Seven special needs children who were found malnourished, abused and confined to a small room will remain in foster care, a Fort Bend County judge ordered Tuesday, until a permanent new home can be found for them.
The kids, ages 13 through 16, were removed from their adoptive mother's Richmond home after Child Protective Services investigators discovered the abuse the day before Thanksgiving. They were taken to a hospital where they could be evaluated and where they still remain, a Child Protective Services spokeswoman said. The adoptive mother, 54-year-old Paula Sinclair, has been charged with aggravated kidnapping and felony injury to a child, and so has her husband, 78-year-old Allen Richardson, who was not the adoptive father.
CPS spokeswoman Tiffanie Butler said Tuesday that the agency will begin searching for a new permanent foster home that will take all of the kids. Butler also said Tuesday that an eighth sibling had died in 2011, though she would not say whether any wrongdoing was involved, since all investigations are confidential.
In a press release Monday evening, the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office detailed the conditions in which investigators found the children after receiving a tip about possible abuse.
Detectives learned that the kids had been locked in a room at the home, and when Sinclair and Richardson left the house, the kids would be locked in a five-by-eight-foot closet that was stuffed with boxes and clothes. Sometimes, they were left in the closet so long that they peed themselves, the sheriff's office said. Detectives found the room that the children lived in smelled of urine and feces, and one child, who has Down syndrome, was wearing a dirty diaper.
After professionals at the Fort Bend County Children's Advocacy Center interviewed all of the kids, the children were all found to suffer from learning disabilities. They said the kids had never attended school.
“I cannot think of a more deplorable situation than what we have learned in this case,” said Sheriff Troy E. Nehls. “These people are taking advantage of a lousy situation at the expense of children who cannot fend for themselves. It is absolutely heartbreaking.”
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Detectives also found that Sinclair and Richardson were also operating an adult group home onsite, and that three men were living with them. Butler said that investigators with Texas Adult Protective Services have also been sent to check on the men to make sure they are okay.
The case comes as state officials grapple with a foster-care crisis in Texas and scramble to reform the system so thousands of kids do not fall through the cracks. In October, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services revealed that thousands of children at the highest risk of abuse were not checked on by CPS, largely because of a shortage of investigators.
Last Thursday, the state handed over $100 million in emergency funding for the understaffed agency, allowing CPS to hire 800 new workers and increase the salaries of 7,000.
The state has also been sued by a New York-based children's advocacy group alleging that thousands of foster-care kids are being seriously mistreated in Texas. Around the same time the seven special needs kids were removed from their adopted mother's home, a group of independent experts released a 13-page list of court-ordered recommendations for improvement in the foster-care system. But state officials rejected them, calling the suggestions vague and ineffective.