There’s more to this story than meets the eye, or at least that’s my guess (The Daily News, 2/25/11). Kelso, Washington police and CPS officials say that it looks like Silvia Preciado-Chaves has absconded to Mexico with her five children. Apparently, CPS had just succeeded in making the five, one a newborn and the others aged 1, 2, 5 and 13 wards of the state, meaning that they were about to be taken from the mother and placed in foster care.
Meanwhile, the father of two of the children, Nicholas Santos-Reyes, lives in Woodburn, Oregon, about 65 miles south of Kelso. Police last place Preciado-Chaves in Woodburn on February 18.
Where she and the children are, no one seems to know, but suspicions are that they’re all in Mexico. Whether the father knows where they are, intends to join them or is part of the abduction plan, is anyone’s guess.
Into the bargain, CPS isn’t letting on about why they decided to take the children. What seems certain is that Preciado-Chaves, when faced with turning the kids over to temporary foster care, pulled up stakes and ran.
That raises the question of whether a child welfare agency that’s taken the legal steps necessary to remove children from parental care has any options about returning them from a foreign country. To that question I have no answer and would welcome information from anyone who does.
That, however returns us to the problem of Mexico and its notorious unwillingness to comply with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Last week a Fathers and Families reader provided us with a heart-rending story about her boyfriend’s efforts to get his son back from Mexico to which his ex had abducted the child three years ago.
Their story is one of a Mexican legal system that’s hostile to fathers’ rights and a U.S. State Department that’s mostly ineffective at sticking up for the rights of American parents.
The writer was kind enough to send me this link to a good Wikipedia article on Mexico and its horrendous record of compliance with the Convention to which it has been a signatory since 1990.
I’ve often argued that Japan should drag itself into the 20th century (I don’t even ask for the 21st), and sign the Hague Convention. Mexico is proof that signing it does little to change the type of anti-father bias to which both countries are susceptible.
The Wikipedia article makes a number of points worth repeating. For example, the U.S. State Department reports annually on the compliance levels of countries that have signed the convention. Mexico is rated as “non-compliant,” and has been for years.
Mexico’s lack of action under the convention has led a number of other signatory nations to complain that its children get the benefit of return under the convention, but other countrys’ children do not. Their children may disappear into Mexico and either never return or do so after unconscionable periods of time.
The article also says what I’ve written many times – that child abduction is a form of child abuse because it deprives the child of almost all of the resources most children have and replaces those with a single one – the abducting parent. But Mexico’s lack of child labor laws and child protection laws make it a uniquely hazardous place to which to abduct a child.
The convention itself is “widely viewed as completely ineffective in Mexico.” Trials take a long time to be held and appeals even longer. Domestic family law automatically hands custody of children under 7-12 to mothers, the age varying with the state in which the action is brought.
Child abduction is regarded as criminal in both the U.S. and Mexico, but U.S. attorneys rarely request extradition of abducting parents because the request is seldom honored.
Nor is the problem insubstantial. The U.S. State Department reports that 65% of children abducted from the United States to another Hague Convention country are taken to Mexico. And Mexico is the destination of choice in 40% of all abductions from Hague-signatory countries. In short, parental abductors, whoever they are and wherever they are seem to know that Mexico will make it easy on them.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department is tasked with maintaining good relations with Mexico, than which there is no more important country in our “War on Drugs.” Given the importance placed by numerous government agencies on the war on drugs and the amount of funding that goes into it, it should come as no surprise that pressuring Mexico to honor its treaty obligations concerning abducted children comes in a distant second on our list of priorities.