By Rep Chris Smith
A silent plague is afflicting our country. As if out of a horror movie, our children are disappearing one by one from our communities, families, and homes--1,492 disappeared in 2010 alone. More than 2,200 are missing today, right now, perhaps from your city, certainly from your state.
Like a casualty by friendly fire, the fact that the kidnappers are family members and former spouses only compounds the harm.
International child abduction rips children from their lives, taking them to a foreign land and alienating them from a left behind parent who loves them and whom they have a right to know. Their childhood is disrupted, in limbo, or sometimes in hiding as the taking parent seeks to evade the law, or to conjure legal cover for their immoral actions.
Abducted children often lose their relationship with their mom or their dad, half of their identity and half of their culture. They are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems--the result of "parental alienation." They may also experience anxiety, eating problems, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, resentment, guilt and fearfulness. As adults, they may struggle with identity issues, their own personal relationships and parenting.
We must call it what it is. Child abduction is child abuse.
While the international community has recognized the harms and horrors of international child abduction, and established the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 1980 for the deterrence of abductors and prompt return of children, American parents have consistently experienced multi-year waits and costly legal battles for the return of their children--if the children are returned at all. Less than 40 percent of children are returned from countries that have signed the Convention.
I experienced this firsthand in the fight to bring Sean Goldman home from Brazil in 2009. Sean's return was five and a half years in the making. At my invitation, his tenacious father, David, testified on Capitol Hill and said, "I lived in a world of despondency and desperation, with a searing pain throughout my entire being. Everywhere I turned I saw an image of my abducted child."
This was the case despite the fact that Brazil was a signatory to the Convention.
And from some countries which have not signed the Hague Convention, children are never returned. Such is the case with our friend and ally Japan, where more than 173 American children are currently held in separation from their American parent.