- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

CAPE CORAL, Fla. (AP) - A southwest Florida couple with more than a dozen children has been charged with abusing the adoptive and foster children in their care.

Cape Coral police said they found three teen girls drunk at a fast food restaurant Sunday. The girls said their father gave them alcohol and physically and sexually abused them. Authorities said the girls were so inebriated they were taken to the hospital.

The couple has 13 children: five adopted daughters, three foster daughters, two foster sons and three biological children, according to police. When authorities went to the home to investigate, the non-biological children said they were only fed meager meals of bread, grits, beans and rice while the biological children ate normal meals. The non-biological children said they were forced to take cold showers, hit, choked and thrown into walls. A police report said most had not been to a doctor or dentist in years. Three of the girls were forced to sleep outside on a porch.

“Every child interviewed stated that they had never seen one of the biological children hit or disciplined in these ways,” the police report states.

The Cape Coral Daily Breeze (https://tinyurl.com/zensunb) reports at least four of the adopted and foster girls had been victims of sexual assault.

The children were all adopted or fostered in Alabama, and authorities there are also investigating. Police said additional charges may be filed. The couple was in the process of adopting five of the children.

The two adults were charged Monday with 10 counts of cruelty toward child. The husband faces five additional molestation charges. The Associated Press is not identifying the adults to avoid indirectly identifying the children.

Natalie Harrell, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Families and Children, said the foster and adopted children from Alabama are in the process of being returned to the state. Child welfare officials in Alabama will handle their placements.

Alabama Department of Human Resources officials declined to comment on the case but said the couple became foster parents there in 2004. They were approved as Florida foster parents last month.

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