President Obama signs Goldman Act into law

Late last night, President Obama signed into law the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (P.L. 113-150).

At this time, all of us at BSHF extend our deepest gratitude to Congressman Chris Smith, Senator Robert Menendez and their wonderful teams. We would have never reached this milestone without their tremendous efforts and ongoing dedication to this cause.

 

PICTURED: David Goldman, Congressman Chris Smith, and Sean Goldman.


 

Two Smith Bills Signed into Law on Same Day

Smith: Different issues, but both stem from parents’ love for their children

By Jeff Sagnip, Office of Congressman Chris Smith

 

WASHINGTON, Aug 9 — Thousands of American families struggling on very different fronts will received federal support now that President Obama has signed into law two separate bills late Friday, one to help prevent international child abduction and return American children now held overseas, and the other targeting $1.3 billion in federal funds to assist families touched by autism.

“What a momentous day for thousands of families across America,” said Rep. Chris Smith, the author of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction and Return Act (H.R. 3212) and the author of the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research and Support (CARES) Act (H.R. 4631). “While different in scope, these new laws have one, overriding common theme: making the federal government work better for children and families.

“Yesterday, if you were a parent whose American child was abducted to a foreign land, the State Department took a step back and quickly outlined the limitations on what it would do to help,” Smith said.

“With the enactment of the ‘Goldman Act’ that policy changes. The State Department gets new tools to effectively engage the fight and work several fronts to get our children back,” Smith said.

“The Goldman Act works to right the terrible wrong of international child abduction, end the enormous pain and suffering endured by separated children and parents, and force the federal government to act to bring abducted children home,” Smith said. “Left behind parents will now have tangible support and backing from their federal government.”

Smith’s Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research and Support Act, The Autism CARES Act, builds on Smith’s long established record of assisting the now 1-68 children who have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to the latest CDC data released in March, New Jersey has the highest prevalence rate in the nation, with one in 45 children identified as having ASD.

“The Autism CARES Act authorizes $1.3 billion over five years to continue the critical pipeline of federal research dollars that are working to identify best practices for early intervention, treatment and care for families touched by autism,” said Smith who has authored previous legislation that has helped form the base line of federal autism programs.

“And the new law, for the first time, tasks the federal government with examining and anticipating needs for autistic adolescents who are ‘aging out’ of their school-based support and transitioning into adulthood,” he said.

Last month Smith held a congressional hearing that delved into successful corporate programs designed to employ persons with ASD worldwide. He said every year 50,000 youths with autism enter into adulthood and communities that are unprepared to meet their need. The federal government can and must play a role in identifying new ways to assist people with ASD in our communities.

Smith said both laws were inspired by the love, work and tenacity of local parents fighting for their children.

The child abduction law is named after David Goldman and his son Sean of Monmouth County, N.J. who were separated for over five years after an international abduction to Brazil. Smith traveled to Brazil with David Goldman twice to help bring Sean home in 2009. Goldman now works to help other left behind parents reunite with their children.

“We finally have a national law that has some teeth in it to prevent future abductions and also get immediate action for victim families,” said David Goldman. “Just as it had been in my case, many of these families have been suffering for years fighting to be reunited with their abducted American children. This is a terrific result of bipartisan work. The enactment of this law has been long overdue and is a life boat for these families.”

Regarding the Autism CARES Act, Smith credited Bobbie and Billy Gallagher of Ocean County, N.J.–the parents of two small children with autism who visited his office 17 years ago. Using their own extensive research, the Gallaghers demonstrated how far behind the federal research agencies were in their understanding and work on autism.

“The Gallaghers are pioneers in the effort to find better treatment and interventions for children with autism. Together with other parents they have been tenacious in their efforts to see this bill passed into law,” Smith said.

“The laws we have today to help families with autism would not be on the books were it not for them,” he said.

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N.J. mom step closer to reunion after Obama signs law about international child abduction

By Cristina Rojas, Times of Trenton, NJ.com

 

AUGUST 9, 2014 — The last time Bindu Philips saw her twin boys was in 2012 when she traveled to India for a mediation hearing — but only for a few minutes. For nearly six years, she has been embroiled in an international custody battle with her now ex-husband over their boys, now 13.

Her ordeal could come to an end soon after President Obama signed into law Friday legislation that authorizes the State Department to take increasingly forceful measures against any country that does not help return an American child illegally held there.

“I’m longing to see my children,” the Plainsboro mom, 43, said today. “I really hope I will be reunited with them soon.”

The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act is inspired by a Tinton Falls father whose son was kept in Brazil by his wife and her parents for more than five years.

“The Goldman Act works to right the terrible wrong of international child abduction, end the enormous pain and suffering endured by separated children and parents and force the federal government to act to bring abducted children home,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.), who sponsored the bill. “Left-behind parents will now have tangible support and backing from their federal government.”

Philips’ ex-husband, Sunil Jacob, took the family on a sudden vacation to India in December 2008. He separated the children from her and kept them from seeing her parents. After three weeks, he enrolled them in a school without her knowledge. The principal let her talk with them twice a week, but when Jacob learned of this, he transferred them to another school.

She returned home to the U.S. after a few months and has continued to fight for them ever since. He denies her all contact; efforts to send them messages and motherly advice via a website were shut down by an Indian court order.

“The abductor plans everything so well that the left-behind parent really gets taken by surprise,” Philips said, who fears that Jacob has brainwashed her sons into thinking that she abandoned them. “They make the children turn against a parent who really loves them.”

The thought that she could finally be reunited with them gives her a renewed energy to face each day.

