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Nebraska Safe Haven Law: Used Fairly or Not?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

We all get frustrated at times with our children.  It can be exhausting.  It can push mothers and fathers to their limits.  On the worst days, it can even make parents throw up their hands and teeter on giving up.  But they don’t.  Except when they do. Or perhaps– except when they can.

Given that November is Fairness month for Powerful Words, I’d like to propose a few thought-provoking fairness questions.  You opinions are certainly appreciated.

The question is: Fair or Unfair?

A woman in Nebraska dropped her 18 year old “child” off at a hospital, BryanLGH Medical Center West, citing Nebraska’s newly enacted Safe Haven Law (in July), which states that a “child” can be dropped off at any licensed hopital without question or penalty.  The law was enacted for the purposes of protecting newborn babies who were either unwanted or unable to be cared for by the birth parents.

The mother of the 18 year old relayed that she could no longer control the girl who is bipolar and has refused to take her medication.  The Safe Haven Law does not specify the age of the “child” in question therefore it is not illegal to take advantage of the law in this way.  However, is it fair?

This law has been used in creative ways since its enactment 4 months ago.  In September, 3 Dads abandoned their children at two Omaha Hospitals.  One father left 9 siblings between the ages of 1 and 17 years old.

“They were tired of their parenting role,” says Todd Landry of Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Most parents are citing behavioral problems rather than financial issues for the need to abandon.

“This was never the intent of the bill,” (Republican state Sen. Arnie Stuthman, cowriter of the bill).

In order to get support for the bill, the writers changed the wording to encapsulate all children.

“We really opened a can of worms,” he says. “We have a mess.” He says the law needs to be fixed.

A special meeting is planned on November 14th to assess the law again. Will their be an influx of abandoned defiant teens or challenging preteens in the mean time? There have already been 30 children and teens dropped off since the Safe Haven law was enacted in Nebraska. All 50 states have “safe haven” laws, but the others apply only to infants less than 1 year old.

So, what do you think– fair or unfair use of the law?  Fair or unfair to the parents? To the children? To the state? Or is it an issue of a different kind all together? Please comment below.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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11 replies
  1. Vicki
    Vicki says:

    This is unfair to those kids. I’m going to guess and say that none of those drop off parents attend church. I’m also going to guess that their parenting skills have been lacking over the years. They should have been reading your blog.

  2. Jennifer Ryan
    Jennifer Ryan says:

    No, this isn’t fair. However, these scenarios bring up some really BIG issues that should be addressed. Yes, better parenting is needed. Yes, it is inappropriate and sad. So, what now? Do we merely change the verbiage of the bill or do we take action against an issue that needs to be addressed?

    From my perspective, we can get really mad about this situation, but it’s not really an issue of “unfairness.” Of course it’s not right. But who cares. There’s a bigger issue at hand here and that is that there are children who are being abandoned by their parents who, by the way, are obviously BEGGING for assistance. I say, we need to do our job as citizens, and give them assistance. Right or wrong isn’t the issue, nor is fairness. Taking care of the children in the best way possible is a bigger issue.

  3. Dr. Robyn
    Dr. Robyn says:

    Thank you, Vicki- clearly these parents were struggling. I wonder about their support network. In addition, might we figure, that by having or adopting children, we are saying “til death do us part?” Yes, very unfair to the children.

    Dr. Robyn

  4. Dr. Robyn
    Dr. Robyn says:

    Hello Jennifer-

    I think you hit the nail on the head– there is a much larger issue here. What assistance IS in place for these parents and children? What are the issues that these parents are struggling with and how can the state help them to cope? By taking care of the parents– and the families as a whole– we are indeed taking care of the children. Do the families know what’s out there for them? Is it an issue of not knowing what assistance is available or an issue of not having the assistance in place in that state? You can just imagine that these parents, upon hearing about the safe haven law, were at such desperation to conclude that yes, this is a possible solution.

    Thanks for your insightful comment.

    Dr. Robyn

  5. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I have family members who have had foster kids in their home, and there are all sorts of resources available to them if they are struggling with a child. She can send them to respite care for the night. She can take them to a psychologist if needed, no charge. Free parenting classes are available. And on and on.

    I have 3 of my own and have no resources available to me. Because they are my own children. So clearly I would never have any issues, right? So wrong! I have suffered with severe PPD and there are certainly days that I think I probably would’ve dropped my kids off somewhere if it had been a choice.

    Now don’t judge me. I’m not a bad mom. I just believe that such an action on a parent’s part is not so much them saying they don’t love their kids. It’s more a desperate plea for help!

  6. Dr. Robyn
    Dr. Robyn says:

    This is an EXCELLENT point, Nicole. Everyone is in need of support and resources. SO when this safe haven law is taken away, then what? And the fact that so many have responded to the safe haven law shows that there is an underlying issue.

    Of course you’re not a bad Mom. I hear the plea for help– and THAT is the issue here more so than anything else.

    Please come back again.

    Dr. Robyn

  7. Glenda
    Glenda says:

    I think its completely fair. A parent can’t dicipline their children anymore because the government took that from us. Teens are unruly in school and the school can’t do anything because the government won’t allow it. I’m all for it! Kids don’t have to be responsible anymore either. The government made sure of that. This is good. There are days I’m about ready to bring mine down.

  8. Tiana Harris
    Tiana Harris says:

    This is really such a hot topic that is not being considered on both ends. The children are OOC..and they don’t respect their parents. They also despise AUTHORITY…If the parent can discipline the child the boundries are going to be repeatedly crossed. There is a thin line between being a door-mat and bieng a poor parent. The government allows the kids to have a “voice” and they take it to the extreme and BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS THEM…..I am all for this right.

  9. Rose
    Rose says:

    Thank goodness for the safe haven law! Just because you can give birth doesn’t mean you are fit to parent. Maybe if more parents dropped of their kids, we’d see less parents charged with murdering their children. I wish it was easier for parents to say HELP! Be a good parent, give up your children if you can’t do it! Throw in the towel, BUT DON’T ABUSE YOUR KIDS!

  10. William
    William says:

    I am a single dad for two boys, as a child I was adopted and then abused by the adopted parents. I ended up in a state reform school and have been in and out of prision. For most of my life I have been unable to have relationships that are meaningfull.
    About 7, years ago a ex brought me her child and asked if I would babysit for a few hours I did, and the mother never came back for the child. I went through the system and was granted custody of the infant. 3 years later I received a call from human Servs. the mother had another child was taken into custody and they asked if I would consider fostering the child, I did. The last 7 years have been a real struggle for me. As I am not a loving and nurturing person as a result my childhood, my upbringing and lack of parents is the reason I am trying to keep the children.
    Living in the state of Colorado to drop off laws differ, with the lack of support I have been tempted to find alternatives for the children. But I didn’t. If I can provide a home in a safe environment for 2 children,I feel the parents made that decision are the ones that lost out.

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