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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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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