Monday, October 27, 2008

Unintended Consequences - Nebraska's Safe Haven Law

Nicolas Poussin's 'Pharaoh's Daughter Finds Baby Moses'. 1638.
plezWorld Post Artwork: Nicolas Poussin. Pharaoh's Daughter Finds Baby Moses. 1638. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France.

Wikipedia definies a "Safe Haven" Law, also known in some states as "Baby Moses" law, as the popular name for United States' laws that decriminalize leaving unharmed infants with statutorily designated private persons so that the child becomes a ward of the state. "Safe Haven" laws typically let parents remain nameless to the court, often using a numbered bracelet system as the only means of linking the baby to the mother.

Well, earlier this year, the state of Nebraska went one step further to extend their "safe haven" law to protect parents of children as old as 18 years of age! Parents can drop abandon their kids (and teens) at a hospital with no questions asked. Parents at their wits end are dumping their kids at Nebraska hospitals, many even crossing state lines to do so. reports that Nebraska's "safe haven" law, intended to allow parents to anonymously hand over an infant to a hospital without being prosecuted, isn't working out as planned. As of early October 2008, 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 one man on September 24 at an Omaha hospital.

Over this past weekend, a 12-year-old boy was dropped off at Bryan Lincoln General Hospital East by his mother. The Lincoln Police Department said the boy's mother told police she was unable to discipline her son and dropped him off just before 10pm... she had driven to Lincoln, Nebraska from Smyrna, Georgia (over 1,000 miles away)! This boy is the 20th child to be dropped off under the Safe Haven law since the law went in effect this past July.

Gov. Dave Heineman laments the abuse of the law, "The few situations we've seen so far demonstrate the need for a change in Nebraska's safe haven law. In the coming legislative session, I will advocate for changes that put the focus back on protecting an infant in danger. That should be our priority."

All 50 states have safe haven laws, but only Nebraska's lacks an age limit. Most states let parents and guardians drop off children up to a month old at hospitals or other safe places. Sixteen states including Georgia have the 3-day-old age cap.

Nebraska's part-time Legislature is adjourned until January, but two state legislative committees will hold a joint hearing November 13 to discuss a remedy.

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Channel 7 (KETV in Omaha) has a number of articles on kids dropped off under the "safe haven" law here and here and here.

Read the article about the mother who drove from Georgia to Nebraska to dump her son.

Read the article about unintended consequences of Nebraska's "safe haven" law.

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plez sez: wow! talk about abdicating one's parental responsibility! waiting 10 or 12 years before finding a state dumb enough to take your "mistake" off of your hands!

one dude dropped off NINE kids after his wife died! i wonder if those hellions played a part in her death?!?

...just asking.

and what about the lady who drove over 1,000 miles from georgia to be rid of her adolescent nightmare? it would serve her ass right if the nebraska authorities put his bad ass on a greyhound bus that met her in georgia a few hours after she got home!

something tells me that the lawmakers in nebraska were only planning on housing, feeding, and caring for the offspring of legal residents... and i know they had not planned on getting all of these kids who've already started growing body hair.

the nebraska legislature needs to fix this law QUICK! i cannot think of a state in the union that is equipped to handle the physical and mental turmoil that these kids must be going through to be abandoned by their parents as soon as it is legally possible for them to do so! how long would it be before parents just dropped their kids off on the state while they take a vacation in the caribbean? and then come back in a few weeks to claim custody... without fear of legal ramifications and without the financial cost feeding and housing a growing teenager!

hmmmm... that gives me an idea about a low cost alternative for my daughter when my wife and i go to Paris to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary!

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