DISCLAIMER : The following information pertains to the Department of State’s annual report to Congress on countries’ compliance with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For more general information about international parental child abduction and the Hague Convention, click here
Each year, the Department of State's Office of Children's Issues is required under Public Law 105-277, Section 2803 to submit to Congress a report on compliance by treaty partner countries with the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention).
The compliance report identifies the Department’s concerns about those countries in which implementation of the Convention is incomplete or in which a particular country’s executive, judicial, or law enforcement authorities do not appropriately undertake their obligations under the Convention. Consistent with 42 U.S.C. § 11611(a), the report places such countries into two categories—“Not Compliant” and “Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance”—with the former category signaling more serious compliance problems.
Many factors are involved in implementing the provisions of the Convention, and the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of each state party have important and varying roles. A country may perform well in some areas and poorly in others. Relying in part on the Guides to Good Practice published by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (especially those on central authority performance, implementing measures, and enforcement), the Department has identified the key elements involved in implementing the Convention and uses these as factors for evaluating country performance.
The Department considers three compliance areas:
1. Central Authority performance, which includes but is not limited to the speed with which the foreign central authority processes applications under the Convention; whether the central authority applies procedures for assisting LBPs in locating knowledgeable, affordable legal assistance; the central authority’s responsiveness to inquiries made by other central authorities and LBPs; its openness to communicate and cooperate with other central authorities; the availability and adequacy of judicial education or resource programs; whether the central authority has staff qualified to handle cases under the Convention; and whether the central authority has sufficient staff and equipment to handle its workload.
2. Judicial performance, which includes but is not limited to the timeliness with which the country’s courts process cases under the Convention; the timeliness with which appeals courts process appeals; the correct application of the Convention’s legal principles, including respect for the prohibition on custody merits determinations, the use of the proper legal standard in return cases, the proper employment of the Convention’s exceptions to return (such as the exception for “settled” children), non-bias toward citizen parents over non-citizen parents, and non-differentiation between citizen children and non-citizen children; and the effectiveness of courts’ efforts to enforce decisions for return of or access to a child.
3. Law enforcement performance, which includes but is not limited to the effectiveness of efforts by law enforcement officers to promptly locate abducted children; the effectiveness of efforts to enforce court orders under the Convention; the effectiveness of efforts to protect children during the pendency of Convention proceedings; and the sufficiency of resources devoted to locating missing children and absconded TPs, including whether adequate numbers of law enforcement agents have been assigned to Convention cases in light of the size of the territory and population in question.
A country failing in one or two of the three compliance areas will ordinarily be considered as “Demonstrating Patterns of Noncompliance” with the Convention. A country that fails in all three compliance areas will ordinarily receive a “Not Compliant” designation, particularly where the failure in each area is substantial. In rare cases, a country failing in fewer than three compliance areas could receive such a designation if the shortcomings identified are so severe that they frustrate the effective operation of the Convention in the country.
The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations
The Department of State collaborates with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to work toward the resolution of international parental child abduction (IPCA) cases.
The Department works with the NGO International Social Service (ISS) to facilitate contact with and the return of abducted children. ISS currently has national branch offices, bureaus, and correspondents in 120 countries on five continents (including most countries that are party to the Convention) to assist separated families and families experiencing conflict across borders. When appropriate, the Department and U.S. consular officials work directly with ISS or refer parents to ISS for additional support. In some cases, ISS has been actively involved in arranging escorts to return abducted children to the United States and in working to establish better communication between parents or between a parent and child. ISS also helps explain the nature of social services available in the United States to help abducted children recover following return.
The Department also collaborates closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC administers the U.S. Department of Justice’s Victim Reunification Travel Program. This program assists families affected by IPCA by providing funding for a parent or guardian to attend a custody hearing or to be reunited with the child once found in another country. In operation since October 10, 1996, the program is managed by NCMEC’s Family Advocacy Division under the Federal Crime Victim Assistance Fund Guidelines on International Parental Abduction, as well as disbursement regulations established between the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Since the program’s inception, NCMEC has disbursed more than $840,515 in funds to support the travel of 310 families to countries, including Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Nicaragua, Qatar, Spain, and Tanzania for legal proceedings or reunification with a child. More information concerning the Victim Reunification Travel Program can be found on NCMEC’s website: www.missingkids.com.
In addition to ISS and NCMEC, many other NGOs provide important resources for parents and children affected by IPCA. Some organizations provide support for LBPs by helping them connect with other parents who have experienced IPCA. Another organization has been established to provide a community for adults who were abducted as children and are still suffering psychological trauma from the experience. Other NGOs provide reunification counseling and advice to families, which can be essential for a parent who is reunited with his or her child after considerable time apart. The Department maintains and continually updates a list of these and other NGOs. This list can be viewed on this website, www.travel.state.gov/childabduction. The Department also works directly with some of these organizations to educate and train others (e.g., law enforcement agents) on IPCA.
In coordination with U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, we monitor the welfare of abducted children, assists parents and provide information to help prevent child abduction. We maintain country-specific IPCA flyers on our website, provide general information about the application process under the Convention, and describes measures available to parents whose children have been abducted to non-Convention countries. Through diplomatic efforts, the Department has encouraged Convention partners to utilize the services and expertise of local NGOs to more effectively implement the Convention, particularly in countries developing or expanding their capacity. U.S. diplomatic missions abroad have developed lists of NGOs in their country or region to assist families in the difficult circumstances surrounding child abductions.
The following is an archive of the Compliance Reports submitted by the Office of Children's Issues to Congress, listed by the year in which they were published: