A Texas father is facing criminal charges after four young children were discovered in his filthy home, and officials described the home as filthy and not fit for living.
Robert Preston, 31, was arrested on child endangerment charges on Feb. 24 after his four children were discovered in his Dallas apartment, WFAA reported.
When police arrived, they found a starving puppy in the closet, the report said.
The man's children appeared to have "limited contact" with the outside world and did not know their own names, police say.
According to the Dallas Morning News, “The children reacted to the dog as if they had never seen it before, screaming, and running around,” said police.
A police affidavit said the sink water smelled “like a dead animal,” and it said that toilets appeared to have not been flushed in weeks, WFAA reported.
The apartment was also not furnished and reeked of excrement. It’s not clear what the children used as a table, the reports said.
The floor was also riddled with alcohol bottles, WFAA reported.
Preston’s children are aged 5 and 2. He also has two 3-year-old twins.
According to the Dallas Morning News, the children appeared to have “limited contact” with the outside world and didn’t know their own names.
The children inside the Dallas apartment called each other "'Robert,' because the did not know their own names,'" the affidavit said.
His arrest came after reports of a 3-year-old boy running around the apartment complex without adult supervision.
A resident discovered he was wearing a T-shirt and shivering as the temperature was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the time. The child also only had one shoe on.
When officers spoke to the resident, Preston allegedly approached an officer, asking him if he had seen the child. He said he went out for 10 to 15 minutes when the child disappeared, WFAA reported.
Police discovered he had an active parole violation warrant for his arrest.
The officers placed Preston in a squad car, and he told them that he needed someone to check on his children.
Officers, until that point, thought the 3-year-old was his only child, reported the Dallas News.
Preston’s door was unlocked, according to police, and his three other sons were sitting on a filthy floor, the Dallas News reported.
The police affidavit said that the oven was on and “some food had been left down so the children could reach it.”
A red bucket appeared to serve as a stool so the boys could reach the cereal, but officials didn’t see any clean dishes.
“When an officer asked the children where their cups were, one of the boys went to another room and came back with a SunnyD bottle with crusty remains of chocolate milk,” the Dallas News reported, citing the police report.
Police were initially called at 6:30 p.m. to Rosemont at Meadow Lane apartments in the 4700 block of Meadow Street, which is near Elsie Faye Heggins Street and South Second Avenue.
One of The Nation’s Most Serious Concerns
According to a report published by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (pdf), around 3.5 million children in 2016 were the subjects of at least one maltreatment report to authorities.
“Child abuse is one of the nation’s most serious concerns,” the authors of the report wrote.
About 17 percent of those reports were substantiated, and the department said that there were an estimated 676,000 victims of child abuse and neglect.
That amounts to 9.1 victims per 1,000 children.
Children in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 24.8 per 1,000 children, the report said. About three-fourths of the cases were neglect, and about 18 percent were physical abuse.
Some children suffered from multiple forms of maltreatment, the HHS said.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is available at 1-800-422-4453 or at Childhelp.org.