Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nebraska

Traditional safe haven laws were intended to allow parents (specifically mothers) in urgent situations to give up their babies to secure locations until a permanent home was found. These laws were created in response to the growing incidence of unsafe abandonment across the country and allowed parents to securely relinquish control of their children while maintaining anonymity and without facing criminal prosecution. Supporters of these laws claim that parents who would have previously “dumped” their children can now safely surrender them. Critics point out that in many cases the laws guarantee anonymity to the parents and therefore the repercussions are lessened, causing the rate of child of child abandonment to increase

In an unprecedented move, Nebraska has extended traditional safe haven laws to children as old as 17. Since Nebraska’s law went into effect on July 23, twenty seven children between 1 and 17 years old have been left by their legal guardians at state hospitals. In almost half of these cases, children were between 15 and 17 years old.

All states have safe haven laws which apply to infants between a few weeks and one year old. Nebraska allows parents to abandon “any child up to the age of 18” with the intent of “protect[ing] children who are in immediate danger of being harmed.” This modification of traditional safe haven laws has, not surprisingly, resulted in an unprecedented number of older children and teenagers, none of whom were in immediate danger, to be left at hospitals. Four of these cases involved children who were 17 years old.

The consequences of abandoning an older child are severe, including irreparable psychological and social harm. The steps that can be taken in order to ensure that a child abandoned shortly after birth will be raised effectively without a sense of fear and shame are simply not available to an older child. Thankfully, on October 29, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman called for a special session to update the new law. The session will begin Friday, Nov. 14. Gov. Heineman’s stated purpose in updating the law is to “focus on its original intent, which is to protect infants.” The proposed changes will apply the law to infants who are no more than three days old.

This story has garnered national attention and represents an extraordinary violation of children’s rights at a time when 130,000 children still remain in foster care. More importantly, the state of Nebraska needs to address the unintended consequence of twenty seven children now left in state care under a law which was clearly flawed.

1 comment:

The Blogmaster said...

I don't get it. Nebraska is the #1 state in the country for child removals. Therefore, they obviously want your children.

Here you have parents handing them over on a silver platter. This takes all the dirty work out of it. Yet the state has a problem with it.

You people need to make up your minds.

Legally Kidnapped