How the State Department Can Help
Our country officers in the Office of Children’s Issues are able to assist if your child has been abducted into the U.S. from another country. The resources available to you depend on whether your child was abducted from a Hague Convention partner country or a non-Hague country. Our office handles both types of cases, though our services are more limited in non-Hague cases.
The Hague Convention may apply in your case if:
- Your child was taken from a country that is a partner with the U.S. under the Convention.
- Your child was under 16 at the time of the removal or retention.
The Office of Children's Issues helps with Hague cases by:
- Accepting applications for return or access from Foreign Central Authorities;
- Assisting parents in locating their child/ren within the U.S.;
- Attempting to achieve a voluntary return or voluntary access if appropriate;
- Assisting parents with finding attorneys, including attorneys willing to work on a pro bono or reduced-fee basis for qualified parents;
- Referring families to mediation services upon request; and
- Assisting with the safe return of children to their country of habitual residence.
If the Hague Convention does not apply in your case, our office helps by:
- Responding to requests for assistance from foreign embassies in the U.S. or directly from a parent or legal guardian;
- Opening a case if: (1) you have provided a valid custody order showing that your child's presence in the U.S. is a violation of your custody rights, or (2) you have reported your child missing to law enforcement in your country and you have obtained an INTERPOL Missing Child (Yellow) notice from your country.
- In most cases, where you have provided a valid custody order or the child is listed as a missing child with INTERPOL, our office may be able to help you locate your child within the U.S. (Note: specific address information will only be provided to attorneys representing a parent for purposes of service of process in court cases in the U.S.; address information is not provided to the requesting parent );
- Referring families to mediation services upon request;
- Providing full fee attorneys lists and information on our website about resources for finding a pro bono or reduced fee attorney in the U.S.
Other resources which may be helpful to you are:
Embassy in the United States: Often the embassy of your country in the U.S. can provide a list of attorneys or attempt to visit a child in the U.S.
Law Enforcement: INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with 187 member countries. If your child was taken from an INTERPOL member country, consult with law enforcement authorities in your country to ask for their assistance in filing a missing child report and seeking an INTERPOL Missing Child (Yellow) Notice. On the basis of this Yellow notice an entry for the child can be made into NCIC (a U.S. law enforcement database). Only then does law enforcement in the U.S. have the authority to assist in locating the child. Law enforcement authorities in your country can also tell you whether or not the taking parent has violated your country’s laws.
National Center for Missing and Exploied Children (NCMEC): NCMEC is a non-profit non-government organization in the U.S. that may be able to offer you additional free services, such as creating posters for your child. Visit NCMEC’s website or call 1-800-THE-LOST (5678). Our country officers can give you more information and assist with any requests.
While our office can assist you with many aspects of your case, we are unable to provide the following type of assistance:
- Our office cannot physically pick up your child in the U.S.
- Our office cannot provide you with any form of legal advice, including representing you in court.
If you have any questions about these, please do not hesitate to contact your country officer.
Please note that our office is concerned about the welfare and safe return of your child. We strongly discourage you from attempting to re-abduct your child. These measures could result in your arrest, endanger your child and ultimately delay your child’s return.
What You Can Do
Contact the Authorities
Learn about the Hague Abduction Convention
State Departments Role
Steps You Can Take on Your Own
What is the Hague Abduction Convention
Explore Your Legal Options
Prepare for Reuniting with Your Child
The State Department's Role
Steps You Can Take on Your Own