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Long Arm of Child Law
April 23, 2015 permalink
American authorities reached over the border to forcibly grab Mexican teenager Alondra Luna Núñez from her parents. A Texas mother claimed the girl was her daughter. Authorities refused to believe the girl was who she said she was until DNA tests confirmed she was unrelated to the Texas claimant.
Think about this case. The United States claims the right to grab a child from anywhere in the world and subject her to American law.
In a related article Newsweek summarizes the theft of children of the Baltic states by other European countries. Policies that are routine within Scandinavia and Britain become international incidents when the victims are foreigners.
Mexican girl who was wrongly seized and sent to US is reunited with family
GUANAJUATO, Mexico – When a woman in Texas claimed that Alondra Luna Nunez was her long-lost daughter, the girl's real parents in Mexico say they presented more than a dozen documents from baptismal records and a copy of her birth certificate to family photographs. They were sure it was enough to demonstrate her true origins.
In the end, they say, Alondra was sent screaming to the U.S. based on a scar on the bridge of her nose resulting from a remote-control car mishap as a young girl. And they blame their traumatic weeklong separation squarely on the judge who made the final call.
"The other girl had a scar, but on the eyebrow, and I have one on my nose. I mean all this was stirred up over that," Alondra, 14, told The Associated Press on Wednesday at an emotional reunion with family after nearly a week away. "The judge said, 'No, it's her,' and that was that."
DNA testing proved Alondra was not Houston resident Dorotea Garcia's daughter.
The case drew international attention after a video of the distraught girl being forced into a police vehicle last week circulated in media and on social networks.
Judge Cinthia Elodia Mercado told the AP that she held to her obligation to make sure that international child-abduction conventions were followed.
"Our only job is to resolve whether the child needs to be returned or not," she said.
But the resulting drama touched not only Alondra's family in Mexico but also Garcia, who believed she had finally found her daughter, Alondra Diaz Garcia, taken from the U.S. illegally by her father nearly a decade ago.
That girl's whereabouts are unknown, and a felony warrant remains for the father, Reynaldo Diaz, who is suspected of abducting her from Houston in 2007.
Garcia, speaking to a Houston television station, said the first time she saw Alondra Luna, "I saw my daughter." She gave few details about how she ended up leaving Mexico with the girl, although she said she knows many won't look kindly on her actions.
"The people who know me don't need me to give an explanation for what happened," she said later to the AP. "Whatever explanation I give won't change the minds of people in Mexico or here."
Alondra said Garcia and the woman's family members apologized to her before she returned.
After Alondra flew into Guanajuato in Central Mexico around noon Wednesday, the family gathered for an afternoon and evening barbecue at her aunt's house. They celebrated with balloons, streamers and steak and chorizo sausage sizzling on the grill.
"Welcome to your real home, Alondra," read a homemade sign.
Wearing jeans, a gray T-shirt and a silver necklace with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Alondra laughed and hugged brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles. As the sun went down in the hilly working-class neighborhood where they live, family and friends lit candles and recited the rosary on a sidewalk. Alondra wept as an elderly neighbor swept her into an embrace that lasted for minutes.
Garcia traveled to Mexico this year and said she had found her daughter in Guanajuato, prompting U.S. authorities to seek Interpol's help in retrieving her. She did not elaborate how, in her brief comments to the AP.
Many things remained unclear, including who called Interpol from the U.S.
On April 16, Mexican agents assigned to Interpol took Alondra from her middle school and transported her to a courtroom in the neighboring state of Michoacan, according to a statement from the federal Attorney General's Office.
Alondra's parents and Garcia each presented documents and gave testimony, then the judge ruled in favor of Garcia, ordering the girl into her custody. A court official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said on condition of anonymity that Alondra's parents didn't present proper documents.
Alondra and Garcia went by bus to Houston, crossing at Laredo, Texas, with the birth certificate of Garcia's daughter and the court order, according to Mexico's Foreign Ministry.
"Anger. Rage. Powerlessness that they could tear my daughter from my arms. Sadness," said Susana Nunez, Alondra's mother. "I didn't sleep. I didn't eat. I said, 'How is my daughter, what is she doing?'"
Alondra said she was terrified at first, having never been so far from her parents, but was confident that ultimately the truth would come out and she would return. Still, her father, Gustavo Luna, said there were moments when he feared he might never see her again.
