FORT WORTH, Texas — Fort Worth police say a 5-year-old girl was found wandering alone early Friday morning in an apartment complex parking lot.
When officers arrived at the Red Rock Apartments in southwest Fort Worth, the girl wasn't able to tell them where she lived.
They eventually discovered the child had been left alone in their apartment with her 1-year-old sister, who has special needs.
The younger child was found inside a closet inside their apartment. Police believe the older child may have put her younger sister inside the closet because she was crying.
Police believe the mother left the children alone in the apartment while she went to work an overnight shift after the children's regular babysitter called in sick.
Those who focus on outreach to the working poor say this is the type of difficult decision single moms and dads struggle with on a regular basis.
“You’ve got to make choices and her choice was probably to pay her rent, buy some food and she thought they’d stay inside and she could come home, and everything would be alright,” said Don Shisler, president and CEO of Union Gospel Mission, a homeless ministry in Fort Worth.
“And they’re all one paycheck away from being here at Union Gospel Mission.”
Shisler was a single parent with two young kids when he faced a major health crisis, which could have pushed him deep into poverty.
It was more than two decades ago. Supportive relatives carried him through, but it taught him what reality is for thousands of families on the edge.
Tarrant County has a lack of affordable child care, according to Children at Risk. The non-profit organization studied child care options across the state and found in Tarrant County, 22,000 more low-income children qualify for subsidized childcare than the county can currently accommodate.
“We’re not as insulated as we think we are," Shisler said. "Things can happen. Situations that change your life pretty swiftly. That’s the reality about it."
Police have contacted Child Protective Services. Both agencies are investigating.
The woman isn't currently facing any charges.
Temperatures were in the 40s Friday morning and the child wasn't wearing a coat.