By David Goldman,


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.





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.


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 ( and view additional photos from the day.



Sean and David Goldman abduction bill could be approved this week

By Susanne Cervenka,


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.



Senate’s move on Goldman bill

NJ Editorial/Opinion,


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.




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

Tinton Falls case spurred action

Written by Stephanie Loder,


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.





David Goldman Receives 2013 Paul H. Chapman Award

The Bring Sean Home Foundation is very pleased to report that our director and co-founder David Goldman was honored to receive a Paul H. Chapman Award on Saturday, September 28, 2013 from the Foundation for Improvement of Justice.

A total of six awards were given in 2013 to “recognize innovative and effective works and/or programs whose efforts have made positive influential differences in the Unites States criminal and civil judicial arenas.” Mr. Goldman’s accomplishments were recognized under the categories of Crime Victims’ Rights, Child Protection, and Legal Reform (a detailed description is provided below).

Please join us in congratulating David for this well deserved recognition.


PICTURED: David Goldman attends the Foundation for Improvement of Justice's 2013 Paul H. Chapman Awards Dinner with his wife, Wendy.


Foundation for Improvement of Justice: 2013 Paul H. Chapman Awards (

David Goldman is recognized for his work as a Director and Co-Founder of the Bring Sean Home Foundation whose mission is “to assist victims of international child abduction, educate the public about this issue, prevent further abductions and draw attention to the increasing number of cases that currently exist with the purpose of returning abducted children to their home countries and reuniting them with their left-behind families.” It began with David’s own five and a half year civil fight to return his abducted son to the United States. In May of 2013, after testimony from David Goldman and others, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013 was introduced by Congressman Chris Smith and has been passed on to the Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill would empower the president with new penalties to inflict on countries that refuse to return American children and eighteen new tools to try to secure their return.

Mr. Goldman was nominated for this award by Ms. MaLisa McOmber.



Congressman Smith’s child abduction legislation passes through subcommittee

By Christopher Robbins,


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.





David GoldmanMaria Shriver, interviewed David recently here is one question and answer:

What is your vision for the foundation? What do you hope it accomplishes in the long run?

We want to educate the public on the issue of international child abduction and work with elected officials to push for reforms which we hope will lead to meaningful change in the way our government works to ensure the safe and prompt return of abducted children. Right now parents whose children are abducted fight against overwhelming odds to even see their children in many cases, let alone bring them back to their home countries, and this needs to change. We expect to be a leading voice on this issue and to provide support to parents who need help. BSHF raises public awareness of individual cases and provides a support network to guide parents through this difficult time in their lives.

In the last three years alone there have been almost 5,000 American children abducted to foreign countries and the numbers continue to increase at an alarming rate. The BSHF is working hard to make a difference by preventing future abductions and pushing for legislation that will reunite families by bringing more abducted children home to their parents.

Go to to read the entire interview.


The U.S. Fails Children Abducted From America
To get a child back

By Bernard Aronson

The Washington Post
Friday, February 19, 2010

For the millions who followed the story of David Goldman’s 5 1/2 -year struggle to retrieve his abducted son, Sean, from Brazil, their Christmas Eve return to the United States was a holiday “miracle.” In fact, extraordinary pressures were required to make Sean Goldman the first — and to date, only — unlawfully abducted American child returned to the United States by Brazil. Measures included unanimous resolutions in the House and Senate, a senatorial hold on the re-authorization of trade privileges for developing nations, hearings by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, two trips to Brazil by a New Jersey congressman, and multiple personal interventions by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The administration and Congress deserve credit for these efforts. But if that is what it takes to secure the lawful return of one abducted American child, the United States has a serious enforcement problem.

About 2,800 American children have been abducted to other nations. More cases are reported every year as bi-national marriages become more common in an era of globalization. Few left-behind families can hope to muster the kind of broad-based campaign that eventually persuaded the president of the Brazilian Supreme Tribunal to order Sean Goldman’s return to the United States. Nor should they be expected to.

This issue was supposed to have been resolved by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions, which came into force in 1983 and now has 80 signatories, including Brazil and the United States. Under its terms, a child abducted across international borders by a parent or relative must be returned within six weeks to his or her country of habitual residence, where custody issues can be adjudicated lawfully. It is the international equivalent of the interstate compacts that prevent an unhappy father or mother residing in Maryland from taking his or her children to Nevada and contesting for custody there.

But signatories repeatedly refuse to return abducted American children as required by the treaty, and they suffer no consequences. Other nations, including close allies such as Japan, which harbors 99 abducted American children, have refused even to sign the treaty, let alone cooperate in its implementation.

This is not a new problem. In October 1998, Jesse Helms, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, decried “the failure by the United States to initiate vigorously diplomatic and law enforcement tools seeking the return of these children.” Then-Sen. Joe Biden said at the same hearing: “The act of taking a child in violation of a custodial order . . . across international borders is a heinous crime.”

Today, what left-behind parents need are not more declarations of concern but concerted action by Congress and the executive branch to bring their children home. Hopefully, the secretary of state, who raised David Goldman’s case in her first meeting with Brazil’s foreign minister and whose professional career began as an advocate for children, will override any bureaucratic resistance within the State Department and support much-needed reforms.

First, left-behind families need a high-level advocate in the State Department — appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate and reporting directly to the secretary — who will ensure that the issue of abducted children is central to U.S. diplomatic deliberations. Today, this issue barely registers, if it appears at all, in most bilateral discussions. An ambassadorial-rank official should be required to report regularly to Congress about every newly abducted child and the status of pending cases in all members’ districts and states.

Second, Congress should empower the secretary of state to impose a range of diplomatic, economic and trade sanctions on countries that flagrantly and repeatedly refuse to return children abducted from the United States. The sanctions must have teeth and the department must be willing to employ them. If the threat of sanctions were credible, in fact, it is unlikely that they would have to be employed.

Third, in its annual budget requests for foreign assistance, including military aid, the State Department should be required to report to Congress whether each proposed recipient is cooperating in returning abducted American children.

Finally, Congress should expand programs by the international divisions of the American Bar Association to educate judges and lawyers in other nations about the Hague Convention requirements.

The Goldmans and other left-behind families will never regain the years that have been stolen from them. But Congress and the administration have the power to apply real pressure to nations harboring abducted American children today and make it far less likely that other American families will have to endure such a nightmare in the future.

The writer served as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs from 1989 to 1993. He was an unpaid adviser to David Goldman.


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