Prevention of Abduction From Relative and Foster Parents
Children who have been placed in Relative or Foster Care due to abuse by their parents are often at risk of abduction from these placements by their parent(s). In the past few years, there have been increasing incidents of abduction of these children. The risk of abduction increases when families have ties to other countries and may not be familiar with the standards and laws of the United States.
Most of the time, parents, relative caregivers and foster parents do not realize that the taking of these children or aiding parents in the taking of these children who are under the care, custody and control of the Juvenile Court under the supervision of the Department of Children and Family Services and the Dependency Court is a crime under Penal Code 278.5, “Child Abduction” and is considered to be a felony in the State of California. This offense carries a penalty of up to 3 (three) years imprisonment.
As a relative caregiver or foster parent, you may feel sympathy for the parent(s) who have lost their children. However, please remember: these children have been removed from their parent(s) because they have been neglected or abused. If you do not feel comfortable in acting as a monitor during parental visits, it is important that you contact the Children’s Social Worker immediately. Visits can be arranged at the DCFS office or at a neutral location with another monitor. Do not feel embarrassed or ashamed to make this request. You will be truly protecting the child/ren who has/have been placed in your care.
To prevent an abduction of children placed in your care, it is very important to observe the following guidelines:
- When monitored visits are ordered by the Dependency Court, be sure that the CSW has properly advised you AND the visiting parents of the conditions of the visits. It is your responsibility to monitor the visits carefully. This requires that you do not allow the children to leave the premises with the parent. If the parent wants to take the child into the front/back yard to play, you must accompany them. If the parent wishes to take the child to an ice cream truck parked on the street, you must accompany them. Monitoring also requires that you do not, even briefly, leave the room in which the parents and child/ren are visiting.
- Monitoring also includes listening to all conversations to be sure, that among other things, no plans are made to leave with the children or to meet the children at another time or at another location. All conversations must be a language that is common to ALL parties. There should be no whispering allowed between the parents and children nor the passing of notes between the parties.
- Be aware that older children sometimes assist in an abduction. Explain to all the children who are old enough to understand, that it is important that their parents follow the rules of the visitation. When their parents have completed the programs ordered by the Dependency Court, hopefully they will be able to return home to a better family situation. Their placement with you is to maintain them in a safe environment until their parents are better able to care for them.
- Document as much information about the visiting parents as possible. This would include license plate numbers of vehicles, a physical description of each; visiting parent, any unusual identifying features, clothing that is worn by the visiting parent and child in case the abduction occurs at the visit.
- As a monitor, you may terminate the visit at any time if the guidelines that have been predetermined by the Children’s Social Worker are violated or if any behavior occurs that you deem as inappropriate or the child appears unduly distressed.
- Report any violation of the Visitation Agreement immediately to the CSW. If any visiting party attempts to abduct a child from your care, attempt to intervene peaceably, without endangering yourself or the child. Contact Law Enforcement, if necessary, to assist in preventing the abduction.
- If an abduction of a child occurs, immediately make a “Missing Person’s Report” with your local law enforcement and contact the Children’s Social Worker. If the abduction occurs after regular business hours, report the abduction to the CPHL (1-800-540-4000).The Children’s Social Worker will also be required to make a “Child Abduction Report” to your local law enforcement.
- Be sure that the children’s school and teachers are aware of who may and may not pick up the children from school. It is not uncommon for parents to abduct a child from school.
- Take yearly photographs of the children in your care with the $15.00 stipend that has been provided. Make sure that when a child is newly placed into your care, you take a good quality photograph of the child. In the case of an abduction, these photographs are CRITICAL in efforts to locate the children.
Content written by Linda Quintana-Mansouri, CPS Consultant to Los Angeles County.
For Information and Resources:
Please contact Xiomara Flores-Holguin, Children Services Administrator, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (213) 700-9921.