SPLENDORA, Texas (AP) — But child welfare officials are delighted with the commitment the parents have shown since their two young kids were discovered living there virtually unsupervised almost a year ago while their father and mother were in federal prison.
Child Protective Services officials are expected to recommend a judge dismiss the welfare agency's case against Mark and Sherrie Shorten in court Tuesday, allowing the couple to regain full custody of their 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.
"That's what I've been targeting all along," Mark Shorten said.
The children are in school and the parents have complied with CPS care plans, evaluations and therapy, agency spokeswoman Gwen Carter said.
"They're doing really well and the family is doing really well," she said. "The staff is very proud of them."
Last March, a postal worker, after repeatedly spotting two disheveled children in the Montgomery County neighborhood about 35 miles northeast of Houston, became concerned and notified authorities. Welfare officials quickly arrived and placed the kids in foster care while media coverage led with images of the outwardly dilapidated bus on a trash-littered lot.
Carter said officials are accustomed to poor families living in tough conditions and while it's not illegal to live in a bus, "sadly, that was the sensational part, the condition of their living environment and they were left there all day."
"Let's be blunt," Mark Shorten said. "Once I saw pictures on the news and read the full story, I was glad somebody pulled my children out of that mess. Both of them suffered through that mess."
At the time, Shorten and his wife were in separate federal prisons both serving 18 months for convictions for conspiracy to embezzle money from victims of Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008. They had arranged for their children to be supervised by an aunt, who told authorities she became overwhelmed between working 12-hour days and trying to care for them.