The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 39.0°F | Fair

Teen Mom Hid Baby in Closet for Several Days in Central Islip, NY

By Andrew Metz
Newsday
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y.

Shanta Clark was alone and uncomfortable.

Her mother was shopping for curtains at the Dollar Store. "Flipper" was on the big black Magnavox in the living room. And the secret in her belly was pushing and kicking to come into the world.

The Long Island freshman got up to go to the bathroom that Sunday afternoon in late September, and in minutes she was curled on the couch in her bedroom, giving birth to a 4-pound baby boy no one else knew she was carrying.

"I took the scissors to sterilize. I cut the umbilical cord. I had him, then cleaned it all up," Shanta, 17, said Wednesday. "It was easy. It was very easy."

But eights months of concealed pregnancy and 17 subsequent days of covert motherhood came to an abrupt halt Tuesday, when Shanta's mother opened her daughter's closet and discovered the baby in a makeshift cradle of blankets and clothes.

Suffolk County authorities charged Shanta with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The boy, named Navorn and born Sept. 21 - five weeks early - is healthy but under observation at University Medical Center at Stony Brook. The Department of Social Services is expected to take custody of him by the weekend.

Left is a shell-shocked young woman, trying to come to terms with her mistake. And a family thankful the consequences weren't more severe.

"It could have turned out worse. It's a miracle," said Shanta's mother, Stephanie Clark, 41, who has seven children aged 19 years to 7 months, and who gave birth to Shanta at home. "At least she didn't throw it in the garbage."

Shanta, who said she kept her secret because she was scared, was released on $25 bail Tuesday for a court appearance Nov. 28. She said Wednesday that "I deserve what I got," but that she will fight to regain custody of her child.

While she was pregnant, she attended Central Islip High School, shrugging off questions about her weight, which went from 128 to 145 pounds. After his birth, she left the baby in her closet while she was gone; when she was home, she fed him and kept him in her bed.

She didn't tell anyone. Not her mother. Not her boyfriend - the baby's father. Not her best friend, Yolanda Rivera.

"I always asked her, but she denied it," Yolanda, 16, said Wednesday. "I took her word for it."

"The staff had no idea what was going on," said Central Islip Superintendent Howard Koenig. "She was back in school on the 22nd, on Monday, at 7:30 a.m."

Shanta, who is repeating the ninth grade after being dropped from the school's rolls last year for poor attendance, said that she never considered aborting the baby, but could not imagine being a mother.