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Obama signs new laws on autism, abducted children

By Patricia Alex, The Record, NorthJersey.com

 

AUGUST 10, 2014 — President Obama has signed into law a bill designed to thwart international child abduction and help return American children now held by estranged spouses overseas, according to an announcement by the measure’s sponsor in the House of Representatives.

“The State Department gets new tools to effectively engage the fight and work on several fronts to get our children back.” the sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith, R-Monmouth and Mercer, said in a press release issued Saturday. “Left behind parents will now have tangible support and backing from their federal government.”

Smith’s office also announced the signing of another bill he sponsored that would target $1.3 billion in federal funds to assist families touched by autism.

The two bills, signed Friday night, received bipartisan support and were sponsored in the Senate by Robert Menendez, D-Paramus.

The child-abduction law would help parents whose children have been illegally taken abroad by former spouses, allowing the State Department to act on the issue and in some cases to impose economic sanctions by withholding aid.

The bill was prompted by the case of Tinton Falls resident David Goldman, whose wife abducted their 4-year-old son, Sean, and took him to Brazil. Sean was returned by Brazilian courts in December 2009, more than five years after he was abducted and years after his mother died.

So-called left-behind parents have spent years seeking federal intervention and trying to get people to understand that these are not custody battles but rather violations of American law.

More than 90 nations have signed the Hague Convention, which is supposed to uphold court-ordered custody provisions. The new law would cover nations that are not part of the Hague Convention and give the State Department additional tools for those that are but are not complying with custody arrangements made in the U.S.

The law requires annual reports to determine which nations are not complying, and it allows for punishing them by delaying or canceling state visits and limiting or eliminating various forms of economic assistance. It also allows for the U.S. to make extradition requests.

“We finally have a national law that has some teeth in it to prevent future abductions and also get immediate action for victim families,” Goldman said in the press release issued by Smith. “Just as it had been in my case, many of these families have been suffering for years fighting to be reunited with their abducted American children.”

The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research and Support Act — or the Autism CARES Act — authorizes $1.3 billion over five years for federal research to identify best practices for early intervention, treatment and care for families touched by the disorder, Smith said.

The measure involves the federal government in “anticipating the needs” of autistic adolescents who are “aging out” of school-based support programs.

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By David Goldman, APP.com

 

This Christmas Eve marks the fourth anniversary of my personal miracle when, after six tortured years trying to secure his return, my abducted son was finally returned from Brazil. Thankfully, today, Sean is home and thriving in New Jersey. An active 13-year old, he loves fishing, basketball and spending time with his family and friends. After being abducted abroad and alienated from his life and loved ones, Sean’s re-acclimation to life in America is a testament to the resiliency of children.

Sadly, most of the children abducted from our country by a parent never come home. The level of despair these families suffer is unimaginable. Fighting for the return of their children becomes an all-consuming and never-ending battle, often draining them emotionally and financially.

That is why I co-founded the Bring Sean Home Foundation (BSHF), a non-profit dedicated to the cause of bringing abducted children home.

But private efforts are not enough. Child abduction is child abuse and must be treated as a serious human rights violation by the U.S. government. Our country must use its moral, legal, and diplomatic authority to bring abducted American children home. But that is not what is happening today.

Our government rarely takes a strong stand on the issue of child abduction the way it did for Sean and me. Sean’s return four years ago gave the community of left-behind families a renewed sense of hope that finally, our government was getting serious about the tragic issue of international child abduction. I am disappointed today that so little has changed. Rather than advocate, our government plays the role of intermediary and at best, merely assists in the processing of paperwork. Too often, the desire to maintain harmonious bilateral relations with other countries trumps human rights issues like child abduction.

The U.S. government, despite pronouncements that this is an issue of deep concern, does precious little to assist in seeing that abducted children are brought home swiftly, if at all.

What’s missing is a strong and clear message from our country’s leaders demanding these abducted American children be returned home to their left-behind families with a threat of consequences for refusal to do so.

To give left-behind families and their abducted children the support they need, Congress — in a remarkable example of bipartisan cooperation — passed on Dec. 11 The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (H.R. 3212) by a vote of 398 to 0.

The bill’s author, Rep. Chris Smith, has been steadfast in his support of victims of international child abduction. The unanimous showing of support for this legislation should be the catalyst for swift passage of the bill in the U.S. Senate, where it awaits consideration in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Robert Menendez.

The law would make child abduction a nation-to-nation issue rather than requiring parents to confront complicated and often corrupt, foreign judicial systems on their own. It would provide real sanctions and real consequences to countries that, flagrantly and repeatedly, refuse to return abducted American children as required by the treaty they signed.

To remedy this problem, H.R.3212 lays out a list of escalating consequences for countries which flagrantly defy treaty mandates to return abducted American children.

It also requires that the State Department report regularly to our elected representatives in the Congress, something that isn’t happening today.

When passed into law, this legislation will help end the suffering endured by thousands of American families that have been torn apart by international child abduction.

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CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL TEXT OF LEGISLATION

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On December 11, in an overwhelming show of bipartisan support, the House of Representatives voted unanimously (398-0) to pass H.R. 3212: The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ).

This milestone was more than four years in the making and would not have been attained without Congressman Chris Smith’s hard work and dedication, and that of his entire staff.

David Goldman, Mark DeAngelis and Melissa Capestro from the Bring Sean Home Foundation (BSHF) traveled to Washington, DC, for the day to lend support and celebrate the passage of the bill in the House. We recognize that there remain several critical steps to be completed before the bill becomes law. It is expected that the U.S. Senate will take up the bill early in 2014. All of us at BSHF remain optimistic that the bill will make its way to President Obama’s desk sometime in the coming year.

