Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nebraska child abandoment safe haven law

Heard on both "The News Quiz" and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" this past weekend:

There are laws everywhere governing child abandonment and giving parents safe haven if they give their child over to a hospital's care.

Nebraska recently interpreted their newly passed "Safe Haven" law to mean that a child is anyone under 19 --
not 19 months: 19 years.

According to CNN, "Of the 17 children relinquished since the law took effect in July, only four are younger than 10 -- and all four are among the nine siblings abandoned by a man September 24 at an Omaha hospital.

On Tuesday, a 14-year-old girl from Council Bluffs, Iowa, was abandoned at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, just across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. The case marks the first time a parent has crossed state lines to abandon a teenager in
Nebraska, authorities said."

According to an Associated Press story, "The latest example happened Wednesday, when an out-of-work widower left nine of his 10 children at an Omaha hospital, saying he was overwhelmed by family responsibilities.

"Gary Staton went to Creighton University Medical Center to surrender his five sons and four of his daughters, who ranged in age from 1 to 17. He did not bring his oldest daughter, 18. . . .

Todd Landry, director of the division of Children and Family Services, said the safe-haven law was designed to help children in danger, but none of the kids who were dropped off had been in harm's way."

[Ed: While I assume that the actual story underlying the father feeling it necessary to abandon nine of his ten children must actually be horrifying for the people involved -- the father as well as the children -- I still have to wonder why he decided to keep one.

"'It does open a door to older children being left off,' Sen. Gwen Howard said during debate of the bill. But she added: 'I don't see that being a problem.'

"She acknowledged Friday that the lack of an age limit had become an issue but insisted it offers the state an opportunity to reach out to struggling families. 'We need to look at the bigger picture of what's going on with parents and children,' Howard said. . . .

"Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and an opponent of safe-haven laws, said he's never seen anything like what's happening in Nebraska.

"'What we're seeing is the unfolding of a policy that wasn't well thought-out,' he said."

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