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.