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When Your Child Comes Home

There are many different factors that will influence your child’s successful reintegration back into family life. While the safe recovery of your child is the most important thing, it is extremely vital to understand factors that may influence your child’s long-term healing and well-being after they have returned home. Recognizing these factors and discussing them with your support system (which may include the police, caseworkers, counsellors, prosecution lawyers, etc.) will help prepare you for the best possible reunification with your child. Things you may need to consider include:

  • The length of time your child was missing

  • The possibility that your child may have experienced some form of abuse while s/he was missing

  • The circumstances surrounding the abduction

  • Your child’s or your own relationship to the offender

  • The circumstances surrounding the recovery or your child (i.e. was the child released by the abductor or was there further trauma in the recovery process?)

  • The circumstances surrounding the reunification of your child with the family (i.e. did the reunification happen in a controlled environment or in a high-stress public space?)

A concerted effort needs to be made to ensure as smooth a recovery and reunification process as possible. This means minimizing the child’s exposure to the public and the media, as well as to the response of the abductor. Plan with the police to ensure a safe and sheltered location is provided for your child to reunite. This is a perfect opportunity to have your family spokesperson handle the media while you focus on your child.

If the separation has been for an extended period of time, it is important to consult with professionals regarding the reunification process as early as possible. These professionals may include a child psychologist, a play therapist, a forensic paediatrician, missing children services, social workers and law enforcement. There are many steps that can be taken to help ensure a successful reunification and to ease your child’s burden. A publication which may be helpful to you during this time is:

By the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, (Washington, U.S. Department of Justice, 2010).

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