An abduction that didn’t happen

Steve had never actually threatened to steal the children, but I had a bad scare about a month earlier. When I picked up the children at their daycare, Melissa and Jennifer told me they had seen their dad that day. When I questioned the children's teacher, he confirmed their story. Steve had come by the daycare to drop off some legal papers just when the children were returning from a walk. Melissa and Jennifer ran over to where Steve was standing on the parking strip, and after a few minutes of talking and hugs, he got into his car and left. My heart was in my throat. It would have been so easy for Steve to pack the girls into the car and take off! I reminded the teacher once again about the restraining order prohibiting  Steve from taking the children from the daycare without my permission. My lawyer had sent them a copy with a strongly worded cover letter. (Steve had been restricted to "supervised visitation only" for reasons I can't mention in polite company.) The teacher smiled and shrugged. I resolved then and there to choose a new daycare for my daughters. I settled on a daycare about a quarter-mile from my home. It is located in a kindergarten room leased from the public school that Melissa and Jennifer will attend when they get older. When I enrolled the girls, I made our family situation clear to the director, saw that they filed a copy of the restraining order, and printed, "Do not let their father take these children unless you have my prior written permission." on all the forms. I chose well, as I was to find out less than a  month later. The Day it Happened It was the day of our divorce trial. I was nervous, but confident as I dropped off the children at the new center at 7:55 a.m. It was their first day back after a week off due to suspected chicken pox. At 8:00 a second teacher arrived and at 8:05 Steve arrived. He went to Melissa and Jennifer and told them to get their coats because they were leaving. Cheryl, Melissa's teacher, approached Steve, who thrust some papers at her, saying he had a court order giving him custody of the girls. She remembered that he had been to the daycare twice the week before, looking around and asking questions, and said she'd have to check out the "court order." He grabbed the children and headed for the door. Cheryl and Lynn, the other teacher, struggled with Steve, hanging on to the girls, holding the door closed, trying to keep him from leaving with Melissa and Jennifer. By sheer force, Steve succeeded in getting out the door and into the hallway with the girls. The preschool teachers  began yelling for help. A male teacher came running from a nearby classroom, as did the male custodian. After a brief scuffle, Steve left–without the children–and hasn't been heard from since. The "court order," which he left behind, was a forgery. Needless to say, he didn?t show up for the divorce hearing. Aftermath For a week afterward, the girls were very numb. We talked about it a little bit each day, but they didn't have much to  say. The second week they began to have nightmares and to talk about it every chance they could get. More than three weeks after the incident, they began to talk about it, seeming to relive the scene. Jennifer, three, began with, "Dad was really mad. He was fighting the other grownups. He was hurting my hand." Melissa, four, said, "The teacher was crying and all the other kids were crying too." Since then, the daycare has put on some extra teachers and now keeps the doors locked during certain times. I have a brand new restraining order–this time a "no contact" order–and have enlisted support from my office, my church and my neighbors. But the ones most affected by the incident–the children–are the ones least able to cope with the turmoil of their emotions. That is what makes me angriest. Steve shamefully violated his responsibility as a father by hurting Melissa and Jennifer, scaring them and trying to use them as pawns in his private power game. NOTE: When a restrained parent has a "court order" and shows up at the daycare rather than at the child's home, LOOK OUT! Something is wrong. Take action. (The names have been changed to protect identity.)