Two children who were found living in a stench-filled abandoned school bus near Houston, its windows blocked and the lot around it covered in trash, are in the custody of Texas child welfare workers, officials said Thursday.
A postal worker discovered the children, ages 11 and 5, at the bus in Splendora about 10 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. Their parents are believed to be in prison for embezzling money from Hurricane Ike victims in 2008. The children are not enrolled at local schools.
The bus appeared to have electricity, an air conditioning unit installed in one window and bunk beds inside for the children. But several neighbors told the Houston Chronicle that the children typically looked unkempt and could often be spotted running around at night.
"They always had dirty clothes on (and) no shoes, even in the winter," said nearby resident Gayla Payne, who said the 11-year-old girl told her daughter that she bathes twice a week.
Investigators told KTRK-TV that the children have been living in the bus since the beginning of the year.
The children told Texas Child Protective Services workers that they were home-schooled. A woman on the property — believed to be the children's great-aunt — told CPS she worked 12-hour shifts Monday through Friday but that she stayed with the children at night.
"The aunt said that she does provide meals for them during the day," Montgomery County Constable Rowdy Hayden told KTRK-TV. "Looking around the (the bus), we didn't see a lot of food readily available. One of the neighbors had told us earlier that from time to time she will bring food over for the children."
The children are in foster care pending an investigation by Child Protective Services, spokeswoman Gwen Carter said. CPS workers will appear in court Thursday to ask a judge for emergency custody of the children, she said.
Splendora is 35 miles northeast of Houston.