A mother of a severely disabled 21 year-old with cerebral palsy has been arrested for abandoning her son in a wood for five days. The man who is tetraplegic and without speech was left with a blanket and a copy of the Bible. He was left without food or water. Fortunately he was discovered and hospitalised; and it is reported no lasting damage was sustained.
Of course this is an awful situation. The mother will be arrested and charged with an interesting range of crimes, including kidnapping? What's galling is the indignation from the authorities. We hear 'Why didn't she look for help?' or 'If she couldn't look after her child she should have given him to someone who would'.
Very laudable sentiments. Yet in the real world meaningless. In my job I come across parents and people who care for disabled people. During the past few years social care and support has felt the cold hand of austerity cuts (and I'm sure the US is no different).
Increasingly parents of disabled children are expected to take up more of the support and care. Similarly with family and friends who care for relatives and friends. Care and support packages are reduced while the share of the carer’s work is increased. A lot of the time respite is difficult to access as social workers are compelled to find ways of cutting expenditure.
None of us yet know the full story of the severely disabled young man abandoned in the Cobbs Creek Parkway, Pennsylvania. But even without the full facts we know this was the wrong thing to do. Yet we should be slow to judge. None of us know what help the mother was receiving from the state, if any; was she being pressurised to find work? What was her mental health state? Had her needs as a carer been assessed?
We are all aware of the social exclusion disabled people endure. This same exclusion can be visited upon those who care for disabled people. The idea that if she didn’t want to take care of her son all she needed to do was pass him onto someone who dis wish to take care of him is a very simplistic view.