Separation and divorce are difficult – especially so when children are involved.
In 2008 Queens (New York) special education teacher Tiffany Rubin had all but given up hope of ever seeing her child again when she received an anonymous tip through her MySpace page. Someone had spotted her seven-year-old son and ex-boyfriend in South Korea.
It all started in 2007 after her after her ex-boyfriend, South Korean born Jeffrey Salko disappeared with their child Kobe after a visit.
At the time, he had joint custody of his son but was facing up to six months in jail for not paying child support. The boy lived with his mother and saw his father on alternate weekends.
Kobe’s court appointed law guardian, Joseph Fredericks, had recommended Rubin receive sole custody of the boy.
“They were constantly at war over this child,” Fredericks said of the parents, who had separated when Kobe was four months old.
After Salko disappeared with her child, Rubin was afraid her ex had taken the boy abroad.
“I was just basically panicking,” Rubin said. “I was hoping they were still in the United States.”
Her fears were realised when she hacked into Salko’s e-mail account, she said. She discovered an e-mail he had sent to a friend saying he was flying to South Korea – and wasn’t coming back.
Tiffany wanted to hire a private organisation that specialised in recovering lost children but couldn’t afford the astronomical fees.
Mark Miller, founder of the American Association for Lost Children Inc., a Christian charity that recovers missing children, convinced her to put him on the case – free of charge.
“She was so distraught,” Miller said. “Her whole world was taken from her.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, almost 800,000 children are reported missing each year, close to a quarter of them are abducted by family members.
The FBI issued a warrant for Salko’s arrest. But Rubin didn’t get her big break until January when she received that message on her MySpace page from someone who had seen her son and knew where he went to school.
Domestically, these cases are difficult enough but when a child is taken to another country all manner of diplomatic and other issues arise.
Tiffany received a heartbreaking phone call from Kobe telling her he missed her.
Rubin said her son “wasn’t aware he had been kidnapped.” Soon after, Miller and
and Bazzel Baz, Chief Executive Officer of the Association for the Recovery of Children were on the case to recover Kobe.
As any parent in this horrendous situation would be, Rubin was nervous, but Miller and Baz had done several of these missions before.
The men surveyed the school while Rubin waited in the hotel. Security seemed to be lax there, Rubin said, and the next day she went to her son’s classroom and called his name.
“I was like, oh my God,” said Kobe. “I can’t believe she’s here.”
Rubin explained who she was to her son’s teacher and said she needed a minute to speak with him. Then mother and son walked out of the building and hailed a cab to the American embassy. As an added precaution, she made Kobe wear a wig, so anyone looking for them would think he was a girl.
A telemovie was made in 2011 called Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story starring Taraji P. Henson and Terry O’Quinn. The film follows the events surrounding the kidnapping and rescue of Kobe. Taken from Me received critical acclaim and several award nominations and accolades, mostly for Taraji P. Henson’s performance. This episode of Beyond The Headlines tells the story from Tiffany Rubin herself. It is a truly moving tale of the lengths that any loving parent would go to for their child and, unlike so many other cases, this one has a great ending.
One of the first things Kobe did when he got home following his seven-month abduction in South Korea was play with his cat. That seemingly mundane reaction was a massive relief to Tiffany who had endured the living-hell of thinking she would never see her son again.