A North Texas judge says four young siblings will remain in foster care after two were discovered locked in a dog cage and the others were found smeared with excrement in a barn.
The judge ruled Wednesday that no suitable relatives could be found to care for the children, who range in age from 1 to 5 years old.
Investigators say the children were hungry and thirsty when found Feb. 12 on a property near Rhome, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Fort Worth.
Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin says it was the worst case of child abuse he’d seen in his 44-year career.
The children’s mother, 24-year-old Paige Harkings, is jailed on child endangerment charges. Jail records don’t indicate whether she has an attorney.
A man arrested in the case has been released on bond.