Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Judge orders seven children found in house of filth to remain in foster care

Seven children, between the ages of 1 and 9 years old, are in protective custody after being found in a house of filth in Miami Gardens.
Seven children, between the ages of 1 and 9 years old, are in protective custody after being found in a house of filth in Miami Gardens. CBS4

Seven children, between the ages of 1 and 9 years old, are in protective custody after being found in a house of filth in Miami Gardens.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge decided Tuesday that they would remain in foster care for now after two separate shelter hearings at the children’s courthouse.

“No child should live in these conditions,” said Circuit Judge Mavel Ruiz. “Rats and roaches are unacceptable.”

Police were called to the home, located at 3031 NW 164th Street, on Sunday, August 21st, after someone called to report a sick or injured person. According to police, 25-year-old Jacqueline Garcia told police her 1-year-old son had a fever. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded and took the child to Jackson North for treatment for a possible Thrush infection of the mouth.

While at the home, police noticed the house was filthy. There was trash and dirty diapers piled inside the house and in the yard. The toilet was filled with feces and there was feces on the floor and rat droppings on the living room floor. There was no food in the refrigerator or in the kitchen and the children appeared to have not eaten for several days. When the oldest child was asked when the last time he ate, he said he could not remember. Several children were also found in a bedroom, lying on mattresses covered with roaches.

Four adults in the home – Jacqueline Garcia Zuniga, Rolando Arteaga, Miosotiz Barbara Rodriguez and Hugo Zuniga – were tested for drugs and they tested positive for marijuana and cocaine, according to police. All four were arrested and charged with child neglect.

The parents attended Tuesday’s hearings hoping to be able to retain custody of their children. Family members stepped forward to care for Garcia Zuniga’s two children. Judge Ruiz said the children would remain in foster care until a home study was done. The judge also said Rodriguez’s five children would also remain in foster care, pending a hearing in September.

In court there was dramatic testimony from a state investigator, who said the children had “rats and roaches all over them. From the moment the car door was opened, you could smell urine, feces and garbage. There were roaches inside and rats all under the house.”

One child was hospitalized with a mouth infection. The other children are OK, authorities said.

In court, there was testimony that Rodriguez had a history with the Department of Children and Families because of an allegation of drug abuse in 2014.

It was also revealed that a number of family members had stepped forward to take care of the children but they were not allowed to because they are undocumented immigrants.

A year-long Miami Herald investigation found that, in the last six years, 477 Florida children have died of abuse or neglect after their families had come to the attention of the Department of Children and Families.

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