In 1932, Congress gave the FBI jurisdiction under the “Lindbergh Act” to promptly investigate any reported mysterious disappearance or abduction of a child of “adulthood”—usually 12 or younger. There doesn’t have to be a ransom demand and the child doesn’t have to cross state lines or be missing for 24 hours before the FBI gets involved.
Our field offices respond to the mysterious disappearance of a child. An immediate preliminary investigation is conducted of all reports of circumstances indicating that a minor may have been kidnapped to assess evidence, circumstances and information. If found to be warranted under federal law, we will immediately open an investigation in partnership with state and local authorities.
Child abductions by strangers are often complex, and time is of the essence. The FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Teams (CARD) are deployed shortly after the kidnapping is reported to local FBI field offices, FBI headquarters, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or in other cases when the FBI decides The Federal Reserve that the investigation is justified.
Child sexual exploitation Investigations
Child sexual exploitation investigations—many of them clandestinely—are conducted in FBI field offices by the Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force (CEHTTFs), which combine FBI resources with those of other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
Each of the 56 FBI field offices worked on investigations developed by the Crimes Against Children Program, and many of our Legal Attaché offices coordinated with appropriate foreign law enforcement partners on international investigations. Many of these investigations are also being carried out in coordination with the Task Force on Internet Crimes against Children, which is funded by the Ministry of Justice. Furthermore, the FBI supports the training of federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies involved in these investigations.
Child sex tourism
The FBI, in conjunction with local and international law enforcement partners, is investigating United States citizens and permanent residents traveling abroad to engage in unlawful sexual behavior with children under the age of 18. These crimes are exacerbated by the relative ease of international travel and the use of the Internet as a platform for individuals to share information about how and where child victims are found in foreign locations.
International Parental Abduction
The FBI investigates when a parent or guardian removes a child from the United States, attempts to do so, or keeps a child (who was in the United States) outside the United States with the intent to obstruct the legal exercise of parental rights. Our field offices across the country act as primary points of contact for those seeking assistance. To request assistance or learn more about our services, please contact a member of the Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force at your local FBI office.
When a child is abducted by a parent or guardian and taken out of the United States, one criminal and one civil option may follow:
- A criminal arrest warrant can be issued for a parent or guardian who is taking a juvenile under 16 outside of the United States without the other custodial parent’s permission (International Parental Abduction Offense Act 1993).
- In countries that have signed the Hague Convention, there is a civil process that facilitates the return of abducted children under the age of 16 to their countries of origin (Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction).
Criminal procedures allow for the arrest of the kidnapped parent or guardian but do not specifically order the return of the child, although the child is usually returned upon the parent’s arrest. On the other hand, the civil process facilitates the return of the child but does not seek the arrest or return of the kidnapper. As a result, criminal proceedings will not be pursued if circumstances indicate that they would threaten the active civilian operation of the Hague Convention.
Based on these considerations, we pursue criminal proceedings in international parental kidnappings on a case-by-case basis. We consider all factors and directives between affected federal and state law enforcement agencies, state and/or federal prosecutors, the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the parent seeking.
It is important to understand that the FBI does not have investigative jurisdiction outside the United States, except on the high seas and other locations specifically granted by Congress. We work through our existing partnerships with international authorities through the US Department of State, our Legal Attaché Program and Interpol.
If you’re the parent looking, visit the Department of Justice’s International Parent Abduction webpage for more information.