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State Supreme Court agrees to look at homeless youth case

People leave the Supreme Court after oral arguments in Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will consider a case regarding the legal status of a troubled child without a clear home. The boy cannot return to his adoptive home while a judge has refused to allow him to become a ward of the state.

The child – who is only referred to by the initials DVL in court filings -- suffered abuse while with his birth family and was diagnosed with several mental health conditions, including severe post-traumatic stress disorder. In the 10 years living with his adoptive family, the boy, among other things, tried to set fires, injured pets, intimidated other children in the household and threatened suicide.

According to the facts described in a November 2023 Michigan Court of Appeals opinion, the boy was adopted by a woman in 2013 when he was 5 years old. Between the ages of 10 and 13, he was hospitalized half a dozen times for psychiatric care for behavior that included threatening to kill his siblings.

In June of 2021, the woman informed the hospital staff and Child Protective Services she would not allow the boy back in her house because he required intensive in-patient care and posed a risk to other children in the household.

“This circumstance likely occurs throughout the state of Michigan as beds in pediatric residential treatment facilities are few and far between,” said the appeals opinion.

A Wayne County judge ruled the court could not turn the child over to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which had petitioned for temporary custody. In the interim, the child and his adoptive family remain in legal limbo.

The appeals court ruled the judge made a mistake with the decision that the court lacked jurisdiction. Now, the case is before the Michigan Supreme Court.

In an order issued Thursday, the court asked for arguments on why it should make a decision in the case. It also invited the State Bar of Michigan’s Children’s Law and Family Law sections to file briefs. No date has been set for oral arguments.

The Michigan Attorney General’s office and the Department of Health and Human Services would not make someone available to discuss the case.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.