LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The 3-year-old girl left at The Grove shopping center in West Los Angeles on Saturday night and briefly reunited with her father on Sunday afternoon is not in her parents’ custody as an investigation into the incident continues.
The clock is ticking for Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, which had 72 hours to complete an investigation of why the girl, who only knew her first name, Audrey, was dropped off with her car seat at 6 p.m. Saturday.
On Monday, the director of the county agency, Phillip Browning, said privacy laws prevent him from saying where Audrey is.
“What I can say is that this child is either with a relative placement or a foster placement that we believe is acceptable and safe,” Browning said.
The Los Angeles Police Department released a photo of Audrey after she was found alone at the valet area of The Grove shopping center Saturday night.
Police said her grandfather saw the image on a news report in San Diego County as the LAPD tried to to find her parents.
In the meantime, social workers took Audrey to a facility at County-USC Medical Center.
“This is our facility where we shower the little guys,” Jacqueline Chandler, a supervising children’s social worker, told Nguyen during a tour.
The Children’s Welcome Center opened in 2012 to temporarily house abandoned children. It’s a much more comfortable setting than the office of a social worker.
Here, they’re checked for injuries and given clean clothes if needed.
“They eat as they come in, actually,” said Chandler. “They come in at all hours of the day and night. We’re a 24-hour service.”
On Sunday, Audrey’s father contacted police, who told Nguyen that father and daughter were briefly reunited.
The LAPD says the father told investigators a mix-up with relative led to confusion at The Grove, where he was supposed to meet his daughter.
DCFS has three business days to complete its investigation to decide if this was simple mistake or if there’s more to it.
On Wednesday, the case will move into dependency court, where the agency will submit its recommendation on whether to return the child to her parents. The court will have final say on the matter.