DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A Dallas mother is out of jail—but, still facing charges for leaving her five children home alone in an apartment that officers described as “filthy” and smelling of “urine and feces.”  26-year-old Carlisha Cavit has been charged with abandoning a child with intent to return.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit filed in the case, Cavit told officers that she had been running errands when she returned to her apartment in the 9900 block of Bruton Drive Monday and found officers waiting for her.  Police say that was at 1:20 PM… her children told officers that she had been gone since roughly 8:30.

An 8-year-old had been left to care for four younger siblings: 7, 5, 4 and 2.  The toddler is a blind special needs child and according to the affidavit, had been left sitting on a training potty and told to stay there until the mother returned.  Officers had been called to the Pleasant Grove apartment complex for another incident, and noticed the children—barefoot, dirty, outside, and alone—and began looking for a parent.

Once inside the apartment, officers found cigarettes, open beer containers and a bag of marijuana all left within reach.

“There’s always something going on,” says one women who didn’t want her name used.  Her mother lives in the complex and she says the sight of unsupervised children is a common occurrence.  “There’s always break ins.  To leave five kids alone for any amount of time, that is ludicrous—especially in this complex.”

Citing confidentiality, Child Protective Services could not comment on whether the state agency has had any prior contact with the Cavit family.  The children were placed in the custody of their grandmother.

And while this case became public because police were nearby, local experts say abuse and neglect are more common than the community may realize—and a driving factor is poverty.

“At a minimum, one fourth of our child population experiences abuse or neglect on a regular basis,” says Jessica Trudeau, Executive Director of Family Compass.  The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas agency works to build stronger families by addressing the underlying issues that put them at risk.  “We put them in touch with food banks and services, we encourage them to get an education and a job that pays a livable wage, “ says Trudeau.

“All of that pressure from living in poverty-stricken communities, and trying to provide for a  family with little resources puts strain that can lead to abuse.”  Trudeau also says that bad parenting that turns into abuse is also often a vicious cycle, with people rearing the children with the same destructive habits and patterns that they endured.  But, she insists there is also hope for those that want to learn a better way.

The United Way offers families with young children a number of parent education and improvement programs—and it’s free.  For more information contact 214-631-2237.

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