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.