Three young siblings at the center of a child welfare case have been listed as missing after their parents fled their Bellingham home.
Bellingham police are looking for Unity (Levi) Rengo, 14 months old, and twins Daniel and Mornakai Rengo, 3 months old. Authorities said they were with their parents, Erica May Carey, 29, and Cleave Goheen Rengo, 23.
The Rengos became a social media sensation last year with online claims that the state was trying to take their children because the twins were born at home. Court testimony, however, focused on multiple other concerns from Child Protective Services, and a Whatcom County Superior Court commissioner ordered the couple to cooperate with CPS.
The children have been placed on the Washington State Patrol’s missing children website at www.wsp.wa.gov/crime/mischild.php.
“The Rengo family is being sought by CPS, who have a court order to check on the welfare of the children,” Bellingham police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said in a statement. “Our detectives continue to track any progress on this case, but we are doing so to support CPS.”
Officials believe the family may be in southwestern Washington.
“The Rengo family resided in Clark County prior to moving up to Bellingham. Law enforcement and CPS are aware of this and are watching for the family down there,” Vander Yacht said.
A spokeswoman for CPS said the department was working with law enforcement to try to locate the family, adding that they’ve asked to have the children removed from the home.
“Last Wednesday (Jan. 28), a Whatcom County Court commissioner granted the Department of Social and Health Services Children’s Administration’s request to place the children into protective custody,” spokeswoman Mindy Chambers said.
Chambers declined to say why the agency asked to have the children placed in protective custody. There are limitations on what officials are allowed to say in such cases.
CPS is part of the Children’s Administration.
“There is certainly a concern for the children or CPS would not have sought the court order,” Vander Yacht stated. “The parents have, however, demonstrated that they are concerned for their children even if it is in a manner that CPS would like to see altered and improved.”
A judge removed the three children from the one-bedroom apartment they shared with Rengo’s father, Bruce Rengo, on Nov. 5, amid the state’s concerns over a chaotic home life, including repeated contacts with law enforcement.
The case generated an immense amount of attention, after a story about the family was posted on the website Medical Kidnap, where it received more than a million page views and went viral on social media. It sparked outrage among readers with its account of breastfed babies being taken away from parents who had a home birth and refused to go to the hospital. In an interview, the couple, who believe in a holistic lifestyle, also said they were being bullied by CPS for refusing to treat their oldest son’s eczema with a steroid cream, which they believed would harm him.
CPS has said the case had nothing to do with home birth. Carey chose to give birth to the twins at home without medical assistance.
During a hearing last year, the state Attorney General’s Office, which represents CPS in such cases, detailed the family’s numerous contacts with law enforcement since 2013 — 14 in Whatcom County and seven when the couple lived elsewhere in Washington state; refusal or resistance to providing medical care for the children; concern about the twins being underweight; domestic disputes between the couple; Cleave Rengo being controlling of Carey; and Bruce Rengo’s mental health issues, which had included a two-month hospitalization when he stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder.
After a hearing, a court commissioner returned the children to their parents Dec. 5, saying he was giving them a second chance but warning them then that the children would be removed from the home if they didn’t follow his conditions as well as cooperate with CPS.
Anyone with information about the family may call Bellingham police at 360-778-8800, or the state patrol’s Missing Person’s unit at 1-800-543-5678.