SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - A mother of two young boys, Michelle Reed Elling has her hands full most days running errands with her kids in the car.
"I don't leave them in the car, I just don't feel comfortable leaving my kids in the car", Reed Elling says, "and its not legal."
28-year-old Petra Zaragoza and 23-year-old Bulmaro Reyes were arrested last Tuesday after their four year old daughter was found wandering around the Chumash Casino parking garage.
The Sheriff's Department says the parents were inside the casino gambling and left their daughter alone in the car because she was sleeping.
The little girl was placed into protective custody with Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Services
"There's a legal requirement we have to meet before we can go out and investigate", says Delfino Neira of Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Services, "anything that mentions physical abuse or sexual abuse is cross reported for law enforcement, unless its a severe neglect case, its not legally required to be sent over to law enforcement."
Zaragoza and Reyes face felony child endangerment charges because their actions could have caused great bodily injury to their daughter.
"Law enforcement will respond when we respond, we will co-investigate with them", Neira adds, "then when its a case of physical abuse or sexual abuse they are the active part or are with us when the decision is made to remove the child because they have to prepare a report for the District Attorney to prosecute, and then we will prepare a report for the Juvenile Court on why the parent should have custody."
Michelle Reed Elling says its a hard lesson for parents to learn.
"That is neglect", Reed Elling says about the case against Zaragoza and Reyes, "you can't just leave your kid in the car and go gamble, let alone grocery shop, anything, its part of being a parent, be prepared."
The anonymous tip hotline for Santa Barbara County Child Welfare Services is (800) 367-0166
To read more about CWS go to: www.countyofsb.org/social_services.