America’s Abducted Kids Get No Help From Japan


June 17, 2015

Source: The Wall street Journal / Chris Smith

A new law was supposed to enlist the State Department in helping to bring the kids back, but Tokyo has talked its way out of cooperating.

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The U.S. State Department last month released its first annual report on countries that refuse to return American children who have been abducted by a parent and taken abroad. Conspicuously absent from the worst-offenders list in the report is the country with the world’s worst record of cooperation: Japan. Tokyo has never issued and enforced a return order for any one of the more than 50 American children currently held captive there by a parent who violated the wishes of another parent in taking the child overseas. This is in addition to the hundreds of previously abducted American children who became adults without knowing the love, culture and care of their American parent.

Last year Congress passed the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, which requires that the State Department hold countries accountable if an abduction case is still unresolved a year after State requests assistance in the return of a child. As the prime sponsor of the Goldman Act, I believe it is important to remind the State Department of its obligations under the law. First, State must accurately count all unresolved cases in its annual report. Second, the secretary of state needs to take action against all countries that have 30% or more unresolved cases, or that are otherwise noncompliant in helping to resolve abduction cases. When it comes to Japan, State falls far short on both counts.

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Initially, the law seemed effective at bringing Japan’s attention to the issue. Tokyo was so worried about being found noncompliant in the report and put on the worst-offenders list that it sent a high-level delegation to the U.S. to meet with Ambassador Susan Jacobs just before the report was due and explain its lack of compliance.

For State, it seems, that meeting was enough to absolve Japan. Rather than provide the report as required by law, State later delivered to Congress a table loaded with zeroes in the “unresolved” category of countries and then, adding insult to injury, listed Japan with a 43% abduction-resolution rate.

The more than 50 American parents who have spent years trying to bring their children home were shocked and devastated. With the new law, they thought their country would finally stand with them in working to bring their children home. Instead, the State Department attempted an end-run around the Goldman Act, squandering any real leverage in the process.

State’s failure to hold Japan accountable delegitimizes the entire report and undermines its purpose. Other countries can now look at it as a deal-making political trope. It is truly a waste of what could have been a highly effective diplomatic tool.

Furthermore, State’s continued refusal to reveal each country’s real number of unresolved cases, even when required to do so by law, should worry every American who believes the U.S. government should be honest about successes and failures in the return of American abducted children. I have asked State repeatedly for the number of unresolved cases in India, for instance, only to be stonewalled.

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Congress passed the Goldman Act to compel transparency and action. Yet what the State Department is doing is ultimately perpetuating the status quo, where far less than half of abducted American children are reunited with their families.

International parental child abduction rips children from their homes and uproots their lives, alienating them from a left-behind parent who loves them and whom they have a right to know. Abducted children often lose their relationship with their parent, half of their identity and half of their culture. Child abduction is child abuse.

Congress went to great lengths to reunite these families, passing the Goldman Act unanimously. But a law is only as good as its implementation. A congressional hearing on June 11 featured anguished parents of children abducted to and currently held in Japan, India and elsewhere. With hope, the State Department will learn from their stories and follow through on enforcement in the future.

Mr. Smith represents New Jersey’s fourth Congressional district.

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Parental Kidnapping – Now a Global Issue


May 27, 2013

Source: Boston Herald

On International Missing Children’s Day, marked May 25th, we remembered the thousands of missing children and the parents who grieve and plead for help. Since 2008, more than 7,000 American children have been abducted to a foreign country — not by a stranger, but by their other parent.

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Such children are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems and may experience anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, resentment, guilt and fearfulness.

Members of Congress have seen the lopsided battles our constituents face to bring their children home from a foreign jurisdiction. Michael Elias, a combat-injured Iraqi veteran from New Jersey, has not held his children since 2008, when his ex-wife used her Japanese consulate connections to abduct Jade and Michael Jr. in violation of New Jersey court orders. Japan has refused to return the children or prosecute the abductor.

