The I CARE Foundation is a leading global non-profit organization dedicated to preventing international parental child abduction. The I CARE Foundation’s groundbreaking International Travel Child Consent Form has been hailed as a landmark global child abduction prevention tool by the international legal community including Hague Permanent Bureau Senior Officers. Since our inception in 2009, the reported U.S. outbound child abduction rate has decline by 38%.
A left-behind Spanish father was assassinated gangland style in Argentina while in route to legally recover his young daughter, who had previously been internationally kidnapped by her mother. Mr. Domingo Exposito Moreno, age 32 and a resident of Spain's Andalusian town of Fuengirola was shot five times by a hooded gunman while sitting in a car awaiting his attorney's arrival in the southern Argentina's Patagonian City of Comodoro. Domingo Exposito Moreno was a left-behind parent who endured a prolonged four years international child abduction litigation case under the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. The Argentinian court had ordered he would be able to bring his six-year old daughter home after she had been abducted by her mother and taken from Spain to Argentina. Comodoro is located 1,800 kilometers south of Buenos Aries.
Previous to his murder, Domingo Exposito Moreno had made complained to Argentinian authorities that he had been receiving death threats via social media forums. However, it appears local law enforcement failed to act on his complaints. More than likely law enforcement did not take his concerns seriously and more than likely wrongfully viewed his concerns as a banter commonly associated with divorce and child custody cases as opposed to the reality that his case was in fact a child kidnapping case.
Domingo Exposito Moreno was expected to fly back to Spain from Argentina with his daughter. Now that is not possible. However, an investigation is under way focusing on the child's mother.
Mr. Domingo Exposito Moreno's last Facebook posting was made on May 31st, 2014. He wrote, "Today is 3 months since I have seen you. I miss your kisses, your hugs, your smile. I miss you so much daughter that my life is going out every minute that I know nothing about you. Every night I look at the star and send you a message of love and strength as I look forward to the day we meet again and embrace each other. Know that your Dad is always by your side and you will never be abandoned. I will continue to fight for justice."
The Reality of Murder When A Parent Internationally Abducts A Child
The singular most harmful omission made in the world of international parental child abduction is the downgrade of the horrific act of child abduction that targets both the child and the left-behind parent as a child custody dispute. It is not a child custody dispute. International parental child abduction is kidnapping - and children who are kidnapped by one parent from another are placed in extremely dangerous situations. So too are the targeted left-behind parents as exemplified by the murder of Domingo Exposito Moreno.
There is no question children-victims of parental child abduction are placed into intolerable, highly abusive physical, spiritual, and emotional situations. In fact, in June of 2013, the United States Department of State issued a report stating that children of parental abduction face severe abuse including extreme violence and risk of murder. Truth is filicide: parental child murder is a cruel reality that takes away hundreds of innocent American child-citizens lives each year. Parents murdering their children is not an anomaly. It happens abundantly in each country around the world. Look at India with over 3,000 Honor Killings (really, 'honor'? Seriously?). In fact, in June, 2013 the Department of Justice issued a report warning that children of parental abduction face extreme violence and possible murder. Tragically, the risk of murder for child victims of abduction does not end when their physical parental abduction ends. Far from it. In the Fall of 2014 the I CARE Foundation will publish our 2 year study detailing the correlation between suicide and children who previously experienced parental child abduction.
For those stakeholders who are deeply familiar with international parental child abduction, it is commonly understood that Left-Behind Parents are in fact near-equal victims of extreme abuse. And as the fallen life of Mr. Domingo Exposito Moreno demonstrates, threats and acts of murder are realities. In fact, threats of murder are abundant in international parental child abduction cases as the abducting parent and their support system often are willing to do whatever is necessary to put fear and intimidation into the life of the targeted parent.
The fact is the vast majority of child abducting parents are not liberating parents. They are sociopaths who believe that they can use a child's life to cause great harm and destroy the very fabric of the child's other parent. Sadly, some parents believe that if they can't have sole possession of their child, then the other parent should not either. And tragically, that scenario does end with murder.
