A homeless woman faces child endangerment charges in Modesto after police discovered her 1-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son allegedly slept in bushes for days while she stayed in hotel rooms.
Chardenae VanRooyen, 26, was booked on suspicion of child endangerment and abandonment after police were alerted to the homeless family late Saturday. She was released from the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center Monday on a $50,000 bond, said Modesto police spokeswoman Heather Graves.
VanRooyen and her children were spotted at about 11:15 p.m. by a passerby who came upon an abandoned stroller in bushes between a Wendy's and Denny's on McHenry Avenue.
The Modesto Bee reported that the children were dirty and didn't have food. There were only a few blankets around the stroller.
VanRooyen allegedly told police her children had been sleeping in the bushes with her boyfriend for the past five nights while she stayed in hotel rooms with friends. She explained that she had depleted a subsidy that paid for hotel stays, according to police.
The officers informed VanRooyen of more than 15 places throughout the area that provide shelter, food and clothing to those in need.
"She told officers, 'I don't want to see my kids living in bushes,' but it didn't explain why she left the kids in the bushes," Graves said.
The officers went through the Wendy's drive-through and purchased food for the children, who Graves said "appeared very happy to be eating."
"Our officers and staff are equipped with information about shelters and resources for people in distress. This does not have to be an option for you," she said of using bushes for shelter.
The children were placed in the custody of child protective services. The boyfriend, whom VanRooyen said watched the children in her absence, was never located.