MIAMI (CBS4) – The Department of Children and Families has launched a home study to determine if the father of a 10-year autistic boy who was abandoned at a Broward County hospital last week, can live with his dad in Islamorada.
At hearing on Saturday, Erick Mathe, who is going through a separation from his wife Amanda, asked for custody of his son Benjamin. Now DCF will decide whether Erick Mathe can care for a child with severe autism.
Benjamin was found wandering the emergency room at Broward General Medical Center on Friday.
His mother, Amanda, told the judge Saturday that she was "overwhelmed" and didn't know what else to do. During the hearing, Amanda told the judge she suffers from bipolar disorder, is going through the separation, has two other children, 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 and couldn't find anyone to help her.
"I tried everything I could," she told the judge.
Mathe' struggles are not unusual for parents of autistic children. Often times, the diagnosis can be devastating in both the short and long-term.
"You are always, always, always, stressed out," said Joyce Dooley-Rodriguez, mother of an autistic boy. "It's kind of like being given a death sentence. You know they will never grow out of it."
Dooley-Rodriguez sympathized with the position Mathe was in.
"This mother, my heart goes out to her; she's overwhelmed and devastated," Dooley-Rodriguez said.
And, insurance companies only recently began paying for the many services an autistic child needs which is exacerbated by the waiting list for help from state agencies.
"My son has been on it eight years; there are over 18,000 people," Dooley-Rodriguez said.
The judge granted the parents unsupervised visits for the next few days while DCF officials investigate further.
The Department of Children and Families confirmed Benjamin suffers from severe autism, doesn't speak and is very aggressive. He's currently in DCF custody at 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.
DCF now plans to work with the parents to make sure the child receives the services he requires, according to Riordan.
If you're the parent of an autistic child and need help, call 1-800-9-AUTISM (1-800-928-8476).
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