Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Jamaica powerless in cases of child abduction to foreign countries

Published:Monday | October 22, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/ Staff Reporter

Child Protection and Family Services Agency's legal officer, Nichole Chambers, has said that the failure of key countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Canada to recognise Jamaica's ratification of the Child Abduction Convention of 1980 limits how much the agency can do to rectify cases where children have been abducted and taken to foreign countries by a parent.

The legal officer said a vast number of the cases that the agency encounters are in the US.

"We have a lot of child abduction issues where we have children going to the US for holidays and are not returning, and so to get those children back is causing a problem, because we can't do central authority work," she said.

A central authority is an agency that is established to facilitate the implementation and operation of an international treaty.

Speaking to The Gleaner on day two of the Caribbean meeting on 'International Child Protection: Implementing and Operating the Hague Child Protection Convention', held at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in St Andrew last week, Chambers said the agency has at least 15 child abduction cases so far, but pointed out that this represents only a small fraction of them.

"The figure is invariably higher. It's just that persons don't bother staying with us when they learn there is not much we can do, from a central authority perspective, to facilitate getting their child back, and that's the frustrating part of it," she underscored.

"Trying to explain to persons that we have domestic legislation in place, we have the court in place, we have a designated Hague-approved judge, but you cannot make your application under the convention because the country where your child is , that country has not accepted Jamaica yet for us to make that application", Chambers said.

This reality has forced parents to carry out custody proceedings in both the country of origin and foreign country, which Chambers said is time- consuming, costly and often does more harm than good.

"Parents don't always do what is in the best interest of the child. They do what is in their best interest, not taking on board the effect of what they are doing - the negative impact it has on the child.

Because on the flip side, the child will say, 'What did I do wrong, Did my other parent do anything to find me?' So those are some of the repercussions abduction has on a child," Chambers explained.