CLICK HERE TO READ CONGRESSMAN SMITH’S FLOOR REMARKS

PICTURED: David Goldman (Co-Founder, BSHF), Congressman Chris Smith, Missy Capestro (Director, BSHF), Mark DeAngelis (Executive Director, BSHF) — in Washington, District of Columbia.

Follow the Bring Sean Home Foundation on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/BringSeanHome) and view additional photos from the day.

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Sean and David Goldman abduction bill could be approved this week

By Susanne Cervenka, APP.com

 

NEPTUNE — It could be another Christmas surprise for David Goldman, the former Tinton Falls man whose son, Sean, was returned to him on Christmas Eve four years ago.

This time, the gift would be the passage of a law named for Goldman and his son that would help other families whose children have been kidnapped to foreign countries.

After three years of negotiations, the “Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act” is headed to the U.S. Senate, where it could be approved as soon as this week, said Rep. Chris Smith, who, along with Goldman, appeared at an editorial board meeting at the Asbury Park Press.

Smith, R-N.J., said the Senate could take up the bill through unanimous consent, a procedure that would expedite the legislation’s path to President Barack Obama’s desk.

Smith said he has not heard yet if Obama would sign the bill, but Goldman said Obama was supportive of his mission when he was a senator and intervened soon after becoming president.

The legislation would set up a series of sanctions against countries that persistently fail to follow either the Hague Abduction Conventions, a 1980 international treaty that bars parents from fleeing to other countries until custody is decided, or similar agreements the United States would make with countries that haven’t signed on to that treaty.

Sean Goldman, now 13, is the only U.S. child so far to be returned [from Brazil] under the Hague treaty, which is signed by more than 80 countries, but rarely is enforced.

Children who have come home do so most often because of an agreement reached between both parents, not because of judicial orders by foreign courts, Goldman said.

The sanctions, which range from the president making a private appeal to suspending or revoking economic aide, are key to the legislation, which Smith said amps up the Hague treaty by putting political pressure on countries that harbor parents. The law also would require the U.S. Department of State, with the parents’ permission, to notify federal lawmakers, who represent left-behind parents, of the abduction so they can put pressure on their diplomatic counterparts.

“If you don’t have a penalty phase, enforcing a global human rights standard becomes meaningless,” Smith said. “Countries do not sharpen their response and become responsive unless they know there is a potential penalty phase.”

Sean is in a ‘safe place’

The bill passed the House with a 398-0 vote, a seemingly impossible feat in the increasingly cantankerous Congress.

Goldman, however, sees nothing partisan in bringing American children home to settle custody disputes.

Goldman’s wife, Bruna Bianchi, took Sean, then 4, from New Jersey to Brazil on what Goldman thought was a two-week trip to visit family. Bianchi remarried, then died in childbirth, which set off the high-profile international fight to return Sean home.

Goldman said cases like his, where the children have been living in the United States before one parent takes them abroad, are often wrongly characterized as international custody cases instead of abduction cases.

But once abroad, the country harboring the parent abductor treat the case as a straight custodial case, where laws often aren’t the same as the United States.

Goldman, 47, incurred upwards of $700,000 in debt for legal bills in both countries, plane tickets, extended hotel stays and translation costs in the fight to bring his son home from Brazil.

This legislation would help reduce the financial damage families face along with emotional turmoil the separation case inflict by speeding up the children’s return to the United States, he said.

“The quicker the remedy, the less the costs,” said Goldman, who established the Bring Sean Home Foundation to help other families. He has since moved from his Tinton Falls home, but has not said where he is living now. Goldman has remarried.

Sean has visited with his Brazilian grandmother about three or four times since, at least twice in the past year, he said. Those visits occurred here with Sean’s therapist.

The focus now has been to give Sean as normal of a childhood as possible, Goldman said.

Goldman said he keeps a watchful eye on Sean as any parent would, but no longer fears when his son will be home.

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Senate’s move on Goldman bill

NJ Editorial/Opinion, APP.com

 

Given David Goldman’s well-chronicled five-year ordeal to be reunited with his son, who was abducted and taken to Brazil by his mother, it might seem odd to call him lucky.

But considering how difficult it is for parents whose children were taken from them by a spouse or other family member to another country to succeed in having them returned, he is lucky indeed.

Despite a 1980 international treaty that prohibits parents from fleeing to other countries until custody is decided, Sean is among a small minority of American children who have been returned under that treaty, the Hague Abduction Conventions, which lacks any enforcement provisions.

That is why it is essential that the U.S. Senate approve a bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., passed unanimously in the House last week, that would allow sanctions to be imposed against countries that show a pattern of illegally harboring abducted children.

Smith played a major role in raising the national profile of Goldman’s case, and helped set the wheels in motion for Sean’s ultimate return to the United States. The threat of economic sanctions against Brazil also was a contributing factor.

Sean, now 13, was caught up in a protracted legal battle after his mother took him, at age 4, to Brazil. She remarried, then died in childbirth. Her parents tried to win custody after she died.

As Smith and Goldman told the Asbury Park Press editorial board on Monday, the bill essentially gives parents who have fought for the return of their children in abduction cases the full backing of the U.S. government. Instead of individuals having to deal with uncooperative countries on their own, the bill makes it a fairer fight.

The bill not only gives the president a variety of measures he can employ against nations, but provides other tools that can be used to help reduce the number of abductions, now estimated at more than 1,000 a year in the U.S. alone, and to shorten the length of time the cases go unresolved.

The bill would require the Secretary of State to submit an annual report on the status of abducted children and whether other countries are meeting their obligations to return them. It also would require our diplomatic and consular missions to designate someone to assist American parents whose abducted children are in their country.

The legislation would set up a series of sanctions against countries that persistently fail to follow either the Hague Abduction Conventions or similar agreements the United States would make with countries that haven’t signed on to that treaty.

Fittingly, the Smith bill is named the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013. It serves as a tribute to the perseverance and fortitude of the Goldmans, both father and son, and to the tenacity and decency of Smith.

The Goldman’s saga, which inspired the bill, should now be the inspiration for the Senate to follow the House’s lead in approving it, and for President Barack Obama to sign it into law.

 
 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW FULL TEXT OF LEGISLATION

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Tinton Falls’ David Goldman among parents who attended child abduction bill vote

Tinton Falls case spurred action

Written by Stephanie Loder, APP.com


 

WASHINGTON — David Goldman of Tinton Falls was among the parents of American children abducted and wrongfully held at overseas locations who came to Washington Thursday to watch and listen as child abduction and prevention legislation was unanimously approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

House of Representatives bill 3212, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013, was written by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees human rights.

Smith’s bill would order the State Department to make an annual report on the status of children taken from the U.S. and whether countries are meeting their obligations to return them. It also would have to designate officials to help parents and notify Congressional representatives. It also says if the country where the child has been taken refuses to cooperate, the president must take steps such as denying future state visits or cultural and scientific exchanges or cutting various forms of U.S. aid.

PICTURED: Parents Paul Toland, David Feimster, David Goldman and Barton Hermer listen as the International Child Abduction bill is passed. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. REP. CHRIS SMITH

Parents such as Goldman of Tinton Falls, whose son was returned only after a five-year battle with Brazilian courts, support the legislation. Goldman’s son Sean was taken to Brazil by his Brazilian mother, Bruna Bianchi, for a two-week vacation in 2004, but she refused to return to the United States, and later filed for divorce from David Goldman. She remarried, but died in 2008. Her family fought to keep Sean in Brazil. Eventually, after work by Smith and the State Department, Sean was returned to his father in 2009.

“It was David Goldman’s unrelenting effort to bring his son, Sean, home from Brazil that first alerted me to the epidemic of international parental child abduction in this country,” said Smith, who has traveled to Brazil and Japan in efforts to assist left-behind parents. “This bill enjoys strong bipartisan support — almost every member of the House of Representatives has constituents affected by the tragedy of international parental child abduction.”

David Feimster, of Jackson, who worked with his daughter and Smith’s office in 2011 to bring his grandchildren back from Tunisia to the United States, said he hopes his case gives hope to other left-behind parents who haven’t been as fortunate.

“We have our children, but many others don’t,” Feimster said. “That’s why I came to Washington today, to support the other families. Some day, some other families’ children will be taken away. It’s extremely difficult for anyone to go through. No parent or grandparent should have to go through this. This bill is definitely what we need to do. It gives parents one more piece to the puzzle.”

According to the State Department, there were over 4,800 international abduction cases involving more than 7,000 American children between 2008 and 2012.

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Ten left-behind parents awarded financial grants totaling $25,000

 

The Bring Sean Home Foundation (BSHF) today awarded financial grants totaling $25,000 to ten left-behind parents whose children are victims of international parental child abduction. The grants were made possible by donations received by BSHF from individuals, businesses and charities across the nation.

As we commemorate International Missing Children’s Day (May 25), BSHF is pleased to be in the position to support victims of international parental child abduction and to distribute funds to left-behind parents who are often financially devastated by the abduction of their children. Government resources to financially assist left-behind families are extremely limited. Left-behind parents are forced to fight expensive legal battles on their own, at home and in the foreign country where their children were taken. The purpose of these grants is to help defray legal and travel-related expenses directly associated with a parent’s efforts to repatriate or visit their abducted children.

BSHF’s 2013 grant recipients all reside in the United States with children abducted to both Hague Convention and non-Hague countries including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Japan, Egypt, Turkey, and the Dominican Republic.

“Financial assistance is the number one need for parents whose children have been abducted abroad,” said David Goldman, BSHF Director and Co-founder. “Parents whose children have been internationally abducted face overwhelming obstacles because of efforts by the abductors to break them, both emotionally and financially.”

Mark DeAngelis, BSHF Executive Director and Co-founder, said, “It is not uncommon for left-behind parents to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting for the rightful return of their abducted children. It is our hope that these grants, while only a fraction of the overall expenses incurred, will help to ease some of the tremendous financial burden felt by these parents.”

According to the U.S. State Department, more than 7,000 American children have been abducted from the United States in the last five years, with a reported return rate of less than 40 percent.

The Bring Sean Home Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. To donate to BSHF and help continue the grant program for other left-behind parents, please visit our website at www.BringSeanHome.org. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Congressman Smith’s child abduction legislation passes through subcommittee

By Christopher Robbins, NJ.com

 

WASHINGTON – A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step – for federal legislation, that first step is usually passage through a congressional subcommittee.

Legislation on the parental abduction of American children overseas was passed by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th).

“The damage to the child and the left behind parent is incalculable and too often life-long,” Smith said. “The children especially 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. Parental child abduction is child abuse. These victims are American citizens who need the help of their government when normal legal processes are unavailable or fail. Too many families have been waiting too long.”

Smith introduced the legislation last week before hearing the testimony of ‘left-behind’ parents who remain in the U.S. while their children were abducted overseas. Several New Jersey families testified to the Subcommittee about their kidnapping ordeals and the heartbreak of being separated from their children.

