Crime

Mom facing child neglect charges after kids found in squalor. She worked at a daycare

A Bradenton mother — who worked at a local daycare — is facing multiple charges of child neglect after her children were found living in deplorable conditions, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Maria Garcia’s three daughters were found living in squalor when deputies arrived to their mobile home in the Mermaid Manor Community, 3720 14th St. W., Bradenton, on Monday afternoon.

The mobile home was strewn with cat feces, garbage and clothes, there was only one box of cereal and a carton of eggs to eat and dirty dishes swarming with gnats were stacked in the sink and on the floor.

The two younger girls were home sick from school, according to the eldest, who was watching them while their mother was at work. The younger girls looked as if they hadn’t been bathed in several days based on how matted their hair was, according to deputies, and had visible lice eggs in their hair. Their older sister told deputies the girls have had lice for two years.

Garcia, 36, was arrested Monday and charged with three counts of child neglect without great bodily harm and one count of driving with a revoked driver’s license.

At a first appearance hearing on Tuesday afternoon, a judge ordered Garcia not to have any contact with her daughters. She was released from the Manatee County jail on Tuesday.

“Maria gave conflicting stories and excuses for the deplorable conditions her children are living in,” a deputy wrote in an arrest report.

According to court records including the arrest report, Garcia has worked at the La Petite Academy, 6919 E. State Road 70 in Bradenton, for about two years.

La Petite Academy emailed a statement to the Bradenton Herald on Friday evening, stating that Garcia no longer works at the daycare: “Ms. Garcia no longer works for our company. This matter is unrelated to our school. As a caregiver, we find these charges upsetting. Our focus remains on providing a safe and nurturing learning environment for the children in our care.”

Deputies had responded to Garcia’s home on Monday in response to an anonymous tip in which the caller reported the girls were always home alone and the girls and home were dirty.

The eldest girl, a seventh-grader, had not been to school since Jan. 18, the school told deputies when they called, and had 27 unexcused absences.

Garcia didn’t answer her cell phone when her daughter called. A child protection investigator, who was also called out to the home on Monday, called La Petite and asked that she come home.

Deputies waited and watched until Garcia, whose driver’s license has been revoked since August 2017 for failure to pay fines, drove up to the mobile home.

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