International Parental Child Abduction: What Can You Do?

Posted by Ryan Palsrok
May 18, 2009
Woman Holds Child at Airport

About the Author: Ryan Palsrok serves as the Public Outreach Coordinator for the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues.

You may have recently read about an international child custody case with Brazil. This particular case has received significant media attention. It has been a very long, painful journey for those involved, especially the young boy’s father.

Sadly, this case is not unique. Records kept by the Department of State’s Office of Children's Issues show more than 1,600 children wrongfully taken or kept abroad by a parent during 2008. This reflects roughly a 40 percent increase in cases from 2007.

Parental child abduction is a tragedy – and a federal crime – that jeopardizes children and has substantial long-term consequences for the “left-behind” parent, the child, the family, and society. Children who are abducted by their parents are often suddenly isolated from their extended families, friends, and classmates. They are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems. Similarly, left-behind parents experience a wide range of emotions including betrayal, loss, anger, and depression. In international cases, they often face unfamiliar legal, cultural, and linguistic barriers that compound these emotions.

That is why the Department of State has an office dedicated to the issue. The Office of Children’s Issues assists parents in the United States and overseas whose children have been taken or kept abroad against their wishes by the other parent. It aims to protect the welfare of children who have been victimized in these cases.

If you find yourself in a situation that could result in an abduction of a child, visit Travel.State.gov/ChildAbduction. You can learn about best ways to work out your custody decree with your ex-spouse, discover how to enter your child’s name into the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, and find how to contact the Office of Children’s Issues. We are here to help.

Comments

Comments

Grace
|
District Of Columbia, USA
June 23, 2009

Grace in Washington DC writes:

More than three months have passed since the Sean Goldman case was turned over to the Brazilian Federal courts on February 11th. Despite the House and Senate resolutions, no ruling has been issued in Brazil. Sean has not been returned to his father in New Jersey and there's no indication when a ruling may be coming.

Dear Secretary Hillary Clinton: please add this case to your agenda in Brazil later this month. Brazilian authorities need to know we will not give up this fight.
Please ensure that Brazil complies with your demand for the immediate return of Sean Goldman.

I also would like to point out that Paulo Lins e Silva, the father of Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, who is Sean Goldman's step-father and has blatantly disregarded the Hague Convention, was invited to speak about Ethics at the Inter-American Bar Association (IABA) meeting next month. IABA is violating ethical standards by including a speaker who himself violates human rights issues.

john k.
|
New Jersey, USA
June 23, 2009

John in New Jersey writes:

If you are here to help, why has Brazil failed to return any of the 50 American children illegally abducted to the country since it became a Hague signatory.

why wasn't Brazil downgraded to non-compliant in this year's U.S. State Department report?

why is the U.S. government impotent with respect to returning our children home from Brazil?

Kim
|
Michigan, USA
June 8, 2009

Kim in Michigan writes:

The headline for this Blog should be directed to the U.S. Government. The left behind parent files all the necessary paperwork according to the rules for the Hague Convention and after that it sits in the Brazilian judicial system for years. No one enforces any kind of penalty for non compliance. The child and left behind parent is crushed and heartbroken No one cares to make a difference and change the Hague Convention to mean something to these other countries. 5 years of fighting the court system costing hundreds of thousand of dollars, they really don't have in their back pocket. If you don't have the money to at least fight, you might as well just forget about the child you love so much. Time is not our friend, children grow so fast and the left behind parent misses so much of their child's life. This is true injustice at it's finest

CiCi
|
New York, USA
May 19, 2009

CiCi in New York writes:

In the Brazil case the best interests of the young boy should be put first, well before any political considerations. I hope that the courts in Brazil decide whether this boy should remain in Brazil with his Brazilian family or be shipped to the U.S. to live with his American family, based on what's in the child's best interests, and leave the political theater out of it.

heather
|
New Jersey, USA
May 19, 2009

Heather in New Jersey writes:

So the question is what is being done to bring this child (and all the others) home? It's been 3 months since the U.S. government last mentioned this case.. and it's going on 5 years since he was abducted.

Take action.. do something.

LBF
|
North Carolina, USA
May 19, 2009

L.B.F. in North Carolina writes:

Truly the plague of international child abductions is increasing at an alarming rate. I was just reading the State Dept's "Mission Statement" here:

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/86291.pdf

and in the 84 page document the only mention of this vital topic was in the statement:

"The Department will also fully implement the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, and work tirelessly to prevent and resolve cases of international parental child abduction."

As an institution dedicating to the promotion of international diplomacy how does State resolve conflicts of interest between it's stated goal of "resolving cases of international parental abduction" and it's other numerous international objectives? Could you clarify what State considers to be a successful "resolution" to one of these tragic cases?

