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Mourners gather to remember girl who died in foster care

Ronald Greeen and Jessica Conway, center, attended a memorial in Marlborough Wednesday where they and other people remembered their daughter, Avalena, a two-year old who died in a foster home in Auburn.
Ronald Greeen and Jessica Conway, center, attended a memorial in Marlborough Wednesday where they and other people remembered their daughter, Avalena, a two-year old who died in a foster home in Auburn.(John Blanding/Globe Staff)

MARLBOROUGH — Family, friends, and well-wishers gathered at Union Common in Malborough Wednesday night to remember Avalena, the 2-year-old girl who died this week while living in a foster home in Auburn.

Pastel colored balloons adorned a small stage while Avalena’s parents, grandparents, and family friends participated in a memorial service for the girl whose death is currently under investigation by Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office.

Jessica Conway, Avalena’s biological mother, spoke first to the crowd of about 40 people who held candles as they listened to the speakers during the memorial service that lasted for about two hours.

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“She was taken from us and our hearts are broken,” Conway told the crowd. “We can’t get her back, but we can keep her memory alive.”

On the stage where Conway was speaking, folding white poster boards were covered with photographs and images of the toddler.

Law enforcement on Wednesday conducted their third, and apparently final, search of the duplex in Auburn where Avalena had been sent to by the state Department of Children and Families while the child was in foster care.

A second DCF foster child at the house has been hospitalized.

Authorities have not disclosed the cause of death for Avalena and have not publicly identified the medical concerns that led to both children being rushed to a hospital Saturday night.

An Early spokesman said Wednesday it was not yet clear whether the investigation will lead to criminal charges against anyone, or be dealt with as a civil matter by DCF.

Also attending was Avalena’s biological father, Ronald Green, who has said he intended to get Avalena back from state custody and into his home.

After the memorial, the young girl’s grandfather said the goal was to remember the child they have lost.

“Today was all about Ava,” said David Coxon.

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His daughter, Avalena’s mother, declined to speak with reporters after she addressed the mourners.

“She’s broken,” her father said. “She saw the casket today.”

Before the memorial service was held, a family stood outside Union Common, protesting the DCF. Kristina Ward said she lost her two children, ages 3 and 4, after a domestic dispute in June. After the Auburn case, Ward said, she now worries for the safety of her own children. She is constantly trying to get them back, she said.

At the end of the ceremony, attendees released balloons into the open sky.

“We love you Ava!” they yelled, paying final respects to their sister, daughter, and friend.


Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH