Teen mother focus of inquiry

A Family Court judge placed a 16-year-old Colleton County mother and her newborn in foster care Tuesday amid reports that the teen’s own mom had prostituted her for drug money, authorities said.

Walterboro Police Chief Otis Rhodes said his officers are in the early stages of investigating those allegations and don’t know if there is any validity to them.

The decision to place the girl and her baby in foster care had more to do with them being homeless and fears that the infant was not receiving proper medical care, he said.

“The child needs to be seen by medical staff at the hospital and that wasn’t happening like it’s supposed to happen,” he said.

Police were called to Colleton Medical Center on Friday in response to concerns about the infant’s well-being.

A state Department of Social Services worker told police the baby had been born prematurely four days earlier and had medical issues that required a great deal of attention. But the teen mother had failed to bring the child in for follow-up visits, according to a police report.

Police also learned that several complaints had been made about the living conditions of the teen mother and her baby. In particular, they were told that the teen’s own mother had forced her to sell her body to raise cash for drugs, according to a police report.

The teen told officers that she had bounced around for the past year and had not stayed any place longer than two months.

Police decided to take both the teen and her baby into emergency protective custody. Police did not identify them because they are juveniles.

Rhodes said the prostitution allegation was made by an anonymous tipster and has not been verified. An investigation is now under way and police are consulting with the local solicitor’s office on the case, he said.

“If it is true, we are going to prosecute to the best of our abilities,” he said.

DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus confirmed that the teen and her baby have been placed together in foster care so she could continue to care for her child. “I am told they are doing OK,” she said.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.