Four malnourished children who were discovered inside a North Texas barn on Tuesday — some covered in urine and feces, and others crammed inside a dog cage — have been placed in foster care, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services confirmed.
The children — who authorities said were between the ages of 5 and 1 — were released from the hospital on Tuesday and are now safely in foster care, Marissa Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the agency, tells TIME. Gonzalez said the children’s case will go before a judge within the next two weeks to determine next steps.
According to the Dallas Morning News, authorities made the disturbing discovery while investigating a family violence incident at a Wise County home. Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin told the News that responding officers heard children in the nearby barn and officers found four children: a 4-year-old girl and three boys ages, 5, 3 and 1.
Akin told the News the two eldest children were found in a 3-by-3 foot dog cage and the two other children were discovered nearby, covered in urine and feces.
Authorities arrested Paige Harkins and Andrew Fabila, both 24 years old, according to the Associated Press and other outlets. Authorities identified Harkins as the children’s mother and Fabila as father to one of the children, according to the Dallas Morning News.
The pair each faces four counts of endangering a child and are being held in the Wise County Jail, per the Associated Press. Harkins, who also faces an aggravated assault charge, has bail set for $75,000, while Fabila has bail set for $60,000, per AP.
Akin told AP this is the worst case of child abuse he’s seen in his 44-year career.
The barn the children were found in was fashioned to look like living quarters with food, but the refrigerator and cabinets were locked, Akin told the Dallas Morning News. He also told the outlet the children were taken to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth for evaluation, but did not have any apparent injuries.
The family is believed to be new to town and have only been in Wise County for about a month, Akin also told the News.
Gonzalez says DFPS had previous contact with the family, but not at the address where they were found.
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