DoS and Child Abduction

Monday, April 16th, 2012

To the attention of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and all employees in the State Department’s Office of Children’s Issues:

This letter was received by Congressman Smith’s office during the week of the introduction of H.R.1940, the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction, Prevention and Return Act.

March 26, 2012


Dear Congressman Smith:

By now you are aware that Japan has agreed to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction (the Hague treaty).  By now you are also aware that while Japan has “agreed” that it will sign the treaty, it does not seem to have any intention to actually honor it.  This fact can be gleaned from Japanese press articles and Parliamentary sessions that extol the virtues of several “exceptions” the Japanese plan to implement upon their joining of the Hague.

The ambiguity of these loopholes reveals that Japan’s accession to the Hague will be, at best, a misrepresentation of the country’s true intentions and, at worst, an outright fraud.


U.S. Department of State disregards the welfare of abducted children

On May 24, 2011 while sitting as Chairman for the Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Subcommittee, you remarked that parentally abducted children lose half of their identity and half of their culture and “are at risk of serious emotional and psychological problems [including] anxiety, nightmares, mood swings, sleep disturbances, aggressive behavior, resentment, guilt and [fear]” and that these struggles continue on into adulthood.

Despite the litany of childhood problems you detailed in your speech, I deeply fear that the U.S. Department of State (“State Department”) has failed to research, or even acknowledge, the harm that can befall a child who has been parentally abducted.

For years, several organizations, including the American Bar Association and the U.S. Department of Justice, have maintained that parents with narcissistic personality disorder and/or sociopathic personality traits are more likely to kidnap their children than those who are emotionally “healthy”.  While countless researchers have examined the long-lasting consequences of being raised in these circumstances, it appears that the State Department has chosen to ignore this research in its entirety.

In 2011, the State Department Office of Children’s Issues met with parents of children who have been abducted to Japan.  At this meeting there was a guest speaker—a child welfare “expert” hired by the State Department to convince a group of grieving and traumatized parents that they should not worry about their children so much because abducted children are “resilient”.  Aside from the fact that this “expert” seemed to completely ignore all of the research that led to the implementation of the International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act and the Hague treaty in the first place, the State Department’s flagrant disregard for the pain and emotional damage that these children suffer was unconscionable—to say nothing of the feelings of the parents who were seated in that room while having to listen to that discussion.  It is reminiscent of the radiation scandal where the poisoned victims were told that the version of chromium they were exposed to was actually “good for them”.  It is positively unthinkable.


Living with an emotionally unhealthy parent

Children who are raised with an emotionally unstable parent do not reach adulthood unscathed.  Indeed, children who have been parentally kidnapped are often raised in an emotionally abnormal environment without the benefit of a healthy parent to counter-balance the abductor’s erratic or destructive behavior.  Several researchers have examined the emotional fallout experienced by children who have been raised with parents who suffer from narcissistic or borderline personality disorder, and they have found that the impact of this damage is both deep and long-lasting.


Narcissistic personality disorder

Several publications have described that narcissism is a personality trait that increases the risk of parental abduction.  Narcissists often rationalize their violation of court orders and feel no remorse if they bend the rules to benefit themselves.1

A child of a narcissist can suffer severely because narcissists have “limited or no ability” to recognize their children as separate individuals with free will and needs of their own. Children who are raised by a narcissistic parent often feel extremely lonely and isolated because the parent can, to the outside world, appear to be self-confident and self-controlled, but in private can unleash a battery of constant criticisms and have difficulty controlling their anger.3  Eleanor Payson, a licensed family therapist, describes this nightmare as “a private one that can only be stopped by outside validation”.4  A child raised by a narcissistic parent must grow up quickly, repressing his or her true feelings in order to serve the narcissist’s needs.5


Borderline personality disorder

Bill Eddy is an attorney, mediator and clinical social worker.  He is an expert in child custody issues that arise when someone divorces a spouse with narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder.  He explains that parents with borderline personality disorder often “desire the elimination of the other parent as much as possible”.6  Researchers have found that a borderline parent will often use “I’ll never speak to you again” as a primary method of solving interpersonal conflict, and the child will thereafter feel forced to agree with his parent’s opinion, even if his opinion or recollection is not the same.7  These parents “enmesh” themselves with their children8 and rather than being allowed to feel, the borderline parent convinces the children how they are supposed to feel.9

