More than six months after Child Protective Services removed two Montgomery County children from a dirty school bus, they are back home, reunited with their parents.
They sat down with KPRC Local 2 investigator Amy Davis exclusively to talk about their ordeal, the allegations and how their kids are doing now.
The old school bus in Splendora, east Montgomery County, doesn't look like much, but it's home, once again, to the Shorten family of four.
"It doesn't matter whether you're talking about a converted school bus or a $5 billion mansion," said father Mark Shorten. "A house don't make a home."
Shorten has spent the past six months trying to convince the state as much. You might remember a mail carrier called police when she noticed a 12-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy living, it seemed, alone in this old converted school bus. Mom and dad were serving time in prison, convicted of defrauding the U.S. government. The aunt they left the children with said she was overwhelmed and was gone up to 12 hours a day for work.
"She was really my only choice," said mom Sherrie Shorten. "But she had lived with us long enough that she understood the kids routine; and we felt she could keep it going."
Instead, the state stepped in and took their children. Even when mom and dad were released from prison and able to care for their kids, the state kept them in foster care.
"At that point, CPS should have said, 'OK. Good. Problem fixed. We're done. Have a nice day,'" explained the Shorten's attorney Chris Branson. He said the state never said there was anything illegal or unsafe about living in a converted bus. And for now, it's all the family has.
"It is temporary," explained Mark. "A year from now, and probably before that, we won't be in this bus."
Sherrie Shorten didn't want her children to appear on camera; but she introduced Davis. She said they seemed polite, sharp and clean.
In case you're wondering how the kids are adjusting, the 12-year-old got straight A's on her most recent report card. She is now in the Splendora school district. But before the ordeal six months ago, she had been home schooled her whole life. While the Shortens wanted their kids back sooner, they say they don't fault CPS for stepping in when they did. They believe the whole ordeal has taught their children another valuable lesson.
"They understand that people make mistakes," said Mark. "You work the problem. Don't let it work you."
The shortens will be back in court October 10th to sign the paperwork and finalize the court order granting them custody of their children. They will still be required to undergo counseling and parenting courses.
You can keep up with the Shorten family at this website they've created.