All of the children still expressed a wish that their parents could be together. They all wanted their parents to be able to have trust and believe in each other. A brother and sister worry about their primary carer mother as she is anxious and they resent their father who is angry and blaming and does little with them when they do visit. However they enjoy summer holidays at his home and like seeing their wider family. Similarly another pair of siblings enjoy their contact, not least because the extended family is very important to both of them. Both wish that their father specifically would do more with them.
Coping with the Aftermath
Only one child found it very hard to settle on being returned. He was too young to be in school when removed and was away for more then a year. Consequently he had no established friendships that he was able to pick up on return and did not speak the language of his return country at all well. He very sadly said that he found it hard to make friends and cried a lot. Another child described both joy and relief at being reunited with her left-behind parent. She recalls seeing the abducting parent being taken away in a police car in handcuffs and waving and smiling at him. She said she was “not bothered about what would happen to him”. The oldest child said that everyone in his family had suffered in different ways, although he was happy that his academic progress had improved in recent years and was making plans for a gap year in the future which would include a visit to his father and siblings. Even where there was a significant loss of trust and emotionally fraught relationships between the children and one of their parents, they all, with only one exception, wished their parents were back together happily. All of them said that they wanted to have contact with the non-resident parent and, for some, the supervision of contact and other constraints were very restrictive. One child said that he wished he could see his left- behind father in his own country because “Dad feels uncomfortable here and if he feels uncomfortable, so do I”.
Four of the children had either seen, or were still seeing, a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist (they were not always clear in their own minds about the status of the person they saw). Just one of them reported finding this helpful. All the others expressed a preference for talking to friends or family. The oldest liked to “just have a beer with his mates”. He was scathing about the help offered to him by his lawyers. He thought that children were the “lowest priority” for lawyers. “They didn’t seem to care, because you’re just a legal aid case”. He was rarely able to talk to his solicitors because of the time difference between his home country and the UK and they took a long time to answer e-mails. Another child however found his solicitor a great help, very available to him and also easier to talk to than the counsellor. He said, “She made me feel that she was really doing what I asked for and fighting my corner.” Just one child has been seeing her counsellor over an extended period of time and has come to view her as a friend. She thought that the comings and goings during the period of the Court hearings, when they were made to live in the requesting State, were very confusing. She identified this as the most problematic time for her and her brother.