LORAIN, Ohio - The Lorain mother arrested for child endangering when police found her living in deplorable conditions with her seven children made her first appearance in court on Wednesday, where she's granted a court-appointed attorney.
Wednesday afternoon, bags of trash and old carpet was pulled from Erica Perez's Long Avenue house. A maintenance crew worked feverishly to rid the house of any signs of what police discovered on July 5.
"Filthy, children sleeping on mattresses on the floor, garbage everywhere. Everything just basically filthy and dirty. Very little food in the refrigerator. The refrigerator itself was filthy," said Lorain Police Department Lt. Mark Carpentiere.
"I wouldn't step foot in that house," said Perez' neighbor, Terri Conaway. She said she's not surprised that this all finally blew up. She's hoping Perez' children can get the help they deserve. "Fourth of July I looked in the house and my jaw dropped when I saw it and my house isn't pristine, but, I can always offer somebody a clean dish for a glass of water or a meal."
According to Conaway, the kids were always running around unsupervised, and 1-year old would wear dirty diapers for days. She said the children were always hungry; even though Conaway claimed Perez was getting a large amount of money for food stamps.
"Almost $1,500 a month in food stamps and for her refrigerator to be empty and just have beer, it's deplorable," she said.
Conaway said Lorain Children Services had social workers at the house back in June.
"If children services was here in June, why didn't they do something then? Why? How can you let a child one, let alone nine live like that?" she asked. Perez is currently expecting twins. Her seven children are staying with relatives. Conaway said when they took the children from Perez about a year ago they should've never been given back. "Apparently, they were taken away from her she earned them back just to go through this again no they dropped the ball."
Meanwhile, spokeswoman for Lorain County Children Services Patti Burtnett said the agency accepts responsibility.
"We clearly should have taken more definitive action in February 2012, especially since there have been multiple referrals to the agency. We are disappointed with the outcome and our performance in this case," she said.
The primary worker on the case resigned as a result of his performance on this case. The supervisor is on administrative leave.
According to Burtnett, these additional actions were taken:
- All casework supervisors will have additional training on environmental neglect and managing cases that have multiple referrals.
- All cases will be assessed for environmental neglect regardless of the original complaint.
- The agency will restructure its management and oversight functions to provide closer monitoring of similar cases. the restructuring will include a second manager for the social services department.
- The continuous quality improvement department will use information from this case to potentially recommend additional improvement activities as part of its ongoing improvement cycle.
"This case was not an example of the high quality intervention the agency and the community expects of its caseworkers. We are committed to improving our performance and providing high quality intervention and protective services to our community's abused and neglected children," Burtnett said.
Perez's next court appearance is set for Aug. 1. Her bond was set at $10,000.