LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — A West Texas judge has decided 11 children of a couple who’ve faced child welfare investigations in three states will remain in state custody for now.
The ruling Tuesday came after a hearing in which William A. and Claire Rembis disputed Child Protective Services’ allegations of neglect, which included that some of the children regularly climbed into trash bins and scavenged for food behind their Lubbock home.
Court records and testimony show the parents have also been investigated for similar allegations in New Jersey, Michigan, and Plano, Texas, since 2001. None of the cases led to criminal charges.
The children range in age from 16 months to 17 years old.
Judge Kevin Hart said the couple had disregarded CPS’ efforts to investigate, calling the couple “defiant.” He told them the issues are “fixable” if the couple cooperates with the agency’s pending service plan.
“I think they have forced my hand to some extent,” Hart said. “I think I don’t have a choice.”
He cited some of the couple’s children roaming the alley unsupervised and getting into the garbage bins, the instability of housing, and, “most significant,” the condition of the inside of the home, where investigators reported not enough beds, a lack of food, and an odor of feces or urine.
The couple is appealing an eviction notice issued last week by a different judge. They told Hart they may move to Colorado, which he said would complicate the situation.
The case marks the latest child welfare investigation involving the couple, who have faced similar cases in at least three states. One investigator has suggested they may be moving to avoid such investigations, which are difficult to track across state lines. The parents deny the allegations.
The children were taken into state custody in late August, after child welfare workers discovered 10 of them had been taken to Colorado. Two of the children also were briefly removed from the family’s home in Plano in 2013, and all were removed in a separate case there last year.
In Michigan, child welfare officials received five complaints between 2007 and 2012, including one about unsupervised children eating out of garbage cans. In New Jersey, the couple was investigated after their oldest son, who was about 2 at the time, was found wandering alone in 2001, according to testimony in the Lubbock case.
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