Left Behind Parents and Death Threats
Several years ago the I CARE Foundation reunited an American parent with their child who had been kidnapped to a dangerous and unstable African country (one of many reunifications we were responsible for dealing with Africa). In this particular case, the left-behind parent (who possessed a court order for the child's return) was told that should they ever enter the country where the child was being wrongfully held, that he and his family would be murdered. He knew the threats were real. As I said - the I CARE Foundation brought the child home. But the threat of murder was real. This father was not alone in fearing for his life.
In fact, threats of murder are a rather consistent theme in international parental child abduction cases. In another case the I CARE Foundation was involved with, a mother (who possessed a court order for the child's return) had her child abducted to an unstable, politically polarized Middle East country. She too was told that if she attempted to recover her child that she would never leave the country alive. Today, both mother and child are home and excelling, but the death threats were real.
Neither parent I mention above is alone. Truth it, death threats and the realities of murder and extreme violence against both child and targeted parent of abduction are real and rampant.
Of course, left-behind parents face threats outside of having their life permanently taken. For example, in many cases, the abducting parent launches their abduction plan well in advance of their act of kidnapping. Part of their scheme is to bring about false charges such as domestic violence and abuse against the other parent (and this happens amongst men and women near equally: it is gender equal).in order to put the targeted parent in jail (often with intent to leave the country while the child's other parent is detained) while also creating evidence in hope that the inbound court where they abduct the child to will sanction their act of kidnapping (In Hague Convention signatory countries abducting parents will rely on Article 13 b 'the best interest clause' of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention). Truth is, it is not difficult to fabricate a domestic violence claim.
A Message To The Courts And Law Practitioners Who Handle Abduction Cases
When we deal with an international parental child abduction case, the first view we must always keep in mind is that we're not here to determine jurisdiction or custody, but we are here to prevent murder and extreme violence. That's the threshold that every case should begin with. And with this initial step - urgency must always prevail.
This Is Outrageous: 91 of 92 Signatory Countries To The 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention Do Not Report The Number of Outbound Or Inbound Abduction Cases
In my capacity as the Executive Director of the I CARE Foundation, the topic of global abduction statistics often comes up in conversation. The truth is NOBODY knows what the international parental child abduction rate is. NOBODY!
One of the shameful reasons as to why this is the case is because 91 of the 92 signatory countries to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention DO NOT report the abduction rate. So in this sense, we applaud the United States Department of State and Congress for their continued transparency.
But really, how hard can it possibly be to sit in a room and count the folders of each case application that is filed with a Central Authority? Seriously - each Central Authority knows their own inbound and outbound case load - or at least has the ability of counting each folder file.
And for those of us who understand the operations of the Hague Conference, the Permanent Bureau has created INCADAT (the International Child Abduction Database). However, the vast majority of signatory countries and their Central Authorities do not provide to the Hague details of each case. In essence, they do not report their cases to the Permanent Bureau.
Now - there is no mandate to do so. But really? We're talking about tens of thousands of victims - not thousands - but tens of thousands of child abduction victims kidnapped each year.
If you're wondering why I have stated 'Tens of Thousands' of international cases while no country other than the U.S. is reporting their statistics, it is because of the I CARE Foundation's own research in this area. For example, it is our strong belief that the number of unreported cases of IPCA in the United States is 100% to 125% of the reported cases of abduction due in part to a large population of undocumented immigrants not realizing they have the right to report abduction without fear of deportation, the failure to report abduction cases by targeted parents of children abducted to Non-Hague countries, limited knowledge on who to turn to by left-behind parents, failure of law enforcement to view this act as abduction as opposed to a child custody case, and a sense of hopelessness due to low return rates and high costs associated with international kidnapping recovery. So, in the United States, the 2013 Department of State report to Congress stated there were 1,044 reported outbound cases of parental abduction. Thus, if the unreported cases is only 100% of the reported cases, the U.S. should have had at least 2,100 outbound cases of abduction in 2013.
