Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nebraska to Amend Their Safe Haven Statute

In the news the past several months there have been reports of parents abandoning their children, as old as 17, in Nebraska under the state’s safe-haven law. According to a news article today, Governor Dave Heineman has stated he will call for a special legislative session in order to correct the wording of the law.

Nebraska’s current law potentially allows any parent to abandon their children at hospitals up to the age of 19. As seen since the enactment of this law, hospitals in the state have received more abandoned children than they had expected and older than what most other state laws cover. People from outside of Nebraska have driven hours to the state just to take advantage of this safe haven law; nine children from Iowa, Michigan and Georgia have been abandoned in Nebraska.

Nebraska is the last state to adopt such a safe haven law, perhaps making it more surprising that they have not followed the lead of other states, and instead crafted their own language leading to these issues. The original bill was drafted only to encompass infants, but was later amended when the bill stalled in debate. According to one article, Senator Tom White defends Nebraska’s law by saying that, “All children deserve our protection.”

While Senator White’s statement that “All children deserve our protection” cannot be denied, Nebraska’s safe haven statute appears to go over and beyond the protection that needs to be provided. At this time, it appears that many parents are abandoning their older children as they are having a hard time dealing with their children’s attitude and/or behavior. Instead of working through these issues, children are being abandoned and are being sent to emergency shelters or foster homes.

Instead of protecting the children, it seems that the only people that are being protected are the parents who have given up and cannot deal with their teenage children any longer. These children are being dropped off at hospitals in Nebraska, being torn from their family with perhaps little possibility of finding another family for support. Such programs are helpful for infants and children up to a certain age, but it seems that extending such laws to include children up to the age of 19 are more harmful than good. Thankfully, the Nebraska Governor has realized this and is attempting to resolve this problem as soon as possible.

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