CTV.ca News Staff
The father of a girl who was found recently after being missing for two years is ecstatic that his daughter is alive and well, but admits there is a long road ahead for both of them.
Frank Gonis, of Montreal, got the word on Friday that his 10-year-old daughter Ashley had called 911 from a SkyTrain station in Vancouver.
She told police she was had run away from home and gotten lost. She said she didn't want to return home and asked to be placed in foster care.
Gonis told CTV's Canada AM his daughter has been missing since January 2007 and he had all but given up hope, and felt there was little chance she was even still in the country.
"When I got the call I was downstairs getting ready to go to work and the phone rang. It was the police officer who has had the case... and she told me: 'We got her, she's in Vancouver.' I almost fell down, I had to hold onto something. I couldn't believe it after all this time," Gonis said.
Officers told him that Ashley had either run away from school or from home, and had walked for seven kilometres over three hours before she called the police.
Gonis said "I love her, and I can't wait to hold her again" but admitted there is "a lot of work to be done with Ashley."
He told Canada AM he has been locked in a custody battle with Ashley's mother since their split in 2001.
When the battle was finally coming to an end two years ago, and it looked as though Gonis was to receive custody, Ashley and her mother disappeared.
Gonis said he realizes it will take time and hard work to develop trust and renew a relationship with his daughter.
"I haven't seen her so it's hard to say, but the comment I got was her mother has done a real number on her. I know there's parental alienation. She's scared to talk to me. There are a lot of things we have to go through," he said.
Pina Arcamone of the Missing Children's Network Canada, said Gonis' situation is common among estranged parents.
"There's a lot of jubilation because the good news has come in that they finally found the child, but the real work begins today because as Frank mentioned he has not seen his daughter in over two years and the same for Ashley who was eight when she last saw her father," Arcamone told Canada AM.
She said the child likely still has strong memories of her time in Montreal, and her father will have to remind her of their history together using photo albums and other items that are familiar to her.
"Basically it's the chance to give both dad and daughter the time to reconnect, to get acquainted once again and for Frank to tell his daughter he really loves her, he has missed her and he has searched endlessly for the past two years."
She said Ashley is currently in the care of child and youth workers in B.C. who will help prepare her for the reunion.
Vancouver police are investigating the abuse allegations and say that no charges have been laid.