Consequences Of Not Reporting: The Abduction Pandemic Grows
It is inconceivable that the overwhelming countries that are signatory members of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention do not report the inbound and outbound international parental child abduction rate. It is beyond unacceptable to know that the vast majority of Central Authorities do not uphold their responsibility and update the Hague's INCADAT database.
It is simply not acceptable that the majority of countries are purposefully concealing their international parental child abduction rates. We're not talking about a difficult task: each parent who petitions for legal relief under the Hague Convention alone files a Hague Petition. How hard could it be for each country's Central Authority to count the petitions that are filed by either their own citizens (outbound) or petitioned to them by another Central Authority (Inbound).
The world needs to know just how severe this pandemic is. Failure for the leaders of each Central Authority to begin reporting accurately the number of international child kidnappings is immoral. Failures to report have minimized the severe problem at hand and have greatly marginalized the need for help parents like Domingo Exposito Moreno desperately need as they attempt to protect their innocent children.
Our children need more from us. We can all do better. Let the life of Domingo Exposito Moreno and all those victims of international parental child abduction who have come before Domingo and who will come after him be not only a reminder of the deadly reality of parental child abduction, but let it be a call-to-arms for greater transparency and action to protect our children.
On a personal note, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Domingo Exposito Moreno. If anyone is aware of an educational trust being established for his daughter, I welcome any information that may be provided. The email address to write to is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of us at the I CARE Foundation are celebrating today. Why? Well, one year ago today the I CARE Foundation's International Travel Child Consent Form was released with the intent to help bring an end to international abduction. Today, but really each and every day, we celebrate the lives of the children that have been protected. We celebrate their innocence as they were protected from the abusive and unforgiving world of international parental child abduction.
As of today, hundreds of children around the world have traveled under the protection of the travel consent form, and in 100% of the cases, that we are aware of, they have concluded with the children returning home. The travel consent form was, in fact, created as an abduction prevention tool to protect children from international abduction due to the wrongful retention abroad – so when the cruel reality is that approximately 70% of all Hague cases around the world are based upon wrongful retention, this single document is actually protecting children and their innocence, which was the goal.
Extensive high remarks for the I CARE Foundation’s International Travel Child Consent Form as a groundbreaking, comprehensive, and significant global international parental child abduction prevention tool have been voiced by the leadership within legal communities familiar with international parental child abduction during legal forums around the world including compelling commentary from senior officers of the Hague Permanent Bureau during but not limited to international legal symposiums on child abduction held during the LEPCA Conference in the Hague, the IAML Conference in New York, and the Sapporo Bar Association’s Hague Symposium in Sapporo. In addition a large and growing number of attorney Bar Associations in the United States and abroad have published positive and meaningful feedback concerning the I CARE Foundation’s travel consent form with clear intent to educate their legal constituents about the landmark child abduction prevention tool. Perhaps most meaningful is the reality that many judges around the world have praised the I CARE Foundation’s travel consent form, have utilized the document in their courtrooms, and continue to implement the form in courtrooms around the world during child custody and child travel legal proceedings.
While we talk about the I CARE Foundation’s travel consent form – and celebrate it’s successes over the past year – it is important to note that the most recent Department of State Hague Compliance Report to the U.S. Congress stated that there was a decline in the reported U.S. outbound international parental child abduction rate of 12.23% during 2013 in comparison to the previous year. Over the past 4 reporting years (2009-2013) the reported outbound child abduction cases of American children have declined by 38.06%. We acknowledge the 12.23% decline in the outbound abduction rate of American children that took place in 2013. However, the truth is that this is not enough… it’s far from enough.
It is also important to remind all parents that the summer holidays, in the work that we do, is also referred to as abduction season. This is the time of year when the majority of international abductions occur. Please, if you have a child traveling abroad this summer, consider utilizing the travel consent form – you can download a copy of the form HERE. As well, parents everywhere should be aware of the risks and warning signs of international parental child abduction. After all, education is prevention!
So, on this day, we celebrate! And we celebrate knowing this ground-breaking document has, in fact, had such an incredible impact in the lives of so many. But in saying that, there is much work to be done… so our work continues.