NEW YORK – NEW YORK (AP) — The grandparents of a Florida toddler who was abandoned and found wandering alone at St. Patrick's Cathedral reunited with the 3-year-old on Friday, and hoped for clearance to take him home.
Donald and Frieda Fons of Land O' Lakes, outside Tampa, had a supervised visit for several hours with their grandson Nathaniel Fons, who was has been in foster care in New York since he was found Tuesday by security guards at the cathedral. The Administration for Children's Services said he would remain in the city's care while legal and custody issues were worked out, but the family was welcome to visit him.
"This little boy has been through a great deal this past week, and we are doing all we can to ensure he is comfortable and secure," said Commissioner John Mattingly.
The Fonses are seeking custody of the little boy, believed by police to have been left by a couple who had been traveling with his mother.
Don and Frieda Fons, who arrived Thursday evening, bought open-ended tickets to New York because they weren't sure when they would able to return with Nathaniel, according to the boy's uncle, Ryan Fons.
"They heard there was a chance and they said, 'OK we're booking a flight,'" Ryan Fons told The Associated Press on Friday. "They were extremely excited to head up there."
Nathaniel was found alone at the cathedral Tuesday evening with a note in his hand bearing the name of a detective in Florida and the words "call immediately."
The Fons haven't seen Nathaniel since June. They had lived together with the boy's parents until last year when Nathaniel's father took a job on a fishing boat outside Vancouver, Wash. But his father was arrested for failing to notify his parole officer and sent to jail in Florida, the family said. Records show he is still jailed.
The grandparents wanted custody of their grandson, but his mother took off with him, the family said earlier this week. She had been traveling with the boy until her arrest Sunday in Florida on counterfeit charges, when she told officials that her son was in a separate car traveling with another couple.
After that couple's abandoned Chevy Suburban was found by in a hotel parking lot in Florida on Sunday, authorities issued a missing child alert for Nathaniel. The couple are suspected of taking Nathaniel north and leaving him at the cathedral.
Ryan Fons said children's services wanted to see how Nathaniel responds to them since it has been almost a year since he saw them.
"They have been through stress the past five days," Ryan Fons said of his parents. "They want to bring him back home. They were extremely sad when he left last June and went through a lot of stress then. It's finally about to be over, hopefully."
The couple believed to have left Nathaniel at the cathedral have not been located. New York City police said Thursday that they are suspected in the same counterfeiting operation in which Nathaniel's mother was arrested and would also face charges of endangering the welfare of a child in New York. The woman was seen on surveillance footage at famed Fifth Avenue landmark moments before Nathaniel was abandoned, police said.
Nathaniel's mother, Erin Comeau, 26, is being held in Florida. She said in a written statement that she would allow Donald and Frieda Fons temporary custody but did not want to "permanently lose her son."
Associated Press Writer Megan K. Scott contributed to this report.