By MEGHA SATYANARAYANA • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • December 12, 2008
The Southfield mom who said she took her son to Nebraska and left him there under the state’s Safe Haven law to try and get him counseling appears in court today to argue that she is a good parent and deserves to regain custody of her four children.
In a precedent-setting trial, Teri Martin, 38, will have to explain to a jury why she crossed multiple state lines to take advantage of the now-amended Nebraska law that allowed parents to leave a child up to age 17 without fear of persecution in that state.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin at 8:30 this morning.
Martin said she was trying to get help for her troubled son through Boys Town, the famous Nebraska youth services program.
Instead, she lost custody of the foster-adopted teen and her three other children, The other children are now living at home under state supervision with her husband. She’s barred from the house, per court order. The once abandoned teen is in a foster home.
Martin said she regretted her decision almost immediately and tried to reach out to her son, who at the time was in Nebraska custody before being transferred to Michigan.
So far, she is the only parent subject to court action in her home state for traveling across state lines to use the Nebraska law, which now only allows abandonment of babies up to 30 days of age.
The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office has repeatedly questioned the mental state of a parent willing to drive 12 hours to relinquish custody of a child to another state. Deputy Prosecutor Deb Carley has also questioned the impact of the trip on Martin’s other children, one of whom is the teen’s younger brother.
The lawyers for Martin and her husband Terrence said they are confident they will reunite the family.
It is a not a criminal trial, and no one faces jail time. This is the second neglect petition filed against the Martins – in 2003 a petition filed in Wayne County was denied.
The current petition originally suggested severing parental rights to the 13-year-old, but in the weeks after returning from Nebraska, Martin and her husband have enrolled in parenting classes, and Mrs. Martin’s mental health has been analyzed.
Martin said in an interview last week the child was prone to violence and bad behavior, but available court records suggest the child was never wanted and adopted only to secure the adoption of his younger brother, then a baby.