Simple Solutions

September 26, 2008 at 1:35pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. In the case of Nebraska’s “safe haven” law, however, our state’s simple solution isn’t working out so well.

So what should we do? The first thing we need to do is define our goals. Whom do we want to protect, from what, and why? Those are important questions, not just on their own but also because of the spin-off topics that arise. For me, I want to protect newborns and fetuses from people who are unprepared for parenthood. That means providing some form of pre-natal and after birth support, perhaps including adoption counseling and, yes, even a “safe haven”. I still believe that any sort of “safe haven” solution should require certain information from the parents (a health history, for example), even if their names are never known. My gut says three months is a reasonable maximum age for the children, but I’m not stuck on that.

Beyond that age, existing services need to be modified to account for the fact that some parents of older children do indeed want (or need?) to “dump” their children. What factors drive that desire? Is it a matter of providing new services, promoting existing services, or something else?

Topics like this are extremely difficult to resolve. On the one hand society has a right and responsibility to hold parents accountable for their decisions. On the other hand, doing so should not require keeping their children in a hostile or dangerous environment.

How would you modify the existing law, or what would your new law look like?

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The Comments

Diane Kaye September 26, 2008 at 2:20pm

We definitely need to modify the law, because as it stands now, anyone anywhere can drop off any number of children in Nebraska and we have to try to take care of them. As much as we may want to, we simply do NOT have the resources to do that.

I’d go back to the original intent of safe haven laws and restrict it to infants, and then make other services more publicly known and accessible. That guy with 9 kids (not that I think it’s a good idea to have that many kids) appears to have struggled for a year before giving in. What resources did he tap into the past few months before bringing his kids in?

Nikkidemas September 26, 2008 at 2:47pm

I would consult with child development experts to determine a “point of no return” age at which a child could be dropped off without certain emotional damage.

From the story: “When a 6-month-old is protected with a safe haven abandonment, for the rest of that child’s life it’s about, ‘My parents weren’t able to care for me.’ But when a 16-year-old is dropped off at the hospital, for the remainder of that 16-year-old’s life it’s about what I did [to get abandoned],” said Cedars Organization president Jim Blue.

...so certainly there needs to be a narrower age requirement.

Also, I think this is a good time to remind Nebraskans about the need for foster families.  Christian Heritage is a group in Lincoln working toward that goal.

West A Dad September 26, 2008 at 5:06pm

Government and child rearing do not mix. It’s a bad idea and will always be. I agree the age spectrum is too broad.

I don’t have solutions to the problem because there are not enough individuals, groups, nor organizations to cope with the ever increasing number of children needing services. 

No offense towards Nikkidemas for what I’m about to say. But is Christian Heritage even still around? They didn’t seem so “Christian” when they closed their group homes and told HHSS to come get the kids they didn’t want.

I’m not singling out Christian Heritage, I know of others as well.

The new system reform coming in 2009 and outlined at the link below could eliminate even more providers from what I’ve heard.

http://www.hhs.state.ne.us/Children_Family_Services/OHReform/OOHCR.pdf

JT September 27, 2008 at 1:54pm

The age needs to be below one. The lawmaker who wrote the law and left the gigantic loophole should probably be recalled.

christopher September 28, 2008 at 5:59pm

The Omaha World Herald has a good profile of the families/parents/guardians that have used the Safe Have Law.

http://www.omaha.com/index.php?u_page=2798&u_sid=10444740

Of interest, there are some that sought help for their child regarding behavioral/psychiatric issues, and the child couldn’t or did not receive the help he/she needed.

Just hearing the news snippets about parents who have used the Save Haven Law, I instantly thought what horrible parents/guardians. After reading it I thought some were doing it in getting help for the child that desperately needed it. I also had to step back and ask myself if I were in their situation what would I do?

Hopefully I never find myself in their shoes.

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