A Winnipeg mother whose children were abducted in 2008 and taken to Mexico is speaking to media for the first time since she was reunited with them in May.
"It's a great feeling not to wake up every morning and worry where they are and how they're doing," Emily Cablek said Tuesday.
Her children, Abby and Dominic Maryk, are adjusting well and are in school, but there are emotional struggles.
"I had thought I had a lot of things put in place for help and assistance for when me and the kids were getting through the adjustment period and getting back on our feet, and it hasn't been that simple," she said.
Cablek said both Abby and Dominic have been quiet during counselling sessions and they have fallen behind in their studies.
The kids even had to re-learn their original names when they were brought back to Canada. In Mexico, Abby went by the name Peta and Dominic was called Damien, Cablek said, adding that both children spoke Spanish for the last four years.
These days, Abby is making lots of friends but Dominic is still trying to find himself, Cablek said.
"There are days when it's still really hard to understand why [it all happened]. When the kids came home, it was almost like, things were OK and that was it," she said.
"It's kind of surprising to struggle for so long to find your children and then to struggle afterwards. But to see how well they've been able to adjust, I'm glad I have two wonderful children."
As for herself, Cablek said she is struggling financially these days, as she cannot work because of depression and anxiety.
Kids were on court-approved visit
Abby and Dominic were five and seven years old, respectively, when they went missing in August 2008.
Police allege that they were on a two-week vacation as part of a court-approved visit with their father, Kevin Maryk, who then fled Canada with them.
Cablek, who has legal custody, pleaded for their return but had no idea where they were. A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for Maryk and two alleged accomplices.
On Tuesday, Cablek said Manitoba's child and family services (CFS) workers who were involved in her custody battle with Maryk did not give her the support she needed.
"CFS had said they were going to come to my court date. They never showed up, they never came to assist me," she said.
"The judge went ahead and gave him visitation rights, and I think that that could have been avoided if CFS had come in and told the judge what they had seen."
System failed us, mother says
Cablek said both the province's CFS system and the family courts system should be held accountable for what happened to her children.
"CFS Manitoba, a severely flawed organization, the Winnipeg Police and the family courts system failed us and at no point have they been held accountable," she wrote in a letter to federal politicians in Winnipeg.
The provincial government says CFS officials cannot comment on the decision to grant Maryk the two-week unsupervised visit, since it was a judge's ruling.
The judge in that case did not need a home assessment to form his decision, a government spokesperson said.
"Officials in our government were there for Ms. Cablek before and after her children's return, to ensure supports were in place to help her through a very difficult time," the spokesperson said in an email.
The province is continuing to work with Cablek "to ensure she is accessing all available resources and that she is able to provide for herself and her family," the spokesperson added.
Found in Mexico
It wasn't until May 2012 that investigators got a break in the abduction case, when a person in Guadalajara, Mexico, called authorities after recognizing the children in a Crime Stoppers video.
The children were found May 25 near a three-bedroom condominium where they lived, surrounded by four guard dogs and numerous security cameras.
Winnipeg police said the Maryk children had been moved at least five times over the past four years to different locations in Mexico.
The children lived in poor conditions in Mexico, had no schooling, no friends and no medical assistance during the time they were hidden by their father.
They were never taken out during the light of day and only breathed fresh air when they were allowed out at night, according to police and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
Maryk, 41, was extradited from Mexico back to Winnipeg in November, charged with two counts of abduction and two counts of conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
Police have also charged three other people in the case. Robert Groen, 41, was arrested in Mexico on conspiracy charges on July 19 and has been returned to Winnipeg for prosecution.
Darlene McKay, 53, and Bradley McKay, 48, who are relatives of Maryk, have been charged with obstruction of justice and abduction by concealment.
At last word, investigators were still looking for Cody McKay, who is Kevin Maryk's nephew and the son of Darlene and Bradley McKay.