Closet Girl's Mother Agrees to Relinquish Rights

The mother of an 8-year-old girl locked in a closet and starved near death has agreed to relinquish her parental rights so that the girl can placed with the East Texas couple that tried to adopt her at birth.

Barbara Atkinson's attorney issued a statement Wednesday that Atkinson would voluntarily give up her parental rights for daughter Lauren in favor of Bill and Sabrina Kavanaugh of Canton, if approved by Judge Cheryl Lee Shannon and Child Protective Services.

Authorities said the girl was imprisoned in a urine- and feces-contaminated closet for at least four months in Atkinson's home, located south of Dallas in Hutchins. Police also are investigating evidence of sexual abuse.

The Kavanaughs had custody of the girl but had lost a chance to adopt her after Atkinson changed her mind and wanted the baby back after birth. They have planned to attend Tuesday's hearing and ask for temporary custody of the girl.

Barbara Atkinson and the girl's stepfather, Kenneth Ray Atkinson, were arrested last week on charges of injury to a child, a felony that carries a prison term from five to 99 years.

Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said Atkinson's statement does not mean that Lauren will automatically be placed with the Kavanaughs, but it does speed up the placement process.

"We are exploring the possibility of placing Lauren with the Kavanaughs," she said.

Lauren, now hospitalized at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, is able to talk and walk, but is still very ill, Meisner said.

Meanwhile, CPS has placed five other children taken from the home in foster care.

Barbara Atkinson and Kenneth Ray Atkinson remained at the Dallas County Jail on Tuesday. Barbara was being held in lieu of $100,000 bond. Police said Kenneth Ray Atkinson faces charges of probation violation in Ellis County and would not be released on bond.