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McDonald's Baby Returned to Mother Who Abandoned Him

Posted November 19, 2007
Updated December 10, 2007

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— A Wendell woman who pleaded guilty to abandoning her newborn son at a McDonald's restaurant last December has regained custody of the child, his foster parents said Monday.

Brian and Amy Lewis said they met Friday with Wake County Child Protective Services, which told them the 11-month-old child, Cory, would be reunited with his biological mother, Michelle Richardson. She got the baby back on Saturday, they said.

"We do feel strongly that justice was not on Cory's side," said Amy Lewis, who is also Richardson's cousin. "They did not do what was best for Cory in this situation."

Richardson pleaded guilty in April to misdemeanor child abuse and was sentenced to a suspended 45-day jail sentence; five years' supervised probation; and 150 hours of community service. She was also ordered to complete parenting classes and therapy.

Police said that on Dec. 7, 2006, Richardson carried the baby, born a few hours earlier, inside the restaurant on Wakelon Drive in Zebulon, under her jacket and left him in a bathroom stall.

A customer found the baby a short time later, initially thinking it was a doll.

Richardson told authorities she tried to leave the baby at the Wendell Fire Department and at a church before taking him to the McDonald's. She said she thought she was complying with the state's Safe Surrender Law by leaving him in a safe place.

The North Carolina Safe Surrender Law allows a mother to give a newborn to a responsible adult and walk away. The child must be 7 days old or younger, and the adult then has to call 911 or social services. The law doesn't define a responsible adult, but adoption groups suggest a fire station, hospital or church.

The boy and his mother are staying with her parents in Zebulon, the Lewises said. Sydney Batch, a Raleigh attorney representing Richardson and her family, had no comment on the matter Monday afternoon.

Amy Lewis said the child had been in her and her husband's care since he was 5 days old and that they had talked with protective services about adopting him into their family.

"We felt really blindsided by the whole thing," she said, adding that they have no legal rights to the child.

"We were in it for Cory," Brian Lewis said. "We wanted to take care of Cory, and we always looked for a way that we'd get to keep taking care of Cory – that we'd get to raise Cory – and that didn't happen.

Sherry Bradsher, director of the North Carolina Division of Social Services, said privacy laws prohibit the agency from commenting on specific cases.

She said, however, that the agency's first priority is always reuniting a child with its parents, if possible.

"We know that children can be best served in their families, and that's where we want kids to be when it's possible and there are no risks," Bradsher said.

For reunification, a parent has to undergo parenting classes. The case also goes before a juvenile judge, and a caseworker is assigned to look out for the child's best interests.

"The social worker stays involved to make sure that things are going according to plan," Bradsher said. "At any point and time that that changes, we can re-intervene and go back to court."

Bradsher said foster parents do have "legal standing" to tell the court what they think should happen with a foster child, but they have to have had the child for more than a year to do so. Cory was with his foster family for 11 months and five days.

Authorities said the baby was Richardson's sixth child and that those close to her did not know she was pregnant. In September 2005, she left twins at WakeMed in Raleigh, which is legal under the law, they said.

She also put two other children up for adoption, the Lewises said. Richardson also has joint custody of a 3-year-old son.

Richardson's defense attorney, Jeff Cutler, said in April that Richardson had an implanted birth-control device to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Prosecutors asked for a court order to mandate continued birth control, but District Judge Shelley H. Desvousges said such an order would be unconstitutional.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • -info- Nov 21, 2007

    lets see, parenting class, did she do the half day movie watching or the internet class(like those on line preacher certificates) and she's had 6 children in how many years??? And has yet to figure out the cause??? Well, I am not surprised because the majority of DSS is just an example of govenment waste. Open the orphanges back up, atleast then the children knew they would be fed, and get help with homework and were taught responsibilities and morals.

  • a-moment-of-truth Nov 21, 2007

    well is said in an earlier post that i know folks who know her AND the father and yes all of these kids are by the same father and he needs to be held JUST AS RESPONSIBLE for this as her! takes two to tango. also takes two to make a person. in this case 5 people.

  • wcnc Nov 21, 2007

    "Foster parents get a monthly allowance, but nowhere near enought to cover the needs of a child, much less a 1 year old."

    Health insurance covered by Medicaid and a stipend of $455-525 (approx) depending on age of the child. I agree, you don't get rich, but it more than covers the needs of a child that age!! I don't spend $500 per month on both of my kids if you don't factor in insurance costs....who knows, maybe I don't even with that!! If you're spending over $450 on a ONE YEAR OLD, you need some new priorities.....unless I'm missing what you could need- diapers, milk, snacks, food (they don't eat too much), clothes (you get money twice a year for that too), a few toys, you spend more on gas going to appointments and such....where's the $450??

  • NCTeacher Nov 21, 2007

    Lets just all hope that next time she gets tired of his this little baby that she leaves him in a safe place, that is not a McDonalds bathroom. Any "mother" who can do that once, has no business getting the child back and it is surely only a matter of time before she dumps him somewhere else

  • just my2cents Nov 21, 2007

    I think she should be sterilized and that poor baby be taken away from her. What if they would have never identified her from the McD's tape? He would still be with a stable loving home. Foster parents get a monthly allowance, but nowhere near enought to cover the needs of a child, much less a 1 year old. Trust me, I know. Foster parents don't open their homes and hearts to get rich.

  • Tarheel Army Mom Nov 21, 2007

    A fit mother would never never ever under any circumstances think about giving their baby up ((no matter what)). Motherly instincts should be there and the first thought would be to protect this child until the end...she clearly is unstable with her previous history of parenting...NOT to dump this child anywhere, let alone a bathroom in a public restaurant... The child was placed in a home where it was wanted and taken out again and given to this walking time bomb...God help the baby and God Bless the people who were caring for the baby...

  • wcnc Nov 21, 2007

    "Stop thinking about “your dime” because thus far you haven’t put any towards this child."

    And where does funding for Foster Parent Stipends come from??? My tax money!!

    Anyway, does anyone know if the mom herself has custody or if maybe another family member has custody and she's just living there?? Also, why will DSS not comment AT ALL about these foster parents or anything related to the case (without violating privacy) just to make themselves not look so stupid??!!

  • Sessy - Italiana Nov 21, 2007


    I hope she learned her lesson.

  • NCMOMof3 Nov 21, 2007

    JennyT, I wouldn't be sleeping much better. This is not a good situation for this baby

  • NCMOMof3 Nov 21, 2007

    1whoknows, oh, my mistake. A mom has 6 children, drops off one in a public restroom, give up untold numbers of others, and just because she's living at home with her own parents this means she's a fit parent now???? Come on and use a little common sense. A few parenting classes, therapy, and the supervision of her own parents are not enough to convince most of us that she should have this child returned to her. The only reason that this child has been returned to her is DSS policy of keeping children with their biological parents under ALL circumstances until proven time and time and time again that it is not a good thing. I am just sorry that the child will once again be the one to suffer, not the mom that should never have been a parent to begin with