Elias told Congress, “All my hopes and dreams for their future now lie in the hands of others. … I am begging our government to help not only my family, but hundreds of other heartbroken families as well, to demand the return of our American children who are being held in Japan.”

Colin Bower’s children, Noor and Ramsay, were abducted from their home in Boston to Egypt nearly four years ago by their mother — who had lost custody because of her drug use and psychological problems. The Egyptian government facilitated the abduction by issuing fraudulent Egyptian passports, providing passage on the government-owned airline, and by shielding the mother, who comes from a well-connected family, from any accountability or responsibility.

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At a recent hearing Bower noted the billions of dollars in U.S. assistance to Egypt and observed, “Regardless of whatever moral, fiscal, or political balance you use, providing uninterrupted aid to a partner that acts this way is quite simply wrong. If this is American foreign policy, it’s flawed and it isn’t working. We aren’t getting what we pay for.”

Tragically, the Obama administration has limited itself to diplomatic requests for the return of the children. In the words of Bernard Aronson, former assistant secretary of state of inter-American affairs, “a diplomatic request for which there is no real consequence for refusal is simply a sophisticated form of begging.”

It is time for a new approach. That is why we have introduced H.R. 1951, the Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013, which will give the president powerful tools to motivate a country’s quick response for the return of abducted children.

If a country has 10 or more cases not being resolved in a timely manner, or the judiciary, or law enforcement, or other responsible entity is persistently failing to fulfill their obligations, the president can take action to aggressively advocate for our children’s return — such as denying certain assistance, canceling cultural exchanges, opposing international loans, or extraditing the abductor.

This bill creates the expectation of action — not just words — to bring every American child home. In the words of then-Senator and now Secretary of State John Kerry at the 2012 passage of a Senate resolution calling for the return of the Bower children, we must “remain focused like a laser beam until this father is reunited with his two boys,” and every other abducted American child comes home. We can, and must, do more than talk.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R) represents New Jersey’s 4th District.

 

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‘A very disturbing trend’: Parents kidnap their children, flee country


Washington (CNN) — More children are being abducted by a parent who then takes them out of the country, and more needs to be done to bring the children back to their legal homes, the U.S. official who oversees the issue said Wednesday.

The number of such abductions reported is “sharply on the rise — a very disturbing trend,” said Susan Jacobs, the special advisor for children’s issues at the State Department.

Jacobs also said her department is one of the fastest growing offices at the State Department because of the increasing rate of international abductions involving children with American parents.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited children said that in 2010 there were nearly 2,000 parental abductions in which the child was taken out of the United States.

“International parental abduction is a federal crime with long-term, damaging consequences for both parents and children, even when the cases are resolved,” Jacobs said. “Parents seeking the return of their children or permission to visit them confront unfamiliar legal, cultural, and linguistic barriers; they suffer emotional trauma, and they face significant and long-term financial costs.”

The United States is encouraging other countries to sign onto The Hague Convention on international child abductions, a treaty signed by more than 60 countries that provides a civil mechanism to return children wrongfully removed from the country where they live.

Jacobs said decisions under the convention are commonly based on where the child usually resides. When properly implemented, “the convention works,” she said.

The issue grabbed headlines a few years ago with the case of Sean Goldman, whose American father, David, was engaged in an international custody battle after the boy’s Brazilian mother refused to let the child return to his father following a vacation in Brazil. The boy was eventually returned to his father after a ruling by the Brazilian supreme court.

Jacobs, incidentally, met with Brazilian authorities last week to discuss ways to speed up the reunification of children with their families. From their discussions, Jacobs said, Brazil and the United States are to hold the first meeting of a children’s working group later this year.

Jacobs and others traveled to the Department of Justice Wednesday afternoon for an observance of National Missing Children’s Day to honor the work of those in law enforcement who recover missing children and combat child exploitation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has weighed in on the issue as well. In videotaped remarks to mark the day, Clinton asked for to people to continue to speak out on the issue to “help children around the world come home.”

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services

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