Conversations With America: International Parental Child Abductions

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
April 25, 2012
Conversations With America: International Parental Child Abduction

Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for International Children's Issues, will hold a conversation with Ernie Allen, President and CEO, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, on international parental child abductions. The conversation will highlight how the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Children's Issues and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children work to prevent international abductions and to assist families after an abduction or wrongful retention has occurred. The discussion will be moderated by Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and will be available for on demand viewing soon on DipNote, the Department of State's official blog.

You are invited to participate by submitting questions, some of which will be selected for response during the broadcast. Submit your questions below on DipNote and join the ongoing discussion via Twitter using the hashtag #childabduction. Please submit questions via DipNote and Twitter as soon as possible for consideration.

Through Conversations With America, leaders of national non-governmental organizations have the opportunity to discuss foreign policy and global issues with senior State Department officials. These conversations aim to provide candid views of the ways in which leaders from the foreign affairs community are engaging the Department on pressing foreign policy issues.

View other Conversations With America here and by accessing the Conversations With America video podcasts on iTunes.

Editor's Note: This Conversations With America webcast occurred on May 2. You can read the transcript here.



Patrick B.
California, USA
April 26, 2012

Patrick B. in California writes:

I think we all appreciate this opportunity to converse in a public forum. And I am so glad to see both Susan and Ernie here. Can you tell me how the Dept of State defines the word 'abduction'?

George D.
April 26, 2012

George D. in Brazil writes:

Why has the U.S. Government not implemented the policy of Exit Immigration Controls like the majority of other nations have? This would make it almost impossible for International Abduction cases to take place, yet you do not take the basic steps required to hinder it from happening! It would also give the government the needed date on WHO is here illegally, so that they can be found, deported and not allowed to enter OUR country again!

Randy C.
United States
April 27, 2012

Randy C. in the U.S.A. writes:

If a Japanese man comes to the US and has sex with a 13 year old child, then returns to Japan, will the US seek extradition for statutory rape?

If the answer is YES, where is the "Comity" to seek extradition? It is not illegal to have sex with a 13 year old in Japan. And if the answer is YES, why will the US seek extradition for statutory rape but not international parental abduction when the abductor violated US laws and preexisting court orders which explicitly stated the child was not to be removed for the county, state, and country?

Bruce G.
April 27, 2012

Bruce G. in Japan writes:

What do you plan to do about the thousands of American children abducted to and within Japan and denied all access to their left behind parent? Specifically, do you support HR 1940 and sanctions against Japan until they return our abducted children?

Patrick M.
United States
April 27, 2012

Patrick M. in the U.S.A. writes:

Question 1> How come the Department of State keeps repeating the mantra, "Abduction is not illegal in Japan"?

Japan ratified the UNCRC (this is a HUMAN RIGHTS treaty, not a treaty of reciprocation) in 1994. The UNCRC clearly states in article 11 that child abduction is illegal. The Japanese constitution clearly states in Article 98 that all treaties are to be "faithfully observed".

***article 11 ALSO provides a LEGAL REQUIREMENT for signatory countries to negotiate MOUs for dealing with the return and access of children.

DoS seems to be allowing Japan to ignore it's own laws, and it's international treaty agreements without protest-- at the expense of US children.

Japan's statement of convenience, neither changes the legal realities, nor removes the ability for you to make an issue of their violation of human rights treaties (either directly, or through surrogates who are also signatories).

Question 2> How come in the July, 2011 Congressional Hearing both Amb. Jacobs and Amb. Campbell claimed that there where "no recent cases"?

My case was a new case filed within the time period under discussion; and I know of several others ass well.

Question 3> Why is DoS not loudly and publicly condemning and shaming Japan for these human rights abuses and violations of US sovereignty?

Over the years ranking members of the Department of State and the Executive branch have loudly and publicly condemned N. Korea for the abduction of approximately 30 Japanese nationals over a quarter century ago - even publicly meeting with Japanese parents. However, there has never been anywhere near a similar level of public condemnation of Japan for the continual abduction of hundreds of documented case of abducted US children - in many cases in direct violation of US court orders and therefore a baltant a front to US sovereignty.

March 1, 2011 Secretary of State Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that "This is at the HIGHEST PRIORITY LEVEL in the administration".

However, as stated, there has never been a single public condemnation of Japan for human rights violations against US citizens by the Department of State.

Question 4> What is Japan providing our country, that makes the Department of State constantly prioritize Japanese sovereignty before US sovereignty -- as this is commonly the reasoning provided by OCI for lack of action on the part of DoS, and for DoS preventing even the attempt of extradition of abductors by DoJ under the 1978 treaty with Japan.

Question 5> Why does the Department the State still "advise" parents to concede jurisdiction by entering the Japanese court system, when everyone understands that in practice the Japanese legal system is a farce and undeserving of comity with our US legal system.

Question 6> What is going to take for the US Department of State to start honoring their oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and "faithfully discharge the duties of the office" to which they have been assigned, by placing the rights of US citizens ahead of the desire to "not embarrass" the Government of Japan. You're continued weakness has allowed this issue to drag out for over 2 decades - the Department of State has never managed to arrange for Japan to return a single US child.

