A Safe Haven For Irresponsibility

Back in August I wrote about the state of Nebraska’s new “safe haven” law that made it legal for parents to abandon their unwanted children at hospitals with no questions asked. I also pointed out that the Nebraska law made it legal to abandon any child under the age of 19.

I was quite sarcastic in that post, pointing out a possible scenario for abandoning a child:

So the next time you come home to find that your 15 year old ate all of the Hostess Twinkies, don’t smack him upside his head, just haul his ass up to your closest hospital and be done with the little bastard. It’s all about you man. Those are your Twinkies!

It turns out, I wasn’t too far from the truth. Quite a few parents who seem to be having trouble “controlling” their children are turning them over to the state and not all of them are from Nebraska.

On October 7th a 14-year-old girl from Council Bluffs, Iowa was driven across the bridge and abandoned. Then today, a woman from Michigan drove 12 hours just to abandon her 13-year-old son too.

Eighteen children have been abandoned since the law was adopted and it turns out none of them seemed to be in immediate danger at the time of the abandonment. We don’t know the circumstances behind all of the cases, but it’s not looking good at all. With people driving as much as 12 hours just to dump their kids, Nebraska officials better get a handle on the situation. There’s a storm brewing and they better be ready to handle the cleanup.

On September 24th, a father of nine (yes, nine) children, dropped them off at a hospital in Omaha. Five boys and four girls ranging in age from 1 to 17 were given up. The father is an out-of-work widower that was completely overwhelmed by family responsibilities. Since dropping off the children, a number of relatives have stepped forward and offered to take in the children. Why didn’t he ask these relatives to take in the children before abandoning them, or did he? Wouldn’t you, as a parent, ask relatives to help out before you simply turned your children over to the state?

The Nebraska law was intended to protect children in danger, but like I said before, it seems none of the children who have been abandoned since the law went into effect were in danger at the time they were abandoned. I don’t exactly understand what the Nebraska legislators were thinking when they passed this measure. Why didn’t they clarify the definition of ‘child’ in the law? Why would they trust a parent of a child in ‘danger’ to drop them off? Wouldn’t it be the parent putting them in danger in the first place? I don’t get it. Some lawmakers are calling for a special session to revise the law, but no one is sure exactly how it will be revised.

Don’t get me wrong. While I don’t think we need laws on the books for every single situation that comes in life, I think safe haven laws are necessary. I don’t feel they are necessary for the irresponsible parents who abuse the laws, but for the infants that are left behind. If they aren’t going to be loved and cared for at home, it’s better to give them a chance to experience all that life has to offer with people who are not afraid of responsibility and won’t simply walk away from them. What I don’t get is the overwhelming demand for the ability to dump your older children.

I can fully understand that some infants would face a bleak future of abuse and neglect if it weren’t for safe haven laws, but what about teenagers? Do some parents just wake up one day and think, wow, I don’t want kids anymore? I don’t understand how any parent could do that to a child that’s old enough to know what’s going on. How do you help a teenager understand that their parents just gave them up? How do you explain what happened?

It’s one thing to abandon an infant who doesn’t know better, but think of the emotional damage they are doing to the older children. I don’t have the answers to the questions I am asking, but I do wonder… How can we as a people continue to legislate the legal abandonment of children when we know it causes them so much pain? Where do we draw the line?

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