Governor Deval Patrick defended the embattled state Department of Children and Families Monday in its handling of a case involving an alleged parental kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl in Fitchburg.
Patrick spoke to reporters in a State House hallway about the case involving Alize Whipple and her mother, Leeanna Wilson, 50.
Wilson allegedly took Alize Wednesday as DCF, which has faced withering criticism over another Fitchburg case, was about to take custody of the girl.
“I’ve been briefed on that,” Patrick said. “I can’t comment on that because it’s an open matter, and there are facts about it that I’ve been briefed on that I can’t share, but I’m confident they’ve handled that well.”
Alize was found unharmed Saturday in Shelby, N.C., and Wilson was arrested there. DCF workers visited Wilson’s home in Fitchburg Wednesday to take custody of Alize, amid an investigation into abuse allegations, but could not find the child or Wilson.
Patrick’s comments came days after his administration ordered a full, outside review of DCF, following a troubling case in which the agency acknowledged one of its social workers failed to make monthly visits to the Fitchburg home of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old boy who has not been seen since Sept. 14 and is feared dead. DCF fired the social worker and two managers for failing to properly oversee her.
Jeremiah’s mother and her boyfriend are facing criminal charges in connection with his disappearance.
Cayenne Isaksen, a DCF spokeswoman, said in a statement that Alize Whipple returned to Massachusetts Monday and is in foster care “receiving the necessary support and services to ensure her safety and well-being.”
Wilson appeared in a North Carolina courtroom Monday and refused to waive extradition to Massachusetts to face charges of kidnapping and endangering her daughter.
“She indicated that she wanted to at least talk to a lawyer before she waived extradition,” said Steve Kaylor, an assistant district attorney for Cleveland County, N.C.
Wilson is being held by the Cleveland County sheriff's office. She is due back in court Feb. 10.
Julian Wray, her lawyer in North Carolina, did not return a message left at his office late Monday afternoon.
Wilson’s older adult children, Pauline Wilson of Fitchburg and Michael Cummings of Providence, have defended their mother against allegations that she abused their younger half-sister.
“She does not abuse my sister,” Pauline Wilson told the Globe Sunday. “Just because she actually has discipline, doesn’t let my sister run wild, that’s not abuse.”
Pauline Wilson said she left Massachusetts with her mother and Alize Thursday, because they planned to relocate near family in the South .
She said her mother called her social worker in Massachusetts Saturday morning to “let her know she was coming back.”
DCF has also come under fire for allegedly mishandling several cases in Northbridge. In one case, the local school district asserts it had to send the child welfare agency 13 reports alleging sexual abuse of a second-grader before DCF removed the student from the home.
Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.