The three young boys of Brian and Ana Walshe have lost their mother, allegedly by their father’s hand. With Brian Walshe charged with killing his wife and discarding her body, many have worried who will care for the children, none older than 6, amid such terrible loss.
Friends of Ana Walshe, 39, have said their main priority is to keep the siblings together, and two said recently that they have urged the state’s Department of Children and Families not to separate the boys as the child protection agency decides their immediate future.
A DCF spokesperson said the children are in state custody but would not specify who is caring for them, citing state and federal privacy requirements. But child welfare specialists said the agency would try to place the children with relatives or someone they know well, if possible.
Whenever a child is placed in DCF custody, the agency’s first objective is to find “relatives or a trusted adult already known to the child” to serve as foster parents, which is known as “kinship” or “child-specific” foster care, the spokesperson said.
Placing children with a relative or trusted adult, such as a teacher, coach, or family friend, can provide some measure of stability in a traumatizing situation, specialists said.
Jacquelyn O’Brien, managing director of the children and family law division at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency, said it has become more common for children to be placed with relatives or another adult they know than be put in foster care, in part because of a shortage of foster families in Massachusetts.
“As you would imagine, it is really becoming the norm to accept the fact that family — and I’m using the broadest sense of ‘family,’ somebody who really knows the child — is in a better place to care for the child than a ‘stranger’ foster home,” she said.
To keep three siblings together, DCF would probably need to place them with family, since relatively few foster families would be equipped to take three , she added.
“It’s really sad but DCF does not have a great track record in placing siblings together,” O’Brien said. “Sometimes it’s just because of who has availability to take a child at that moment.”
Separation also occurs when one child requires a higher level of care and is placed in a specialized foster home, while a sibling who does not need those services is placed elsewhere, she said.
When a child is removed from his or her home, DCF said it is required to immediately file a written affidavit with a juvenile court, stating the reason for the removal. The court may issue DCF an emergency custody order and schedule a hearing within three days to determine whether the children should remain in DCF custody.
The court ultimately determines the custody of children, the DCF spokesperson said.
Ana Walshe’s mother lives in Serbia, Walshe’s home country.
Ana Walshe was reported missing by her colleagues in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 4 after she failed to show up for work. Brian Walshe was initially arrested on charges of misleading investigators and was arraigned Wednesday on charges of murder and disinterring a body. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.
In court, prosecutors disclosed a series of grisly online searches that Brian Walshe allegedly made after his wife’s death, including, “How long before a body starts to smell,” and “How to stop a body from decomposing.” The searches were made on his son’s iPad, prosecutors said.
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