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Sun, 19 Jan 2020 01:15:45 -0600
2010-04-16 Print

‘The Prevent Departure Program’: An Extraordinary Tool To Prevent The Pandemic Of International Parental Child Abduction

‘Chasing The Cyclone’ author Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Ann Vlk, the writer of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ bill declare growing pandemic of international parental child abduction.


‘Chasing The Cyclone’ author Peter Thomas Senese and Carolyn Ann Vlk, the writer of Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ bill declare growing pandemic of international parental child abduction. The children’s advocates point to the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ as a powerful tool available to targeted U.S. citizens trying to prevent their child from being stolen.

Since 2003, United States citizens have had available a very effective international child abduction prevention tool called ‘The Prevent Departure Program’. Unfortunately, the vast majority of parents at risk of having their child internationally abducted are not aware that this incredibly useful tool administered by The Department of Homeland Security is available to them. Undeniably, if it is used properly, it will significantly reduce the number of child abductions from occurring each year in our country.

The reality of America’s landscape is that our nation’s children are disappearing – victims of international parental child abduction - in large, and terrifying numbers.

Peter Thomas Senese, the author of the critically acclaimed upcoming book on international parental child abduction titled ‘Chasing The Cyclone’ and producer of the documentary film on international parental child abduction titled ‘Chasing Parents: Racing Into The Storms of International Parental Child Abduction’ said, “The number of cruel and dangerous crimes against our defenseless and innocent children known as International Parental Child Abduction presently sweeping through the United States is increasing at a hysterical rate of over twenty-percent annually. Between officially reported and non-reported international abductions, it is believed there were over 11,000 illegal cross-border parental child abductions in 2009. If things continue at this rate, it is estimated there will be well over 90,000 United States children-citizens internationally abducted in the year 2020. This is absurd. But it becomes even more crazy when you consider that according to the United States Department of State’s blog, there has been a 40% rate increase in international abductions from 2007 to 2008. And with the Office of Children’s Issues Hague Non-Compliance Report due to Congress on this April 28th, 2010, surely we’re going to see an increase that is at least as absurd. We need to recognize that as the world becomes one of global-citizenship, there will be an increase in the number of criminal parental child abductions that occur each year. Conclusively, we have the makings of a massive epidemic on our hands, which is why we need, more than ever, child abduction prevention laws in place and for our judiciary and law enforcement to become educated and trained in this area.”

The reality is that the anticipated increases in international parental child abductions is in all likelihood going to be much higher than anticipated.

Carolyn Ann Vlk, the author of the landmark Florida legislation now before that state’s Senate and House of Representatives titled the ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ bill, added, “Consider the fact, as reported by The Washington Post and numerous government agencies that the number of children born in the United States to illegal immigrants rose from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. In addition, the children of illegal immigrants (these children are U.S. citizens) now account for about 1 in 15 elementary and secondary school students nationwide. In 2008, 19% of all children in the United States were native children with at least one foreign-born parent and 3% were foreign born with at least one foreign born parent. The percent of all children living in the United States with at least one foreign-born parent was 22%, in 2008, up from 15% in 1994.”

For those of you who are fortunate enough to not be aware of the horrible epidemic of International Parental Child Abduction that causes great pain and suffering to nearly all who cross its path, you should know that too many of our criminally abducted, abused, and victimized children do not come home. They can’t. Some are gone forever.

There is one other thing you should know: the majority of targeted parents who are dealt with the fate of having their child or children internationally abducted never saw it coming – they were clueless. Just like you might be.

Much has been said about the need for our states to write or adopt child abduction preventive laws that would establish risk factors associated with a potential international parental child abduction while also allowing for courts in an at-risk child’s jurisdiction and their judges to order preventive remedies that will prevent a child’s abduction from happening.

Carolyn Ann Vlk pointed out, “Tragically, only a handful of states have signed the ‘Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act’ (UCAPA). Other states including Florida are in the process of modifying their own state’s obsolete and inadequate laws to reflect the reality of the world we now live in – a world where global parental child abduction has increased dramatically. The truth is there are no accurate statistics showing the total number of global abductions (the last NISMART study was with stats from 1999 released in 2002), particularly when considering parental child abductions that occur between countries that participate in international treaties such as ‘The Hague Convention On The Civil Aspects Of International Parental Child Abduction’, or countries that do not participate in any international treaty that addresses the illegal removal and wrongful retention of a child taken across borders in accordance to the jurisdictional laws located in the child’s habitual residence.”

Peter Thomas Senese noted, “Prevention laws and expanded education and training amongst the judiciary are critical keys that will reduce the number of child abductions from occurring. However, the reality is there are so many loopholes that exist today for a would-be parental abductor to carry out their planned criminal abduction.

“One of the primary loopholes that exist today is for a non-national parent who has intent to abduct their child to simply obtain a foreign passport for their United States born citizen from the embassy of the nation they are a citizen of. And there is nothing that a United States court can do to prevent this from happening. Even if a United States court orders a foreign embassy to not issue a passport in the child’s name, they have no jurisdiction over that nation and their ability to issue a passport to a child possessing dual citizenship. Tragically, the instances of foreign passports issued despite concerns of abduction are substantial, and the tragedies endless.

But there is in fact something that United States citizens can do if they believe that the child’s other parent, who must not be a United States citizen, is intending to abduct their child across international borders. In the aftermath of 911, the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Prevent Departure Program’ was created to stop non-U.S. citizens from departing the country. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) oversees this program and it is monitored 24 hours a day.”

The ‘Prevent Departure Program’ was created to ensure that no alien will depart the United States if his or her departure would not be to the national interest of the United States.

