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      Mother arrested for leaving children in van for hours while at work

      A 34-year-old mother was arrested after police say she left her four young children in van in a McDonald's parking lot while she went to work next door.

      According to the Cadillac Police Department, the employees at the McDonald's on M-115 in Cadillac noticed a van in their parking lot when arriving to work around 7:00 a.m. but didn't give it much thought.

      Several hours later, the employees noticed the hazard lights flashing on the van and went outside where they noticed four young children inside the van. They immediately called police.

      Officers arrived around 1:45 p.m., to find two 7-year-old boys, a 2-year-old girl and a 1-year-old girl unattended in the van.

      "The children's overall health was okay," said Lieutenant Todd Golnick from the Cadillac Police Department. "They had nothing to eat that day and that there was no items in the car that could provide food or water or nutrition for them."

      Police were able to determine that the mother, Pennie Cates, was working at the Subway restaurant next door. Police estimate the children had been unattended in the van since 6:30 a.m, over 7 hours before police arrived on the scene.

      The children told investigators that this type of situation had happened at least three other times.

      "They also were basically soaked in urine because they had not left that vehicle that entire day."

      Cates was arrested and charged with four counts of second degree child abuse. Child Protective Services workers were notified and the children were turned over to the care of the mother's sister.

      Child care options are available for those who are struggling financially.

      "You can actually get [child care] paid for by the state and I have several kids that do already and it's a big help for the families," said Bette Bednarick, a licensed child care provider. "They might get 95 percent, they might get 100 percent, they might only get 50 percent but usually they get something."