State officials and police are questioning a mother of eight children who dropped off at a fire station by family acquaintances after they were allegedly left home alone in Oak Cliff.
Someone saw the woman leave the home in the 2400 block of Marsalis Avenue at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday. When she didn't return for several hours, family acquaintances took the children, who are between the ages of 3 and 12, to a nearby fire station.
Dallas police said the family had been staying for some time at the church-owned home where they had been given shelter.
The Child Abuse Unit has opened an investigation and is considering charges of child abandonment, though no charges have yet been filed, police said.
Child Protective Services said the children are unharmed and in good health but will remain in foster care for the time being.
The mother said she had arranged for someone to watch the children, something officials are investigating.
The oldest child, a 12-year-old girl, said it’s common for their mother to leave her in charge of her seven brothers and sisters but that she was gone longer than usual this time.
Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said that the two people who took the children to the fire station have to be commended.
"I mean, a lot of people look at the firefighters as the heroes, but ... we just did what was second nature to us, which was attending to the needs of the children," he said. "The real heroes are the two ladies who looked out for the children, brought them to the fire station. Just to do it was in their best interest."
CPS said it received an email tip on Friday that the mother was leaving her children home alone a lot.
The agency said it would have checked out the concern.
In Texas, there is not a set age at which a child can be left home alone, CPS said.
“However, parents must take into account their maturity, the length of time they will be alone, their ability to respond to an emergency, whether or not they have special needs, etc.," CPS spokeswoman Marissa Gonzales said. "If a parent is placing a child or children in a situation where they cannot protect themselves or access the things they need, there could be a problem."
CPS said it believes it’s a big responsibility for a 12-year-old to watch seven younger children and is investigating if the mom put her kids at risk.
The siblings currently are split up in a couple of different foster homes but are able to see each other.
The children don’t have any relatives in North Texas, but CPS is talking with church members to see if they can temporarily shelter any of the children.
NBC 5's Lindsay Wilcox contributed to this report.