Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mother of autistic boy abandoned at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hospital says she was "overwhelmed"

From The Sun Sentinel:

The mother of the autistic 10-year-old boy abandoned last week at Broward General Medical Center told a Broward judge on Saturday that she was "overwhelmed" and didn't know what else to do.

Both parents — Amanda and Erick Mathe — appeared before Circuit Judge Marina Garcia-Wood to explain how their son Benjamin was found wandering the hospital emergency room Friday.

The boy's mother told the judge that she was bipolar and going through a separation from her husband. She said she has two other children, has no job and was being evicted from her foreclosed home.

According to court records, she said Benjamin was dropped off at the hospital because she couldn't take care of him. She said she could not find anyone to help her.

Erick Mathe said he was living with family in Islamorada and came looking for his son after learning of his abandonment in news reports.

The boy has been placed in the custody of the state Department of Children & Families and taken to a foster home with experience in caring for children with special needs, said agency spokesman Mark Riordan. He said the state is not going to press charges.

"Instead of looking at this like a child abuse- or a criminal abandonment-kind of case, it's one of those where we're going to do everything we can to make sure the boy receives the services he requires and the parents receive the assistance and the help that they need at this point," Riordan said.

Detectives with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department believe a man in his 30s driving a minivan dropped off the boy at the hospital around noon Friday and left him unattended. The boy was found wearing a white T-shirt with the words "Chill Out" and blue sweat pants with the word "Villanova" inscribed on the leggings.

Investigators plan to visit Erick Mathe's home this week to determine whether it's safe for Benjamin to be released into his care. Riordan said the agency wants to ensure the father can care for a child with severe autism.

The next court hearing is expected within two weeks. The judge ruled both parents will be allowed unsupervised visits with the boy in the meantime.

"They're not bad parents," Riordan said. "We're talking about parents who tried everything else and got desperate, so we're working with them."