CA¹s International Parental Abduction Open House
Secretary of State
I have worked on children’s issues my entire adult life and when I got to the State Department, I became much more familiar than I even had as a Senator or First Lady with the growing problem of abducted children. The world in which we live where we are all so much more mobile and there are so many opportunities for people to move quickly and there are so many countries that still yet fail to understand the human costs of shielding abductors; so, I decided that we would redouble, triple our efforts to do everything we possibly could. Assistant Secretary Janice Jacobs was eager to partner with me to try to figure out a path forward.
I appointed the first ever Special Advisor for Children’s Issues Ambassador Susan Jacobs and she has been literally on the road, going from country to country; she just got back from the UK, Tunisia, and Morocco. We have also increased our collaboration with the FBI, Interpol, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and many nongovernmental organizations who are working with us on this critical matter. We have also made it a priority even amongst our senior officials who do not have direct responsibility, so when they are meeting with officials in a country where we know there are abducted children it’s raised at the highest level. I have personally raised it time and time again; I’ve raised specific cases, I know President Obama has as well on occasion. During the last three years the State Department has doubled the number of officers handling abduction cases and I can attest to they come to work every day thinking of what more they can do that day to get your children home.
I know many of you speak with them on a regular basis and we welcome your input, your ideas that perhaps could lead to a successful outcome. We are pursuing every available avenue and we’re also trying to prevent abductions in the first place from occurring or reoccurring through our Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program and we are pushing The Hague Abduction Convention; we’re making slow but steady progress. When we started there was a huge void in Asia, countries had not adopted the convention were moving them forward, were getting closer to full accession in a couple of places.
We believe that The Hague Convention is the best tool for deterring and resolving abductions so we want more and more countries to join. We pursue this separate and apart from every other diplomatic issue that we have with any country, because we think this crosses boundaries this is such a universal matter, and there are cases of abductees in our country and so we make it very clear that we expect reciprocity we expect people to work with us just like we are trying to work with them. So there are a lot of efforts taking place and you’ll hear in more detail today about them and I encourage you to ask every question, make every point that you possibly feel is important to you because we want to be your partners in bringing about the return of your child or children.
I guess the final thing I would say is that I cannot pretend to understand the pain and frustration that you individually suffer it’s just unimaginable to me and I can certainly appreciate the sleepless nights and the internet searches and the conviction that something more could be done and needs to be done right away; if there is, we want to hear, but I can tell you we rack our brains, we do everything we can think of to do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good and other ideas that doesn’t mean we can’t be more effective because that’s part of the reason we invited you here is to give us your constructive criticism and your best thinking; but I want you to know this Department is one hundred percent committed and the people you’ll meet today and you’ll talk to led by Janice and Susan are absolutely trying in every way they can to reunite you.
So I encourage you to not only get the most out of today, but to stay in touch with us, to keep providing any information, ideas that you have and to know that we’re going to be there with you as your partner in trying to end what has been for each of you a very painful time. So Janice and Susan I guess you’ll come up and tell everybody what’s next on the program and I’ll get a full readout and report and I’ll look forward to continuing to work for you and with you. Thank you all very much.