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International Child Abduction -The Effects

Date:4 JUL 2006
Marilyn Freeman, Head of Reunite Research Unit, Senior Family Law Lecturer, London Metropolitan University.

The Reunite Research Unit, led by Marilyn Freeman, has recently completed a 2-year research project into the effects of international child abduction, funded by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. This follows the publication in September 2003 of the Unit's report into the 'Outcomes for Children Returned Following an Abduction', and is largely, but not entirely, based on the same sample of cases. The current project has also considered the effects of international child abduction on a small sample of adults abducted as children who did not form part of the earlier sample, as well as including, we believe for the first time in an European study, an investigation of the effects of international child abduction on the abducted child through child interviews conducted by senior CAFCASS officers who have worked with the Research Unit on this project.

A theme which clearly emerged, and which was common to both the parents and the children interviewed, was the effect that the abduction has had on their subsequent ability to trust others.

Lack of contact during the child's absence has caused quite terrible and enduring effects on left-behind parents who have not known the whereabouts of their children at that time, and the issue of post-return contact in some cases has, similarly, brought some parents to the point of despair because of their inability to finance continual litigation in the State of habitual residence.

Parent interviewees emphasise their appreciation for the interest that was being taken in their cases. They are, however, aggrieved at the lack of after-care provision which is available to them, and to their children, once the abduction event is over.

The report from this project will be published on 3 May 2006. Further details are available on www.reunite.org. See also May [2006] Fam Law 415 for the full news article.

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