Throughout this study, several individuals, including project staff and those in the field, commented that in addressing the problem of parental abduction, the focus on the child as victim is often lost. Criminal parental abduction statutes, for instance, speak in terms of one parent depriving the other of his or her child. As a result, the parent, not the child, becomes the aggrieved party. Similarly, the child’s point of view is too often overlooked in these cases, especially if the child’s whereabouts are unknown. Unlike other types of child maltreatment cases, in parental abduction cases, investigators often do not have direct contact with the child. As a result, though unintentional, the child’s interests, in contrast to his or her parents’, may become secondary.

Criminal justice leaders, legislators, and others in a position to support and implement specialized programs of intervention must be reminded that parental abduction can be a form of serious child maltreatment and is a crime in all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Many children will benefit if the criminal justice system carefully considers this study’s findings and recommendations and begins to perceive this crime as harmful to the well-being of children and their families.

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The Criminal Justice System's Response to Parental Abduction Juvenile Justice Bulletin December 2001