rather than a good old conversation. I must admit that I find that funny when I see it happen. The definition of ‘friends’ has pretty much been redefined due to Facebook. How many of your friends on Facebook are really friends? But if you look at the area of social activism, the changes are amazing! Gone are the days of having a small group on individuals trying to fight for a cause...locally. Today, social media allows people to connect on a global scale which only benefits the area of education and raising awareness. Think about the decline in parental abductions. This information is going out over the internet through the I CARE Foundation and bloggers. Parents are finding out about IPCA and the risks through social media. Children's lives are being protected because of social media! I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty impressive!

10. Three books that have changed your life?

OK, this is really going to show where my life is today! I don't have a lot of free time to read so when I do, most of my focus goes into learning about autism. The first two books are written by individuals on the autism spectrum and each has taught me so much about my son.

Chasing the Cyclone... well, that's kind of a given. Now certainly one of my favorite books, it has impacted my life in so many positive ways... as has the author!!

1. Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin

2. Look Me In the Eye by John Elder Robison

3. Chasing The Cyclone by Peter Thomas Senese

11. Your son has a golden retriever named Ollie. How important is Ollie to your family?

As a companion, a helper, a best friend and member of our family, Ollie is our son’s autism service dog. Quite simply, he brings peace back to our lives as he is our extra set of eyes and ears. He has the amazing ability to make a young boy’s tears disappear by sharing a little nuzzle, or a comforting lick on the cheek, and those tears are replaced with sounds of laughter. Things like providing a warm snuggle at night, Ollie helps our son to feel safe and comforted so that he is able to sleep. A simple cuddle can help reduce anxiety and assists with self-regulation (those things we all take for granted) which makes those daily routines more bearable. If you were to ask what the best thing about having Ollie is, our son’s reply would be, and has been, ‘He is my best friend’.

We have had Ollie for almost 4 years and he has made such an enormous change in our lives. He has a big job but he does it so well! As you can probably tell by all that, Ollie is an extremely important member of our family and we are truly blessed to have him!

12. International Parental Child Abduction rates declined for the second year in a row in the United States. How significant of a role would you say parenting blog writers played in raising social awareness so at-risk parents can protect their children?

First off, I am thrilled at this news. When you shared this information the other day it was, as you know, a reality check for me. As a blogger, you don’t generally see the effect that you have on things like social awareness. If you are blogging about healthy eating, you don’t see how your efforts change people’s health specifically… you have to trust that what you are doing is making a difference.

In the case of parental child abduction, getting the word out on a global scale is beneficial for all. With bloggers having access to the internet and the followers through social media sites, it is easy to get messages out on a massive scale. I guess you could say that the numbers speak for themselves. Though standing up for what you believe in on your own is better than not doing anything at all, I think it takes a strong team to really make a difference. The efforts of the I CARE Foundation and the parenting bloggers that have been working with them are making a difference! I am proud to be a part of that!

13. Who or what inspires you?

That’s an easy one… my biggest inspiration is, of course, my son.

14. What should others know about you and your writing?

One of my favore phrases is 'Live… Laugh… Love'. There are sure a lot of different ways you can interpret that phrase, but any way you look at it, it’s a great way to live! If I could give everyone the ability to at least laugh each day I would. Laughter is the best medicine… it doesn’t take batteries… and best of all, it’s free

I would love it if people would stop by and check out Mom-ology… and of course let me know that you stopped by!

15. What would you like to tell anyone who thinks that their voice doesn't matter or who thinks that they can't make a difference in their own life or the lives of others?

Never let anyone tell you that your voice doesn't matter because it does! Even one voice can make a difference. It took me a while to realize that, but thanks to a pretty good friend... namely Peter Thomas Senese... I am able to see that now. If I can make a difference, so can you!

(End Interview Questions)

There are people in this world that make the world a better place by simply existing, and Jennifer Husson Cluff sure is one of them.  Extremely intelligent, humble, considerate to others, a dedicated parent who has found her voice and who has used her voice for the greater good of others, she is what is right about this world.  

While I sit here thinking about how I would like to end this interview, I have immediately found myself reflecting upon the time when Jen and I first met.  With a smile on my face, I remember after our first conversation how intelligent and caring she is.  But I also remember thinking to myself, "She really doesn't realize just how capable she is, nor how important her incredible insight is."  Well, I can't say how amazing of an experience it has personally been to see first-hand as Jennifer Husson Cluff, one of Canada's Top 5 Parenting writers . . . has found her voice.  Undeniably, the world is a better place . . . and my life has been enriched in ways I could never possibly explain.

And Jennifer, should you ever read this - I want you to know you are a true hero in my eyes.

Kindest wishes to all -

Peter Thomas Senese

Author, Filmmaker, Advocate, and Believer In Miracles

Founding Director - The I CARE Foundation