The legislation, called the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013, will next go to Foreign Affairs Committee.

The bill is named after David Goldman, of Tinton Falls, and his son Sean, who was abducted to Brazil by his estranged mother for five years only to be returned in [2009]. It would empower the president with new penalties to inflict on countries who refuse to return American children, and 18 new tools to try to secure their return.

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On Thursday, May 9, David Goldman traveled to Washington, DC, to testify before the U.S. Congressional Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations. The topic of the hearing, the fourth at which Goldman has testified, was “Resolving International Parental Child Abductions to Non-Hague Convention Countries.” The press release below, from the office of Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, summarizes the day’s events.

PICTURED: David Goldman discusses open international parental child abduction cases with Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor to the Secretary for Children’s Issues, and other Office of Children's Issues staff members.

For more updates and to view additional photos from the event, be sure to follow us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/BringSeanHome).

 
 

Press Release of U.S. Congressman Chris Smith

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Jeff Sagnip 202-225-3765

 

The Heartbreak of Int’l Child Abductions of American Children

 

‘Left-Behind’ parents, State Dept. testify before Congress; Focus on lack of effective U.S. child abduction policy, need for new strategies to bring U.S. kids home

 

WASHINGTON, May 9

“The damage to the child and the left behind parent is incalculable and too often life-long,” said Smith. “The children especially 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. These victims are American citizens who need the help of their government when normal legal processes are unavailable or fail.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s full statement.

International parental child abduction occurs when one parent unlawfully moves a child from his or her country of residence, often for the purpose of denying the other parent access to the child.

Testifying before the subcommittee were Iraqi War veteran Marine Sgt. Mike Elias, David Goldman, who is one of the few Americans to retrieve their child after an international abduction to Brazil, and other “left behind” parents of American children abducted to India, Japan, Egypt and Brazil (just a few of the thousands of U.S. children held wrongfully overseas). Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. State Department also spoke at the hearing entitled “Resolving International Parental Child Abductions to Non-Hague Convention Countries” held before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations chaired by Smith.

“I cannot think of anything more important than the fate of our children,” an emotional Elias told the congressional panel. “What about all the American citizens who have been ripped from their homes in this country against their will. What about MY children? I don’t know how to pick up the pieces and move on. My ‘pieces’ are in Japan! A country that has knowingly aided and abetted the abduction of children from all over the world. A country that refused to prosecute my wife for crimes that are recognized worldwide as fundamental human rights violations.”

Also testifying were Patricia Apy, attorney specializing in international abduction cases, Paras, Apy & Reiss, P.C., and Colin Bower, of Boston, Mass., father of children abducted to Egypt. (Click here to read their and all the testimonies or watch a video of the hearing.)

“I must be reunited with my children and I need the help of our honorable Congress to do so,” said a determined Bindu Phillips, of Plainsboro, N.J., mother of two children abducted to India. “The stress under which I have labored the last 4 years has been almost unbearable at times, but I have continued on in the sole hope of being reunited with my children—from whom I never spent a day apart from prior to their father’s kidnapping of them in December of 2008 in India. I have put everything I have into my mission to be reunited with my children.”

In 1983, the United States ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to try to address parental abductions via a civil framework that provided for the quick return of abducted children, and access rights to both parents. Under the convention a child is supposed to be returned within six weeks to their country for the courts there to determine custody, however most are not returned and most cases drag on for years. Even in countries where the Convention is said to be enforced, only about 40 percent of children are returned.

Ambassador Jacobs said Secretary John Kerry—who is closely familiar with the Bowen case—demonstrated his concern regarding international parental child abduction by extending my tenure as the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Special Advisor for Children’s Issues to ensure high-level attention stays focused on this important topic.

“Secretary Kerry, one of the leading advocates for combating international parental child abduction during his time in the U.S. Senate, has now brought his passion and foreign affairs experience to bear as our Secretary,” Jacobs said, also promising to explore all avenues, including memorandums of understanding to have a established governmental framework to address abductions and bring U.S. children home.

Goldman told the subcommittee that what left behind parents often fail to realize is that it is not incompetence or ignorance that leads to the mishandling of abduction cases, but rather a failure to enforce policy. He cited lack of progress by the State Department in addressing child abductions.

“What is required at the State Department is a complete culture change,” Goldman said. “Nothing short of being extremely bold and principled is going to do much to change the status quo and the corresponding playbook for handling international child abduction cases. Left-behind parents, especially ones whose children have been abducted more recently, often make the mistake of thinking that the State Department is competently handling their cases and that countries routinely return children as expected.”

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Press Release of U.S. Congressman Chris Smith

http://chrissmith.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=333310

 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW WITNESS TESTIMONIES AND ARCHIVE VIDEOS

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Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

 

Boxer, Lautenberg, Kerry, Lugar, Inhofe Join Colleagues to Introduce Resolution Condemning International Parental Child Abduction

 

Bipartisan Resolution Calls on Countries to Do More to Prevent and Resolve Cases of Children Abducted by Parents Across International Borders

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today joined Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA), Richard Lugar (R-IN), James Inhofe (R-OK) and 10 colleagues to introduce a bipartisan resolution condemning the unlawful international abduction of all children. The resolution also calls on the United States and the international community to take additional steps to resolve current and future abduction cases.

Tragically, international parental child abduction continues to be a common occurrence. According to the U.S. Department of State, last year 1,367 American children were reported abducted by a parent from the United States to a foreign country.

The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is the principal tool for a parent seeking the return of a child abducted across international borders. The Convention provides a legal framework for securing the return of an abducted child so that judicial authorities can make decisions on issues of custody and the best interests of the child. However, many countries do not participate in the Hague Abduction Convention and the Convention does not apply to abductions that occur before a country joins.