S.
|
Florida, USA
May 19, 2009

S. in Florida writes:

Despite the mistaken notion that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, is effective in actually returning a kidnapped child to his place of habitual residence, It is currently what we have to deal with. However,while it is encouraging to see that the State Dept. has an office specifically designed to assist parents in effecting the return of their kidnapped children, it would do well to consider an overhaul of this program, accepting and utilizing recommendations from parents who have or are experiencing these issues. It is apparent that in numerous cases of similar circumstances, that there are serious deficiencies in the ability of left behind parents to receive the kind of assistance that is actually needed.

It is a shame that bureaucratic tape, and poorly informed and trained personnel can mean the difference between whether a child is brought home or is never seen again. It's time for the OCI to reach out and include left behind parents in shaping this office in a way that will make it more effective and capable of returning children to their homes.

Thomas D.
|
New Jersey, USA
May 19, 2009

Thomas D. in New Jersey writes:

Yes, international child abduction is indeed a tragic situation. It cries out for an effective remedy and the fact is that the present methods our government is employing are not working very well. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a decent instrument of international law. The problem is that there are no real sanctions for non-compliance. So the Congress of the U.S. and the State Department must face this issue and make some changes. The judicial inertia evident in Brazil is making a mockery of justice and defying the combined diplomatic corps and chief executives of all the other signatory nations to step up and do something about it. Are we up to the challenge? Really up to it? The problem will not go away and the heartbreak of the left behind parents is painful evidence that our government needs to do more and to start doing it immediately.

More to come. Thank you for the communication channel.

LBF
|
North Carolina, USA
May 19, 2009

L.B.F. in North Carolina writes:

@ CiCi, you seem to misunderstand the nature of the matter being ever so slowly litigated in the Brazillian judiciary. It is not whether this young boy should remain in Brazil but rather whether or not an illegal/abduction has occurred and whether or not an exception to return under Article 13 can be accredited. The issue of which family this young boy should be "shipped" with can only be determined once the status quo that was unilaterally altered by his abduction has been restored. There is only one forum which has jurisdiction to determine the best interests of the child and that is in New Jersey. I'm sure his Brazillian family can make a case for Socio-Affective paternity just as effectively in New Jersey as they can in Brazil.

jon
|
Virginia, USA
May 19, 2009

Jon in Virginia writes:

@ Cici, While I agree that the childs best interest is paramount, it is for the courts in New Jersey to determine where he resides as stated by international law and the Hague treaties. Not the Brazilian judiciary.

A child cannot be abducted illegally to Brazil, held illegally in Brazil, and then have the rest of his childhood life decided by the same courts that allowed him to stay there illegally in the 1st place.

There is a simple solution. Always has been. Send the child back to New Jersey to have his case heard in the place of his habitual residence. That's what the LAW states should have happened almost 5 years ago.

At this point, I would think that the Brazilian courts would do the right thing and send the child to the U.S. to try and save face. Their legal system in under the microscope and so far they look corrupt or inept. And quite frankly, our government needs to make sure that this happens soon in order to not fall into the same category of ineptitude.

Just my thoughts....

Liesl
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 19, 2009

Liesl in Washington, DC writes:

I believe that the abducting parent should think of the best interest of their children BEFORE they abduct them. It is NOT in their best interest to be separated from the other parent. If one has a problem with a spouse or former spouse, divorce/custody must be discussed -- and enforced -- at the place of habitual residence.

Abduction is a crime, and the greatest victim is your child.

Per Hague Convention laws, Sean should have returned to the U.S. 6 weeks after the abduction. The plot thickens, the mother passed away, which ends the dispute. The father should raise the child. Case closed.

The HC says the return must be ASAP so a child like Sean doesn't have to go through such heartache (and parental alienation). He is practically 9 years old and will be able to fully adapt to life in U.S. again, but that must be done immediately so no further damage is done.

We're talking about Sean's case, but there are nearly 70 kids illegally retained, taken from U.S. to Brasil (I don't know the statistics between Brazil and other countries). The judiciary has to speed up and return those children quickly. There are left-behind parents waiting for a judicial decision for more than a year.

