A Brave Escape

15-year-old Grace McCarthy was staying with relatives in China who she reported were abusing her and arranging a marriage she did not want. She believed her parents back in the U.S. were aware of the abuse and the arranged marriage; therefore, she was afraid to return to their care in the United States.

Grace, who was destitute and out of options as to where to go, wanted to return to the U.S., but was terrified that she would be forced to return to her family there. Grace was only willing to return to the U.S. if she could be protected by the child welfare system and taken into foster care. Grace secretly requested the help of the U.S. embassy in China who arranged for Grace to escape her home in China and be safely transported back to the U.S. While planning Grace’s emergency departure, The Department of State (DOS) enlisted ISS-USA and ISS-USA engaged the local Children Protective Services (CPS) in the planning, so that by the time Grace arrived to the United States, there would be a way to protect her safety.

ISS worked closely with the Health and Human Services in Florida, where Grace previously lived before going to China. The local CPS immediately opened an investigation. Shortly after, CPS agreed on the plan and set a date to meet Grace at the airport. Arrangements were made for Grace to travel to the U.S. All COVID requirements were followed including testing prior to departure. ISS sought the assistance of contacts in the Atlanta airport (Grace’s port of entry into the U.S.) to help her during her layover and to ensure she safely boarded her flight to Florida.

As planned, when Grace arrived in Florida, she was met at the airport and taken into custody by the local CPS and placed in the temporary care of a foster family. Grace was relieved that she did not have to reunite with her family at this time.

The International Social Service (ISS) prioritizes the best interest of the child in all return and reintegration situations. Grace, a U.S. citizen unaccompanied minor, returned from China through the U.S. Repatriation Program.