The resolution calls on all countries to join and fully comply with the Hague Abduction Convention and to take other steps to prevent and resolve cases of international parental child abduction. The resolution also expresses the Sense of the Senate that the United States should “aggressively pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States to another country through all appropriate means, consistent with the Hague Abduction Convention, and through extradition, when appropriate, and facilitate access by the left-behind parent if the child is not returned.”

“These abductions are devastating for the parent who is left behind and are extremely harmful to the children involved,” Senator Boxer said. “I have met parents who have not seen or heard from their children in years, and this is simply unacceptable. The international community must be united in its condemnation of child abduction and in its commitment to resolve custody disputes by rule of law.”

“International child abduction is a tragic situation that impacts not only the parents who are left behind but also the children who have been illegally separated from them and denied any contact,” Senator Lugar said. “Bringing greater attention to this issue is important if we are to change other governments’ attitudes to these abductions.”

“Conservatives and liberals rarely agree, but on the issue of these child abductions, we see eye to eye,” Senator Inhofe said. “Unfortunately, some countries around the world are complicit in allowing these unacceptable acts. The heart wrenching stories I have heard from parents is not just devastating for them, but destructive for the children. It is time for the Senate to act in a way that will help end this injustice. This well written measure is a high priority. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join in this effort.”

“International child abductions aren’t faceless crimes, they’re real and they’re tragic,” Senator Kerry said. “Over the last two years, I’ve gotten to know Colin Bower, a Massachusetts father who had full legal custody of his two young sons and whose life was ripped apart when they were abducted and taken to Egypt. We’re still fighting and working to get his boys home and reunite them with their dad. If you know Colin, you know it’s almost a cliche to say that this is any parent’s worst nightmare and a tragic, all-too-real reminder of why the United States must condemn international abductions and work to resolve them. The international community must stand up and do all it can to make this right.”

“We saw firsthand the devastation that international child abductions cause for parents and children when New Jersey resident David Goldman had to fight for years to be reunited with his son Sean. We need to gain the support of countries around the world in condemning this practice and agreeing to cooperate in the return of abducted children. This resolution will help us prevent these tragedies in the future,” said Lautenberg, who was instrumental in helping the return of Sean Goldman from Brazil to his father in the United States.

In November 2009, Senator Boxer and 21 colleagues wrote to President Obama urging him to address international parental child abduction with Japanese leaders during a trip to the country. Japan remains the only G-7 industrialized nation that has yet to ratify the Hague Abduction Convention.

The resolution introduced today will help continue to raise the profile of this important issue in the United States and across the globe. Additional cosponsors of the resolution currently include Senators Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Patty Murray (D-WA). The full text of the resolution is below.

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RESOLUTION

 

To express the sense of the Senate on international parental child abduction.

Whereas international parental child abduction is a tragic and common occurrence;

Whereas the abduction of a child by one parent is a heartbreaking loss for the left-behind parent and deprives the child of a relationship with 2 loving parents;

Whereas, according to the Report on Compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of the United States Department of State from April 2010, research shows that abducted children are at risk of significant short- and long-term problems, including “anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, [and] aggressive behavior”;

Whereas, according to that report, left-behind parents may also experience substantial psychological and emotional issues, including feelings of “betrayal, sadness over the loss of their children or the end of their marriage, anger toward the other parent, anxiety, sleeplessness, and severe depression”, as well as financial strain while fighting for the return of a child;

Whereas, since 1988, the United States, which has a treaty relationship under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague October 25, 1980 (TIAS 11670) (referred to in this preamble as the “Hague Abduction Convention”) with 69 other countries, has agreed with its treaty partners to follow the terms of the Hague Abduction Convention;

Whereas the Hague Abduction Convention provides a legal framework for securing the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to the countries of their habitual residence where competent courts can make decisions on issues of custody and the best interests of the children;

Whereas, according to the United States Department of State, the number of new cases of international child abduction from the United States increased from 579 in 2006 to 941 in 2011;

Whereas, in 2011, those 941 cases involved 1,367 children who were reported abducted from the United States by a parent and taken to a foreign country;

Whereas, in 2011, more than 660 children who were abducted from the United States and taken to a foreign country were returned to the United States;

Whereas 7 of the top 10 countries to which children from the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011 are parties to the Hague Abduction Convention, including Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Ecuador, Brazil, and Colombia;

Whereas Japan, India, and Egypt are not parties to the Hague Abduction Convention and were also among the top 10 countries to which children in the United States were most frequently abducted in 2011;

Whereas, in many countries, such as Japan and India, international parental child abduction is not considered a crime, and custody rulings made by courts in the United States are not typically recognized by courts in those countries; and

Whereas Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries that has not ratified the Hague Abduction Convention: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That—

(1) the Senate—

(A) condemns the unlawful international abduction of all children;

(B) urges countries identified by the United States Department of State as noncompliant or demonstrating patterns of noncompliance with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, done at The Hague October 25, 1980 (TIAS 11670) (referred to in this resolution as the “Hague Abduction Convention”) to fulfill their commitment under international law to expeditiously implement the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention;

(C) calls on all countries to accede to or ratify the Hague Abduction Convention and to promptly institute measures to equitably and transparently address cases of international parental child abduction; and

(D) calls on all countries that have not acceded to or ratified the Hague Abduction Convention to develop a mechanism for the resolution of current and future cases of international parental child abduction that occur before those countries accede to or ratify the Hague Abduction Convention in order to facilitate the prompt return of children abducted to those countries to the children’s countries of habitual residence; and

