Eva Cameron and Caregiver Burn-Out
While I can no way condone the actions of Eva Cameron, I can understand why she pushed to drastic action. According to newspaper reports, she'd been trying to get her daughter, who is physically and intellectually disabled, into a group home for ten years. A social worker had told her to stop calling for emergency medical help. Caregiving was affecting her job and her husband's business, with $12 000 in medical bills to pay. She just couldn't do it anymore. Anyone who has been a caregiver will be able to relate and empathize.
Plenty of Blame to Go Around
This isn't the first time that I've heard of a case of a parent abandoning a disabled adult child out of desperation, and I guarantee that we'll hear about more as budget cuts cause agencies to tighten up more and more:
- Social workers and case workers have to take increased caseloads and can see clients less and less. Details like "Mom is very stressed and I'm concerned that she'll take off" fall through the cracks
- Agencies cut programs like adult protective services, which should have been in place for Eva Cameron's daughter the moment a professional saw that she was at risk (assuming that someone saw that)
- Gov't funding for respite, personal development, and support for community participation for disabled people are getting harder and harder to obtain
- Spots in community residential placements are very difficult to obtain
It's easy to see why parent caregivers get frustrated and despondent. And in Tennessee, where Eva Cameron dropped her daughter off, she's not responsible for her daughter's care after age eighteen. However, given her daughter's disabilities and likely ability to comprehend what she'd need to do when she found herself alone, Eva Cameron had a moral responsibility that she did not live up to and should be held accountable. And I rarely use the words "moral responsibility", so I feel quite strongly about this.
Eva Cameron: What I Don't Have Any Use For
I don't have any patience for a woman who, knowing that *any* passenger in her car needs emergency room attention, let alone her daughter, drives away while her daughter in the bathroom at a bar without leaving her any money or ID. If she could have dropped her daughter off at a bar and driven off, she just as easily could have dropped her off in front of a hospital and driven off.
I understand being tired and overwhelmed and wanting something to just be over. But why not go to a hospital after driving 500 miles? Or call 911 and leave her cell phone in the parking lot, if she didn't want to deal with the ambulance?
She either doesn't care as much as she says she does, or she has some mental health issues that must be addressed for her own comfort and safety and for the safety of any other children that may be in her care.
Ultimately, I agree with the decision made by Tennessee officials this week not to charge Eva Cameron. http://www.disabilityscoop.com/2012/12/11/mom-abandoned-charges/16932/. And I admit that I go back and forth on that sort of thing. I'm torn between wanting to leave things as they are now, where intellectually disabled people are legally treated as adults because of their physical age, and wanting to say, "But but but if they don't understand and need to be kept safe, shouldn't there be safeguards in place?" I get very protective of the people I support. I don't want anything to happen to them.
But I ultimately come back to "slippery slope"...when does someone become "disabled" enough to have to be "protected"? Where do you start to change the laws for them? Where do you stop?
So no, I can't support charging Eva Cameron. But I can still feel sad and scared by what she did.
And just sit here and wait to hear about the next person that does something like it.