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HOME-ALONE TOTS TO STAY IN FOSTER CARE

A Family Court judge today ruled that four of Maribel Alicea's children should remain in foster homes pending further court proceedings in her child-neglect case.

The Hudson Street woman has pleaded innocent to four counts of child neglect after her four youngest children -- 1 to 4 years old -- were found alone in a cockroach-infested flat.

Erie County Family Court Judge Janice M. Rosa said the children will remain in county care while Ms. Alicea, 25, obtains an attorney.

Before today's hearing, Wilfredo Arroyo, the father of three of the children, shouted at Ms. Alicea in a hallway, prompting an Erie County sheriff's deputy to tell him to calm down or face arrest.

Arroyo, 31, said he came to court to see if he could get custody of his children. He said he was shocked to hear about the conditions police found Friday in Ms. Alicea's Hudson Street flat while she was in New York City.

He also said he had lived with Ms. Alicea for about 18 months and fathered her 3-year-old twin son and daughter and her 4-year-old daughter.

Ms. Alicea, who is free on her own recognizance, told Judge Rosa she also has an 8-year-old son who lives with her mother.

She also contended that Arroyo, who is legally blind and lives on a disability pension, has paid child support only sporadically.

She also said he has not paid anything since November.

But Arroyo said outside the courtroom that he is willing to provide food, shelter and clothing for his children.

Ms. Alicea told Judge Rosa that the father of her youngest child is a suspected drug user who has returned to his native Puerto Rico.

Judge Rosa accepted the recommendations of Emil J. Cappelli, attorney for the county Social Services Department, and Paula Burko, the court-assigned law guardian, and kept all four children in foster homes.

She also scheduled further proceeding in the child-neglect case for next Wednesday and ordered the Social Services Department to arrange for Ms. Alicea to see the children.

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