After the 14-year-old girl, the oldest of five children, called authorities to report that she was having suicidal thoughts on Halloween afternoon, that her house was unlivable and that her parents were gone all the time, deputies and the Department of Children and Families intervened, apparently not the first time for DCF–county animal control had contacted the agency previously–and the parents were arrested.
The conditions of the children’s house on Water Oak Road in the western part of Daytona North, or the Mondex, was deplorable as law enforcement officials had seen in recent years–no running water, little to no food, filth coating floors, clothes and appliances, and the five children in shabby conditions. They’d last bathed days earlier, and only because their parents had taken them to a campsite nearby. Numerous pets were in and around the house as well, on a property that had been the subject of numerous legal actions by county animal control in 2016 and last May.
The parents, Betty Allen, 42, and Dennis Allen, 44, each face felony negligence charges. They spent 24 hours at the Flagler County jail but posted bail on $5,000 bond each the afternoon of Nov. 2, and were able to return home. But by then they faced a no-contact order: they could not see their children, as is common in pre-trial cases involving child neglect or abuse of any sort.
Today Flagler County Circuit Court got a letter from Dennis and Betty Allen: “During our initial court hearing and our first appearance video conference with the judge,” they wrote, “the No Contact order was to be at DCF’s discretion. We ask that, if at all possible, we would like to visit our children and let them know that we are alright.”
The children and their pets had all been dispersed: the girls to one foster family, the boys to another, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. The Community Partnership for Children is working on a plan to unite the children under the same roof. Their pets were all taken in by Flagler County Animal Control: four dogs, a chicken, a rooster, a rabbit and a guinea pig. After getting out of jail, the Allen parents signed the pets over to animal control, relinquishing custody and avoiding any further legal battles on that score.“This way they can go up for adoption and start for a new life sooner rather than wait for a custody battle,” Amy Carotenuto, who heads the Flagler Humane Society, said today. There’s already interest from someone looking to adopt the rabbit. “I feel bad for the kids. I’m sure they love those animals.”
But the animals were themselves in deplorable condition when they arrived at the Humane Society. “They were covered with fleas,” Carotenuto said.
She was familiar with the recurring issues with animal control there. “We had called DCF two- three years ago, because we had concerns from what we saw from the outside,” Carotenuto said. It’s not clear why nothing had been done until now. The children were ostensibly home-schooled, but the 14 year old told authorities that she wasn’t being taught anything, and that the parents were away from the house from noon to midnight, working.
Since the story was publicized, the sheriff’s office and the Department of Children and Families received an outpouring of support for the children from the community, with DCF initially setting up a donation drop-off point. Today, the sheriff’s office issued a release listing the Community Baptist Church at 956 S. Old Dixie Highway in Bunnell as a designated collection site for donations for the children. Donations will be collected on site from 9 a.m. until noon on Monday through Thursday.
Those wishing to donate financially can mail or drop off a check to the church made out to Community Baptist Church with “Allen Children” written in the memo line on the check. Financial donations can also be made online. For questions, contact the church at 386-437-1010 or send an email to [email protected]. These funds will be managed by the church staff and distributed for each child’s needs equally. Donated money will not go to the parents.The children are in need of new or gently used clothing, underwear, socks, and shoes. The girls are 14, 12 and 8, the boys are 9 and 6.
“I am so impressed with the community’s desire to help these children in need,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “Thank you for coming together to help and support them and thank you to the Community Baptist Church for stepping up to help them and for looking out for them.” The sheriff, the release stated, looked into placing the children at the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, but placement is up to DCF and the court.