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updated: 7/11/2012 2:40 PM

Algonquin mom: Leaving disabled woman in Tennessee was best

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  • Lynn Cameron

      Lynn Cameron
    Courtesy of WVLT-TV, Knoxville, TeNn.

 
 

A mentally disabled young woman from Algonquin was made temporarily a ward of the state of Tennessee on Tuesday, after her mother left her there alone last month.

Lynn Cameron, 19, was left by her mother, Eva Cameron, on the evening of June 28 at a bar in Caryville, Tenn., said Caryville Assistant Police Chief Stephanie Smith. Caryville is about 550 miles from Algonquin.

The bar's staff contacted police, who couldn't immediately identify Lynn, Smith said. "She didn't know her name, address, phone number, date of birth -- nothing," she said.

When authorities publicized the case through local media, the police department was flooded with calls from as far as Colorado and even Sweden, Smith said. On July 8, the department got a call from someone who identified her as Lynn Cameron, Smith said.

On Tuesday morning, Eva Cameron was in Caryville, where she met with local authorities at their request, Smith said.

"The mother said that she just dropped her off there (at the bar). I guess it was just as far as she wanted to drive," Smith said. "She said she was not taking her, that she couldn't care for her, and she went back to Illinois."

Eva Cameron was not charged with any wrongdoing by the local authorities in Tennessee, Smith said. "There's no criminal act that occurred. She's 19. Which is really sad because she's special needs," she said.

At a court hearing Tuesday morning in Campbell County, Tenn., it was decided that Lynn Cameron would be placed temporarily at a facility for disabled children and adults until conservatorship or guardianship can be established, court documents show. Lynn Cameron suffers from "profound mental deficits and is unable to care for herself or her personal needs," documents state.

Speaking via cellphone Tuesday afternoon, Eva Cameron struggled to explain why she left her disabled daughter alone in Tennessee. She was on her way back to Algonquin, she said.

"It's been emotional what's going on," she said. "This turned into an unnecessary hoopla."

Eva Cameron said she thought the bar was a restaurant, and stopped there so Lynn could go to the bathroom. She then drove back to Illinois, where she had to care for her other daughter, she said. "(Lynn) wasn't really missing. We knew where she was," Cameron said.

Eva Cameron said that last year she tried to get Lynn to be a ward of the state of Illinois. Someone told her that Tennessee has great care for people with special needs, so she decided to find placement for Lynn there, she said.

Having Lynn in a facility in Tennessee is exactly what she wanted, Cameron said. "The situation had the best outcome," she said. "It took 5 minutes for her to get (into a placement) in Tennessee; it took 10 years for her not to get one in Illinois."

Eva Cameron's son, Scott, 17, said he doesn't believe his mother left his older sister alone in a bar. "She's a loving, caring mom. She wouldn't do anything like that," he said. Eva Cameron also has a 16-year-old daughter.

Neighbor Bronwyn Hurley said Eva Cameron in the past tried to find a placement for Lynn, whose behavior had become difficult to manage.

"I can't imagine what drove her to leave Lynn (in Tennessee), but I do think that desperate people do desperate things," Hurley said.

Court records show that Eva Cameron filed orders of protection in June 2011 against seven people, at least six of them employed by Community Unit District 300, but all were denied by a judge the same day. In her court filings, Eva Cameron alleges that staffers called her "delusional," harassed her and her children, lied to the Department of Children and Family Services, and used "reverse psychology" on one of her children. She also alleges she was the victim of a racial slur when someone said, "Mrs. Cameron, you look very European today."

District 300 spokeswoman Allison Strupeck said she didn't have any information immediately available.

A DCFS spokesman couldn't comment on any agency involvement with the Cameron family.

It's still unclear if Eva Cameron can be charged with any wrongdoing in Illinois, Algonquin Police Chief Russell Laine said. Algonquin police have had contact with Eva Cameron in the past, Laine said, but wouldn't say why.

"We continue to investigate this entire scenario," Laine said, adding the department has consulted with the Kane County state's attorney's office, the U.S. attorneys office, the FBI and the Department of Children and Family Services.

Januari Smith Trader, communication manager for the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said the state offers an array of services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Those include residential living, in-home support, day services and support services teams. Smith Trader said she couldn't give information about Lynn Cameron due to privacy laws.

Finding housing for people with disabilities is the most difficult thing for their families, said Lore Baker, executive director of Supportive Housing Providers Association, which has offices in Springfield and Chicago. Waiting lists number in the thousands, she said.

Also, there said there is no centralized "go-to" place for people with mental disabilities. "It's all very broken-up based on providers," she said.

Lora Thomas, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-Illinois, said many communities are losing services altogether, due to cutbacks in funding. "It's very frustrating, people feel very isolated. They have nowhere else to turn and they are in a situation they can't handle by themselves," she said.

Caregivers who are burned out should ask for immediate help before resorting to drastic measures, Thomas said. "I would certainly urge anyone to talk to emergency services, by going to a hospital asking for their help and support," she said.

* Daily Herald staff writer Hailey Czarnecki contributed to this report.

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