MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A woman has been arrested on child abuse charges after Department of Children Services discovered her 6-year-old son only weighed 13 pounds.
Officials said 32-year-old Andrea Caldwell's son was born with severe developmental disabilities; he requires a GI/feeding tube.
She was arrested on Dec. 8 when an employee with DCS conducted a visit to the boy and discovered he had been severely neglected.
DCS officials said they had been searching for him since May 2017 and found him staying in a hotel on Summer Avenue near I-40 with his mother, younger brother, and several other family members for the past two months.
The DCS employee discovered the severely malnourished boy had bruises on his body, matted hair, bed sores, and also strongly smelled of urine. His GI/feeding tube was also dirty and clogged and did not appear to be working.
The employee said Caldwell was feeding the boy Similac baby formula, which DCS officials said was inadequate for his nutritional needs. They also said Caldwell did not use the free national materials provided by social services.
Once he was hospitalized, doctors said he only weighed 13 pounds. When he was last seen by a physician in March 2017, he weighed 40 pounds.
The hospital and DCS records stated that Caldwell missed almost a year of his medical appointments, canceling or avoiding 13 appointments since April 2017.
However, some family members are disputing the charges.
"I just don't understand why this is happening," said the boy's aunt Angela Caldwell. "She's took very good care of him since he was born."
Caldwell's family claims doctors at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital told them nothing was wrong with the boy when they noticed he started losing weight.
"We had him at Le Bonheur in November saying he could not keep his food and stuff and they told us to just keep doing what we were doing," said grandmother June Caldwell.
Her family denies what they call "harsh allegations" against Andrea, but they admit to a few missed appointments after losing their car.
"I know she's missed a few, but I don't think it was 13," Angela said.
Family members also said they were unaware that DCS had been searching for the boy since May.
DCS explained its policy on locating families, saying it can get tricky finding the children if they are not in school or daycare and their family moves a lot.
The agency said its employee found the child last Friday and immediately called an ambulance.
Caldwell is charged with aggravated child abuse and neglect.