Helpspan is a grass roots initiative was founded in 2005 by Michael Castillo, who started an online petition to stop parental child abduction after his6 year old son was abducted. Parental child abduction is the leading cause of missing children worldwide, with over 13,000 cases reported in the United States alone last year. Helpspan has gained worldwide recognition for its efforts to raise awareness and create legislation to protect children from this form of child abuse. The proposed laws work with existing federal law and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to ensure that children are protected from birth until a court order is enacted.
The legislation allows minors who are reported as in danger to be listed as missing in the National Missing Persons Clearinghouse which is the elegibility of the issuance of Amber Alerts. It also recognizes unmarried parents and provides immediate protection for children from birth to the age of majority in each state. The law imposes penalties for violators and safeguards those fleeing dangerous situations. The very first petition was created in 2004 to stop this crime. The petition gained support online as Helpspan.org, with the backing of families, children's advocacy, and social support groups. Through grassroots marketing, public awareness grew, drawing the attention of a national audience, including media, celebrities, child advocates, and state and federal officials.
The Helpspan law was first established in Missouri in 2007, and later became a model for legislation in Texas. The media coverage and success of the Missouri legislation helped to create a social movement around parental child abduction, inspiring people from around the world to use the Helpspan petition as a model for their own legal proposals. In 2011, the Texas Helpspan petition was supported by several representatives and senators, resulting in the creation of three historic laws that recognized parentally kidnapped children and runaways as missing and utilized the Amber Alert system.
As of 2022, only eight states have passed parental child abduction legislation, leaving 42 states without such laws. Given the increasing incidence of parental child abduction, it is crucial that the remaining states enact legislation to protect children from birth. We urge you to support the enactment of parental child abduction legislation in your state.