In Eddy’s experience, parents who kidnap their children are unwilling to share parenting with the other parent and “decide they were above the law”. 10  The risk of abduction is exacerbated by a borderline’s impulsivity and the fact that they feel superior to a court’s orders.11

Borderline parents hold their children captive to onslaughts of verbal abuse followed by the silent treatment.  They criticize and belittle their children, causing the children to suffer great confusion, pain and silent anger.12  Life with a borderline parent can bring “constant chaos” and is typified by the borderline’s verbal abuse, unpredictability, denying the child’s perception of events, the need to dominate, threatening to get her own way, making abusive comments and setting unrealistic expectations.13  Denying the feelings and needs of others and trying to get the child to engage in illogical arguments only exacerbates the pain, loneliness and confusion.14  While it is impossible to discover exactly how many international abductions have been committed by narcissistic or borderline personality disordered individuals, this research cannot and should not be ignored.


The State Department is obstructing justice and minimizing a federal felony crime

Through their complicity, the State Department is unnecessarily prolonging the pain of these abducted children and their parents.  The State Department needs to acknowledge that crimes have been committed by these Japanese nationals and that the Japanese government has done nothing to rectify the situation.

The Justice Department has acknowledged that parental abduction is damaging and that “the worst damage is imperceptible to the eye, occurring deep within the child, leaving traces that last a lifetime”.15  The State Department should be admonished for using taxpayer money to pay a child welfare “expert” to cajole left-behind parents to think that parental abduction is not such a bad thing after all because kids are “resilient”, and to offer up such fiction in front of the F.B.I, the very agency that should be assisting these bereaved and aching parents in the recovery of their children.  The State Department needs to be severely questioned as to why it is devoting its efforts to obstructing justice rather than fighting for it.


Thank you for your time and attention.


Amy J. Savoie, Ph.D.



1  Payson, Eleanor D., M.S.W.  2002.  The Wizard of Oz and other Narcissists.

Royal   Oak, Michigan: Julian Day Publications, p. 19.

2  Payson, p. 30.

3  Payson, pp. 16, 30.

4  Payson, p. 16.

5  Payson, p. 66.

6  Eddy, Bill, LCSW, JD and Randi Kreger.  2011.  Splitting: Protecting Yourself   

   while Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  

  Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., p. 263.

7  Roth, Kimberlee and Freda B. Friedman, Ph.D., LCSW.  2003.  Surviving a 

   Borderline Parent: How to Heal Your Childhood Wounds & Build Trust,  

   Boundaries, and Self-Esteem.  Oakland, California: New Harbinger

Publications, p. 120.

8  Eddy, p. 249.

9  Roth, p. 121.

10 Eddy, p. 248.

11 Eddy, p. 249.

12 Lawson, Christine Ann.  2000.  Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping  

    Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. 

    New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pg. 207.

13  Mason, Paul, MS and Randi Kreger.  2010.  Stop Walking on Eggshells, 2nd 

    Edition.   Oakland, California.  New Harbinger Publications, Inc., pg. 61.

14  Mason, p. 109.

15  The U.S. Department of Justice, from the publication The Crime of Family

Abduction, a Child’s and Parent’s Perspective, First Edition.  May 2010.


(Special thanks to CDR Paul Toland, USN, for coordinating this effort)


May 24, 2011

Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
US Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary,

We, the undersigned, appeal to you for help as left-behind parents of 114 American children who have been abducted and remain unlawfully retained in 25 countries. We also represent a number of U.S. servicemen whose children were abducted while serving our country overseas. Some of these countries are signatories to the Hague Convention while others are not, such as Japan, where we face overwhelming odds trying to reunite with our children. We and our families are devastated − emotionally and financially − by the loss of our children and seek your assistance in ensuring that the U.S. Government is exercising all lawful means necessary to return these American children to their home country and reunite them with us.