(2) it is the sense of the Senate that the United States should—

(A) aggressively pursue the return of each child abducted by a parent from the United States to another country through all appropriate means, consistent with the Hague Abduction Convention, and through extradition, when appropriate, and facilitate access by the left-behind parent if the child is not returned;

(B) take all appropriate measures to ensure that a child abducted to a country that is a party to the Hague Abduction Convention is returned to the country of habitual residence of the child in compliance with the provisions of the Hague Abduction Convention;

(C) continue to use diplomacy to encourage other countries to accede to or ratify the Hague Abduction Convention and to take the necessary steps to effectively fulfill their responsibilities under the Hague Abduction Convention;

(D) use diplomacy to encourage countries that have not acceded to or ratified the Hague Abduction Convention to develop an institutionalized mechanism to transparently and expeditiously resolve current and future cases of international child abduction that occur before those countries accede to or ratify the Hague Abduction Convention; and

(E) review the advisory services made available to United States citizens by the United States Department of State, the United States Department of Justice, and other United States Government agencies—

(i) to improve the prevention of international parental child abduction from the United States; and

(ii) to ensure that effective and timely assistance is provided to United States citizens who are parents of children abducted from the United States and taken to foreign countries.

 

Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

http://boxer.senate.gov/en/press/releases/080212b.cfm

 

Press Release of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg

http://lautenberg.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=337421

 

GovTrack.Us: S.Res.543

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/sres543

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Sean & David Goldman Act, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, passes House subcommittee

 

April 27, 2012
BY KRISTEN DALTON
Greater Media Newspapers
Staff Writer

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room after the 15-minute video chronicled David Goldman’s five-year struggle to get his son Sean back in his arms after a tumultuous and highly publicized international child-abduction case.

Goldman shared his story with about 50 people on March 29 at Chelsea Senior Living in Tinton Falls, the same place that displayed “Welcome Home Sean” on an outdoor sign when the then-9-year-old returned to his father on Dec. 24, 2009.

“[It’s an opportunity] to strike while the iron is hot, to keep the light shining on the issue, absolutely,” said Goldman, whose struggle to regain custody of his son ended when Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court ruled against Sean’s Brazilian relatives and ordered that he be reunited with his father.

“We realized there are many thousands of other children and families in similar, not exact — because every case is a little different — but similar situations as mine and Sean’s. It’s just incredible that it continues and it’s getting worse,” Goldman said.

During the struggle to regain custody of his son, Goldman and a few friends founded BringSeanHome.org, a website that helps the thousands of families that are dealing with international child abductions.

According to the U.S. State Department, more than 3,200 new international parental child-abduction cases, involving more than 4,700 children, were reported between October 2008 and December 2010.

“I know what it’s like and my family knows what it’s like. Not only does it crush the parent, not only was I emotionally, mentally, physically, financially devastated, my family was,” said Goldman, who spent upward of $700,000 and went on 16 last-minute trips to appear before Brazilian courts.

“We need to help them [families]. Their voices, as mine did for so long, seem to just be falling on deaf ears, and if we can be the one voice, if we can be that voice to help them, we will do whatever we can to help them.”

Just two days prior to Goldman’s speaking at the Chelsea, the House Congressional Human Rights Subcommittee unanimously passed bill H.R. 1940, which was named the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction, Prevention and Return Act.

The bill is designed to empower the U.S. State Department with more tools necessary to bring home children who have been abducted from the country, as well as to enforce the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International ChildAbduction.

The convention establishes the legal framework between the United States and 68 partnering countries, including Brazil, for recovering children wrongfully removed from their habitual residence and detained in another country. “Too many families have been waiting too long for the return of their children. Our current system with its endless delays and lack of proper accountability has failed too many. It is time for an approach that backs our demands with penalties and makes very clear to foes and friends alike that our children are our top priority,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R- 4th District), chairman of the subcommittee, in a March 27 press release.

Smith, who was the lead advocate in Goldman’s fight to bring Sean home, said that the bill “will put teeth into the U.S. government efforts to reclaim abducted American children.”

Goldman applauded Smith’s efforts, calling them the first of many steps that need to be taken to properly address the growing issue of international parental child abduction.

“We cannot keep allowing these countries to hold our American children, violating all laws, moral law even, without holding them accountable. More often than not, if they see what’s coming down the pike, they’ll return the children if they know they’re not going to be issued the number of visas they want, or we’re not going to be funding joint scientific projects, or we’re not going to give them tons of aid,” he said.

The website BringSeanHome.org now serves as a go-to place that provides information, resources, and may soon provide financial assistance through a grant program, for families suffering a similar fate.

Mark DeAngelis, one of the five volunteer directors of the Bring Sean Home Foundation, said there’s a very tough job ahead for the organization, which raises awareness about international child abduction and aims to prevent future abductions.

“[A]s David knows, [parents’] heads are spinning, their worlds have been turned upside down, and yet they believe that there’s an advocate in their government to help them with these children. Sadly, it really could not be further from the truth,” DeAngelis told the crowd.

“You end up caught in this bureaucratic maze of the State Department where you realize there is no advocacy. The word advocacy does not exist; you are basically just a statistic on paper.”

According to DeAngelis, the typical procedure involves nothing more than the processing of the case, which ensures a day in court in the foreign country where the child has been taken.

“The sad part is the department within our government that is responsible for working with these cases and trying to bring these children home is completely ineffective. They’re nice people, they’re caring people, they want to help, they just don’t have the ability to do so, they don’t have the tools they need to do so, and that’s part of the reason we need this legislation” said DeAngelis.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us. This is not an easy issue to advocate for. Things happen very slowly down in Washington, and legislation takes years to make its way through.”

