They were hungry, filthy, barely clothed for the freezing temperatures and living in the cramped confines of a urine-soaked motel room.
Now, the custody of seven children – ranging in age from a week or two old to 14 years old – is up in the air.
Fort Wayne police found the children and two adults at a local motel after being called there by the city’s Neighborhood Code Enforcement on Wednesday morning.
Neighborhood Code workers had been assessing the children’s living conditions at the Hallmark Inn, 3730 E. Washington Blvd.
Those workers found the children living in a room that had food all over the floor and two cats and a dog living there with them.
The room reeked of urine, according to a police report.
Police were quickly called when a woman and a man purportedly caring for the children tried to load the children into a yellow van and take off, according to the report.
Officers arrived before the van could leave and forced a woman sitting in the driver’s seat to hand over the keys.
When officers looked inside the van, they found conditions no better than the room the children were supposedly living in.
The van was unheated, and the temperature was about 8 degrees, according to the police report.
Several of the children had no shoes, and their feet were red from the low temperatures.
None of the children was dressed for the weather, and all of them were shivering from the cold, the report said.
Trash and junk were strewn about inside, and the vehicle emitted a putrid smell, the report continued.
According to the police report, zip ties were used to secure some of the children to car seats, which had no padding.
Neighborhood Code had to cut the zip ties to get the children out of the seats. Like everything in the van, the car seats were abysmally dirty.
None of the children wore clean clothes, the report said, and none appeared to have been bathed recently.
One of the children appeared to be autistic and could not speak, the report said.
Another, an infant, was taken from the van wearing only a one-piece outfit. That child was described as appearing extremely frail and small, according to the report, and taken to a hospital.
Police found an empty hotel room for the children and piled blankets on them to warm them, according to the report said.
Eventually, the children scarfed down fast food in a manner that made officers think they had not eaten in a long time.
A dog was also found in the van, along with two cats in the hotel room the children had been living in. The cats were eating food from the floor.
The animals likely used the floor of the room as a bathroom, according to the police report.
An adult man was with the woman who apparently had care of the kids.
One officer wrote in his report the man also had a putrid smell about him and may have a mental deficiency.
The woman told police she already had an open case with the Indiana Department of Child Services against her.
The woman was uncooperative with police officers and had to be placed in handcuffs and then the back of a squad car, according to the report said.
She was ultimately taken to the department’s detective bureau, though as of Wednesday evening she had not been arrested or charged with a crime.
Child Protective Services was called to the scene, as well, but it was not made clear in the reports where the children were taken or who now has custody of them.