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Nebraska safe haven law reveals societal hypocrisy

Posted Oct 01 2008 5:07pm

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Last week news outlets around the country reported on ‘deadbeat’ parents who seemingly took advantage of a new safe haven law in Nebraska thatallows parents to leave a child, regardless of age, at a licensed hospital without explaining why.  

The media and so-called child protection reaction has been painful, clearly siding with Nebraska officials that want to change the law to limit care to abandoned newborns one and younger, in line with other states.

What is wrong with people?   

It’s been reported that 16 children, half of them teens, have been dropped off at Nebraska hospitals by a parent since the law took effect in July.  If a parent, such as the father of nine whose wife died from cancer last year, can't manage to take care of his children, the youngest age one, and has no place else to go, isn't the new law meeting its purpose to care for unwanted children and get them out of an unhealthy situation?  

"This was never the intent of the bill," co-author Republican state Sen. Arnie Stuthman toldUSA Today, adding that the bill was intended to protect newborns but in order to be passed it was revised to include all children. Stuthman said the new law is “a mess” and needs to be fixed.  

One suspects that these "unintended results" are adding to the strain on diminishing state resources but it also reveals a hidden problem: children -- from babies to teens -- are living in situations where their parents can't or are incapable of caring for them properly.   

What kind of society so eagerly wants to put these children back behind the curtain and ignore the issue? Yes, some of the parents may be selfish or lazy or addicts. Or they might be mentally or physically ill, or plagued by mortgage foreclosures, staggering health bills, or job lay-offs.   

The primary focus should be on helping the children whose parents don’t want them or can’t care for them, not on “fixing” the system to prevent parents from dumping their kids.   

The safe haven law performed beyond expectations. It reveals a need for our society to provide more resources for children whose parents would abandon them for whatever reason.  

Shame on the legislators, public health officials and the wider media for wanting to sweep under the rug this truth that emerged from Nebraska's new law.

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