PRESQUE ISLE (AP) – Child welfare workers have taken a baby away from a woman whose 3-year-old daughter is missing and feared drowned in the Aroostook River.

Early Friday, four law enforcement officers and two Department of Health and Human Services workers arrived at Mandy Wright’s Fort Fairfield apartment overlooking the fast-moving river to take away her daughter, 1-year-old Cassidy Paradis.

Wright’s 3-year-old daughter, Alexandria Winship-Wright, went missing Wednesday after being left unattended while Wright went to the bathroom, she told police. When the 21-year-old mother returned, the girl was missing and a sliding glass door was open.

Searchers immediately zeroed in on the raging, flooded river, where searchers found two pink boots downstream.

Searchers were back at the river in a boat and on the riverbank Saturday, a day after 18 divers from the Maine Warden Service, Maine State Police and the Maine Marine Patrol battled fast currents, icy temperatures and low visibility.

“These conditions are not ideal,” said Maine Warden Capt. Joel Wilkinson. “These are as bad of conditions as we could ask for.”

The episode wasn’t the first time Alexandria had gone missing. Last week, she was found, unattended, 500 yards from he home, police said.

On the day Alexandria again went missing – Wednesday – Wright’s 5-year-old daughter, Whitney, was handed over to her biological father after he was granted custody, police said. The father has not been identified.

Because the case is confidential, DHHS officials could not explain why baby Cassidy was removed. But Dan Despard, director of Child Welfare Services, said the department must prove there is threat of serious harm – physical, emotional, psychological, or some form of neglect – in order to remove a child from the home.

“If it’s immediate removal, it has to be an immediate threat of serious harm,” he said from his office in Augusta.

AP-ES-04-28-07 1236EDT

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