From the 9th to the 17th of October, Missing Children Europe focuses on children abducted by a parent. During Mediation Week, which takes place from October 9th to October 13th, we promote  cross border family mediation as an instrument to prevent abductions and de-escalate international family conflicts. From October 10th to October 17th, we are observers at the Eighth Meeting of the Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention. This convention is the main international agreement between countries regarding what they will do when one parent removes or retains a child abroad without the approval of the other parent.

An international child abduction confronts children, young people and families with stressful, difficult and sensitive issues. Conflict, separation, being excluded from significant decisions, being confronted with the justice system and having to (re)integrate in a new environment pose great challenges for children and young people affected.

Child abduction cases can be complicated and difficult. The choices adults make in these situations can have a big impact on children and young people. As part of our INCLUDE project, Missing Children Europe has published a guide called the “Guide to Good Practice.” This guide focuses on the voices of children and young people and what they believe are good practices for adults in child abduction cases. As today, 11 October, the Special Commission meeting on the 1980 Hague Child Abduction convention focuses on “hearing the child” and on safeguarding the child while implementing return order, we want to highlight what the young people involved in the INCLUDE project had to say about what’s best for them during a child abduction and the return. Attentive and genuine involvement from parents and professionals involved not only helps children feel trusted and respected but also plays a pivotal role in resolving complex child abduction cases. Here are some of the guidelines from our INCLUDE Guide to Good Practice:


  1. Listen Carefully and Actively: Children yearn for their voices to be heard, their perspectives valued. The act of truly listening, showing genuine interest in what they have to say, leaves a lasting impact on their well-being. Children’s voices should be heard in legal proceedings as well as in mediation or other forms of alternative conflict resolution.
  2. Clarify the Degree of Influence: Understanding that children’s influence varies, adults should grant them opportunities to share their views on the outcomes. This collaboration, including directly asking for children’s solutions to challenges, empowers their sense of agency, but it is important to manage the child’s expectations on the degree of influence their views have.
  3. Building Trust and Confidence: Childhood trust is a fragile treasure, especially with unfamiliar adults in positions of authority. Building this trust requires time and assurance that speaking up carries no negative consequences.
  4. Provide Information and Open Dialogue: Open and honest conversations where children’s voices are genuinely heard encourage questions and negotiations. Transparency fosters trust and empowerment.
  5. Choose Appropriate Time and Space: Selecting the right environment and moments for discussions is crucial. Familiar, relaxed settings can make difficult conversations more accessible.
  6. Avoid Alienation and Misconceptions: Maintaining a positive view of the other parent, even when living separately, is paramount. Preventing geographical distances from becoming insurmountable fosters healthy family dynamics.
  7. Prevent Children From Having to Make Difficult Choices: Children should not be put in positions where they have to choose between parents.
  8. Ensure Stability in Challenging Circumstances: Predictability, continuity, and routine offer stability to children facing challenging circumstances. Maintaining contact with significant people in their lives, even through the internet, aids in coping.
  9. Ensure a Safe Return: In return proceedings, it’s crucial to represent the child’s best interests, avoiding situations where children are forced to return to an undesirable environment. An independent support figure can accompany and inform the child throughout the process.
  10. Enforce a Return Order Respectfully: Police involvement should be a measure of last resort, and when necessary, it should be handled with sensitivity and transparency. Traumatic experiences should be minimised.
  11. Follow-Up Upon Arrival: Reunification with the left-behind parent or other trusted individuals should be handled with consideration of the child’s needs and comfort.
  12. Continued Support for Children and Families: Children and parents may need time to readjust after an abduction. Ongoing support is crucial to help them cope with trauma, stress, and anxiety.

Children’s and young people’s voices provide crucial insights into the intricacies of child abduction situations. It serves as a reminder that their rights, opinions, and well-being should be prioritised in all decision-making processes. We encourage judges, lawyers, mediators, social workers and all other adults involved to emphasise the needs of children and young people. We can provide a safer and more compassionate environment for them to navigate the difficult process of child abduction by encouraging open communication and valuing their voices.

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To read the full guide, click here.