I've lost my US born children and haven't seen, nor been allowed to speak with, them in over a year - I don't know if they have been hurt, seriously injured, or even if they are alive - I do know that wherever they are, this adduction a direct action of abuse being committed against them. So, while I'm reasonable, I'm way beyond worrying about offending anyone by speaking the blunt truth about the utter policy failure, incompetence and, frankly, deceit, occurring at the Department of State.

Earlier this year Egypt took dozens of hostages, including 19 Americans (one of whom was the son a US Cabinet member) , and the Department of State loudly condemned Egypt, pulled out all the stops, and used all measures are their disposal to achieve the release and return of these individuals. Why are our US children held to lower standard? Merely because Japan is an "ally"?

Amy S.
Tennessee, USA
April 27, 2012

Amy S. in Tennessee writes:

For years, several organizations, including the American Bar Association and the U.S. Department of Justice, have maintained that parents with narcissistic personality disorder and/or sociopathic personality traits are more likely to kidnap their children than those who are emotionally “healthy”. Children who have been parentally kidnapped are often raised in an emotionally abnormal environment without the benefit of a healthy parent to counter-balance the abductor’s erratic or destructive behavior. Several researchers have examined the emotional fallout experienced by children who have been raised with parents who suffer from narcissistic or borderline personality disorder, and they have found that the impact of this damage is both deep and long-lasting.

Several publications have described that narcissism is a personality trait that increases the risk of parental abduction. Narcissists often rationalize their violation of court orders and feel no remorse if they bend the rules to benefit themselves.(1) A child of a narcissist can suffer severely because narcissists have “limited or no ability” to recognize their children as separate individuals with free will and needs of their own.(2) Children who are raised by a narcissistic parent often feel extremely lonely and isolated because the parent can, to the outside world, appear to be self-confident and self-controlled, but in private can unleash a battery of constant criticisms and have difficulty controlling their anger.(3) Eleanor Payson, a licensed family therapist, describes this nightmare as “a private one that can only be stopped by outside validation”.(4) A child raised by a narcissistic parent must grow up quickly, repressing his or her true feelings in order to serve the narcissist’s needs.(5)

Bill Eddy is an expert in child custody issues that arise when someone divorces a spouse with narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. He explains that parents with borderline personality disorder often “desire the elimination of the other parent as much as possible”.(6) Researchers have found that a borderline parent will often use “I’ll never speak to you again” as a primary method of solving interpersonal conflict, and the child will thereafter feel forced to agree with his parent’s opinion, even if his opinion or recollection is not the same.(7) These parents “enmesh” themselves with their children (8) and rather than being allowed to feel, the borderline parent convinces the children how they are supposed to feel.(9) Parents who kidnap their children are unwilling to share parenting with the other parent and “decide they were above the law”.(10) The risk of abduction is exacerbated by a borderline’s impulsivity and the fact that they feel superior to a court’s orders.(11)

Borderline parents hold their children captive to onslaughts of verbal abuse followed by the silent treatment. They criticize and belittle their children, causing the children to suffer great confusion, pain and silent anger.(12) Life with a borderline parent can bring “constant chaos” and is typified by the borderline’s verbal abuse, unpredictability, denying the child’s perception of events, the need to dominate, threatening to get her own way, making abusive comments and setting unrealistic expectations.(13) Denying the feelings and needs of others and trying to get the child to engage in illogical arguments only exacerbates the pain, loneliness and confusion.(14) While it is impossible to discover exactly how many international abductions have been committed by narcissistic or borderline personality disordered individuals, this research cannot and should not be ignored.

The Justice Department has acknowledged that parental abduction is damaging and that “the worst damage is imperceptible to the eye, occurring deep within the child, leaving traces that last a lifetime”.(15)

Amy J. S., Ph.D.


1 Payson, Eleanor D., M.S.W. 2002. The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists., p. 19.
2 Payson, p. 30.
3 Payson, pp. 16, 30.
4 Payson, p. 16.
5 Payson, p. 66.
6 Eddy, Bill, LCSW, JD and Randi Kreger. 2011. Splitting: Protecting Yourself while Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder., p. 263.
7 Roth, Kimberlee and Freda B. Friedman, PhD, LCSW. 2003. Surviving a Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust, Boundaries, and Self-Esteem., p. 120.
8 Eddy, p. 249.
9 Roth, p. 121.
10 Eddy, p. 248.
11 Eddy, p. 249.
12 Lawson, Christine Ann. 2000. Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping
Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship., p. 207.
13 Mason, Paul, and Randi Kreger. 2010. Stop Walking on Eggshells, 2nd
Edition., p. 61.
14 Mason, p. 109.
15 The U.S. Department of Justice, The Crime of Family Abduction, a Child’s and Parent’s Perspective. May 2010.

