By Erika Klein
It's a scene that can only be described as tragic and heartbreaking. A scared and frightened ten year old boy named Jean Paul Lacombe is captured on video pleading and begging with constables not to make him go with his father.
The boy's father has a lengthy history of battling for child custody internationally and fleeing with the boy. Multiple court hearings had been previously held in both Mexico and France. The mother finally tracked down her son and was granted full custody and came to the US in 2005 where they thought they would finally be safe. Four years later, their safety came to an abrupt end. The father hired lawyers in the US and used false documents from Mexico that said he had rightful custody of the child. A Texas judge and all of the court officers involved never bothered to check the authenticity of the documents and issued a court order giving the child back to his father. It was nothing short of a complete failure of the system at every level.
Now the father has since fled with the child and the child's mother has no idea of their whereabouts and hasn't had any contact since the incident happened two months ago. She also says that she has the child's Mexican passport. She says the father has citizenship in three countries, Mexico, France and now Russia, as he recently married a Russian citizen. It's a never ending nightmare for the mother and most especially her son.
JeanPaul had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and was receiving therapy while living with his mother. He spoke of being mistreated and being hit by his father. He felt safe with his mother and as seen on the video, was in clear distress at the prospect of being returned to his father. The last line of defence for this boy ended with Texas police. Officers handed over the boy to the father because of the court order, but state law is set out to protect children like Jean Paul. When the boy cried and stated his father hit him and didn't want to go with him, authorities were obligated by law to call child protective services and have them intervene. This simple act may have prevented the kidnapping.
From the judge to the lawyers and even with police, all were duped by this unscrupulous man. Because this was an international custody case, more should have been done to prevent this type of fraudulent action. America has treaties with various countries and honours the legal systems and orders of other countries. However, in this case, no background checking on the history of this case was done and no authentication of the certificate was performed either.
There was a fundamental lack of coordination on the part of the American Family Justice System. Coordination that would have protected JeanPaul. He simply tracked down mother and son, filed an emergency case in court citing mistreatment of the child, and produced documents from Mexico that said he had custody. The mother has said that she contacted every government body and official she could think of, including Child Protective Services, and that all of her cries for help were ignored. Because of these systemic failures, the boys father was able to get away with legalized kidnapping.
All of the domestic and international laws created and enacted to protect children failed Jean Paul. More must be done to ensure that children are placed with their rightful guardians and kept safe from mistreatment, abuse and kidnapping. The American system failed to do their duty by simply not being thorough and ignoring the cries of both mother and child. Common sense should have prevailed. This case speaks to a serious flaw in international child welfare laws and speaks for a need for greater co-ordination and sharing of information to prevent this type of crime of happening again in the future. A website has been created to help in the search of Jean Paul and more information can be found at http://www.findjeanpaul.com/.