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Disabled Boy Abandoned

For Dawn and Richard Kelso, Christmas apparently was the last straw. For 10 years, they struggled to care for their severely disabled son Steven, who has cerebral palsy. But over the weekend, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman, something snapped.

Early Sunday, they drove up to a Delaware children's hospital and unloaded boxes filled with Steven's things. Then an exasperated Dawn Kelso, 45, spoke to a receptionist.

"Mrs. Kelso responded something to the effect of 'I'm tired of talking, I don't want to talk to anyone, I can no longer care for him,'" said Terry Greenley of the Alfred I. du Pont Children's Hospital.

The issue wasn't money. Richard Kelso runs PQ Corp., a half-billion dollar chemical company in Valley Forge, Pa. The Kelsos live in Exton, Pa., an upper-middle-class community outside Philadelphia.

The couple had private nurses providing round-the-clock home care for Steven, who needs both a respirator and a wheelchair. But those nurses were gone for the holidays. The Kelsos spent their Christmas taking care of their son in shifts.

"My impression has always been that they care for the child," said Craig Waring, a neighbor. "I've seen nurses there very often."

Claudine Malone of the New Castle County police department told CBS station KYW-TV in Philadelphia, "You see it on TV. You like to think it doesn't happen in real life, but it does; even the day after Christmas."

There is no shortage of criticism being aimed at the Kelsos, but you won't find it at United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia, where they offer daily care and training for some of the half-million American adults and children with cerebral palsy.

The United Cerebral Palsy Association's Pat Benvenuto knows what the Kelsos have gone through.

"They didn't choose this for themselves," he says. "They found themselves with this child. They've probably done many wonderful things for this boy, but found themselves at a point in time where they said 'I can't do this anymore.'"

Steven Kelso is still in the care of this hospital; he's now a ward of the state. As for his parents, after a night in jail they are free on bail, facing charges of abandonment.

For Richard and Dawn Kelso, all the money in the world couldn't buy them happiness at home.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report