What happens to the Russian spies' kids?

With their parents in FBI custody, the children of the alleged Russian spies face an uncertain future

Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro lived in this suburban Yonkers, NY home.
(Image credit: Corbis)

The arrests of 11 people accused of spying for the Russian government have left six children without their parents. Eight of the alleged spies lived as couples, with children, and all four families appeared to be living average, "suburban" lives. "They'd baby-sit our kids," said a friend and neighbor of suspects Cyndy and Rick Murphy. "I kind of realized the other day that they never really let us baby-sit their kids — which, thinking back now, I can probably see why." With the parents in FBI custody, the fate of the children is suddenly up in the air. What will happen to them? A guide:

Which of the alleged spies had children?

Rick and Cyndy Murphy of Montclair, NJ, are the parents of Katie, 11, and Lisa, 8; Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley of Cambridge, MA, have two sons, ages 20 and 16; Arlington, VA, residents Michael Zottoli and Pamela Mills have two young sons, who are 1 and 3; and Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro of Yonkers, NY, are the parents of 17-year-old Juan Jose Lazaro, Jr., and 38-year-old Mariscal.

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Are the children allowed to remain in the U.S.?

If they were born here, yes. All children born and living in the United States are American citizens, and therefore, allowed to stay in the country, regardless of what happens to their parents. It remains unclear which of the alleged spies' children were born here and which were not.

Where are the children now?

That's not entirely clear. The Virginia couple, Zottoli and Mills, requested to have friends serve as temporary guardians for their two sons. Katie and Lisa Murphy reportedly left their New Jersey home with a female FBI agent. There have been no published reports on the whereabouts of Heathfield and Foley's 16-year-old boy or Juan Lazaro, Jr. The other two offspring are adults.

What will happen to them?

Since the charges aren't related to domestic abuse or drug or alcohol addiction, the parents can decide who will take care of their children. "In general, the police will ask the parents if there's a relative, a friend, or a neighbor who might take the children," Child Welfare League of America vice president Terri Braxton tells The New York Times. "But it’s ultimately the parents who lead the way." If no friend or relative is available, a child may be placed in foster care by child protective services.

Has this situation ever occurred before?

Yes. In 1953, the government executed Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who had two young sons, Robert and Michael, for passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Following their parents' arrest, the children lived briefly with their maternal grandmother, Tessie Greenglass, who later took them to live at the Hebrew Children's Home. They were then removed from the home by their paternal grandmother, Sophie Rosenberg. Eventually, the brothers were adopted by writer and songwriter Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne.

Sources: Guardian, NY Daily News, NBC, AOL News, MSNBC, NY Times, LA Times

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