Jessica Click-Hill and Dalton Lucas: two case studies in parental kidnapping

Dalton Lucas and Jessica Click-Hill are both parentally abducted children that were found many years later. Both were abducted by their mothers, both at nearly identical ages (Jessica was eight and Dalton was seven), both who have fathers who were looking for them.

The biggest difference in the cases, however, is that of the outcome. By the outcome I do not mean legally, as in both cases the mothers have been arrested. The outcome in these cases I am referring to is that of the relationship with the left-behind parent. News stories about Dalton’s case say that his father drove straight from Virginia to Texas to retrieve his son, and the comments on the stories indicate that Dalton introduced his friends and others to his dad before going back with him. It will not be easy for him to readjust under any circumstances, but he seems pleased to see his dad again. Jessica, on the other hand, is indicated by news stories to have no wish to have contact with her father. She was abducted for five years more than Dalton, but since four of those years she was over eighteen it’s possible that she did not live with her mother for all of those.

So what accounts for the difference? Perhaps Dalton’s mother did not try to alienate her son from his father, although this is unlikely. Alienation is almost universal in parental kidnapping cases. Richard Warshak, an expert on parental alienation, has stated that some children are just more resilient to alienation. There are documented cases of parentally abducted children where the child later reports attempted alienation but does not succumb to its influence. Dalton’s mother could have used the classic “your father died” excuse which seems to produce less hostility towards the left-behind parent. Even that is not set in stone, of course: in the well known case of Steven Fagan he told his daughters their mother was dead and when he was arrested he admitted to the lie but then claimed she was an alcoholic. The mother had never been arrested or even accused of wrongdoing on the part of the children, but they still refused to see her or try to maintain any sort of relationship. (I mention the last to try to silence the “if the kid refuses to see a father parent they must have a good reason” crowd, but I doubt it will.) It could have something to do with the level of alienation involved – telling the child their other parent is a drug addict or alcoholic is one level, but telling them the other parent is a sadistic phyical and sexual abuser is quite another.

There’s no way to find out directly what is responsible, of course. But perhaps in both cases there is something to be learned about the detrimental effects of parental kidnapping on a child. this!

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    mike jeffires said,

    March 15, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

    Thank you for your post and raising the visibility of an issue that is affecting countless parents, children and extended family members every year.

    While parental kidnap is an extreme form of parental alienation, many alienating parents can put the same distance between the child and targeted parent without ever leaving the neighborhood, and without suffering any consequences for their actions. Kudos to the judges in these two cases for imposing consequences when the parents disobeyed court orders. Hopefully more judges will follow this lead and take the steps necessary to ensure children have access and time with both loving, caring parents.


    mike jeffries
    Author, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation

  2. 2

    forthelost said,

    March 16, 2010 @ 10:42 am

    Of course alienation is not confined to abduction; however almost all abductions involve alienation.

    Obviously there can’t be any randomized studies of children who are resistant to such alienation, but taking a look at the children who do resist would be helpful.

  3. 3

    Afflicted Mom said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 3:23 pm

    Not all Parental Alienation is caused by abduction, but severe Parental Alienation resulted in my only child being taken away from me for many years. I was and still am married to the father,but for some reason he and our daughter never bonded. She didn’t want anything to do with him and was sleeping in bed with me every night while he slept on the couch or floor. He hated that she refused to accept or love him and soon he began to hate her. When she was 6 I began to get very sick and my daughter clung to me even tighter,which really infuriated him. He decided that if he couldn’t have her affections and affinity then neither could I. Completely circumventing me my husband got citizenship and a passport for my child in his country. Under the guise of helpfully talking her to school one morning, my husband put my 7 year old child on an international flight alone to his relatives in Europe! I was constantly threatened with never seeing her again of I filed for divorce. But within 6 months of her departure it was my child herself calling to say she didn’t want to return to the United States and didn’t want to see me. Why couldn’t I just leave her alone? Finally when she finished primary school there and was 14,my husband decided to end her exile. The child returned to my was NOT the child who left me. She had not grown to love my husband anymore though he didn’t care,but she now hated me as well. He was happy about that and said now I knew what it felt like to be rejected by my own child. The very confused and disturbed young adult he mentally destroyed is currently a 21 year old year old college senior who will not have anything to do with either parents or relatives as a defense mechanism against more hurt and turmoil. A vindictive parent is a very dangerous thing.

  4. 4

    Markus Di Cecco said,

    March 13, 2016 @ 11:57 pm

    As a parent who was involved in the fight for a child I seriously question the validity of Parental Alienation Syndrome and believe it to be solely an American legal manipulation tactic. Too many children have been labelled as having psychological illness and parents defamed by American courts for resisting to enter a relationship with the other parent for various reasons. The courts do not typically pursue what is in the best interests of the child and only consider the adults even when their is much evidence of abuse or possible harm. Children are in general fairly accepting and receptive to people especially close relations. If a child is having anxiety and stress and screaming in terror every time a parent comes near then this begs for careful investigation and psychological tests of the child, not to force the child to spend time alone with the person feared unsupervised, unless you want a screwed up and forever distrustful kid because they do not feel it is possible to rely on anyone except themselves for protection. It is truly a sad thing to see a child turned cold and guarded continuing into adulthood, because they were failed by the system and those they previously trusted to keep them safe.

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