Every Child

Has Two Parents


On July 13th 2003, Erika Toland was abducted from her home at Negishi Navy Family Housing in Yokohama, Japan. She was abducted by her mother, Etsuko Toland, who subsequently died on October 31st, 2007. Since the death of her mother, Erika has been held by her maternal Grandmother, Akiko Futagi. For six long years her father, Commander Paul Toland, US Navy, has been trying to see his daughter Erika, but to no avail. Erika is held in Japan, a haven for international child abduction. Japan is the only G7 country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The United States Department of State is not aware of any case in which a child taken by one parent has been ordered returned to the United States by Japanese courts, even when the left-behind parent has a United States custody decree.

On June 25, 2009, Congressman Chris Smith discussed Erika's case on the floor of the House of Representatives. He stated that "The international movement of our servicemembers make them especially vulnerable to the risks of international child abduction. Attorneys familiar with this phenomenon estimate that there are approximately 25 to 30 new cases of international child abductions affecting our servicemembers every year. One man, Commander Paul Toland, recently came into my office largely because of the publicity about David Goldman and his son, Sean Goldman, the Brazilian case that I have been working on. He heard about it, and he came in and said, You have got to hear my story. And it is a heartbreaking story. Commander Toland was deployed to Yokohama, Japan. He and his wife, regrettably, had a split. She is now tragically deceased. And yet for approximately 6 long years, he has been trying to get his daughter back and has been unable to. The custody of his child is with the maternal grandparents. Again, he has not been able to get his own child back. Commander Toland received poor advice from the Naval Legal Services Officer on how to adjudicate the case. Have others?"

Congressman Smith concluded by stating "Our servicemen and women risk much in the service of our Nation. We must do all that we can to mitigate the risks to their families."

On March 11, 2009, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 125 by a vote of 418-0. This Resolution condemned Japan for its actions on International Child Abduction and called on Japan to sign the Hague Convention. This Congressional resolution described Japan as "a United States ally which does not recognize intra-familial child abduction as a crime, and though its family laws do not discriminate by nationality, Japanese courts give no recognition to the parental rights of the non-Japanese parent, fail to enforce United States court orders relating to child custody or visitation, and place no effective obligation on the Japanese parent to allow parental visits for their child."

On May 21, 2009, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada released a joint press statement condemning Japan for it’s actions on International Child Abduction, and calling on Japan to sign the Hague Convention. These four nations together with one voice stated that "the left-behind parents of children abducted to or from Japan have little realistic hope of having their children returned and encounter great difficulties in obtaining access to their children and exercising their parental rights and responsibilities." These countries urged Japan "to identify and implement measures to enable parents who are separated from their children to maintain contact with them and to visit them," and described the "failure to develop tangible solutions to most cases of parental child abduction in Japan particularly troubling."

Today, Erika remains separated from her father, with no means of return. Her father has spent his life savings trying to return her, but Japan does not even recognize parental or intrafamilial child abduction as a crime, so the situation remains grim. Please join us in continuing to press the US Government for the return of our children from Japan.


The information on this website concerns a matter of public interest, and is provided for educational and informational purposes only in order to raise public awareness of issues concerning left-behind parents. Unless otherwise indicated, the writers and translators of this website are not lawyers nor professional translators, so be sure to confirm anything important with your own lawyer.

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