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Mother Abandons Daughter With Disabilities In Bar

Mother Abandons Daughter With Disabilities In Bar

On June 28, Eva Cameron of Algonquin, Illinois, drove her 19-year-old developmentally disabled daughter, Lynn, to Caryville, Tennessee, and left her at The Big Orange Bar with no money, no ID or other belongings.

Caryville Police Chief Johnny Jones told MSNBC that, while physically healthy and showing no signs of abuse, Lynn was “couldn’t tell us anything,” not even her name. He also said that “People at the bar said it looked like the door opened and somebody pushed her in.”

The police put up photos with Lynn’s picture everywhere and Tennessee’s department of chid services took custody of her, as it was not clear how old Lynn was. Police received more than 200 tips before an Illinois bus driver who had driven developmentally disabled children contacted the police on Monday, to say that she recognized Lynn.

Cameron was contacted and returned to Caryville on Tuesday and told police:

“I don’t want her. Do what you want to with her.”

Excuse me?

Why Cameron left Lynn, who has now been placed with adult protective services, in Caryville is not certain. According to the Illinois’ Northwest Herald, Cameron claimed that her “church had directed her to Caryville because it had a large concentration of Baptists.” She then said that she chose Tennessee because the state “has the No.1 health care system in the United States of America” and that all the attention was “just a big hoopla out of nothing.”

To the shock of police chief Jones and to my own shock, Cameron will not face any criminal charges for abandoning her 19-year-old year developmentally disabled daughter at a bar in a different state than she resides in. According to the district attorney of Campbell County, Cameron has not violated any Tennessee laws: As Lynn is 19, her mother technically does not have legal guardianship over her.

Jones wants Tennessee law to be changed so that what Cameron did is against the law. Other disability advocates agree:

Ben Harrington, executive director of the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee, told msnbc.com that the Tennessee community is “just livid” that Eva isn’t being punished for leaving Lynn.

“The law has been exposed as a problem,” Harrington said. “This is a loophole in the law: If she were a minor child, I’m assuming legal charges would be filed.”

As the mother of a 15-year-old son, Charlie, who on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum, I am still trying to get my thoughts around what Cameron did. There are plenty — plenty — of challenges in taking care of Charlie, who will need support for all of his life. With every difficult moment, my husband Jim and I only feel our love for Charlie grow and our determination to help him have a good life with us.

What Cameron did is, to me, completely beyond the scope of thought. What kind of pain and trauma must Lynn have experienced and be still experiencing, to find herself in a completely new environment and without any familiar faces? While MSNBC says that Lynn’s “mental capacity is no more than that of a 3-year-old,” it is certainly possible that she is more aware of what is going on than anyone can discern. Charlie definitely has intellectual disabilities but he is always aware of much more than he seems to be.

We have been repeatedly reminded (a good thing) by Charlie’s school and our lawyer that we need to establish legal guardianship of him when he turns 18. You can be sure, I’m planning to start that process — which can take a long time — the moment Charlie turns 17, to give us plenty of time. Cameron had clearly not done this for Lynn.

Jones says that Lynn is “in real good care now. That’s the only good thing that came out of this: I know she’ll be taken care of.”

Tennessee needs to change its laws: Abandoning individuals with developmental disabilities who need care should not, cannot, be allowed.

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105 comments

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2:56AM PDT on Oct 25, 2012

PS I have been taking care of a daughter who is one year old mentally for forty years now. I have have some help, maybe that is the reason I am still marginally sane.

2:54AM PDT on Oct 25, 2012

As Janet just commented, I decide to look at the positive, it does seem that the mother researched her desicion. And she didn't kill her daughter. You really can't judge another if you are not in their shoes!

2:44AM PDT on Oct 25, 2012

Don't be too judgmental. There is such a thing as burnout when caring for handicapped children. She may have been at the end of her rope. There is also the little thing that when you ask for help, many organizations or teachers, not to mention neighbors, do spend some time chewing you out. I got it a lot from teachers in Texas who said ' we are not here to shoulder your burden'. In other words, keep your child at home. A lot of people, especially some churches, teach that you would not have a handicapped child if you had not done something wrong. Drugs, alcohol, and botched abortions are the only way to have a handicapped child, don't you know that??? So, cut her a small break and comfort yourself with the fact she took care of her child for 19 years. That is more than some people would have done.

7:19AM PDT on Jul 17, 2012

As someone who has a daughter that had a brain injury at the age of 16, I must admit that it can be sooooo frustrating at times, having to deal with all the complications the brain injury causes. I am very thankful that I was able to reach out to a variety of services, which were able to help me with all of her issues.

6:21PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

Crazy cont'd.....

......decades as an educator, both with normal students and the disabled. From my experience let me tell you what Mrs. Cameron did was absolutely crazy and criminally irresponsible. She did NOT try to get help or pick up the phone. She deliberately dumped her daughter out-of-state at a bar, of all places, and tried to hedge and lie about it afterwards. That is not the act of a normal guardian but of someone on drugs, or mentally incompetent. CPS in her state needs to carefully look at her other children to make sure they are not neglected or abused.

6:20PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

Didn't you guys read the story? This woman DUMPED her helpless daughter at a bar. That is not just wrong, it is insane.

She didn't make an effort to get help. She didn't call local adult services. A few phone calls or emails are not a huge amount of work. A few weeks or months attempting to place someone with adult services is not a huge effort. This poor girl was as helpless as a 3-year old. Her mother did not do any of the things a normal guardian would do, even at wit's end. I repeat, Mrs. Cameron needs help herself. This was hands-down crazy!

Let me tell you what work is. In my family we have cared for my Down's Syndrome brother since he was born. It's been an enormous effort and expense, but we believe worth it in the end. He has turned out more emotionally mature and physically capable than was ever thought possible. Now he can help us a bit, but we still work to take care of him, and could not even imagine dumping him on someone else. We also took care of my Aunt who was paralyzed years before she died, keeping her at home instead of a wretched retirement home. Sometimes having the two of them was overwhelming. But, if we had needed to quit, we knew the state was there, poor as homecare often is.

I have also worked for decades as an educator, both with normal students and the disabled. From my experience let me tell you what Mrs. Cameron did was absolutely crazy and criminally irresponsible. She did NOT try to get help or pick up the phone. She deliberately

2:39PM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

How scared she must have been..we really must protect the disabled. We cannot let them fall through the cracks

11:23AM PDT on Jul 16, 2012

The disabled need to be protected. I understand fully that a parent may be worn out with the effort of caring for a disabled child. I have a disability and my mother took damn good care of me in the days when there was no help at all! There was help available to this mother, she just wanted out and clearly thought more of her church than her child.

6:56PM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

Every is so quick to critize this woman, yet no-one has had to walk in her shoes for 19 years. I have sympathy for the daughter and the mother as well. It could not have been an easy decision for her to make.
I just know her heart was breaking when she left her daughter, but she didn't know what else to do. There may have been help out there, but it might have taken years for her to get it, if at all.
I'm guessing that she had to had feed the daughter, bathe her, change diapers, and more. I'm sure she felt trapped with no life of her own. How was she able to work, have a social life etc. Sitters cost money which I feel that she didn't have to spend on them.
This is a win win situation for both the daughter and the mother even though it's a sad one for both.
Have a little compassion!!!

7:20AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

I'm appalled that a CHURCH directed such an abandonment....

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