Children of US soldiers left fatherless

AP, The Straits Times, 1 August 2000

GINOWAN (Japan)—They came, dated Okinawan women, have children, then disappeared. These US servicemen left the island with no reprisals and, until recently, there was little that thousands of abandoned Okinawan women and children could do about this predicament.

Now, Ms Annette Eddie-Callagain has taken up the cause of the Japanese women whose desperate faces, she said, came to haunt her when she was a US Air Force lawyer stationed in Okinawa 10 years ago.

The US has signed reciprocal agreements with countries like Germany, Sweden and Britain to enable the mother of a child whose father has returned to his homeland to seek financial support with the help of the government authorities.

But no such pact exists with Japan.

There are about 22,000 US military personnel stationed in Okinawa prefecture, and the local government estimates that about 200 Amerasian children are born in Okinawa annually.

In the run-up to the annual meeting of the world's largest industrialised nations in Okinawa two weeks ago, the Japanese media have reported widely on the racial discrimination, poor education and financial distress that many of these biracial children endure in Japanese society.

The news reports have characterised the plight of the Amerasian children as yet another example of the social ills caused by the many US military bases in Okinawa—not exactly the tone the Japanese government was seeking when it decided to hold the meeting here, putting one of the country's poorest regions in the spotlight.

Despite the lack of a bilateral agreement with Japan regarding child support, Ms Eddie-Callagain is taking her clients' cases directly to the child enforcement offices in each of the 50 state governments in the US.

She is trying to convince states where the deadbeat fathers reside to prosecute them in family courts.

Social service agencies and children's rights advocates estimate that there are about 4,000 Okinawan children abandoned by US servicemen.

Many single mothers have not heard from their husbands or boyfriends for months, if not years, and cannot afford to raise their children alone, they said.

In some cases, the women face eviction because they lack rent money.

Many of the women no longer qualify for, nor can they afford to send their children to racially mixed military and Christian schools.

So their children go to Japanese schools, where they are often bullied and many drop out.