Four children are in the custody of the state’s Children, Youth and Families Department after their parents were arrested on charges of child abuse after a welfare check by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

On Jan. 13, with the assistance of the District Attorney’s, detectives from the BCSO Safe Child Unit obtained arrest warrants for Aaron Brooks for seven counts of Abuse of a Child and two counts of Conspiracy to Commit child abuse; and Damie Brooks for six counts of Abuse of a Child and two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Child Abuse. Both were arrested the same day.

According to court documents, the county’s Safe Child Unit conducted a welfare check of two children in Cedar Crest. According to the Sheriff’s Department, the check was in response to an anonymous report laying out several concerns for the children’s safety, including being physically abused and neglected by their stepfather, Aaron Brooks and their mother, Damie Brooks.

Detectives noted that the children were small in stature for their ages of nine and 11 and and said they appeared to be very thin. In contrast, their five-year old sibling, was almost the same size, according to the Sheriff’s department.

Detectives were later contacted by concerned family members of the two children who had stated they had seen the parents force the children to “stand at attention” for hours on end, restricted their food intake, not allow the older children to sit on the furniture and forced the children to sit outside in inclement weather for long periods of time without proper clothing for the conditions, the department said in a statement.

Detectives also made contact with school personnel responsible for the children over the past few years, who described the children as having been in trouble with the parents when school staff noted the children had eaten discarded food from trash cans because they were hungry, the department said.

School personnel also indicated having reported some of these observations to CYFD as a concern for physical neglect. A doctor specializing in child abuse diagnosed both children as suffering from nutritional neglect and indicated both children were substantially underweight for their ages, according to the department.

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales said, “Today’s arrests are an excellent example of BCSO’s collaboration with other agencies to protect our children, and I would urge the community to always report suspected child abuse or exploitation to protect our most innocent. It is all of our responsibility to protect our children.”

According to the Sheriff’s department, the Safe Child Unit worked with the Bernalillo County Multi-Disciplinary Team, which included CYFD, the District Attorney’s Office, the Child Advocacy Center and University of New Mexico Hospital’s Child Abuse Response Team.

The Brooks have four children, including a three-month-old baby; all of the children are now in CYFD custody.