Health

Children in DCF custody at 2 Walpole homes will be removed immediately after COVID-19 clusters

WALPOLE, Mass. — Day after day, Walpole police officers say they’re responding to the Home for Little Wanderers. Now, town officials are worried about the children in their custody. On Tuesday night the town asked the health department to step in and remove all of the children in state custody to another facility because they said no one is safe.

Tucked away on the scenic Lincoln Road in Walpole is the home for little wanderers at Longview farm and the Duggan house. There are 28 children in DCF custody that have been placed at the facilities.

Among them, Walpole health officials said, 24 children and 17 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. But there is much more to it. Even long-time neighbors didn’t want to be identified.

“It’s been random points during the day or night, where there will be multiple police cars there,” said one neighbor who didn’t want to be identified.

“These are kids that come from extremely difficult backgrounds,” said Chief John Carmichael of the Walpole Police Department.

Carmichael said his department has been called there frequently over the last few years.

“We have kids that are jumping out second floor windows. They’re running away, they’re getting into vehicles that some person is just showing up, picking them up,” Carmichael said.

Between January 1, 2020 and October, police were called 114 times to the facility, including 75 calls for help in recovering runaway kids along with 11 assaults and 13 calls for residents harming themselves. Attorney Gregg Corbo is representing the Town of Walpole.

“A young girl of 16 was missing for 24 days. She was found in a short-term rental in Boston where she was sexually abused by numerous men,” Corbo said.

“The situations that we have been experiencing, we just can’t ensure their safety. They’re just not safe under the conditions they’re in,” Chief Carmichael said.

On Tuesday evening, Walpole held its Board of Health meeting; health officials have ordered a cease and desist order.

“The facilities in Walpole shut down and that the residences be relocated immediately,” Corbo said.

The chief said that, once there is a child that takes off, there is a swamp nearby, a gun range and MBTA tracks, all of which make for an extremely dangerous situation. The chief wanted to reassure everyone that the kids, who are 12-to-18-years-old, are their top priority.

Boston 25 News reached out to DCF for a comment. They said that child protection is the first and foremost priority, adding that Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) licenses residential placements including the home.

Due to state and federal privacy requirements, DCF couldn’t comment on any specific child.

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