PONTIAC, Mich. – The state of Michigan was granted temporary custody Friday of four suburban Detroit siblings, including a 13-year-old abandoned in Nebraska by his mother under that state's unique safe haven law. An Oakland County juvenile court referee scolded Teri Martin for dropping off her adopted son at an Omaha hospital with $10 earlier this week. The teen could be back in Michigan by Monday.
Nebraska is not a "humane society for animals," Referee Karla Mallett said. "He is a child."
Juvenile court referees in Michigan preside over hearings where there are allegations of abuse or neglect.
"We get calls, 10 a week at least, for assistance with children's behavior. That call was not made by you," Mallett told Martin.
Martin, 38, and her 39-year-old husband, Terrence, didn't speak about the case during the hearing and declined to comment outside court. Her lawyer, Alan Byrd, told reporters there's another side to the story.
"There were extenuating circumstances. This is round one," he said.
The Southfield couple have three other children, ages 10, 5, and 3. The kids spent Thursday night with a relative but were being moved to foster care Friday. The Martins will be able to see them but only under supervision.
All states have laws designed to allow desperate new mothers to leave their newborns in safe hands, but Nebraska's law allows parents to abandon older children and even teenagers at hospitals.
At least 18 children have been abandoned in Nebraska since the law took effect in July, including two from other states.
Martin, two relatives and the teen departed Southfield for a 725-mile drive to Nebraska on Oct. 11. The boy was left at a hospital at 1:15 a.m. on Oct. 13.
Martin told Nebraska officials that she took the boy there to "scare him," according to a report by the Michigan Department of Human Services.
"It's quite shocking. ... I've never heard of anything like that," the county's chief deputy prosecutor, Deborah Carley, said.
The report also cited a history of referrals to child-welfare officials because of reports of injuries to the teen. Carley is seeking to eliminate the Martins' parental rights over the 13-year-old. The next court hearing is Nov. 7.
"We think there are some possibilities they could learn to parent the other three safely," Carley said.
Nebraska has agreed to drop jurisdiction over the teen and let Michigan help him.
The boy "lives here. He goes to school here. He's our resident," Carley said. "We need to take care of him."