On Wednesday an 11-year-old girl and her 5-year old brother were discovered by a postal service worker alone and living in an abandoned school bus in the woods. The children had been staying in the bus, which contained a bathroom and had the seats removed to make room for a mattress and bunk beds, since the beginning of the year. The bus was reportedly filthy and contained very little food. One neighbor, Gayla Payne, told The Houston Chronicle that the children were always dirty and never wore shoes, even in winter.
After an investigation, officials learned that the children’s aunt stays with them at night and provides meals for them to eat during the day while she is away working in nearby Houston. The aunt, who invited KTRK-news in Houston onto the property for an interview, says she asked neighbors to look after the children while she was at work during the day.
At this point you may be wondering where the parents of these children are. Don’t worry. They want you to know this is all a big misunderstanding!
The parents of the siblings spoke with KTRK-news by phone from federal prison where they were sent after pleading guilty to conspiracy to embezzle money from Hurricane Ike victims in 2008. The mother, Sherrie Shorten, says they were planning to build a house on the property the bus sits on and the family was living there together before she and her husband were sentenced to prison for 18 months.
“We were trying to keep them in their normal routine, around the toys, clothes and home that they knew,” Shorten says of herself and her husband. Neighbors were quick to come to the defense of the situation, stating that the children were not neglected and were, in fact, happy and well-adjusted.
Shorten says she spoke to her children several times a day by phone from jail and was even educating her 11-year-old daughter by mail.
The siblings have been placed in temporary foster care by Montgomery County officials, but Shorten says she hopes to regain custody when she is released from prison. ”I want my kids back. I am being released April 5 and was looking forward to being reunited and making a fresh start,” Shorten told People.
This is the most extreme application of the old adage ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ that I have ever heard of and I’m shocked to read that so many neighbors came to their defense. What are your thoughts?