What the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ does is provide immediate information to the transportation industry, including all air, land, and sea channels a single point of contact at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and provides a comprehensive database of individuals the United States believes may immediately depart to a foreign country. It is believed that information placed in the ‘Prevent Departure Program’ is also included in databases for points of entry at all land entry/exit points.

The program only applies to aliens, and is not available to stop U.S. citizens or dual U.S./foreign citizens from leaving the country. Under Section 215 of the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ (8 U.S.C. 1185) and it’s implementing regulations (8 CFR Part 215 and 22 CFR Part 46), it authorizes departure-control officers to prevent an alien’s departure from the United States if the alien’s departure would be prejudicial to the interests of the United States. These regulations include would-be abductions of U.S. citizens in accordance to court orders originating from the child’s court of habitual residency.

If the abductor and child are identified, they will be denied boarding. In order to detain them after boarding is denied, there must be a court order prohibiting the child’s removal or providing for the child’s pick-up, or a warrant for the abductor.

In order for an at risk parent to participate in the program, all of the following must be demonstrated:

1. Subject may NOT be a US citizen; and,

2. The nomination must include a law enforcement agency contact with 24/7 coverage; and,

3. There must be a court order showing which parent has been awarded custody or shows that the Subject is restrained from removing his/her minor child from certain counties, the state or the U.S.; and,

4. The Subject must be in the US; and,

5. There must be some likelihood that the Subject will attempt to depart in the immediate future.

With respect to the established guidelines listed above, note that in order to request the listing of the other parent, that person must be an alien of the United States.

Additionally, it is mandatory that the request must include support by a law enforcement agency or from the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues, which has the authority of requesting for the Department of Homeland Security to list a suspected child abductor on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’.

The third criteria: possessing a custodial order, is essential. Regardless if the other parent has joint custody or rights of visitation, critically, you must make sure that there are restraining orders in place prohibiting the child from being removed from the jurisdiction of habitual residency. Unfortunately, many international parental child abductions are well planned out in advance of the actual abduction, and the targeted parent has no idea that an abduction is in progress until it is too late. This is why it is essential for parents in partnership with non-nationals to be fully aware of the warning signs associated with a potential international child abduction. For a detailed list of warning signs and other information on international parental child abduction please visit

The fourth criteria states the obvious: in order to prevent an alien-parent suspected of abducting a child on U.S. soil, that parent must be in the country.

The fifth criteria requests that the applying parent demonstrate that the alien-parent has demonstrated the likelihood of abducting the child across international borders in the immediate future. Warning signs listed above are all factors that demonstrate a potential immediate intent to abduct. Remember – you need to document and record as much evidence as possible.

In a statement made by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute made before the United States House of Representatives’ ‘Committee on Homeland Security’ on January, 27th, 2010, Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute addressed various systems the U.S. government has in place to prevent terrorist threats from happening in our nation in the aftermath of the December 25th airline attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has an explosive PETN on his person. Some of these very same ‘systems’ that she refers to are part of the databases believed to be utilized by the ‘Prevent Depart Program’. According to the Deputy Secretary, “Department of Homeland Security oversees several programs to prevent individuals with terrorist ties from boarding flights that are headed to, within, or traveling over the United States or, in appropriate cases, to identify them for additional screening. Specifically, DHS uses information held in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), a resource managed by the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), as well as other information … As an additional lawyer of security, DHS also uses the Passenger Name Record (PNR), the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS), and the Immigration Advisory Program (IAP) to assess a passenger’s level of risk and, when necessary, flag them for further inspection. PNR data, obtained from the airline reservation systems, contains various elements, which may include optional information on itinerary, co-travelers, changes to the reservation, and payment information. PNR data is evaluated against “targeting rules” that are based on law enforcement data, intelligence and past case experience. APIS data, which carriers are required to provide to DHS at least 30 minutes before a flight, contains important identifying information that may not be included in PNR data, including verified identity and travel document information such as a traveler's date of birth, citizenship, and travel document number. APIS information on international flights to or from the United States against the TSDB, as well as against criminal history information, records, of lost or stolen passports, and prior immigration or customs violations. APIS is also connected to Interpol’s lost and stolen passport database for routine queries on all international travelers.”

For many parents who face the risk of having their child abducted and removed across international borders, the nightmare that both targeted parent and victimized child face is unbearable. Unfortunately, one of the primary methods that a parent is able to use in order to remove a child outside of this country, despite local court orders, is to have the nation that they are a citizen of issue a passport in the name of the U.S. citizen-child who has a right to dual citizenship.

And there is nothing that our courts or nation can do to prevent another nation from issuing a passport on behalf of a child possessing dual citizenship. Granted, most passports for children require both parents’ signatures, but that is not a preventive measure. Forgery is commonplace. And there are no safeguards in place such as requiring both parents to apply for a child’s non-U.S. passport in person at the embassy.

In order for an alien to be listed on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’, law enforcement officers or the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues’ abduction officers can request an alert for an alien abductor and/or alien’s child by contacting the Department of Homeland Security’s National Targeting Center. It may take up to two days for a name to be added to the list, although urgent cases may be handled faster. The National Targeting Center’s phone number is 703.391.1733.

For more information on the ‘Prevent Departure Program’, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s website at ( For more information on Peter Thomas Senese and ‘Chasing The Cyclone’, please visit (, For more information on Carolyn Ann Vlk and Florida’s ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’, please visit ( that has recently unanimously passed through all six legislative committees, and is highly anticipated to become law in the State of Florida in the near future.

Contact Info
William Cooper
23852 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265

Phone: 818-967-8942