NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

When Parents Kidnap Children and Take Them Abroad

May 11, 2000

Every year, at least 1,000 children are abducted from the U.S. by one of their parents, and most never come back. Critics hold the State Department responsible and say the agency fails to exert the kind of diplomatic pressure needed to return a child to his U.S. parent.

  • From May of 1997 through December of 1999, the State Department was handed 2,347 such cases.
  • About one-third of children wind up in nations that have signed the Hague Convention -- a treaty that, among other things, says that custody battles are to be settled in the child's country of "habitual residence."
  • While that should make the process of repatriation less difficult, only 503 children out of the 2,347 were reunited with their American parent -- fewer than one-quarter.
  • An additional 50 parents were granted visitation rights with their abducted children.

Source: Editorial, "U.S. Parents Rarely See Kind of Effort Put into Elian Case," USA Today, May 11, 2000.


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