"A lot of things went through my mind ... at those moments you fear the worst," Luna said.
Alondra said she asked for a DNA test in Mexico but it was denied. The magistrate who ruled on the case said it wasn't within her authority to order one.
"We as judges are only responsible to resolve the case with respect to recovering the minor," Elodia Mercado said. "We don't do investigations or make inquiries."
Alondra asked again for a DNA test this week in the United States, and Mexico's Foreign Ministry also intervened after the video caused an uproar.
Source: Fox News
Baltic States Say Norway, UK and Finland Have Stolen Their Children
Several Eastern European countries have declared war on child protection agencies in Norway, Finland and the UK, claiming that they are breaking up families based on little or no conclusive evidence.
The issue has come to a head in Lithuania after a television chat show accused the Norwegian child protection services, Barnevernet, of seizing the seven-year-old son of a Lithuanian mother, Gražina Lešcinskiene, earlier this year, after the boy showed signs of “sexualised behaviour”.
According to chat show An Hour with Ruta, Barnevernet routinely takes Lithuanian children from their parents as they are a “sought-after commodity” – a claim strongly denied by Norway.
The fall-out has become so toxic in Lithuania that the Norwegian ambassador there has hired a PR company to dispel the negative opinions of Norway being broadcast by the Lithuanian media. “This is a huge issue in Lithuania right now,” says Daiva Petkeviciute, a Lithuanian living in Norway, who works for the Oslo-based group Human Rights House Network. “The first thing Lithuanians say when I tell them I live in Norway is, ‘How do you still have your kids?’”
Meanwhile, a Latvian child living in the UK was removed from her mother in 2010 after the 21-month-old girl was allegedly found at home alone. The child was then placed with foster parents and is now living with adoptive British parents.
The mother denies her child was left alone and accuses the local authority of “forced adoption”. Earlier this month the Latvian parliament issued a formal complaint to the Speaker of the House of Commons about the conduct of British social services. The head of the child affairs cooperation division at the Latvian Ministry of Justice, Agris Skudra, said Britain had failed to notify Latvia that the child had been removed from its parents, thus depriving relatives of being given the chance to care for the child.
“The only thing [the social services] have done is apologise for missing a significant step in the adoption process, but for the mother and Latvian institutions this is not a relief. Apologising and saying we didn’t know something is not good enough,” Skudra says.
There has also been growing anger in the Czech Republic over a case that occurred in 2011. The two sons of a Czech mother were removed by Norway’s child protection agency after the parents were suspected of violence and sexual abuse. They were placed with different foster families. Earlier this year, Czech President Miloš Zeman accused Norway of “behaving like Nazis”, and a petition that backs the mother has attracted almost 10,000 signatures. “In the eyes of Europeans, Norway has become a country that takes children away from their parents excessively,” says Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský.
Wild theories circulating on Lithuanian social media suggest that Russian propaganda could be behind the discord. At the end of last year, the Russian Children’s Right Commissioner accused Norway and Finland of “terrorising” Russian families living in Scandinavian nations.
Norwegian ambassador to Lithuania, Dag Halvorsen, says a care order is only taken as a last resort. He blames cultural differences for the crisis, an opinion echoed by Lithuanians and Norwegians alike, who point out that acceptable child discipline differs vastly between different countries and generations.
Indeed, the head of child right protection in Lithuania concurs that culture differences could be affecting cases but that they “understand the concern of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania about the existing situation”.
“With no clear legal regulation between these two states present, Lithuanian and Norwegian nationals have different interpretations of the situations when Norwegian authorities decide to curtail parental rights in their children's respect and to determine third-party custody of minor nationals of the Republic of Lithuania in Norwegian families. Information about cases like these is often published causing social frustration.”
However, the Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs in Norway says that they regret the "distortion" they believe certain media in Lithuania have created regarding the Norwegian child welfare system.
"Norwegian legislation is primarily based on one principle: The best interest of the child. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history, and Norway ratified the Convention in 1991.
The Norwegian Child Welfare Act’s main purpose is to ensure that children who live in conditions that can harm their health and development are given necessary and adequate help and care.
Regarding the Lithuanian population (including Norwegian born children from Lithuanian parents), less than 14 children out of a total of 5,906 children in Norway were placed out of home and 117 received voluntary support in the home.”