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Obstacles to the Recovery and Return of Parentally Abducted Children: Research Summary

NCJ Number
L K Girdner; P M Hoff
Date Published
27 pages
In response to National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children in America (NISMART), the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) tasked the American Bar Association to identify legal, policy, procedural, and practical obstacles to the recovery and return of parentally abducted children.
An estimated 354,100 children were abducted by parents or family members in the United States in 1988, according to NISMART. Abductors of an estimated 163,200 children took the children across State lines, concealed them, or prevented contact. Some intended to keep the children indefinitely or have the custody changed. Congress directed the OJJDP to conduct a 2-year study of obstacles to the location, recovery, and return of parentally abducted children and to make recommendations for overcoming these obstacles. Research conducted by the OJJDP revealed numerous obstacles, such as conflicting custody orders, confusion over jurisdiction, ambiguity and inconsistency regarding the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, lack of uniformity and specificity in State variations of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, conflicts and absence of coordination between parental abduction and family violence policies, insufficient funding for law enforcement and State missing children clearinghouses, and liability risk of law enforcement. Other obstacles included inadequacies in criminal parental abduction statutes, lack of compliance with Federal laws, lack of adequate criminal investigation and prosecution, finding attorneys with expertise in parental abduction, parental lack of funds to locate and recover their children, and the prevailing belief that parental abduction is not a serious matter. Recommendations to minimize the preceding obstacles are offered.