ATLANTA, GA – Atlanta police charged a mother with cruelty to children Wednesday after her special needs teenager was found abandoned at a downtown hospital, cold, confused and unable to say who he was.
The mother told investigators she left her 14-year-old son at Grady Memorial Hospital because she felt overwhelmed caring for him as well as three other children, police said.
“It's rare that you see somebody older than a newborn being abandoned — its very rare," Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said.
“Our message is that we definitely understand that parents can feel overwhelmed by special needs children – that’s something that everyone can empathize with," Campos said. “But leaving them unattended is not the proper solution. The child was found outside, cold and hungry, and that’s just not an appropriate way to deal with something like this."
Police had pleaded for information from the public to identify the child, whom they described as non-verbal, with a diminished mental capacity and unable to answer questions.
Tips led them to his mother, Diana Elliott, 37, who was staying at a local hotel with three other children. It wasn't immediately clear whether she has a lawyer who could speak on her behalf.
Surveillance video showed a woman escorting the teenager into the hospital on the night of Dec. 4, and then leaving alone in a red minivan. The boy was later found outside.
“It was fortunate there was a nurse at Grady hospital, who was on her break, who went outside, and happened to notice this young man outside, and it wasn’t right, and that he needed help and shouldn't have been left like that,” police Lt. Jeff Baxter said.
Georgia's “Safe Haven” law allows mothers to leave newborns at hospitals, fire stations, police stations and sheriff's offices without facing prosecution, but they must do so within 30 days of the child's birth.
Elliott, who was booked into the Fulton County Jail on the felony child cruelty charge Wednesday morning, is expected to appear before a judge Thursday.
The teenager was cared for at the hospital and is now in the custody of the Georgia Division of Family and Child Services.