Seven Texas children are back in the U.S. after being abandoned in a Nigerian orphanage.
Authorities are investigating accusations that the kids ranging in age from 8 to 16 years old, were actually left by their adoptive mother.
They were found by an American missionary who heard them speaking English.
When Pastor Warren Breem visited a Nigerian orphanage, he certainly expected to meet children. What he didn't expect to find were American children.
The youth pastor from Cornerston Church says, "We just asked straight up to the child, 'Where are you from?' And the little girl looked up and said, 'Houston.'"
The four boys and three girls were brought to Nigeria by their adoptive mother, Mercury Higgins. She enrolled them in a school and, according to investigators, she returned to Houston a month later. When the tuition payments stopped, the kids wound up living in a cramped and dilapidated shack.
All of them were sick and malnourished when they were found by Nigerian authorities and placed in an orphanage.
"I saw a place I wouldn't have put my dog at," Breem tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler. "For one thing, it was very, very rundown. I definitely didn't expect to see American children. So when all of a sudden this young lady starts talking in a Texas drawl, we were all set back on our heels. She took us to see her seven brothers and sisters, and a dark concrete room that they just sat back against the wall, resigned to living in that place."
Estella Olguin of Child Protective Services says, "One of the kids had the same pair of shoes he has owned for two years. Obviously, kids grow out of clothes. They are growing. But he had made holes in the front of his shoes so he could still wear them. So his feet were sticking out of his shoes."
Breem says when he realized the children were American, he tried to get as much information as possible out of them to convince United States authorities these kids had to be brought back home.
Breem says, "They started telling us what school they went to, the names of their teachers, what church they went to in Houston, the name of the pastor - so many intricate details that were so American that they couldn't be any other way."
Armed with detailed information Breem wrote a memo to his pastor in San Antonio.
"God had given him connections over the years that would make this work," Breem says about his pastor. "When we sent him that e-mail, he questioned me to make sure that these were really American children. Then he called immediately Sen. John Cornyn, Congressman Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and they literally worked tirelessly to see this happen."
Breem's wife, Susan, says when she first heard her husband's story, she was very surprised.
"I couldn't believe it," she says, "You just don't hear of American kids over there in another country stored away. How could a mother go over there and drop them off and leave them and then she comes back here? It was unbelievable to hear that. But we knew our one goal was to get them back to America, where they belong."
When they returned to the U.S. on Friday, three of the children were treated for malaria. Their adopted mother is under investigation.