Nebraska Lawmakers Revamp Safe Haven Law
A Nebraska law that allowed parents to dump kids of any age on the state has been abused. The law was meant to protect newborns from being dumped in trash bins or worse. However, they did not set an age limit.
The Nebraska Legislature on Friday revised a safe haven law permitting parents to hand children up to age 18 over to state custody without prosecution. The new law limits the age to infants up to 30 days old. The bill is effective immediately.
Every state has a safe-haven law that was meant to protect newborns from being dumped in trash bins but Nebraska’s was the only one without an age limit. Thirteen states have 30-day age limits.
Thirty five children have now been dropped off at Nebraska hospitals since the law took effect in July 2008. Most of the children dropped off were preteens or teens with one being age 17. The children are placed in foster homes.
Hospital officials said that some of the children cried hysterically for their parents, or guardians, not to leave them at the hospital. Child experts worry that the children may be scarred emotionally for life.
Many of the lawmakers, child welfare experts, and health officials have been sympathetic to the parents and guardians. They said that they were only trying to get help for their troubled children and that they were not abandoning them. The parents who have spoken publicly said that they had nowhere else to turn to get help for their out-of-control and sometimes mentally ill children.
The Nebraska lawmakers said that they plan to address the lack of and accessibility to services for the troubled older children during the regular legislative session in January.
It is sad to think that these parents, who felt that they were not able to adequately take care of their children, would choose to drop their child off at a hospital and let the state take care of them.