Family members are defending the parents of two toddlers who were found malnourished and living in allegedly filthy conditions.
Early Sunday morning, the city's Department of Human Services received a tip reporting suspected child abuse at a home on York Street in West Kensington. When police arrived, they say they found two young children in a state of severe malnutrition and neglect.
Investigators say the home was overrun with pests and insects. They also say the 1-year-old and 3-year-old children were covered with bug bites and irritated skin. A foul odor from the house could be smelled from the street, according to investigators. Officials who went inside also say that the home was "unlivable."
"Whoever allowed their children or themselves to live in a condition like that, they really need some serious help," said Cullie Hawthorne Jr., a neighbor.
Officials say the 1-year-old girl only weighs 13 pounds, half the average weight of a girl that age.
"I think that's pretty sick," said one resident who did not want to be identified. "When my son was one-year-old he was 31 pounds!"
Both children were taken to St. Christopher’s Hospital where they are being evaluated.
The parents of the children were taken to the Special Victim’s Unit where they were interviewed. They have since been released and are currently with their children at the hospital, according to family members. Some neighbors say they didn't even know the couple had children.
"I don't know what goes on inside the home," said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. "I saw them out and about but I never saw children."
No charges have been filed yet however as officials are investigating whether the allegedly filthy conditions actually compromised the health of the children. Family members insist that it did not.
"My niece is fine," said the aunt of the two children. "She's not malnourished. They say she was 11 pounds. My niece is an even 20 pounds. My nephew is fine."
The family also says the young girl is underweight because she was a premature baby and relied on a feeding tube after her birth.
"Those kids are healthy and blessed," said their uncle Timothy Fontaine. "They're good, the family is good. There are a lot of false accusations. When you're premature you aint' gaining weight until you're 19 or 20. That's common sense."
Police continue to investigate.