The continued retention of our children violates international law, ethical norms, and human decency. Put simply, our children have been stolen from us, and it is our legal and moral right to be a part of their lives. As our 83 cases demonstrate, there are a growing number of countries willfully ignoring or abusing their international obligations with regard to international parental child abduction. Each of us has had exasperating experiences seeking justice in foreign courts, where our cases are often treated as custody matters, rather than as abduction cases. Often times, victim parents are told to use the court system of the foreign country when it is well known that such action will likely result in a decision with custody of our abducted children being awarded to the abducting party.

Collectively, we have limited or no contact with our children, many of whom have been turned against us as a result of parental alienation, a documented form of child abuse. Our children lost half their identities when they were ripped from their homes, families and friends. Like us parents, our children’s grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and other family members have holes in their hearts left by the abduction of their loved ones.

We were encouraged by your July 2010 appointment of Ambassador Jacobs as Special Advisor to the Office of Children’s Issues (OCI). However, in working with OCI, we have experienced little improvement in the quality of service provided by the Department of State and almost no positive results. The current system has failed us. While our children remain unlawfully in foreign lands, the number of new child abduction cases from the U.S. continues to grow at an alarming rate. There is an urgent need for change, not only to prevent more of our nation’s children from being abducted across international borders, but also to effectuate the expeditious and safe return of our abducted children.

International child abduction is a serious human rights violation in desperate need of your attention. In our experience, all too often these international child abduction cases do not appear to be addressed aggressively because of the State Department’s effort to maintain harmonious, bilateral relations with other countries or to pursue other compelling foreign policy goals. The Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual on the issue of child abduction highlights this point by instructing OCI case workers to remain “neutral” when handling these abduction cases. This inherent conflict of interest cannot be ignored and we need to place a higher priority on the welfare of our children. We understand the necessity of maintaining strong relationships with other nations, but this should not come at the expense of our children.

Over the years, both houses of Congress have held numerous hearings on the issue of international parental child abduction, yet precious little has changed as our absent children grow older. On Tuesday, another group of parents will gather in Washington, D.C. for yet another hearing. It is our hope that this will be the year that Congress and the Administration unite to pass new laws to strengthen our nation’s capacity to help the parent and children victims of international parental child abduction. We also hope that the State Department, under your leadership, will advocate for and embrace these changes to finally end this gross injustice affecting thousands of American children.

Madam Secretary, we applaud your past efforts and record on children’s rights issues, but we are desperate and plead for your assistance. It is long past time for this great country to show leadership on the issue of international parental child abduction. We cannot grow complacent with each successful return, nor can we forget about all the other children who are being wrongfully retained abroad. We are fortunate to have the strong support of groups which advocate for victims of international parental child abduction. However, we need your unwavering support and determination to bring our children home.

Madam Secretary, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you directly to discuss how progress can be made. Please help us to be reunited with our children.


David Brian Thomas, father of Graham Hajime Thomas (Nishizawa) (Age 20)

Abducted to Japan in November, 1992

Walter Benda, father of M.B and E.B (Ages 22 and 20)

Abducted to Japan in July, 1995

Charles A. Hamilton, father of Dakota Carmen (age 15)

Abducted to Spain in December, 1996

Eric Kalmus, father of Amy Ito (Kalmus), (age 14)

Abducted to Japan in 1998

 James Filmer, father of Sarah (age 13)

Abducted to Germany in October, 1998

David Hendricks, father of Daniel and Patrick (ages 17 and 13)

Abducted to Norway in June, 1999

Mark & Lydia Harrison, father and grandmother of Jessica Danielle (age 15)

Abducted to Mexico in July, 2000

Craig Alciati, father of Peter Spencer (age 12)

Abducted to France in March, 2001

Michael C. Gulbraa, father of Michael K. & Christopher R. Gulbraa (ages 21 and 20)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2001

CDR Paul Toland, USN and Linda Toland, father / sole surviving parent and stepmother of Erika (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in July, 2003

Richard B Kephart Jr and Martha Kephart, father and grandmother of Richard Kephart III and Nicolle

Hyler Kephart (ages 15 and 10)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2003

