The California Child Abduction Task Force, under the sponsorship of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), is in an excellent position to take a statewide view of how child abductions are handled in California. Its members have hailed from as far north as Redding and as far south as San Diego. They represent federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies, private, non–profit missing children’s agencies, and child protective services agencies. Their wide range of expertise and their shared perspectives on how to handle child abduction cases throughout the state provide the Task Force with an unparalleled vantage point from which to work.
The mission of the California Child Abduction Task Force is to reduce the risk and incidence of child abduction and to increase the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary response by enhancing skills, knowledge, and awareness of child abduction.
An estimated 1,923 cases of family abductions and 49 cases of stranger abduction occur annually in California (CA statistics as defined by Department of Justice)
The California Child Abduction Task Force views family and non–family abductions as forms of child abuse. While the psychological trauma inflicted upon a child abducted by a non–family member is commonly acknowledged, abduction by a parent or other family member has long been minimized as having few serious consequences since the child knows the abductor. However, children who are abducted, whether by a person unknown to the child or by a family member, suffer serious psychological and emotional trauma. This reality is reflected in a statement made by a six-year-old who had just been recovered from his non–custodial mother, when he turned to the police officers and said, "You guys saved my life."
The motive for family abduction often results when either disputes over custody of a child cannot be satisfactorily resolved or when one parent abducts the child to express control, anger or revenge over the other parent. Children in this situation struggle with difficult feelings towards both parents including fear, guilt, shame, confusion, and divided loyalty. Many of these children are traumatized, forced into living like fugitives, or plunged into poverty, instability, and a life of deprivation and neglect.
The motives for non-family abductions are quite different. Social deviancy, the need for power, and sexual arousal motivate the majority of "stranger" abductors. Receiving the most media coverage, these cases often end with the murder of the child. Media coverage is essential to recovery in these cases, because when homicides occur in these cases, it is usually within a few hours of the abduction. Due to media attention, the psychological consequences of non-family child abduction can extend far beyond the victim and family, to children and adults far removed from the actual crime.
The California Child Abduction Task Force is focused on current issues impacting the effective response to and investigation of all child abduction cases, and is collectively dedicated to educating professionals and volunteers involved in the prevention and recovery of abducted children.