This is just helping the abducting parents to get away with it.

in C.
|
North Carolina, USA
June 23, 2009

Grandma in North Carolina writes:

Your comments, parental child abduction is a tragedy and a federal crime...well why is Sean Goldman still being held in Brazil? You also note that the OCI is dedicated to the issue and available to assist parents in the U.S. Exactly what are they doing? There are so many children illegally in Brazil right now, including my infant granddaughter. I'm not quite sure what you mean by dedicated, but I do know from experience that by assisting you mean lots of talk and no action. You say 'we are here to help' but yet the L.B.P. is left to wait, and wait and wait. If it's truly a crime and you're truly here to help, then it's time to bring these abducted children home to the U.S., to their parents. Act with a sense of Urgency, please.

heather
|
New Jersey, USA
May 19, 2009

Heather in New Jersey writes:

@ CiCi, you may want to read up on this case. It seems there are many facts you may not be aware of.

What was in the best interest of this child was not to be abducted from his loving father in the first place. Just because he likes the extended family of his abductor is no reason to allow them to continue the crime.

JG
|
New York, USA
May 19, 2009

J.G. in New York writes:

International Parental Child Abduction is not an act of love but pure cruelty. It is a clear violation of the child's human rights. Every child deserves to be raised by both parents. That is why The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction exists to protect the child from becoming a victim. Brazil must honor the Hague Convention laws and immediately return Sean and all other children illegally retained in their country to their place of habitual residence to prevent further psychological damage to the child and the LBP parent. Governments world-wide should stand up for these defenseless children and demand that all signatory countries honor and uphold this treaty. If we as a world community do not protect a child's basic human rights, shame on us!!!

Greatlakesgirl
|
Michigan, USA
May 20, 2009

G.L.G. in Michigan writes:

The Hague Convention is a failure and the statistics are alarming to say the least. The Sean Goldman Hague case is a prime example of the real life heartbreak. There was no 6 week return date to New Jersey. It has been almost 5 years with no real end in sight. The stepfather has started his own legal battle to keep Sean from his only living parent. How is it possible for a non-biologically related person to have custody of another man's son? Especially after David Goldman has been fighting for his son's return for all this time. The children suffer greatly for this injustice. The Hague convention needs to be amended to really mean what it says, not just words written on a document for other countries to ignore its true purpose.

Susan
|
Florida, USA
May 19, 2009

Susan in Florida writes:

Many individuals in Florida felt that Janet Reno did the wrong thing by returning Elian Gonzalez to his father, as his father lived in Cuba and intended to return their after getting his son back. I did not. I believed that Elian belonged with his father and his father had every right to expect that we, the United States, should return him. The same should hold true for Sean. The Brazilian government should return him to his father. We should not be asking, we should be demanding that they do this.

Teena
|
New York, USA
June 23, 2009

Teena in New York writes:

It is a deplorable violation of human rights when a child is taken from a parent for no good reason except selfishness. Sean Goldman belongs with his ONLY living parent, his father David Goldman. Brazil should have sent Sean home 4 years ago. They are in direct non-compliance with the Hague Convention and what is really disgusting is Sean is only one of many cases of children that have been abducted to Brazil. I was really hoping that Brazil would do the right thing and send Sean home but since it has been in the federal courts for 3 months and it has been over 2 months since the Resolutions were passed in Congress I do not have much faith in their government. Now I am wondering what the US government will do to get these children back. People need to start being held accountable.

lisa
|
New Jersey, USA
May 20, 2009

Lisa in New Jersey writes:

The travesty of Sean Goldman's abduction to Brazil continues. The non-compliant Brazil drags its feet in making a decision as prescious time ticks away. WHY?? And what is the delay in sending Sean home as is required by the Hague??

These are questions I'm hoping will be asked of the Brazian government by Secretary of State Clinton in person when she travels to Brazil. There are MANY American citizens awaiting his return. And more parents fighting for their abducted children to be sent back to the U.S. from other countries. What is the point of the Hague if parties are permitted to be non-compliant??

D
|
North Carolina, USA
May 20, 2009

G. in North Carolina writes:

Not sure why some post are approved and others are not. Yesterday I posted the truth, maybe I made a mistake. I'll try again today with a couple of real honest questions.

- If parental child abduction is a crime, then WHY are these children left in other countries such as Brazil?

- If the OCI is truly dedicated to these issues, then WHY aren't they more about ACTION rather than guidelines?

- If the OCI is truly here to HELP and ASSIST parents, then why are so many children still not home in America with the parents who have been awarded sole legal custody?

- Why are countries like Brazil continuously listed as non-compliant with no punishment?

- Why are the left behind parents left to deal with this tragedy alone with NO real HELP or HOPE that their government will ever step in and actually ASSIST in recovering their children who were taken illegally?

Just a grandmother asking Why? Just a grandmother left waiting along with her son, a left behind parent, waiting for a innocent child to be returned to her habitual residence immediately.

Cat
|
Nevada, USA
May 20, 2009

Cat in Nevada writes:

The U.S. is compliant when Returning children to their rightful place of Residence and their parent(s).

