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Octuplets mother fears infants will be kept from her

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California’s octuplets mom has told television therapist Dr. Phil McGraw that she fears not being allowed to take her newborns home from the hospital until she proves that she has the means to care for them.

McGraw, host of a nationally syndicated self-help show, told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published on Wednesday that Nadya Suleman shared her concerns with him in a telephone conversation a day earlier.

Suleman has become a lightning rod for public ridicule since it was learned that she already was a jobless, divorced mother of six living in her own mother’s three-bedroom house when she gave birth January 26 to octuplets conceived through in vitro fertilization.

Suleman, 33, also has acknowledged that she was collecting food stamps and disability benefits for three of her older kids, one of whom is autistic, and that a single “friend” was the sperm donor for all her children.

The public backlash grew so intense at one point that Suleman and her six older children, ranging in age from 2 to 7, went into seclusion because of death threats, according to a publicity firm previously hired by the family.

McGraw said Suleman called him on Tuesday afternoon, upset after she had spoken with officials at the suburban Los Angeles Kaiser Permanente Medical Centre where the octuplets, born 9-1/2 weeks premature, remain in a neonatal care unit.

“What she is telling me is that unless and until she has a better living arrangement, that they are not likely to release the children to her,” the Times quoted McGraw as saying.

He added that according to Suleman, hospital authorities had some concerns about her “ability to care for the children,” but he did not have details about those concerns or what standards she might not be meeting, the Times reported.

McGraw already had interviewed Suleman last week for two segments scheduled to air on his show this Wednesday and Thursday. A show spokeswoman said those interviews did not address the issue Suleman discussed with McGraw this week.

Kaiser Permanente officials declined to comment on Suleman’s case, citing privacy rules.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman