Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Senator Bob Corker introduced the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act to better address the growing problem of international parental child abduction.
“It was New Jersey native David Goldman’s extraordinary five-year battle to bring his son, Sean, home from Brazil that highlighted for me the horrendous problem of international parental child abduction,” said Senator Menendez. “As a parent, I cannot imagine the emotional toll of having a child abducted and taken abroad and feeling helpless to get your son or daughter back. Passing this legislation will go a long way towards assisting parents in bringing abducted children home where they legally and rightfully belong while bolstering prevention options so that children are less likely to be abducted in the first place.”
“Nothing could be more traumatic for a parent than having a child taken from them to another country never to return," said Senator Corker. "Our legislation begins to address this problem on two fronts: first, by seeking to prevent abductions through better coordination at all levels of law enforcement, and second by helping to ensure the State Department uses all appropriate tools to secure the safe return of children who have been torn apart from a parent.”
The senators’ bill strengthens, streamlines, and adds important prevention measures to H.R. 3212, which the House passed in December 2013. It bolsters U.S. policy regarding international parental child abduction and access cases in both Hague Abduction Convention and non-Convention countries. The bill addresses the diverse needs of left-behind parents and families by bringing greater transparency to the process and making additional resources available to assist them. The legislation also requires the U.S. government to establish a specific program to prevent abductions before they occur.
The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act include the following components:
· Requires the State Department to produce a comprehensive annual report on international parental child abductions that is transparent, detailed, and takes into account the difficulties experienced by U.S. military families;
· Requires U.S. diplomatic and consular missions to monitor abduction and access cases, and to designate at least one senior official at each mission to assist left-behind parents with quickly resolving cases and maintaining safe and predictable contact with their child;
· Outlines procedures for the State Department to follow in entering into bilateral arrangements, including Memoranda of Understandings, with countries that are unlikely to join the Hague Abduction Convention, with prioritization given to those countries with a significant number of abduction and access cases;
· Sets out a procedure to determine whether the government of a country has engaged in a pattern of noncompliance with regards to child abduction cases, and provides a prescribed set of actions for the State Department to undertake in the case of such a determination;
· Strengthens prevention mechanisms, increases interagency coordination, and improves law enforcement capabilities to prevent wrongful abduction before it occurs;
· Authorizes $5 million for each of fiscal years (FY) 2015 and 2016, so that countries with either a pattern of noncompliance or a significant number of pending unresolved abduction cases can receive critical judicial training on how to handle parental abduction cases.
On Feb. 27, Sens. Menendez and Corker chaired a hearing on international parental childhood abduction.