The Twin Cities-based Parental Abduction Child Recovery Team, which recently marked its first anniversary, has helped recover and reunite 18 children with a custodial parent, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Two months ago, team members tracked down – with help from local judges and police in Arizona – two Minnesota kids an hour before a noncustodial parent planned to take them into Mexico. Because of a lack of money, the all-volunteer team of private investigators, attorneys, therapists, and others is scaling back from four or five cases per month to one or two. And an executive director hired three months ago to help raise funds for the team was recently let go. “We could not afford her anymore,” said Ed Wunsch, a former Wisconsin police officer and a private investigator from Minneapolis who came up with the idea for the team two years ago.
“These cases are absolutely not a top priority for anybody,” says Rick Stebbins, a St. Paul family law attorney and a member of the team’s board of directors. “Most people think that as long as the kid is with a parent, that everything is OK.” Studies have found that in nearly half of the reported cases, the children are concealed and taken from their home states. The abductor’s intent is generally to keep the child indefinitely. Wunsch, who had worked on numerous parental kidnappings, came up with the team concept because he could not find an agency that served as a one-stop shop to provide search, legal and other assistance to the parent left behind. Within hours or days of abduction, the team prepares a plan that includes the actual search with help from law enforcement and a network of private investigators throughout the country and overseas. A lawyer helps obtain necessary court orders, which often involve jurisdictions inside and outside Minnesota. A psychologist may be brought in to provide support for the parent or child during the recovery process. A media specialist helps the parent attract publicity if warranted.