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Woman explains why she left son in Nebraska
3:00 PM CST, November 14, 2008
Stephanie Mote, 30, told Fort Wayne television station WANE in a Friday interview that she doesn't trust the system in Indiana based on her own experience as a child.
"I took him there where I knew he would be safe because I didn't trust the welfare system in Indiana and I didn't want him to go through what I went through when I was growing up through the welfare system in Indiana," she said. "So I felt like it would be the best thing to do would be to take him there where he would be safe."
Mote would not say how Indiana's system failed her, but a friend told The Indianapolis Star that Mote feels Indiana's system failed her when she was abused as a child.
"She didn't abandon him. She just wanted to get him help. She didn't feel he'd get the help he needed in the state of Indiana," said Rhonda Shea, who shares a Wabash County home with Mote and was acting as her spokeswoman.
Mote, who attended a court hearing on her son's future Friday in Wabash County, said she wanted her son to be returned to Nebraska.
"I don't want Indiana to have custody of him," she told WANE-TV. "I want him sent back to Nebraska where I took him to be in the first place."
Mote drove to Omaha on Nov. 6 and left the youngster at a hospital there because she didn't think Indiana could provide proper help for her son's severe behavioral problems, Shea said. A Nebraska law lets parents leave a child at a hospital without fear of prosecution for abandonment.
The father of Mote's son had custody of the boy after the couple separated more than two years ago, but the child moved in with Mote in April after Miami County authorities arrested the father for failing to register as a sex offender. The father had been convicted of child molesting in 1988. Mote divorced the father in September.
Shea said the boy's behavior overwhelmed his mother. Although he's 8, he's not fully toilet-trained, and can be destructive, such as clawing paint off the walls and intentionally clogging the toilet, she said.
Mote was adamant that the boy not become a ward of the state of Indiana, which she thought had failed her because when she was placed in foster care after being sexually abused and then was abused further.
"She thought the only option she had was to take him to Nebraska," Shea said.
Susan Tielking, a spokeswoman for Indiana's Department of Child Services, said it's unfair for Mote to use her own experience to characterize Indiana's child welfare system.
"Our agency is a new agency, and with that comes a huge transformation of the child welfare system in Indiana," Tielking said. "Before DCS was created, the system was broken."
DCS became an agency separate from the Family and Social Services Administration in 2005. It still has many of the same employees, and, although some reforms have been instituted, it operates under the same laws and procedures.
Mote's son, who was returned to Indiana by court order Nov. 7, is in DCS custody.
Tielking told the Star the boy likely has been placed in a temporary foster home. The Associated Press left phone messages Friday seeking additional comment from Tielking and Mote.
Shea said Mote fears her son now will be placed in relatives' custody.
"The boy really needs help," Shea said.
Since Nebraska's safe-haven last was passed in July, 34 children have been left at Nebraska hospitals -- five of them from out of state. At least four, including Mote's son, have been returned to their home states.