Definition of Family Abduction

The standard definition of family abduction is:

“The taking or keeping of a child by a family member in violation of a custody order, a decree, or other legitimate custodial rights, where the taking or keeping involved some element of concealment, flight, or intent to deprive a lawful custodian indefinitely of custodial privileges.”

This is the definition used by the Department of Justice for the purposes of its National Incidence Studies on Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children in America, and by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children,  and by ost other missing child response agencies.  It is also similar to the statutory language defining the crime of custodial interference as a felony in most states.

It is not, however, the definition used by Take Root.

We believe that while every case of family abduction is a case of custodial interference, not every case of custodial interference should be classified as an instance of family abduction.  We believe it is critical to differentiate cases that carry significant potential for physical jeopardy and particular kinds of psychological trauma from other forms of custodial interference that do not pose the same inherent risks for the child. The standard definition fails to make such distinctions.

Take Root’s definition of family abduction requires that there be a missing child (which translates to a first person experience of being hidden, or concealed, rather than being missing, since being missing is a state of being no one can ever experience firsthand.  As the old saying goes, “no matter where you go, there you are.”)

Further, our definition of the relationship between child and abductor is based on daily dependence rather than on the presence or absence of a pre-existing biological relationship.  Take Root’s definition of family abduction is:

1.  The child is physically isolated from searching family members (and, by extension, from law enforcement and child protective agencies)

2.  The child is isolated by someone with whom they have, or over time develop, a familial relationship.

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