By John W. GOODWIN JR.
A West Side couple accused of endangering their children and keeping a filthy home say some media outlets have blown the situation out of proportion.
David and Jenny Whalen of Cherry Hill Avenue both face a first-degree misdemeanor charge of child endangering after an incident July 7 when passers-by saw their children alone on the street and called 911.
The 1-year-old girl was wearing a sagging diaper and carrying a gasoline can, while the 3-year-old girl walked naked beside her, according to police.
Police went to the girls’ home and found the father, David Whalen, 31, asleep. Jenny Whalen was at work and not at home at the time.
Police officers also reported the house was filled with trash, urine-soaked carpet and beds, stacks of unwashed dishes, sharp knives in the children’s reach and old food dripping from kitchen surfaces. Alcohol and medication also were accessible to the children.
Whalen spent seven days in Mahoning County jail waiting to make bond, and the couple have not been allowed to visit their children or live in the home since the incident.
Whalen, standing outside the family home Friday, said he and his wife are by no means neglectful of their children. He said he had taken some prescription medications that caused him to be somewhat groggy and fall asleep just before the children left the house.
“Intoxication was not an issue, and there were no drugs involved here other than my prescriptions,” he said.
Whalen said the two children left the home through a basement door that is normally locked and blocked by a large cooler. He said he is confused as to how the children left the house without his knowledge.
He admits the house was cluttered at the time but said repairs were being made to the basement, and many items from the basement had been moved to the home’s main living area.
He also said he was in the process of remodeling several rooms and installing a new kitchen floor that added to the clutter.
“This was more clutter than trash,” he said. “We are being treated like we physically abused our kids. Having a cluttered house does not amount to the level of criminalization we have been through.”
Whalen said he and his wife are working to get their children back in the home and have taken action to make that happen. He said the couple has voluntarily entered parenting classes, and he is scheduled for a voluntary drug and alcohol assessment.
“You have no idea how bad we want them back,” he said. “We are willing to do whatever it takes to get our kids back.”
A first-degree misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.