On eve of National Missing Children’s Day Smith calls on Biden Administration to take stronger steps to bring home hundreds of American children who have been abducted overseas
At a congressional hearing today, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) together with left-behind American parents whose children have been abducted overseas called on the Biden Administration to take stronger steps to help bring home hundreds of American children through more robust implementation of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act.
“The Goldman Act empowered the State Department to seek the return of American children, yet the Department has never used the full range of tools as Congress intended,” said Smith, who authored the law to push the State Department and give them the tools to combat international child abductions.
“With hundreds of American children—American citizens—still missing, it seems unconscionable that the State Department continues to limit its actions to bring them home,” said Smith, who cited the annual reports required by the Goldman Act that show more than 13,000 American children have been abducted abroad by a parent since 2008.
Chaired by Smith, the House Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee hearing—which comes ahead of Thursday’s commemoration of National Missing Children’s Day—included testimony from Michelle Bernier-Toth, the US State Department’s Special Advisor for Children’s Issues.
Bernier-Toth acknowledged that the Goldman Act gave the State Department stronger tools to bring children home—including withholding US assistance to foreign governments and invoking sanctions—but said these actions “could undermine efforts in other areas,” essentially placing other interests over returning American children to the United States.
The hearing also included compelling and heart-wrenching testimony from two parents—Jeffery Morehouse and Dr. Noelle Hunter—who have endured years apart from their children, as well as Patricia Apy—the prominent international family law attorney from Red Bank, New Jersey, whose critical work to help reunite David Goldman with his son Sean in the high-profile abduction case informed Smith’s drafting of the Goldman Act.
“The Goldman Act was signed into law nine years ago in August 2014,” said Jeffery Morehouse, the Executive Director of Bring Abducted Children Home, who has been fighting to get his son Mochi back from Japan since 2010. “Since then, there have been at least 10 hearings to get the State Department on board with holding foreign governments accountable and increasing reunifications and returns. They have demonstrated through three administrations little commitment to do so.”
Hunter—who was reunited with her daughter Muna after she was abducted to Mali for three years—echoed Morehouse’s concerns over the State Department’s implementation of the Goldman Act: “Over the past nine years, even our most measured expectations for the State Department to fulfill its mandates have been disappointed. Instead, our children remain kidnapped to foreign nations, separated from their seeking parents and extended families, and parents remain on the treadmill–driven by love for their children, and a hope that our government will be true to what it says it will do for both.”
“The Goldman Act empowers those within our government, our judicial officers, our law enforcement officers, our officers of Homeland Security, as well as all those addressing child abduction throughout our country, on the state and local levels, to have the tools necessary to prevent child abduction and restore those children wrongfully removed and retained, to their homes,” said Patricia Apy.
“It’s time for resolute action by our government to bring these children home,” Hunter said.