I’ve written a fair amount about child abduction – both domestic and international – by parents. I’ve referred several times to the paper delivered to the United Nations by psychologist Nancy Faulkner that describe parental child abduction as child abuse.
That’s true because the abduction deprives the child of every adult who’s become important to him/her and replaces them all with one person – the abducting parent. It’s also true because of the way people on the run from the law are forced to live. They have to change their names and in a number of different ways, can’t live as ordinary people. And it’s finally true because the personality profile of the abducting parent is one of a particularly needy adult. Typically the child is called on to meet the parent’s needs.
And of course the child is deprived of the other parent. Whatever relationship he/she had with the other parent is destroyed by a single blow.
So given that parental child abduction is such a serious psychological matter for the child, to say nothing of illegal, you’d think that authorities would treat it seriously. After all, don’t family courts intone the mantra of “the best interests of the child” with numbing frequency? Don’t we pay CPS agencies scads of money every year to oversee parental care of children who may or may not be in distress? We take child welfare seriously, don’t we?
Or do we? It was just last Friday that Fathers and Families supporter and sometime blogger Karl Hindle reported on congressional hearings on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
Several parents who have been so unfortunate as to have children abducted by a spouse or partner testified before the committee. Each without exception described the U.S. State Department as virtually useless in getting children back. One describe the State Department as essentially going through the motions, but doing little else to support “left-behind” parents.
Then there was the case of David Shubert, the Colorado father whose wife kidnapped their two children to Australia. That country is a signatory to the Convention and, over a number of months, brought an action against Shubert’s ex and eventually threatened to jail her if she didn’t return the children to the United States.
So she did. She appeared before a Colorado judge who held a hearing and gave her full custody of the children and full freedom to take them back to Australia. In short, the judge ratified her abduction of the children.
The only thing more remarkable about the case was the judge’s “reasoning.” He dutifully went through all of the applicable parts of Colorado law on child custody, found that Shubert was the better parent on all of them, found that his ex had violated several provisions, and then simply added a consideration of his own – that she had been the primary parent during the period of the children’s abduction.
So the judge not only ignored Colorado law, but substituted his own bias in favor of a mother who’d been the children’s primary caregiver. Never mind that it was her own illegal act that allowed her to do so. And of course there was not a word about child abduction being child abuse.
Which brings us to a case that I’ve reported on before here. It’s about Nancy Fiedler aka Melissa Reed aka Nancy Dunsavage. Twenty-five years ago, she and her husband Greg Fiedler split up and, during the custody case, he got primary custody of their daughter Eva Marie who was six at the time.
So Nancy snatched the girl and successfully hid out in Nevada using several name changes to avoid detection. Interestingly enough, it was only when Eva Marie, then 32, wanted to get married, was her mother found and arrested. That’s because Eva Marie had no social security number which was necessary to obtain a marriage license. (How a person gets to be 32 without a SSN is one I’m still trying to figure out.) When she applied for a SSN, her mother’s cover was blown and she was arrested and returned to New Jersey where they’d lived prior to her kidnapping.
That was back in October. This article tells us the sentence for her crime (Greenfield Reporter, 6/4/11). She spent 18 days in jail last October and that’s what her sentence is – 18 days, i.e. time served. For 25 years she deprived a child of her father and a father of his child. She deprived her of a grandmother and grandfather, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. They lived as fugitives for 25 years. Nancy Dunsavage committed child abuse. For that she gets 18 days.
We say we condemn child abuse, but we don’t. The State Department doesn’t appear interested and courts at least find many reasons to condone it.