Friday, September 26, 2008

Whom is this law supposed to benefit?

The Associated Press reported on September 26, 2008, that on September 24th in Nebraska, 11 children (9 of them siblings) were abandoned at two different hospitals under the state's so-called "Safe Haven" law. (See the full Boston Globe story here.)

According to the article,
Todd Landry, director of Health and Human Services' division of Children and Family Services, said that in nearly every case, the parents who left their children felt overwhelmed and had decided they didn't want to be parents anymore.

In my opinion it is disastrous to let children be dumped like so much not-worthy-of-my-time-to-repair-but-too-good-for-the-trash "Free-cycle" material, especially when states can achieve the same goal by just making it clear that they do not intend to prosecute troubled parents who seek help when they are overwhelmed with child-rearing.

Massachusetts has a "Baby Safe Haven Law" but it only applies to babies 7 days old or less. It is still problematic, though, because it permits the voluntarily-abandoning-parent to do so without providing any information about him/herself or the child. There is then no ability to notify the other parent nor any other family member who might be interested. The babies so abandoned are turned into complete foundlings without any birth-family history, medical history or sense of place in the world that can be difficult to overcome even in the most caring of adoptive homes.

As a society we should be able to help struggling parents and their children without the need to say "Children Wanted - No Question Asked."


MLR said...

The New York Times followed up with an article about the Nebraska situation on October 2nd. See "Older Children Abandoned Under Law for Babies"

The article mentions that more than 2000 babies have been abandoned under the laws since the first was passed in Texas in 1999.

Nebraska officials are now looking to redefine "child" away from the overly broad "up to age 19" that is unique to Nebraska.

Doing so, though, does not solve the problem of the underlying issues with Baby Safe Haven laws and that there is not enough assistance for troubled children, youth and families to go around.

MLR said...

11/13/2008 Omaha, NB, "Police are looking for a 17-year-old girl after she ran off when she realized her mother was taking her to a hospital to drop her off under the Safe Haven law. " See