SALT LAKE CITY - The children of Josh and Susan Powell remain in the care of the missing mom's parents in Washington state, after the arrest of their paternal grandfather and investigation of their father, but concerns remain about their emotional wellbeing after being removed from their father's care.
The Powell children have gone through a lot the past couple of years, first with the disappearance of their mother and the rapid changes that have happened just over the past week.
First, police arrested Steve Powell, the father they had been living with, on charges of voyeurism. Then their father lost custody, and now they live with grandparents they have rarely seen over the past 22 months.
One family therapist who spoke to KSL believes the boys -- ages 6 and 4 -- are confused and are likely traumatized.
As the two sons of Josh and Susan Powell move in with Chuck and Judy Cox, now their legal guardians, extended family members are expressing a sense of relief that they will be in a better environment. But for the boys, it's yet another change in their young lives.
A 4- and 6-year-old, they have no way to understand these complex emotions and what's going on with this change - Why is mom gone all of the sudden? Why am I not with dad anymore? Why haven't I seen my maternal grandparents?
–Jonathan Sherman, family therapist
"A 4- and 6-year-old, they have no way to understand these complex emotions and what's going on with this change," said Jonathan Sherman, a marriage and family therapist. "They don't know how to understand what's going on with all the complex situations and changes in their lives. Why is mom gone all of the sudden? Why am I not with dad anymore? Why haven't I seen my maternal grandparents for a couple of years?"
Sherman believes the Powell children are in need of aggressive counseling to help them process not just their past but their future.
"Are they going to be able to stay with grandma and grandpa long term or are they going to be returned to dad sometime? When this is done? And so there's a lot of back and forth," Sherman said. "Kids thrive in stability and consistency and they tend to act out and have more problems when they have instability."
Sherman says the best indication of how the boys are feeling and coping in life will come through play or art therapy.
"Kids can express a lot through play, through playing with figures, in the sandbox, action figures or dolls, because they can express a lot visually," he said. "What they can't express verbally, what they can express through actions, they can't express in words."
Sherman believes the boys are each in a stage of grief response to losing their mother and the instability of their lives, which for someone of their age is very difficult to cope with.
"So as hard as it is for adults to cope with grief and loss and huge change and traumatic experiences and death, we at least have some understanding and some choices to make," Sherman said. "Kids have very little understanding and no choices they can make."
While the Powell children are now in the custody of their maternal grandparents, Josh Powell will be allowed a three hour supervised visit every weekend. The judge will review the case again in about six weeks.