MONROE COUNTY, Ohio — A Monroe County mother is looking for help on an international level as she seeks to have her 9-year-old son returned home to the United States.
“It’s really broken our family,” mother Barbie Hise said. “We’re all just broken hearted. And I want to stress more than anything we just want him back. We want our family whole again. ”
Zander is the boy at the center of this story. His mom has not seen him since November, when she sent him to see his father, Ian Scicluna, nearly 6,000 miles away in the Mediterranean Island country of Malta.
There, despite a court-ordered visitation schedule from Monroe County, Ian got a Maltese court to rule that Zander would stay in Malta indefinitely. The ruling found in part that because Zander was being homeschooled in the USA, he wasn’t being socialized properly.
Barbie says he was being homeschooled because he has autism. And now Zander’s spectrum disorder is being used as a pawn in court.
“I’m a mom and I can’t imagine anything more frightening than getting an email that says I’m not going to see my little boy anymore,” Barbie’s attorney Rebecca Bench said.
According to Bench, there has not been a custody dispute. Barbie and her husband Josh have long been Zander’s primary caretakers. Zander’s visits to Malta are part of the Monroe County custodial agreement. Barbie was not in Malta for the court ruling, and was not told about the proceedings until after the ruling. Now the family is relying on a complex web of international bureaucracy.
“Every year at least 1,000 American children are unlawfully taken from the United States and taken to a foreign nation,” said Dr. Noelle Hunter, president and CEO of “I Stand Parent Network.”
The non-profit I Stand Parent Network has been one of the few resources Barbie has been able to turn to in gearing up for an expensive and lengthy legal fight to get her son back in the country.
“I do feel betrayed,” she said. “I trusted that when I sent my son over, I was gonna get him back. We let him have a Christmas and we still have Christmas presents over there waiting because we expected him back. ”
Barbie, her attorney, and the I Stand Parent Network are adamant that this is an abduction case violating federal and international law, and not simply a child custody dispute.
Scicluna responded in emails that he’s acting in good faith and keeping communication open with Barbie and her family.
For Barbie, her fight now is the legal costs. In some cases, parents have spent a half million dollars getting jurisdiction back in a U.S. court.
Donations to Barbie’s legal fund can be made in any WesBanco Bank branch by donating to the “Bring Zander Home” account. More donations can be made here.