Parental Child Abduction

I was born Cecilie
When I was abducted by my father, aged 4, he changed my name to Sarah. We lived on the run for years. For a while, when I was 8, my hair was cut short and I pretended to be a boy called Max.
I got back in touch with my mother when I was 17. For years she had been searching for me.


cases of international parental child abduction were recorded last year – double the number a decade ago.

Learn More >

This 30-minute documentary is based on interviews of adults who were forcibly separated from one of their parents when they were children. The strength of this documentary has been the subject of several peer reviews, including the American Journal of Family Therapy.
We want to thank Glenn Gebhard, the producer of this film for his incredible work.


Help us to organise a screening of the film in your area


Reunite provide advice and support to families effected by international parental child abduction and contact issues.
Parental child abduction and alienation are intertwined. Find out more at the Family Separation Clinic.

Jacqueline Renton

find the right Central Authority to help you

Action Against Abduction initiative:

All British passports are now issued with an information leaflet on child abduction.

Help us to raise awareness

of parental child abduction and alienation

How many children are abducted by parents?

Police in England and Wales have recorded more than 200 offences of parental child abduction in 2016/17¹. Action Against Abduction’s research found that nearly two thirds of child abductions by a parent recorded by police involved the child being taken abroad².

Many more cases of international parental child abduction are not reported to, or recorded by, police. Reunite, another charity specialising in international parental child abduction, opened 520 new abduction cases in 2013³. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office dealt with 553 international parental child abduction and child custody cases in 2013/14; double the number recorded a decade ago⁴.

Who is abducted and who abducts?

  • Nearly three-quarters of children abducted abroad by a parent are aged between 0 and 6 years-old².
  • Roughly equal numbers are boys and girls².
  • Two-thirds of children are from minority ethnic groups².
  • 70% of abductors are mothers. The vast majority have primary care or joint primary care for the child abducted⁵.
  • Many abductions occur during school holidays when a child is not returned following a visit to the parent’s home country (so-called ‘wrongful retentions’)⁶.

Effects of parental child abduction

Studies with professionals who work with abducted children, and with adults who were abducted earlier in life, indicate that children can experience severe trauma, often continuing into adult life. This includes physical, emotional, behavioural and social impacts including difficulties forging relationships as an adult⁷. Our Sarah-Cecilie film gives a vivid insight into one woman’s experience.

¹ Newiss, G. (2018) Police-recorded child abduction and kidnapping 2016/17 England, Wales and Northern Ireland. London: Action Against Abduction.
² Newiss, G. and Traynor, M. (2013) Taken: A study of child abduction in the UK. London: Parents and Abducted Children Together and Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
³Reunite, personal correspondence.
⁴Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Duddrige, J. (2014) Parents urged to consider devastating consequences of child abduction. Gov.UK, 18 December 2014.
⁵Lowe, N. (2008) A statistical analysis of applications made in 2003 under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Part II – National Reports; and Lowe, N. (2011) A statistical analysis of applications made in 2008 under the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Part III – National Reports.
⁶Foreign and Commonwealth Office (2011) Campaign launched to help tackle international parental child abduction. Press release: 28 June 2011. London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
7Freeman, M. (2014) Parental Child Abduction: The Long-Term Effects. London: International Centre for Family Law, Policy and Practice.