One of the most non compliant countries are Brazil and Mexico. Brazil classifies Abducted children as custody cases , rather than what it truely and really is, Abducted children. NO parent should ever have to wait for their child to be returned especially if the Hague convention has been signed and agreed upon by that country. David Goldman has been fighting for over 4 years for his son sean and It is time now to hold counties accountable for non compliance.

Mike
|
New Jersey, USA
May 20, 2009

Mike in New Jersey writes:

President Obama and SOS clinton need to demand the return of Sean to New Jersey immediately. If Brazil does not act, Then our administration should start a campaign to halt Brazil ever getting a seat on the UN security council, Stop any aid that we give them until they start sending these kidnapped children home.

Chuck
|
District Of Columbia, USA
May 20, 2009

Chuck in Washington, DC writes:

I am hoping with all my heart that SoS Clinton again brings up this issue on her upcoming trip to Brazil. This has gone on waaaay too long with no enforcement whatsoever.

Alison
|
Texas, USA
May 21, 2009

Alison in Texas writes:

I certainly hope the Secretary of State Clinton graciously demands that the minor Sean Goldman be immediately returned to his father, David Goldman in New Jersey.

WILLIAM
|
California, USA
May 26, 2009

William in California writes:

Today is Sean Goldman`s 9th Birthday. It is time he reunites with his DAD. Sect`y Clinton has been very supportive as Cong. Smith.

Despite SR37/HR125 the Brazilian Gov`t has done nothing. The Brazilian Court has not issued a decision. I think David Goldman has waited long enough. The website BSH has rumors Sect`y Clinton traveling to Brazil this week.If this is true,please bring Sean home with you.

Brazil is asking to be treated like a major power. Pres Lula must make the decision to send Sean home in lieu of the Judiciary`s inability to act in a reasonable time period.

D
|
North Carolina, USA
May 26, 2009

G. in North Carolina writes:

I agree with Mike in New Jersey, President Obama and SoS Clinton should 'demand' the return of Sean Goldman. After all, the President himself has asked that 'fathers' step up and be involved in the lives of their children. Well, David Goldman as well as many others such as my son, have tried to do just that, be involved and 'raise' their own. They have been awarded sole legal custody and their children should be returned immediately.

Parental Child Abduction is a 'crime', a felony in fact. Harboring a felon is a 'crime...lets put an end to this web of deceit. Reunite these children with their left behind parents now, no more waiting on hearings and appeals which should have never taken place anyway. The U.S. Courts have already decided, it's time to honor those decisions.

Rosalie
|
Florida, USA
June 8, 2009

Rosalie in Florida writes:

Is it true? Is it true that Brazil has used the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to have 22 children returned to Brazil, 7 of them from the U.S. while it has returned NONE of the children taken to Brazil? NONE? EVER!! Is this the mark of a leader who can be trusted? Is this "The Man" of Obama? Why are you placating this man. What are the points of ANY convention or treaty if one man can completely ignore it with impunity. If YOUR children were in Seans place, mountains would move. And that's disgraceful!

D
|
North Carolina, USA
June 2, 2009

D. in North Carolina writes:

Looks like Brazil is finally doing the right thing! The Rio court has ordered that Sean be returned to his father, David. Such great news that his ordeal is over! I pray that SoS Clinton and the other congressman will continue to put pressure on the Brazilian courts to stop sitting on all the other cases (60). The children that are there against U.S. court orders should be returned immediately, just as the Hague Convention says they should. Again, no more delays.

D
|
North Carolina, USA
June 3, 2009

G. in North Carolina writes:

OMG! I can't believe this judicial system in Brazil. I can't believe that an American child and his father are basically being left out in the cold. No help or assistance to make this right. This is so WRONG. I am finished with this site, but I guess that's what our government wants, is for everybody to just give up and keep quiet. Shameful!

Heather
|
New Jersey, USA
June 11, 2009

Heather in New Jersey writes:

The Department of State *must* issue an alert for children entering Brazil!!!

Brazil willingly signed the Hague Convention and has benefitted from it, yet is less compliant than some countries who have not even signed.

Children are in danger of being abducted to Brazil, who refuses to comply in almost all cases.

All parents should be aware that if their child is taken there they will receive little or not cooperation from the Brazilian Central Authority and judiciary!!

Penny
|
Virginia, USA
August 31, 2009

Penny in Virginia writes:

My friend just found out his ex is not returning to the US with his two children age 8 and 9. The country is Japan which is not part of the Hague Convention and of all the children abducted by their parents, only one has returned. What to do? This is not just Brazil...but countries like Japan who protect its citizens. The children are U.S. citizens born in the U.S.

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