Because Sean’s and David’s names have been attached to the bill, Goldman hopes it will gain recognition among people who have heard of their case.

“Someone sees the title of that piece of legislation and they get it, and they know how painful it is and how long and how arduous the battle is and how wrong it is,” he said.

“The whole entire thing was just a searing, burning pain right through me that never would go away.”

Looking back, Goldman said not once did he ever think about giving up on his son, despite facing overwhelming and heartbreaking odds of getting him back.

“Knowing that everything was black and white, that he should be home according to any law, and to have to fight and miss so much of— I missed his birthdays, I missed his first tooth falling out, some of his first words and going to school on the school bus. I missed every day just waking up and fixing him breakfast,” he said.

But now his son is 11 years old, and Goldman was able to help him get ready for his first Little League baseball scrimmage that evening. Sean will be turning 12 on May 25, which coincidentally, is the day that was declared as National Missing Children’s Day by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

For more information about the Bring Sean Home Foundation, visit www.BringSeanHome.org. The organization will be having a golf-outing fundraiser at the Pine Barrens Golf Club in Jackson on June 25.

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On Tuesday, March 27, David Goldman and a group of volunteers from the Bring Sean Home Foundation (BSHF) traveled to Washington DC for the day to lend support to a piece of legislation aimed at preventing international child abduction and providing for tough measures against countries which fail to meet their international human rights obligations to return abducted American children. The press release below from the office of Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey summarizes the day’s events. There is now a meaningful and realistic chance that this bill becomes law one day. Thank you to everyone for all of your support along the way. We still have a ways to go, but the significance of yesterday’s accomplishment is worth celebrating.

BACK ROW: Matt DeAngelis (Director, BSHF), Mark DeAngelis (Executive Director, BSHF), Congressman Chris Smith, David Goldman (Co-Founder, BSHF) FRONT ROW: Missy Capestro (Director, BSHF), Bernie Aronson (Former Assistant Secretary of State, Western Hemisphere) — in Washington, District of Columbia.

You can also follow the Bring Sean Home Foundation on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/BringSeanHome) and view photos from the event.

Bill to Help Bring U.S. Kids Home Approved by Panel
http://chrissmith.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=287389

WASHINGTON, March 27 – With David Goldman and other left behind parents from around the country at a congressional mark-up Tuesday, a bill designed to empower the U.S. State Department with more tools to achieve the return of children abducted from the U.S. and to enforce the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was approved by Members of the House panel that oversees human rights.

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), chairman of the House congressional human rights subcommittee, saw his bill, H.R. 1940, now named the “Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction, Prevention and Return Act” lauded by the panel members as a way to help bring thousands of American children who are victims of international parental child abduction, back home. According to the U.S. State Department, over 3,200 new international parental child abduction cases involving over 4,700 children were reported from October 2008 to December 2010.

“Parental child abduction is child abuse,” Smith said. “Too many families have been waiting too long for the return of their children. Our current system with its endless delays and lack of proper accountability has failed too many. It is time for an approach that backs our demands with penalties and makes very clear to foes and friends alike that our children are our top priority.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening remarks, which spell out 17 presidential actions the bill provides to help recover U.S. children.

Smith said the bill, approved by unanimous consent, “will put teeth into U.S. government efforts to reclaim abducted American children by giving the President important tools that motivate other countries to more quickly respond to efforts to return an abducted child.”

At the mark-up were left behind parents and family members, including Goldman of Monmouth County, N.J., father of Sean Goldman who was abducted to Brazil. Goldman was engaged in a widely-publicized, grueling, five-year battle to see his son again and bring him home on Dec. 24, 2009. Unfortunately many ‘left-behind’ parents, unlike Goldman, have never seen their children again after the abduction.

Left behind parents Chris Savoie, Paul Toland and Douglas Berg all offered their personal painful experiences at the proceeding, as did a left-behind grandparent of two New Jersey abducted children, Nancy Elias. All spoke with reporters prior to the mark-up. Seated next to Goldman and the other left behind parents at the hearing was NBC Dateline journalist Meredith Vieira, who helped bring critical attention to Goldman’s case.

“H.R. 1940 as amended is also for the left behind parents and bereaved children who have been taken to countries that are not party to the Hague Abduction Convention,” Smith said. “Parents like Michael Elias, a combat-injured Iraqi veteran from New Jersey, whose ex-wife used her Japanese consulate connections to abduct little Jade and Michael Jr., after the New Jersey court had ordered surrender of passports and joint custody.

Smith said H.R. 1940 directs the President to take measured, effective, and predictable actions to aggressively advocate for our children’s return. Such actions range from denial of certain assistance to prohibiting the procurement of certain goods or services from the government or instrumentality responsible for the pattern of noncooperation.

“I hope that it will not be necessary to use the penalties provided in this bill,” Smith said. “In the best case scenario, just the possibility of adverse consequences will motivate the resolution of current open cases of international child abduction, and prevent additional cases from happening in the first place. If parents have no place to hide, they are less likely to run with the children.

All of the subcommittee Members attended the mark-up and all supported Smith’s legislation. Speaking in strong favor of passage were Ranking Democrat Rep. Karen Bass (CA-33), Vice Chairman Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01), Tom Marino (PA-10), Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) and Robert Turner (NY-09).

“We must act quickly and decisively to raise international awareness of the gravity of parental child abduction and galvanize the will of the international community to stop it,” Smith said. “This Subcommittee’s approval of this bill is a first step to achieving these goals.”

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