NBC New York
The eight children found hidden in a van in Pennsylvania after they were abducted by their parents from a Queens child welfare agency last week are back in New York City in the care of their foster parents. Melissa Russo reports.
The eight children found hidden in a van in Harrisburg, Pa., after their biological parents abducted them from a child welfare agency in Queens are now back in the care of their foster parents.
The Payne children, ranging in age from 11 months to 11 years, are back in New York City with the foster parents who had been looking after them before they were abducted on Sept. 19.
The sudden changes in their lives -- going from foster care to being abducted by their biological parents, and going back into their foster parents' homes -- have been difficult for the children, a source with the Administration for Children's Services tells NBC New York.
Making the situation more traumatic, the Payne boys had just started unsupervised weekend visits at home with their mother, Shanel Nadal, and will likely not be able to see her at all anymore, the source said.
Nadal took the kids during a visit at the child welfare facility and fled with them and their biological father, leading police on a manhunt for more than a week. She and the father were arrested Tuesday in Pennsylvania.
Before they were taken, five of the children were in the care of Linda Mitchell, who told NBC New York last week that she loved them and wanted them back in her home.
The kids' mother claimed she took her children to protect them, alleging that there was abuse going on in their foster care.
"Any mother who's going through this -- do what you got to do to protect your babies," she said after she was arrested.
An agency source confirmed the Queens Child Advocacy Center looked into a March 2011 allegation of abuse and examined all the children in Mitchell's home, finding no evidence of any abuse.
The agency said it believed Mitchell was an "outstanding" foster parent and planned to keep the children in the same homes so as not to disrupt their lives any further, said the source.
An official said ACS is also investigating the Forest Hills, Queens, agency from which the Payne children were abducted. A separate audit of security on the Forestdale campus concluded there should be alarms on doors and suggested the facility seal the stairway from which the Paynes left the building.
Forestdale will have to submit a detailed security plan to ACS for approval, the agency official said.