For five months, Delaware County Children and Youth Services workers tried to get into the Hardy house in Upper Darby to check on the condition of one and possibly two children inside, according to police.
But each visit, their knocks were met only with silence.
So yesterday, they went to the house on Lennox Road near Carol Boulevard armed with a court order. When they arrived, one of the two adult residents, 54-year-old Cosette Carter-Hardy, took off in her car, police said, so CYS workers called authorities for back up.
When police arrived they could not get inside the house because all of the doors were barricaded with furniture and all of the front windows had been padlocked shut, said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood. When police and CYS workers finally forced their way inside through a rear basement door, they were terrified at what they found, Chitwood said.
"The living conditions were deplorable," he said. "The place was infested with roaches on the floors, walls and ceiling."
On top of that, Chitwood said there were holes in the roof from water leaks and the residence was full of trash. Police found Carter-Hardy's daughter, Tiffanie Hardy, 30, sleeping in bed with her 8-year-old son and 9-year-old nephew, he said.
"Both kids were unkempt and they appeared to be delusion," Chitwood said. "They hadn't been fed for 36 hours and no clean clothes could be located."
When CYS workers tried to take the children, Hardy fought with police and was detained and charged with resisting arrest.
Hardy's son remains in the custody of CYS. Her 9-year-old nephew was returned to his mother in Philadelphia. His mother had been awarded custody of the boy this summer, but Carter-Hardy, who had previously had custody, refused to return him, Chitwood said.
A call to the school district revealed that the 8-year-old had not been in school since May and his 9-year-old cousin hadn't been to school since December.
Along with resisting arrest, Hardy was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and recklessly endangering another person.
When Carter-Hardy went into the Upper Darby police station this morning to check on the whereabouts of her daughter, she too was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child, recklessly endangering another person and interefering with custody of a child.
The health department padlocked the house and deemed it uninhabitable, Chitwood said.
"The tragedy is you've got a 54-year-old woman and a 30-year-old woman treating these kids and holding them captive in a house like they were animals," Chitwood said. "What chance do these kids have?"