Four days after deputies discovered them in a house without water or electricity, the community has rallied around Christine Long and her 11 children, who range in ages from 9 months to 18 years, Sheriff Coursey said.
"It's just unbelievable -- the love that people have shown for this family," he said. "They are very grateful. They can't believe it."
A Monday hearing in juvenile court granted the Department of Family and Children Services emergency care, meaning that the children will remain in foster homes for the time being. A second hearing will be held Monday to gauge their progress, he said. The school-age children have been enrolled in the Burke County School system, he said.
Sheriff Coursey said efforts are under way to help Mrs. Long find a home.
"Rental property for a family that size is not easy to find, and if you find it, it's costly," he said. "We are looking hard for it."
Deputies found the children while looking for suspects in the theft of a chainsaw. The said they discovered the family living in destitute conditions with little food and no utilities. The chainsaw owner did not press charges.
Numerous cats and one dog were also living on the property. Officials from Old Fella Burke County Animal Rescue were unable to rescue the dog and several feral cats, according to Jodi Pope, intake coordinator for the animal rescue. They are bringing food and water to the house for the remaining animals. The animals will be up for adoption once they heal, she said.
Sheriff Coursey said the father of the children, Jeremy Lane Long, is still wanted for questioning and could face charges of child abandonment and child neglect. Authorities have decided not to pursue any charges against Mrs. Long.
Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
A fund has been established for the family through the First National Bank of Waynesboro and is being administrated by the Wimberly House Ministries. Monetary donations can be mailed to the Wimberly House Ministries Indigent Care Family Fund, 521 S. Liberty St., Waynesboro, GA 30830. Checks can be made payable to Wimberly House Ministries. Those with questions can call Elva Raines of First National Bank at (706) 554-8100.
Donations also can be mailed to the Burke County Department of Family and Children Services, 729 W. Sixth St., P.O. Box 390, Waynesboro, Ga. 30830-0390.
Those wishing to adopt or donate money for the treatment of the kittens, cats and the dog on the property can reach Old Fella Burke County Animal Rescue at (888) 846-3792 or through the group's Web site at www.oldfella.org.