Wednesday, October 29, 2008

UPDATE: Nebraska's "Safe Haven" Law
LB 157

I wouldn't have believed it could happen, but it did. Nebraska passed a very unique "safe haven" law just this summer allowing parents to drop off unwanted children UP TO AGE 18 at a local hospital and leave them permanently in the state's care. 18!!!! Is this a joke?

The news regarding the ongoing ramifications of Nebraska's decision is already sweeping the country this month through news outlets like ABC, CBS, Omaha's WOWT, CNN, FOX, USA Today, Dallas-Morning News, Los Angeles Times and even our local news here in Chadron (KCSR).

In sum, as of today there have been at least 22 children dropped off in the last couple months. We're not talking babies--we're talking CHILDREN and TEENAGERS. And if that's not disturbing enough, some of these children were dropped off by parents from OTHER STATES. For example, one child was left here from Georgia and another woman was reported to have made a 12 hour drive from Detroit just to drop her son off at a Nebraska hospital. Whether you believe this law is necessary, or not, it appears that it's a bit more complicated than had been expected. This just in from the AP news:

Deciding he could wait no longer to address what has become a state embarrassment, Gov. Dave Heineman said Wednesday he will call a special legislative session to amend Nebraska's loosely worded safe-haven law, which in just a few months has allowed parents to abandon nearly two dozen children as old as 17.

Heineman had planned to wait until the next regular legislative session convened in January, but changed his mind as the number of children dropped off at hospitals grew. Two teenagers were abandoned Tuesday night alone, and three children dropped off previously did not even live in Nebraska.

"We've had five in the last eight days," Heineman said in explaining why he called a special session. "We all hoped this wouldn't happen."

I really don't know what else to say. This is just so disturbing. And, as always, I have many other questions. For example, do these children instantly become foster children? Do they have college paid for as wards of the state? Is there any investigation into the family who left them (to determine if it was, in fact, a parent, fully in their right mind, who released them)? What happens when the child goes looking for their own parent for retribution? Don't get me wrong. I want our children to be protected, too. But without knowing all the ins and outs, I can't help but wonder if there's not a better route than just asking parents to hand them over. I would think the parents would need some serious therapy after such a life-changing decision to hand over a 10 year old, a 15 year old, an 18 year old. Oh my. Sooooo many questions in my head.

I totally missed the passing of this law so I'm doing a little catch-up reading since first reading about it a couple weeks ago. If anyone has thorough details, send them my way. Thanks!

3 ♥ thoughtful comments ♥:

beckyw said...

Our lawmmakers did not forsee that children up to age 18 WOULD be left.... Obviously, our lawmakers were naive! Yes, these instances need to be investigated. What kind of parents are abandoning these teens? Some with children of their own! Yes, the lawmakers should have stipulated in the orginal bill, "child up to 3 days". As usual, some of the public has to take advantage of our lawmakers mistake! ARGH!

Momma Miller said...

I totally agree—it WAS na├»ve. How could they not foresee this when news outlets were drawing attention to this possibility back in January 2008. It appears they had every opportunity to make necessary changes before it got to this point. It also seems that since Alaska and Nebraska were the 49th and 50th states to adopt the safe haven law, we could have used the previous 48 states laws as a guide for law wordage. While Iowa’s age limit is 14 days and South Dakota’s is 60 days, 15+ other states use the 3-day policy. It looks like Nebraska is leaning toward the 3-day change. I guess we’ll all see soon.

Still investigating this one. And, like you, still very upset over teens being abandoned (or turning themselves in).

More reading from January 2008:

Laureen said...

This makes me want to throw up. How sadly broken and wrong that people feel they have no recourse but to abandon their kids? In the Great Depression, parents did this kind of thing when they could no longer feed their kids (see Seabiscuit...) I wonder how many of these were that. And how many were emotional dysfunction...

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