Document Type



Mona, a parent of five children all diagnosed with several emotional disturbances (SED), describes the moment she made the decision to place her daughter (age 16) into the juvenile justice system:

“…her behaviors were so bad she was assaultive to her younger siblings…in order to protect them and to make sure that her medical needs were met, because she was eloping at the time. I had to take her to court, um, file charges against her…”

Mona’s name is a pseudonym, but her story is real. In this study, parents describe the circumstances preceding their decisions to voluntarily relinquish custody of their children and place them into the child welfare or juvenile justice system. This paper introduces some of the trends and an initial socioeconomic picture of this phenomenon in Michigan. Parents’ perspectives on the circumstances that led them to relinquish custody are shared, as well as their suggestions for support that might have prevented them from having to make this difficult decision.


Previously published by and deposited with permission from the Chance at Childhood Program. Available from the publisher at