Denise C.
New Jersey, USA
April 27, 2012

Denise C. in New Jersey writes:

1. Ambassador Jacobs, please explain why return rates for abducted children from Hague countries back to the US are not meaningfully higher than with non-Hague countries (36% vs. 33% over the last 10 years, according to OCI data). By return rates, I’m looking at the number of returned children as a percentage of the abducted children over that same time period. While it is admirable to recruit new countries to join the Hague Convention, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend time ensuring compliance with what, statistically at least, appears to be an ineffective treaty? If the US does have a policy of requiring stricter compliance with the Hague, please share with us the methods and tools the USG uses to effectuate improved compliance.

2. Amb Jacobs, has the DOS done any studies to compare return rates of abducted children for countries prior to and after becoming Hague Convention partners? If not why not, and if so, what does the data show? Presumably a country which joins the Hague will return abducted children at a higher rate than before their ascension to the Hague.

3. The 2012 annual Hague Compliance report has been released this week and for the second straight year, without the statistical data that accompanied prior reports. Amb Jacobs, why is this and will there be a supplement released at some point? Why can’t all the data be included in one report as in years past?

4. Amb Jacobs, when a country is designated as “non-compliant” or “demonstrating patterns of non-compliance” with the Convention, does this trigger any specific action on the part of the USG? More specifically, are there any diplomatic, economic, or other consequences for poor records of compliance with the Hague? According to these reports, Mexico and Brazil, to name just two of the flagrant violators, demonstrate consistently poor track records with the Hague yet nothing seems to change from year to year. Is there any incentive for these countries to improve their performance or any penalty for failing to do so?

5. Amb Jacobs, on May 19, 2011 you tweeted that you would be traveling to Brazil to conduct meetings and establish a working group to cooperate on child abduction cases. Can you give us an update on the progress of this working group one year later? Have more abducted American children been returned since this group was formed?

6. Amb Jacobs and Mr. Allen, why is there no real “advocacy” on the part of the USG for abducted American children? Parents who’ve filed cases with NCMEC and OCI consistently recount stories of frustration and exasperation in dealing with your agencies – OCI in particular. What is the stated policy of the USG with regard to these abduction cases? Is your role simply to help facilitate the left-behind parent’s day in court in the country where their child(ren) are taken, or is it something more? Can you address the impression many parents and advocates have that these abduction cases are little more than a diplomatic irritant in the scheme of the overall foreign policy objectives of the US?

Patrick M.
United States
May 2, 2012

Patrick M. in the U.S.A. writes:

Question: Why is the Japanese media reporting that Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, just told the Japanese government that during the upcoming meeting between PM Noda and Pres Obama, that the Obama administration would table several issues, including the issue of the of hundreds+ US children that have been abducted to and held in Japan, if Japan would agree to a joint statement which committed Japan to raising their contribution on the US base in Okinawa from $2.8B to $3.1B ???

Carlos B.
United States
April 29, 2012

Carlos B. in the U.S.A. writes:

Why was the compliance status of Mexico w/ regard to the Hague Abduction Convention modified in the 2012 Compliance Report?

Carlos B.
United States
April 29, 2012

Carlos B. in the U.S.A. writes:

Is the NCMEC useful for anything in cases of international child abduction?

Tony V.
May 2, 2012

Tony D. in Japan writes:

Thank you, Ambassador Jacobs, for your interest and continued efforts to resolve this troubling problem, specifically for your work engaging with Japan. As you are aware, there are a great many American parents like me whose children were "legally abducted" as a result of decisions made by the Japanese courts. In my case, I haven't been able to see my daughter in nearly eight years due to the fact that Japan does not have in place a system of joint custody or enforceable visitation following a divorce. Please advise how the State Department views this aspect of the abduction issue and the status of any negotiations with Japan in this regard.

Sonia T.
Michigan, USA
May 1, 2012

Sonia T. in Michigan writes:

Mexico accounts for some 45% of the total number of cases of international abductions of children from the United States, and has been listed as non-compliant with the relevant human rights treaties on international child abduction for the past 12 years. Can you name a single instance where this issue has been publicly or privately raised with Mexico by a high level official in the current administration?

Michael C.
United Kingdom
September 17, 2012

Michael David C. in the United Kingdom writes:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Whilst currently in the legal throws through help of The Hague Convention, Reunite, The Official Solicitors office, US Central Authorities, to not only have my 4 year battle in regards to true outset of the now holding parent heard within understanding. But now also find myself, within the realm of bettering my continued education to the matter of Parental Child Abduction in general.

With over 200,000 cases and full knowledge that my ex wife and her family, where not only planning, but fabricated statement and also from abusive child hoods brought forth by their father.

My question is:

Is this common when full light of situation comes to pass.

I.E. Is there a general mind set to both holding parent and immediate family circle that issues such action(s)

Many Thanks


Velda P.
District Of Columbia, USA
September 16, 2012

Velda P. in Washington writes:

If the state Department is so concerned about abduction why have they failed to assist us when we informed them of people trying to abduct a child already living in Mexico as and parental abducted child. The child and mother are still in Mexico. Her daughter was recovered by the father with the Help of the FBI and A.R.C. when she held the child for ransom. They were not aware of the other child at that point. But they are now investigating the people that befriended us and claim they were going to help but there were too many suspicious things going on and demands for our legal documents made us more suspicious. A.R.C. will be handing it over to the FBI but WHY is it we were ignored?


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