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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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.

 
 

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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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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

 

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