Daycare mom 'caged kids'

Date: 2006-01-11

Santa Barbara - The owner of a daycare centre was arrested for allegedly caging three of her adopted children in locked rooms and forcing one to sleep in a small grilled cupboard in California, said authorities.

Sergeant Erik Raney said a 13-year-old boy and girls aged six and nine appeared malnourished and were wearing clothes soiled with urine and faeces after sheriff's deputies who acted on a tip and went to the home of Sylvia Jovanna Vasquez discovered them.

Raney said investigators determined the children were locked in their rooms for "extended" periods and were fed "minimal diets of bread, water and peanut butter". He said they rarely if ever ventured outside.

Raney said: "There was documentation from the children describing physical abuse. All of the doors in the residence had external locks, giving the ability to lock the children inside of the rooms."

All kids 'related'

Another adopted child, a 12-year-old girl, was clean and healthy.

Raney said: "The 12-year-old was definitely cared for differently than the other three, almost like she was preferred or pampered ... didn't seem to be subject to the same cruelties as the other three."

The sergeant said he didn't know if the children were related. All four were turned over to the county's Child Welfare Services.

Authorities said Vasquez, 50, was arrested for investigation of child cruelty and remained jailed on Tuesday. She had spoken to investigators, but they declined to comment on a possible motive.

Authorities said Vasquez was licensed to care for up to a dozen children.

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