Brett Weed, father of Takoda Tei Weed & Tiana Kiku Weed (ages 13 and 10)

Abducted to Japan in January, 2004

Klaus Zensen, father of Maria Carolina (age 7)

Abducted to Brazil in July, 2004

Ariel Ayubo, father of Lorenzo (age 10)

Abducted to Brazil in September, 2004

Robert A. McConnell, father of Bianca Damanik (age 8)

Abducted to Indonesia in January, 2005

Deana Hebert, mother of Bianca Lozano (age 17)

Abducted to Mexico in April, 2005

Paul Brown, father of Liam Shiratori Paul Brown (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in June, 2005

William J Lake, father of Mary Victoria Lake (age 14)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2005

Stephen Christie, father of James Kento Christie (age 16)

Abducted to Japan in October, 2005

John Donaldson, father of Michiru Janice Donaldson (age 10)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2005

George A. Petroutsas, father of Andonios (age 6)

Abducted to Greece in December, 2005, re-abducted in June, 2010

Michele Swensen, mother of Amina, Layla, and Sami (ages 14, 12 and 10)

Abducted to Yemen in February, 2006

Didier Combe, father of Chloe (age 7)

Abducted to Mexico in March, 2006

Kelvin Birotte, father of Kelvin Jr. (age 5)

Abducted to Brazil in July, 2006

Timothy Weinstein, father of Paul and Anna (ages 13 and 10)

Abducted to Brazil in August, 2006

Marty Pate, father of Nicole (age 10)

Abducted to Brazil in August, 2006

Nigel Lewis, father of Jasmyn Lewis and Cody Lewis (ages 9 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2006

Donna Hesse, grandmother of Kai Noel Hachiya (age 12)

Abducted to Japan in December, 2006

Michael McCarty, father of Liam Gabriele (age 9)

Abducted to Italy in March, 2007

Douglas Brian Gessleman, father of David and Joshua Gessleman (ages 7 and 9)

Abducted to Japan in May, 2007

Trevor Richardson, father of Andrew (age 5)

Abducted to Mexico in August, 2007

Paul Wong, father and sole surviving parent of Kaya Summer Xiao-Lian Wong (age 7)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2007

Kirsten M. Snipp, mother of Joichiro Yamada (age 13)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2007

Michael G. Canopin, father of Christian Lehua Haolalani Yuuki Inamura-Canopin (age 13)

Abducted to Japan in October, 2007

Jose Maria Cacho Polo, father of Jose Martín (age 11)

Abducted to Japan in January, 2008

Michael Sanchez, father of Emily Machado (age 5)

Abducted to Brazil in March, 2008

Randy Ernst, father of Joseph and Nicole (ages 13 and 11)

Abducted to Russia in May, 2008

Sean A. McKnight, father of Kelly and Julia (ages 15 and 7)

Abducted to Poland in May, 2008

Randy Collins, father of Keisuke Christian Collins (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in June, 2008

Carlos Bermudez, father of Sage Antonio (age 4)

Abducted to Mexico in June, 2008

Bandi J. Rao, father of Anand Saisuday (age 6)

Abducted to India in July, 2008

Carl Hillman, father of Sean (age 8)

Abducted to Japan in July, 2008

Conrad Washington, father of Conisha Kanna and Maximus Riku (ages 16 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in July, 2008

Patrick McCoy, father of Yuuki McCoy (Kojima) (age 3)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2008

Regan Haight, mother of Chloe and Aiden Kobayashi (ages 9 and 5)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2008

James Robert Allen, father of Joseph Martin (age 2)

Abducted to Colombia in September, 2008

Brandon C. Neal, father of Alexander Hikaru Neal (Sugashima) (age 4)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2008

Michael Elias, Nancy Elias and Miguel Elias, father, grandmother and grandfather to Jade Maki Elias and

Michael Angel Elias (ages 5 and 3)

Abducted to Japan in December, 2008

Jessie Duke, Roy Duke and Deborah Duke, father, grandfather and grandmother of Shanonyuma Ishida

and Rikki (ages 8 and 4)

