29th June 2011 London, UK

All walks of life

Rosie Dyas, Head of the FCO’s Child Abduction Section

Today is the launch of the FCO’s parental child abduction awareness campaign. In my role as Head of the FCO’s Child Abduction Section, I speak to parents on a daily basis whose children have been taken overseas without their permission. Last year we helped nearly 250 British nationals affected by parental child abduction.

The point that really sticks with me after I’ve spoken to a parent is their description of the moment they realised their child had been taken. In some situations the child was taken by the other parent out of the blue, whilst in other cases the taking parent refuses to return the child after an overseas visit. Whatever the scenario, it’s unimaginable how heartbreaking it must be for a parent to think that they may never see or speak to their child again. In some cases, my team and I are the first people a parent speaks to after the abduction has happened. It’s crucial to us that we give them the right advice. You can find out more about what we do by looking at our pages on the FCO website.

I think there’s sometimes a public perception that child abduction ‘happens to other people’ and that those affected are from particular cultural or social backgrounds. But actually we speak to parents from all walks of life and last year we handled cases in 97 different countries around the world. And we see cases of both mums and dads as the taking parent. We never make judgements about who is to blame; the cases are often complex and both parents have a role to play in ensuring the custody of their child is decided properly (through the courts if necessary).

I really hope our campaign raises awareness amongst parents in the UK. It’s so important parents consider whether they may be at risk and seek support before their child is abducted. We work closely with a UK-based charity called reunite who can also offer parents support if they are worried their child might be taken overseas by the other parent.