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About the Office of Children's Issues

The Office of Children’s Issues formulates, develops and coordinates policies and programs and provides direction to foreign service posts on international parental child abduction and international adoption. It also fulfills U.S. treaty obligations relating to the abduction of children.

International Adoption
The Office of Children’s Issues coordinates policy and provides information on international adoption to the public. In 1996, U.S. citizens adopted over 11,300 foreign born children. Because adoption is a private legal matter within the judicial sovereignty of the nation where the child resides, the Department of State cannot intervene on behalf of an individual U.S. citizen in foreign courts. We offer general information and assistance regarding the adoption process in over 60 countries.

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International Abduction
Since the late 1970's, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has taken action in over 8,000 cases of international parental child abduction. We also have provided information in response to thousands of additional inquiries pertaining to international child abduction, enforcement of visitation rights and abduction prevention techniques. The Office of Children’s Issues works closely with parents, attorneys, other government agencies and private organizations in the United States to prevent international abductions.

Forty-four countries (including the United States) have joined the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Convention discourages abduction as a means of resolving a custody matter, by requiring (with few exceptions) that the abducted child be returned to the country where he/she resided prior to the abduction. In 1996, this office received approximately 700 applications under the Hague Convention. About half involved children abducted from the United States to other countries. Most of the cases involved Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

There are still many countries, however, where the Hague Convention has not been accepted. In the event of an abduction to a non-Hague country one option for a left-behind parent is to obtain legal assistance in the country of the abduction and follow through a court action. Of non-Hague countries, the largest number of cases involved children abducted to Egypt, Japan, Jordan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

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