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House Subcommittee Holds a Hearing on International Child Abduction

On March 25, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing, “The Goldman Act to Return Abducted American Children: Reviewing Obama Administration Implementation.”

“Child abduction is child abuse. Parentally-abducted 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,” stated Chair Chris Smith (R-NJ). He continued by explaining the importance of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (ICAPRA) (P.L. 113-150): “The Goldman Act was not intended to simply reform the system, but to bring about a fundamental sea change in U.S. diplomacy so that State Department officials would see themselves as advocates for the return of abducted American children. Now under the Goldman Act, when a country fails to appropriately address an abduction case pending more than 12 months, the law requires the secretary of State to take action. When a country has more than 30 percent of its U.S. cases pending for more than a year, the law requires the secretary of State to designate the country as ‘Non-Compliant’ in an annual report, and take action.”

Susan S. Jacobs, special advisor for Children’s Issues, Department of State, said, “The department is coordinating with other U.S. government agencies and providing training to groups and individuals to heighten awareness of IPCA [international parental child abduction] issues and procedures. These efforts build on existing programs and relationships and expand the IPCA knowledge base. As required by ICAPRA, the USCA [United States Central Authority] has organized an interagency working group to enhance child abduction prevention measures. We are working with the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in ‘Operation Prevent Departure,’ a DHS initiative.” She continued by stating “Department officials, on behalf of the secretary of State, regularly engage with foreign governments of non-Convention [Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction] countries to encourage those countries to ratify or accede to the Convention and to address pending abduction and access cases.”

“While I have held many roles in my life, none has been more meaningful to me than that of motherhood,” stated Bindu Philips, mother of children abducted to India. She continued, “On reaching India, I was not only physically and emotionally abused by my ex-husband, but also by his parents. I was finally, very cruelly separated from my children with no means to communicate with them. I could not bear the separation from my children and on learning that they were admitted to a local school in India, I approached the principal requesting that I be allowed to see my children and I was granted permission. As soon as my ex-husband learnt about this, he transferred them to another school and gave the school strict orders that the mother or any of the maternal relatives should not be allowed to see or communicate with the children.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Jeffery Morehouse, father of child abducted to Japan, executive director, BAC Home;
  • Devon M. Davenport, father of child abducted to Brazil; and
  • Scott Sawyer, father of child abducted to Japan, vice president of Operations, Global Future.
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