Office of Children's Issues

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US Department of State
Office of Children's Issues
Department of state.svg
Seal of the United States Department of State
Agency overview
Formed 1994
Jurisdiction Hague Abduction Convention
Hague Adoption Convention
Headquarters Harry S. Truman Building
2201 C Street, NW, SA-29
Washington, D.C. 20520
Employees 40
Agency executives Beth Payne, Director
Abduction Unit Chief Eastern, Stefanie B. Eye
Abduction Unit Chief Western, Laurie J. Trost
Adoption Unit Chief, Alison E. Dilworth
Parent agency Bureau of Consular Affairs
Website [1]

The Office of Children's Issues is an agency of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, which in turn is part of the US Department of State. The Office of Children’s Issues was created in 1994 under the leadership of Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Mary Ryan and that of her successor Maura Harty.[1] The Office of Children's Issues develops and coordinates policies and programs related to international child abduction. In this respect, it is the US Central Authority under the terms of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

With respect to international adoptions, the agency coordinates policy and provides potential parents with information on international adoption. It does not intervene on behalf of individuals in foreign courts because, as it claims, adoption is an issue of judicial sovereignty within the country where the child resides. However, it is able to offer general information and help with regard to the adoption process in over 60 countries.

International child abduction[edit]

In its role as the United States' Central Authority with respect to the Hague Abduction Convention, the Office is responsible for taking action in cases involving international child abduction. The Office also provides information in response to inquiries about international child abduction, visitation rights and abduction prevention techniques. Like other Central Authorities around the world, it's responsible for working closely with other agencies and Central Authorities to ensure the speedy return of children under the Hague Convention.[2]

The Office of Children's Issues and the broader US State Department has received sustained criticism by parents of children abducted to and from the US and the lawyers who represent them for failing to treat international child abduction as a human rights issue rather than a diplomatic irritant,[citation needed] and taking a non-partisan, impartial role rather than effectively advocating for victimized parents and abducted children.[3]

Compliance Reports[edit]

2010 Report Cover
2010 Report Cover

In recognition of the fact that the US State Department would not voluntarily inform Congress, U.S. courts, law enforcement authorities, family law attorneys or the general public about the gross noncompliance of foreign countries in adhering to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, Congress enacted an annual reporting requirement obligating the State Department to publish a detailed annual report on the reliability and effectiveness of the Convention in protecting and securing the return of abducted American children in foreign countries. It was hoped that the law would make available a unique and vitally important source of information to parents, courts, governments and attorneys worldwide.[4]

The Compliance Reports have been issued for each year since 1999 with years 2002 and 2003 combined in a single report.[5]

Controversies[edit]

In 2002 parents of internationally abducted children characterized the Office of Children's of allowing “clientitis,” or deference to foreign leaders and laws, to trump OCI’s vigilant pursuit of the interests of U.S. citizens. Patricia Roush, the mother of daughters abducted to Saudi Arabia, characterized her interactions with the State Department and Office of Children's Issues as demonstrating “indifference bordering on hostility,” Dismissing the Office as “merely another data collecting, do-nothing, play-dead-at-the-wheel section of the federal government." Maureen Dabbagh, mother of a daughter abducted to Syria, used the Freedom of Information Act to acquire her OCI files and was shocked by “page after page of slanderous, insulting comments made about me and comments trivializing my case.”[6]

In 2003, Joel Mowbray, the journalist credited with exposing the still running "Visa Express" program of the US State Department long after it allowed the entry of at least 15 of the 18 hijackers of 9/11 wrote the book "Dangerous Diplomacy" on the role and culture of the US State Department. Mowbray's second chapter in "Dangerous Diplomacy", titled "Cold Shoulder: State's Smallest Victim's", is dedicated to an analysis of the assistance provided to American parents left in the wake of an international child abduction. It describes State's overriding desire to appease foreign governments and maintain "good relations" as having a conflict of interest between their responsibility to internationally abducted children as the designated United States Central Authority under the Hague Convention. This inherent conflict of interest between the two roles is magnified by what the book defines as the "culture of state", a culture characterized by extreme moral relativism, valuing process over substance and misplaced priorities that reward failures by promotions or high paying jobs "consulting" for the foreign government of the country that they'd previously been paid to advocate America's interests in.[7]

A 2009 US Department of Justice press release reported nine US State Department employees, including at least one Citizens Services Specialist in the Office of Children's Issues, admitted to illegally accessing the passport applications of celebrities and viewing extensive personal information in their applications in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974. The same act that is extensively cited to deny victim parents access to information on their internationally abducted children.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "State Department Noon Briefing, August 6, 2002". america.gov. 2002-08-06. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  2. ^ Department of State
  3. ^ "Foreign Affairs Manual 7 FAM 1710 INTERNATIONAL PARENTAL CHILD ABDUCTION". United States Department of State. 2005-10-17. Retrieved 2010-09-24. 
  4. ^ "THE HAGUE CHILD ABDUCTION CONVENTION: DIMINISHING RETURNS AND LITTLE TO CELEBRATE FOR AMERICANS". NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, 33 N.Y.U. J. Int ' l L. & Pol. 125. 2000. Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  5. ^ "US State Dept. Compliance Reports". Travel.state.gov. Retrieved 2010-04-20. [dead link]
  6. ^ DEROY MURDOCK (2002-07-25). "Not a Good Sign Thumbs down for leading candidate for new visa chief at State.". National Review. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  7. ^ Joel Mowbray (2003). Dangerous Diplomacy. Regnery. ISBN 0-89526-110-3. 
  8. ^ "Former State Department Employee Sentenced for Illegally Accessing Confidential Passport Files". US Department of Justice. 2009-12-15. Retrieved 2010-09-11.