Detroit Lakes mother wants public help in finding 15-year-old son
DETROIT LAKES, Minn.—Fifteen-year-old Parker Eastman of Detroit Lakes remains missing as of Friday morning, suspected of running away. He's got no cell phone, no money, no personal transportation, no ID, and his friends and family have heard nothing.
"I have no idea where he is or if he's even safe," said his mother, Meghan Eastman, as emotion catches in her voice. Eastman has been spreading her mission to find her son on social media in the hopes that somebody will come forward with information.
"So far, nothing, though," she said quietly. "I've called all his friends; his friends' parents have all been looking..."
Eastman says because he's a runaway, she knows he's probably being perceived as "just some juvenile delinquent" or out-of-control kid. "But he's not," she said. "He's a really great kid who was on the basketball team and football team last year in Detroit Lakes, he's a really great brother to his younger siblings and he makes friends everywhere he goes."
The trouble started, she says, when his stepfather, Todd Eastman of Detroit Lakes, became abusive. He was convicted of gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child in February, according to Becker County District Court. Eastman says there is now a protection order against her ex-husband for both her and her children.
"After that Parker decided to go from the high school over to the ALC (Alternative Learning Center) because he felt like he wouldn't be as judged by people who knew his story," she said, adding that Parker ended up getting into a fight with another boy there. That, in turn, led to a urinalysis, which he failed, says Eastman. For the next several months, Parker would then be shuffled in and out of chemical dependency facilities. According to Meghan Eastman, these were places that not only did Parker not want to be, but she felt uncomfortable with.
"He was always the youngest one in there with 17- and 18-year-olds who have committed real crimes and were there as an alternative to jail," she said. "Parker had never committed any crimes. He was 15, and I know he was learning things there that he never would have learned at home."
But according to Eastman, she had limited say over the county's case plan for her son because of the fact that she didn't call authorities to report the abuse last winter. "They called it neglectful," she said, adding that while Parker was still living with her and her mother, her county case remains open and her parental rights weakened.
Eastman says because Parker "wasn't working out" at the chemical dependency facilities and local out-patient programs, the next step through the county was to put him into a mental health facility.
"That would have been eight to 12 months, and he did not want to go," she said. "He did not have mental health issues, he was not a threat to himself or to others—he has just went through something hard and didn't have the time to recover from that yet."
Eastman says she believes sometimes steps and procedures in these youth programs are done so under a guise to help them. "But to me, they're more punitive," she said. "Parker never did anything really wrong, but yet he's being told that if you don't do this or that, you're going to be put into worse and worse situations."
Eastman says although Parker wanted more than anything just to start school at the Detroit Lakes High School again on time with everyone else, and they'd done some school shopping to get ready, the reality was that the case plan still included him being sent off to a mental health facility. As it became clear this was still set to happen, Eastman says Parker opted out.
"I woke up Monday morning, and he was gone," she said. "His cell phone was in the toilet, and he was gone."
Eastman says she began calling around to everyone, but over the last handful of days, she's been left with no answers. She's heard of a few tips, including somebody matching his description outside of a church near Fergus Falls, but nothing has panned out. She's hoping social media tips can help and is encouraging anybody with any information as to where he is to either find the facebook page called Reaching Parker or call the Detroit Lakes Police Department.
"We love him, and we are not mad at him," said Eastman. "We just want to know that he's OK."