updated 8/26/2004 8:42:10 PM ET 2004-08-27T00:42:10

The lawyer for the adoptive mother of seven children found malnourished in a Nigerian orphanage agreed Thursday to allow the kids to remain in state foster care.

A Child Protective Services attorney had planned to show videotaped interviews with the children, some of whom were found suffering from typhoid and malaria, at a custody hearing Thursday. But the mother’s attorney avoided the hearing by agreeing to allow the children, who range in age from 8 to 16, to stay in temporary foster care.

“She avoided having all of this very dirty linen paraded around the world,” said Terry Lea Elizondo, an attorney appointed to represent the children.

The attorney for the mother, Mercury Liggins, said there was no reason “to drag any more mud into this thing than has already been put forth.”

“Rather than try to battle and try to immediately get the kids back, it might even be better for the kids” to stay in state custody, said Michael Delaney.

Liggins, 47, took the children to Nigeria in October. She remained with the children for a month, then sent a relative between $1,500 and $2,000 monthly to support the children and pay for their boarding school, Delaney said.

Liggins received nearly $3,600 a month from the state for the children’s care. Delaney said Liggins took a job in Iraq, and Nigeria was a way for the children to be closer to her while she financially supported her family.

Instead of paying for the children’s school, Delaney alleges the relative pocketed the money. The children eventually ended up in a squalid orphanage, where they were found Aug. 4 by a missionary from San Antonio.

As part of the temporary custody agreement, Child Protective Services said if the children’s therapists agree and the state agency’s guidelines are followed, Liggins could receive two one-hour visits each month.

However, Elizondo said the seven do not want to go back to Liggins and warned Delaney against a group visit.

“These kids are really sure they do not like their mom,” Elizondo said. “So if there were a visit, and all seven of those kids marched into the room, I think they would probably smack her in the face. ... They definitely wouldn’t be very nice to her.”

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