Six-year-old Jocelyn Robinson did a "pinky promise" with grandmother Gloria Hill in July to ask her to find her if she was ever lost.
However, Jocelyn and her brother, Jaxon, were reported missing in August after their mother apparently failed to return them to their father who shared custody.
The children were located with their mother Saturday in Morehead City, N.C., and returned to their father and grandmother Sunday.
"You kept your 'pinky promise,'" Jocelyn told her grandmother. "I knew you'd find me."
Father Brad Robinson said a woman at the shelter where the mother and children were living learned about the missing children and contacted the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office, whose dispatchers notified the Carteret County Sheriff's Office in Morehead City.
A sheriff's deputy located the family and the children were cared for by children's services workers until Robinson and Hill arrived Saturday night to find the children sleeping.
Jocelyn awoke the next morning and saw her father.
"She grabbed ahold of me and didn't let go," Robinson said. "Jaxon woke up and I held them for 15 minutes."
The parents shared custody but a hearing was set Aug. 21 in Chancery Court. Robinson attended but the mother didn't show up. Court documents showed the father was granted full custody at this time.
Robinson reported the children missing Aug. 22 to Eagleville Police Chief Dave Breniser, who started an investigation with the help of Rutherford County Sheriff's Detective Andrea Knox.
They posted a story about the missing children on the sheriff's Facebook page and notified media who spread the information.
Breniser interviewed families and followed tips on the children's locations in Tullahoma and Lebanon with the help of Wilson County Sheriff's Office until getting the tip from Carteret County. Eagleville Officers Tyler Stokes and Kyle Neal were instrumental in trying to secure the safe return of the children.
The children are found but the investigation continues.
Breniser said the case showed the system works because several law enforcement agencies worked together to reunite the children with their father.
"Our main goal was to get the kids back," Breniser said.
Robinson said the family stayed at the beach overnight before friend George Huddleston of Rutherford County flew them back in his private plane. He thanked Huddleston for the flight.
The children couldn't wait to go back to Eagleville School to see their friends.
"When we got back in Eagleville, Jocelyn smiled and had tears running down her cheeks," Robinson said. "She said, 'I just want to go to Eagleville.'"
Robinson thanked Breniser and Knox, who "assured me they would find my kids."
He thanked the media for reporting on the missing children, the tips and prayers from people and Rutherford County dispatchers who worked with Carteret County Sheriff's Department in locating the children.
Photo: Father Brad Robinson hugs his children, Jocelyn and Jaxon, after he was reunited with them Saturday in North Carolina.