Her parents are separated. Maria, her three brothers and one sister (all under 13 years of age) were all living in their father’s house – yet this father is hardly at home and when he is at home he spends most of his time with his girlfriend. Maria’s mother abandoned the family a year ago. She had no contact with the family, but then in April returned for a visit and is now thankfully a part of her children's lives again.
Maria’s dad often leaves his children to live alone in their small, dirty house for two to three weeks at a time. He travels with his job and although he works a lot, the children do not have the basic necessities--consistent daily meals and proper care and clothing. A few weeks ago, Maria and her two brothers went into a neighbor’s home and stole food because they were so hungry. It is very dangerous to steal within a slum community because the drug lords enforce their own set of laws. If someone steals from someone else who lives within the slum the drug lords will beat or torture the person as a form of punishment.
Maria’s hygiene suffers as well due to not being properly cared for. She often arrives to our morning girls group wearing old, dirty clothing with many holes and smelling of urine. She also recently had a terrible case of lice! I spent some time trying to comb the lice eggs out of her hair, but after three weeks Maria still cannot seem to get rid of them! Maria is hungry for affection from a mother figure. She struggles to express her true emotions and is constantly seeking attention through unusual behavior.
Due to many concerns about all the children in the family, some leaders from the Light House recently met with the father and mother to discuss the situation of this family. Thankfully some important decisions were made by the parents and hopefully the overall care and living conditions of the children will improve.
* For her protection the child’s name has been changed and the photos are of other children from the same community.