MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas—The father of two children found living in an abandoned school bus in early March was finally reunited with his kids Wednesday after nearly three years. Mark Shorten was serving time in jail when his kids were removed from their makeshift home in Splendora and says he is anxious for things to get back to normal.
Mark and Sherrie Shorten were both serving time in jail for wire fraud and left their two young children in the care of their great aunt. The family lived in an old, abandoned school bus and the aunt was forced to work 12 hours a day to make ends meet. The children were often left to fend for themselves during most of the day and were alone when a postal worker discovered them on March 7, 2012.
The 11-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy were unkempt and the bus was filthy, so the worker grew very concerned. She immediately called authorities. The children were also not enrolled in school.
CPS swiftly removed the children and decided to hold them until the family could provide more suitable living conditions.
Their mother was released from jail in April and was allowed to see her children, but was not returned custody,
Still, she was happy for the chance to make things right.
“I’m very pleased, happy with the way things went,” Sherie Shorten told KHOU 11 News upon her release. “I just have to hold the emotion and put my nose in the grind stone and make this happen.”
In a phone interview with The Associated Press from an Oklahoma City federal prison, Mark Shorten said he had not slept since his children were taken away that day. Now, after being released, he could almost breathe a sigh of relief because he was finally getting the chance to see his kids again.
Armed with cantaloupes and other fruits that his children loved, he rushed in for the reunion.
“I’m waiting to get back with my kids and get back to normal. Right now it’s just kind of empty. I don’t want to be without them any longer than it has been.”
After the two-hour visit, the father fought back tears as he expressed himself.
“It’s hard, it’s just hard to deal with right now,” he said. “My son brought me stuff because he’s ready to go home, he’s ready to go home today, but I told him he can’t. We’re going to get there and we’re going to get him home and my daughter is ready to come home.”
The father said he has learned a valuable lesson and never wants to be separated from his kids again.
“Don’t ever miss a moment. Don’t put anything out there for granted; especially not your family. Your family is without a doubt first,” he said. “I just want my son home, I just want my daughter home and they are ready to come home. We’ve just got to get through the process.”
Sherrie Shorten says her kids were crying because they couldn’t leave with their parents. She said she has worked through all of the services on the case plan and her husband is about to start working on completing his as well. “The Plan,” as it is called, includes psychological evaluation and parenting classes ordered by CPS.
The parents say they don’t think their children should suffer any longer and desperately want them back.