Photos: Atlanta PD
A mom who abandoned her 14-year-old special needs son at an Atlanta hospital may not face prison time.
Atlanta police charged Diana Elliot, 37, with child cruelty after she abandoned her special needs son outside Grady Memorial Hospital on the cold night of Dec. 4.
Security cameras captured Elliott escorting the smiling teenager into the lobby of the hospital and then leaving the scene in a red minivan.
Photos: Atlanta PD
The teenager, who is unable to communicate verbally, wandered outside looking for his mother after she left.
A kindhearted nurse on her lunch break noticed the boy standing outside the hospital. She escorted him back inside the hospital where he was cared for until police arrived.
"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," said police Lt. Jeff Baxter. "He needed help and shouldn't have been left like that," Baxter told Channel 2 News.
The teenager is now in the custody of the Georgia Division of Family and Child Services, according to Channel 2 News.
Elliott was tracked down by police and arrested on Wednesday. She was booked into the Fulton County Jail on felony child cruelty charges.
She told police she was overwhelmed caring for her son and her three other children.
Parents with special needs kids attended Elliott's bond hearing on Thursday. Her attorney - a parent to three special needs children himself - represented her pro bono (for free). The attorney believes the boy may have Down syndrome.
The judge said she would rather see Elliott get the childcare help she needs rather than send her to prison.
Georgia's "Safe Haven" law allows overwhelmed mothers to leave newborns at hospitals, fire stations, police stations and sheriff's offices without facing prosecution.
The law does not permit abandoning toddlers, adolescents or teenagers anywhere in Georgia.
Parents of unwanted adolescents or teenagers are urged to call DFACS, or give up their parental rights instead of abandoning their older children.
"It's rare that you see somebody older than a newborn being abandoned - it's very rare," Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos told WSB-TV.
"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."