Seven Texas children were discovered abandoned at a Nigerian orphanage, ravaged by disease and malnutrition, and have been brought back to the state.

Child Protective Services (search), which received emergency custody of the children Monday, is investigating accusations that the children's adoptive mother in Houston abandoned them in Nigeria in October while going to work in Iraq as a private contractor. The children returned to Texas on Friday.

Three of the children were hospitalized with malaria (search) and later released, said CPS spokeswoman Estella Olguin. The youths were thin and covered with mosquito bites, infections and scars.

The three boys and four girls, ranging from 8 to 16, were discovered in late July by a visiting Texas missionary who notified American lawmakers.

"It's horrible, horrible," Olguin said. "I haven't seen anything like it. Seven children fending for themselves in a foreign country where they have no family members."

Now, they are living in two Houston foster homes.

Four siblings were adopted from Houston in 1996, followed by a set of three siblings from Dallas in 2001, according to authorities who interviewed the children and their adoptive mother.

The woman, whose name was not released, took all the children in October to Nigeria, where a relative of her fiance lived. The children were enrolled in school and the mother returned to Houston about 30 days later. She went to work in Iraq in April.

But the children were later removed from school because payment for their tuition stopped and lived in a wooden shack. Nigerian child-protection authorities found the children malnourished and sick and moved them to an orphanage in late July.

A minister from a San Antonio church who overheard the children speaking with American accents interviewed them, then alerted U.S. congressmen who called CPS.

State officials will determine whether criminal charges will be filed against the adoptive mother, who is due back in court Aug. 26.