The parents of five children between the ages of two and 10 years each received two-year sentences Wednesday after pleading guilty to endangerment.

The parents are 27 and 28 years old.

The court heard the family was living in dreadful conditions, in a home smeared with feces, with little in the way of food, and no sign of medical or dental care for the kids.

In sentencing the pair, New Brunswick Provincial Court Judge Marco Cloutier noted, “Regretfully, both accused have yet to appreciate their obligations to provide the necessaries of life to their children.”

Judge Cloutier went on to say, “These kinds of crimes quite rightly galvanize and disgust the community and must be denounced in strong and unequivocal terms.”

The court had been told the young couple and their children had moved to Saint John from a rural part of New Brunswick.

“I think that is the message, if you’re going to do that, social services should keep a close eye,” says defence lawyer Joel Hansen. “They had a file on them coming in, and I think they missed it. I mean, if you go back and look at the facts, there were signs that they needed intervention right from the get go.”

New Brunswick’s Child and Youth Advocate, Norm Bosse, is conducting an investigation.

“When myself or any other Leg officer looks into these things, we’re very thorough,” explains Bosse. “We look at everything. We have the right to get any and all documents from any and all government departments. So that’s our intention.”

Bosse says the response of social services is only one of the issues raised by the case, adding, “the community failed.”

In a province with a number of horrific cases of child abuse and neglect, Bosse says there may be a wider field of responsibility.

“How do we deter these things?” he asked. “You send people to jail for two years. Is that going to stop the abuse of kids in this province? No, it won’t. It takes the community to be wary of these things, to be watchful and to report what they see.”

The tearful parents were led out of the courtroom in the custody of sheriff’s deputies.

Joel Hansen says the children are all doing well and living with a family member.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.