Sanctions for child abductions

Sanctions eyed in child abductions
Goldman’s fight for son prompts House measure
 Mar. 27, 2012  |

Malia Rulon Herman | Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government would be able to pursue sanctions ranging from a public rebuke to trade and credit suspensions against countries that harbor children abducted by a parent, under a bill approved by a House subcommittee on Tuesday.

The bill from Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., is named The Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act in honor of the Tinton Falls, N.J., man whose five-year fight to get his son back drew international attention.

Goldman knows he’s one of the lucky ones.

His son, Sean, was returned to him in 2009 after his wife took their then-4-year-old home to Brazil in 2004 and never returned. She remarried, then died in childbirth in 2008, and an international custody battle ensued, culminating with the emotional return of Goldman’s son, now a sixth-grader who loves basketball.

“He’s a normal, happy, typical soon-to-be 12-year-old,” Goldman said.

Thousands of parents aren’t as lucky. According to the U.S. State Department, between 2008 and 2010, parents have reported more than 3,200 abduction cases involving some 4,700 children.

One case is that of Paul Toland of Bethesda, Md. He hasn’t seen his daughter Erika since July 2003, when his wife, a Japanese native, moved out of their home on a Navy base in Japan and cut off all contact. She later died but the child’s grandmother won’t relinquish his daughter.

“My daughter is going to grow up not knowing me if we don’t have action,” he said, urging Congress to act quickly.

Nancy Elias of Rutherford, N.J., agreed.

She mourns the grandchildren she hasn’t seen in three years. Her son, Marine Sgt. Michael Elias, returned from fighting in Iraq to find his wife had been having an affair. She took their children to Japan and has refused to allow visits.

“I’m missing out on the most precious gifts of my life — my granddaughter, and my grandson,” Elias said, choking back tears.

Time to act

Goldman said it’s time for action.

“When I see these parents who are still struggling, it breaks my heart because I know what they are going through,” he said. “We need to do something. Our government needs to take this seriously. We want our kids back.”

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