SPLENDORA, Texas (AP) — Home for a Southeast Texas family is still an old school bus with no engine and no front wheels.
But child welfare officials are delighted with the commitment the parents have shown since their two young kids were discovered living there virtually unsupervised almost a year ago while their father and mother were in federal prison.
Child Protective Services officials are expected to recommend a judge dismiss the welfare agency's case against Mark and Sherrie Shorten in court Tuesday, allowing the couple to regain full custody of their 12-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.
"That's what I've been targeting all along," Mark Shorten said.
The children are in school and the parents have complied with CPS care plans, evaluations and therapy, agency spokeswoman Gwen Carter said.
"They're doing really well and the family is doing really well," she said. "The staff is very proud of them."
Last March, a postal worker, after repeatedly spotting two disheveled children in the Montgomery County neighborhood about 35 miles northeast of Houston, became concerned and notified authorities. Welfare officials quickly arrived and placed the kids in foster care while media coverage led with images of the outwardly dilapidated bus on a trash-littered lot.
Carter said officials are accustomed to poor families living in tough conditions and while it's not illegal to live in a bus, "sadly, that was the sensational part, the condition of their living environment and they were left there all day."
Despite its worn appearance, the bus inside had been renovated, furnished, had hot and cold water and a bathroom, and was air-conditioned.
"Let's be blunt," Mark Shorten said. "Once I saw pictures on the news and read the full story, I was glad somebody pulled my children out of that mess. Both of them suffered through that mess."
"My main focus when I got home was getting my kids back home," Mark Shorten said. "And I did that. Life's as good as it's going to get at the moment but we're trying to make it better."