Pubdate: Sun, 21 Feb 2010
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2010 The Register-Guard
Author: Mark Baker


Decisions regarding foster care children in Oregon are made by judges
in juvenile court, with input from state Department of Human Services
caseworkers, DHS spokesman Gene Evans said. DHS is working with the
Lane County Juvenile Court, the Canadian government and the U.S. State
Department on Noah Kirkman's case, Evans said.

One problem with such cases is that there is no specific international
treaty for repatriation -- the return of a person to one's homeland --
of children, said Gloria Anderson, DHS's diversity and international
affairs manager. Instead, two other international treaties are
consulted, the Hague Adoption Convention and the Uniform Child
Abduction Prevention Act, or UCAPA, Anderson said.

The Hague pact addresses international adoption, child laundering and
child trafficking. It establishes safeguards to ensure that
intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of the child. UCAPA
guides courts in handling child custody disputes.

Meanwhile, Oregon law requires DHS to provide safety to any child
within the state's borders, regardless of their nationality, Anderson
said. "Once we know a child in our care is from another country, we
are required to notify (that nation's) consular affairs," Anderson
said. "And we are not allowed to send the child back to their nation
until we know it's safe."

The Canadian Consulate General in Seattle has been helping the Kirkman
family since October 2008, said Wendy Baldwin a spokeswoman for the

International child custody disputes are complicated, said Mary
Damianakis, a Montreal-based international mediator in child abduction
cases who offered her services to Lisa Kirkman last fall and has been
working on the case since.

A lot of times, professionals, government agencies, they don't have
the tools, the awareness or education that is needed to help with an
international conflict."

Cases like Noah Kirkman's used to be unusual, but that's changing,
Damianakis said. She sees more of them as it has become more common
for families to live or be split across international borders,
particularly between the United States and Mexico, she said.

Raquel Hecht, a Eugene immigration attorney, doesn't think Hague
Convention rules apply in Noah Kirkman's case. Once a local court
steps in and asserts its legal powers over the child, that most likely
trumps many international rules, she said. Lane County Juvenile Court
Judge Kip Leonard granting Noah "special immigrant juvenile status"
probably would have more legal clout than someone trying to invoke
Hague Convention protocols, Hecht said. 
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