Abducted to Japan in December, 2008

Matt Wyman, father of Jake Taylor and Alex Michael (ages 10 and 6)

Abducted to Japan in January, 2009

Roy Koyama, father of Emily Alina (age 2)

Abducted to Costa Rica in February, 2009

Devon Davenport, father of Nadia Lynn (age 2)

Abducted to Brazil in February, 2009

John Henry Richardson III, father of Matthew and Dylan (age 8 and 7)

Abducted to Mexico in April, 2009

Dhanika Athukorala, father of Kali Soleil (age 3)

Abducted to Dominican Republic in April, 2009

Richard C. Nielsen, Peter Nielsen and Karin Heintz, father, grandfather and grandmother of Leo Nielsen

(age 4)

Abducted to Japan in April, 2009

Darshaun Nadeau, father of Kaya Nadeau (age 2)

Abducted to Japan in May, 2009

Mzimaz Youssef, father of Ghali (age 2)

Abducted to Morocco in May, 2009

James Patrick Carol, Jr., father of Andrea Vanessa and James Patrick (ages 7 and 6)

Abducted to Mexico in June, 2009

Tracy Baumgart, mother of Saxon Rayne Kawar (age 10)

Abducted to Jordan in July, 2009

Michael M. Bergeron, father of Ami Amor (age 6)

Abducted to Peru in August, 2009

Douglass Berg, father of Gunnar and Kianna Berg (ages 11 and 10)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2009

Christopher and Amy Savoie, father and stepmother of Isaac and Rebecca (ages 10 and 8)

Abducted to Japan in August, 2009

Colin Bower, father of Noor and Ramsay (ages 10 and 8)

Abducted to Egypt in August, 2009

Evangelina Pena, mother of Ilias Badys (age 4)

Abducted to Morocco in September, 2009

Brett Purcell, father of Dante (age 1)

Abducted to Argentina in September, 2009

Bruce R. Gherbetti, father of Rion Suzuki, Lauren Gherbetti and Julia Gherbetti (ages 8, 6 and 4)

Abducted to Japan in September, 2009

Mark Gomez, father of Haydn (age 3)

Abducted to China in January, 2010

Jeffery Morehouse, Madeline Morehouse & David Sorlie, father, grandmother and grandfather of

“Mochi” Atomu Imoto Morehouse (age 7)

Abducted to Japan in February, 2010

Stan Hunkovic, father of Gabriel Julius and Anastasia Sierra-Marie (ages 3 and 1)

Abducted to Trinidad & Tobago in February, 2010

Sara Edwards, mother of Eli Kiraz (age 3)

Abducted to Turkey in March, 2010

Michael Hassett, Dennis and Ann Hassett, father, grandfather and grandmother of Noah and Kynan

Hassett (ages 10 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in March, 2010

Alex Kahney, father of Selene and Cale (ages 9 and 7)

Abducted to Japan in April, 2010

Brian Prager and Morton Prager, father and grandfather of Louis “Rui” (age 5)

Abducted to Japan in June, 2010

Antonio Quintana, father of Victoria and Virginia (ages 4 and 3)

Abducted to Argentina in July, 2010

Rex S. Arul, father of Rhea Immaculate (age 4)

Abducted to India in July, 2010

Simon Williams, father of Noan John (age 2)

Abducted to Brazil in August, 2010

Sheena Howard, mother of Talan and José Otavio Ribeiro da Silva (ages 5 and 2)

Abducted to Brazil in September, 2010

Dennis Patrick Burns, father of Victoria Emma and Sophia Marie (ages 4 and 2)

Abducted to Argentina in September, 2010

Richard Joseph Gatt, father of Natasha Joanie (age 6)

Abducted to Brazil in October, 2010

Douglas Trombino, father of Morgana Gray (age 2)

Abducted to Colombia in November, 2010

Ray Rose, father of Kaia (age 15 months)

Abducted to Japan in November, 2010

Robert W. Makielski, father of Isabel Marie and Gabriel Leonardo (ages 8 and 4)

Abducted to Dominican Republic in January, 2011

Tim Johnston, father of Kai Endo (age 6)

Abducted to Japan in March, 2011