Fight against international child abductions grows stronger
Jersey Shore Republican Congressman Chris Smith (Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer) continues to affect direct change in the battle against international child abductions.
Thursday marks the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the landmark Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act (P.L. 113-150).
Congressman Smith was joined by David and Sean Goldman of Monmouth County, the father and son who were reunited after a five-year abduction to Brazil, their attorney Patricia Apy, an international family law attorney at Paras, Apy and Reiss and Ravi Parmar, of Manalapan, the father of a child abducted to India in 2012 and founder of Bring Abducted Children Home (BACHome).
“Today, we mark and recognize the significant progress achieved over the five years since passage—all inspired by Sean and David—including a dramatic decline in the number of new cases of parental child abduction and the resolution of many others,” Smith said.
He authored the Goldman Act to help brokenhearted “left behind” parents like David and Ravi, who along with their abducted children are victims of the cruel act of international parental child abduction, by pressuring foreign nations to facilitate the return of American children.
“According to the U.S. Department of State, there has been a continuing, consistent decrease in the number of abductions from a high of 1,512 in 2008 to 698 abductions in 2018," Smith said.
The Annual Report coupled with the Action Report on International Child Abduction required by the Goldman Act also provides American judges with accurate user-friendly information in country-specific charts allowing judges to assess country risks in the cases they adjudicate.
“Much progress has been made,” Smith said. “However, much remains to be done—utilizing all the tools including serious sanctions against offending countries that are embedded into the Goldman Act need to be robustly applied. Countries with egregious records of noncompliance including Japan need to be held accountable.
David has remained active in the fight against international child abductions, including testifying at four of Smith’s congressional hearings, helping pass and implement the Goldman Act, and supporting desperate left behind parents. There is an urgent need to help the victims—both left behind victim parents and the abducted victim children."
“We need to help them. It’s through our voice and you [in the media] showing the rest of the country and hopefully the world that these families need help like we got,” David said, who also discussed the daunting task of trying to obtain court-ordered returns in such countries like Japan, India and Brazil and other countries where an estimated 12,000 American children have been held over the past 10 years.
“As far as I know Brazil still hasn’t returned an American child under court order back to our country, aside from Sean.
Hopefully with our law and the punitive measures that we can place on these countries we will get results, and it will be swiftly, and the children won’t suffer from being torn apart from the only life they’ had once known, and then they’re in another country, and we need to get them back as quickly as possible. We have the law in place. It has good measures to expedite these returns and that’s what we hope will continue to happen.”
David said of the Goldman Act, “This law has teeth, through the threat of punitive measures to enforce the international treaty that governs child abductions, known as the Hauge Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction."
Sean said that after he returned to the United States, he was able to better understand what happened to him as a child.
He said it took a week and a half before he could ever call David “Dad.”
Sean said he took the situation one step and time, but he’s happy and settled into life back in America.
“I have no complaints. I really like my job. I really like my friends. I really like my life. I really like my dad,” Sean said.
He has spoken to other abducted kids who have made it back to the U.S. after enduring the trauma of an international child abduction.
“It’s just a real confusing time for a kid. Your whole world just gets flipped upside down,” Sean said. “You’re told one thing for all your life. Then it’s all a lie. You feel betrayed.”
Ravi Parmar’s son Reyansh, now 10, was born in New Brunswick, and was adbucted seven years ago.
“My situation is not unique,” Parmar said. “This is one of those few crimes where the victims are required to solver their own case.”
In July, Smith chaired a hearing called “The Goldman Act at Five Years,” held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Smith authored the Goldman Act, which was passed by Congress on July 25, 2014.
It has been nearly 10 years since Smith’s constituent David Goldman of New Jersey was reunited with his son Sean in 2009, after a five-year parental abduction to Brazil.
Over the last decade more than 11,400 American children were abducted internationally by a parent.
The State Department estimates only one-third of the children abducted since 2015 were returned to the United States within two years.
Apy’s advice was for a parent who feels they could be a victim of an international child abduct was to contact the State Department, contact their member of Congress and get legal advice.
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