Archive for March, 2010

Gabriel Johnson three months later

It has been three months since Gabriel Johnson was abducted by his non-custodial mother. His father now has sole custody of him, with his mother having no parental rights at all. But all this is moot as he still has not been found. I have maintained since I first heard a news story on the case that she killed Gabriel and dumped his body somewhere. I hope I am wrong, but I have seen no evidence that indicates that. And I am typically optimistic about missing persons cases and tend to assume the person is alive without evidence otherwise.

The inital case was a typical family abduction case. I got a poster from NCMEC in a couple of days and had no reason to think it was anything more. Even now at its essentials it still is a family abduction case. His mother wanted to spite his father; the only difference is that she went further. If she hadn’t sent the text saying Gabriel was dead there would probably be almost no media coverage of the case, even if she was later found without him. If she had played the case at that point correctly, she could have even attracted supporters.

In three more months Gabriel can be on my site. Or found dead. Which is worse?

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Criticism of the NCMEC: some red herrings

For what anyone would consider to be a group reasonably beyond reproach, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children receives more than its fair share of criticism. What makes these critiques similar is the use of red herrings to argue it is an organization devoted to profit and that it does not help the issue of missing children. I will address some of these claims here.

The biggest argument used about the NCMEC is that most missing children recovered by them are family abductions and runaway juveniles. This is true, of course. The NCMEC has never tried to deny this and has published several things about the problems of both. Implicit in this criticism is that these are not really significant problems and the only worry is true stranger abductions, which are rare. But it is truly the media who focuses on stranger abductions and makes them seem a disproportionate issue. And both runaways and parentally abducted children are endangered; the streets pose great dangers to a homeless teenager (who are often running from serious problems at home or school) and many parentally abducted children are abused or have even died at the hands of their abductor. The second criticism mentions that they do not respond under the Freedom of Information Act. However, that is for one simple reason: NCMEC is not a government organization. You can no more get documents from them under FOIA then you could about the private company you work for. The third is that NCMEC is a for-profit organization, or has been so in the past. I am uncertain about where this came from as none of it is true – NCMEC is not and has never been a for-profit organization.

I suspect these points will never die out and will be raised forevermore. Many of them I first saw in a misleading article in Fathering Magazine, but I have seen them in news accounts and from parental abductors who wish to whitewash their crimes. While I do not work for NCMEC and never have, I do applaud their work, especially since several other missing childrens’ organizations have been forced to shut down for lack of funds. Even so, when NCMEC does the lion’s share of the work with missing children, people still do not give them much deserved credit.

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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.

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