Couple in worldwide authorized battle for custody of daughter

KANSAS CITY, Mon. – Imagine sending your 12-year-old daughter abroad to visit relatives only to turn that short vacation into a battle to get the child back for more than two years.

This is the international battle now facing a couple with ties to the Kansas City area.

“She basically never came back. That’s it. It’s incredible, ”said Edwin Lankamp, ​​the girl’s father.

The complex legal saga began in 2019 in Orlando, where Lankamp, ​​his wife Jessica Huckabey and their daughter Shaine lived.

The 12-year-old loved performing, a passion she shared with Huckabey, who the girl has been raising since she was two when Shaine’s birth mother died.

Lankamp / Huckabey family

Jessica Huckabey with her stepdaughter Shaine Lankamp

“I don’t think it’s about blood. Love is thicker than blood, ”said Huckabey.

Huckabey’s mother, Stephanie Trugly of Overland Park, agreed.

“She couldn’t be any closer to me if she were my own child,” Trugly said, tears bursting.

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Lankamp / Huckabey family

Stephanie Trugly, who lives in the Kansas City area, pictured with Jessica Huckabey and her stepdaughter Shaine

The family had its challenges.

Lankamp, ​​born and raised in the Netherlands, bears invisible scars from serving in the Dutch military.

His fight came to a head in February 2019 when police arrested him for assault. It had nothing to do with his daughter and the charges were later dropped.

“I had a PTSD episode. We sent Shaine to the Netherlands to sort things out, ”he said.

The plan was for Shaine to temporarily stay with Llankamp’s family while he recovered.

“We agreed that she would stay two weeks and then come back,” added Huckabey.

But she never did.

Shaine quickly stopped answering calls and, in a shocking twist, Llankamp and Huckabey learned that they were the focus of a child protection investigation in the Netherlands.

The 41 Action News I team received a rough English translation from a Dutch child protection service from the family.

It is said that Shaine told her aunt and uncle that she was “sometimes beaten by her stepmother.”

A claim that Huckabey vehemently denies.

“Everyone who knows me knows that I did everything for her, everything for her, and we were close and had a great relationship,” she said.

Jessica and the young Shaine.jpg

Lankamp / Huckabey family

Jessica Huckabey and her stepdaughter Shaine, pictured at a young age

An email from the Florida Department of Children and Families confirmed that there were “no reports of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect” while the family lived there.

The couple even went a step further to clear their names.

“We asked DCF to examine us and nothing was found,” said Lankamp.

In fact, Florida DCF concluded that the family should simply continue with the counseling services they had already attended at that point.

However, according to the Dutch report, Shaine told her aunt and uncle that her father and stepmother often argued and nothing seemed to be of any help.

Shaine added that she and her stepmother also had many arguments, and she found the family’s frequent moves “annoying”.

Investigators in the Netherlands also spoke to Llankamp, ​​and in the same report he wrote that he told an official Huckabey that he “always comes into conflict with Shaine and verbally and physically abuses Shaine – including hitting and screaming.”

In an interview with 41 Action News, Llankamp said there was never any abuse.

The couple’s lawyer described the statements in the report as a misunderstanding.

“When he read the report back, he said that this is not what I said and not what I wanted or wanted to say. It didn’t happen, “said attorney Nynke Whiterod,” but by then it was in court. They tried to explain it to the court. They were not advised to have a lawyer with them. “

Whiterod believes that the truth was lost in translation and from that point on it was “a fight against the parents”.

A Dutch court ruled in 2019 that Shaine should be placed in foster care with her aunt and uncle.

She has not set foot on American soil since then.

family-boy shaine.jpg

Lankamp / Huckabey family

Left to right, Jessica Huckabey, Shaine Lankamp and Edwin Lankamp

“The very absence of the feeling that this child has been taken from her family is so extraordinary that it could happen now, at this time,” Trugly said.

A spokesman for the Dutch child protection service Raad voor de Kinderbescherming (RvdK) said he could not discuss individual cases.

An attorney for Shaine’s aunt and uncle declined to comment due to an ongoing legal battle.

However, the couple continue to maneuver their way through this international legal maze.

Sometimes the scales of justice tilt in their favor.

At other times, judgments stop any reunion.

Huckabey hasn’t seen Shaine since 2019.

“I kissed her in the driveway, got in the car, went to dinner, and I never saw her again,” she said, crying.

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Lankamp / Huckabey family

Left to right, Jessica Huckabey, Shaine Lankamp and Edwin Lankamp

Complicating this case is an international agreement called the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Under this contract, the Netherlands refused to repatriate Shaine to the United States because she was at great risk. The court also found that Shaine, now 14, said she did not want to come back.

According to NYU Law Professor Linda Silberman, who is an expert on the Hague Convention, this is a key factor.

“European courts, and perhaps courts in other countries, tend to give a lot of weight to a child who says ‘I don’t want to go back,’ especially if they had good reasons,” Silberman said.

In the United States, too, an older child’s objections to return are being taken seriously, Silberman added.

However, Huckabey and Lankamp feel that their daughter, who was 12 when they went abroad, was turned against them during the two years they separated.

Huckabey was shocked to learn that the courts have given such power to a child.

“There are age-appropriate things that a 14-year-old child can decide. What clothes do they wear, what classes do they take, what extracurricular things, “she said,” but suddenly they expect her to make these life-changing decisions about what country you will live in and with whom? “

As the legal battle raged overseas, the couple turned to the Kansas courts for help.

Since Huckabey’s mother, Stephanie Trugly, lives on the subway, they made plans to move and reunite with Shaine here.

A Johnson County judge ruled in November 2020 that Shaine should be transferred to Kansas and remain in protective custody until the court can determine next steps.

“You have a situation where you have two courts in different countries that think they are the right ones to try this case,” Silberman said.

She described it as a most unusual situation and “the first case like this” that she saw.

The I-Team contacted the State Department earlier this year about the situation. An official said staff in Washington, DC and at the US consulate in Amsterdam are working closely with the Dutch authorities and family to resolve the case as quickly as possible.

Silberman and another expert consulted by the 41 Action News I team believe the Dutch courts will have the final say, especially now that arbitration attempts in the Netherlands have failed.

Huckabey and Lankamp have refused to give up the fight despite running out of legal options.

“Which parents would do that? She is my daughter. She is our daughter. I’ll keep fighting until she gets home. I won’t give up, ”said Lankamp.

However, in the time since the I-Team interviewed the family, their story has taken a different turn.

In an effort to end this long cycle of legal proceedings, the Dutch child protection authorities recently requested the permanent termination of Huckabey and Lankamp’s parental rights.

If granted, the final chapter of their litigation can be written.

The I-Team will continue to follow the case and share any news regarding the family’s struggle to get Shaine back to the US

They started a GoFundMe page to help pay for their extensive legal fees.

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