Safe Haven

Most Americans associate the State Department only with pinstriped suits and stuffy diplomacy. But State also plays a major customer service role in one of the more highly charged emotional issues--children.

Traditionally, different offices in State's Bureau of Consular Affairs have shared responsibility for the thousands of cases each year of child adoption or abduction across national borders. Consequently, communication and coordination among the offices, American citizens, and their attorneys have grown increasingly difficult.

This year, however, State set up an Office of Children's Issues, gave it major responsibility for child custody matters and made it the central contact point for adoptive parents who are having problems with the local authorities of other countries. The office is expected to greatly improve customer service.

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