Any mother who would send her 19-year-old mentally disabled daughter into a bar more than a state away from her and then take off, returning home, is clearly a poor mom, right? There could be no extenuating circumstances by which we might be able to muster a bit of empathy for the poor woman, right?
Unfortunately, this story is true. According to police, Eva Cameron pulled her car over by the Big Orange Bar last week when her daughter, Lynn, needed to use the restroom. She then abandoned her there. Lynn didn't know her name or any identifying details. They only discovered who she was after an anonymous tip.
By any account, this story is awful. No one could imagine abandoning their vulnerable child at a roadside bar for a second, naturally, and what this mom did was wrong and irresponsible and possibly highly dangerous. And yet I feel for her.
Cameron has another disabled child at home. She specifically chose Tennessee (and Caryville, in particular) because of its concentration of Baptists and because Tennessee has the "No. 1 health care system in the United States of America."
It's a pathetic (and untrue) excuse, to be sure. But Cameron also said something profound when she complained about the Illinois government. "The way the laws are set up, they don’t have enough for families with multiple disabled children," she told a local paper.
With that statement, I feel for her. It's easy to sit in judgement and say what we would or wouldn't do in Cameron's case. No doubt it WAS wrong and dangerous to drop off a vulnerable young woman at a roadside bar. It's a tragedy for everyone. It's a tragedy for young Lynn who can't help herself. But it's also a tragedy for her mother who likely did the best she could for 19 years with little support in place.
I don't know a lot about the laws in place to help parents who are struggling to raise children with disabilities. But I do know that even one child with special needs requires enormous amounts of energy and time and mental resources. No parent should have to deal with that alone. There should be systems in place to help mothers care for and raise children with disabilities to help make it easier.
Look, maybe Cameron is an awful person and she hated her daughter and no longer cared what happened to her. But I doubt it. She raised her for 19 years. She left her at a place she thought was safe. It's easy to sit in judgement when you haven't walked in a person's shoes, but I am the first to admit I can't imagine the toll that caring for two teenage children with disabilities would take on my mental health. Did she make a bad, tragic, awful choice? Yes. But maybe she -- and others like her -- was pushed there.
Cameron won't be charged with a crime because she wasn't her daughter's legal guardian (Lynn is over 18), but maybe, rather than consider punishing the mother, the finger of blame might be turned back around at the government itself. Maybe, for once, rather than blasting someone for not being able to "bootstrap it," maybe we ought to question a government that failed to provide enough support to a struggling mother of two mentally disabled children.
Do you have any sympathy for moms like Cameron?
Image via psigrist/Flickr