Hope for Jamaican children abducted to the US

Monday, April 22, 2019

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AS of April 1 of this year, Jamaican children who were taken to the United States (US) by one parent without the consent of the other, or for a longer time than was agreed upon, can be returned to Jamaica with the help of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).

This is due to Jamaica now being accepted by the US as a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. This is a multilateral agreement among some countries to ensure that children who have been abducted from their country of residence, or wrongfully retained in another country for an extended period, are returned home promptly.

Legal officer at the CPFSA Rashida St Juste said that although Jamaica became a signatory to the convention in 2017, we could not have yet used the convention in the cases brought to the CPFSA.

“The requests that we have had so far are for children who were taken to the US. However, prior to April 1, 2019, the Jamaica Central Authority was not in a position to utilise the Abduction Convention to assist in securing their return because we were still under review by the US, which, like all other Hague Convention countries, must be satisfied that new member states are compliant with the requirements of the convention,” she explained.

Prior to this, Jamaica had only been accepted to use the convention in cases where the children were abducted to or from New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Japan, and Switzerland. Parents wishing to have their children returned from the US would have either had to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or an attorney to pursue custody of their children.

“The Abduction Convention facilitates cooperation among countries that are party to the convention in securing the return of children under the age of 16 years old who have been removed by one of their parents from their place of habitual residence without the other parent's consent,” St Juste said.

“As such, a child who is habitually resident in Jamaica and has been taken to a Hague Convention country by one parent without the consent of the other parent, or has been retained in a Hague Convention country by one parent beyond an agreed period of time, can be returned.

“This is done with the assistance of the Jamaica Central Authority (the Child Protection and Family Services Agency has been so designated) and the Foreign Central Authority for the country to which the child was taken,” she said.

How can parents make use of the Convention?

“The left behind parent would be required to complete a form indicating the circumstances that led to the child being removed or retained, information about the location of the child, where the child lived prior to being taken, and for how long, etc,” St Juste noted.

“A copy of the child's birth certificate and a recent photo of the child would be required. Any court orders relating to custody that might have been issued by the court in respect of the child would also be helpful. This information would then be sent to the Foreign Central Authority of the country to which the child has been taken for action.”

Persons who need this service can call the Jamaica Central Authority at 876-922-1751 or e-mail jacentralauthority@childprotection.gov.jm.

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