BRANDON, Fla. (AP) — Four girls who apparently ran away from a facility for foster children near Tampa were found safe as they tried to sneak back onto the same property, authorities said Friday.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in an email that the girls — ages 13, 11, 10 and 4 — were discovered just after 7 p.m. Friday trying to climb back over a fence near the rear of the property of A Kids Place.
“Preliminary information is that they originally ran away to a nearby park and then broke into an abandoned residence in the area by breaking a window,” Carter said. “They stayed at the abandoned residence all day today and were attempting to return when they were discovered.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has canceled an alert about missing children.
Earlier Friday, Sheriff’s Col. Donna Lusczynski said law enforcement officers spent the day going door-to-door, looking for the girls. They also made contact with every registered sexual predator in a 2 mile radius.
The three younger children — 4-year-old Allison Nelson, 10-year-old Anabella Gonzalez and 11-year-old Heavenlynn Gonzalez — are sisters who have been at the facility since March. The 13-year-old, Ashlyn Smith, has lived there since February.
Investigators interviewed all the children and staff at the facility and learned at least two of the girls had discussed running away with others, Lusczynski said.
Lusczynski declined to give details about why the girls were at the home, citing privacy issues. She said many times children end up there because of abuse or abandonment.
A Kids Place opened in 2009. It was described in local news reports as a $5.2-million, 60-bed facility that serves as a temporary shelter for children from birth to 17. The facility is where law enforcement brings children in the first traumatic hours after they are removed from their homes.