Saturday, February 27, 2010
First Catch of the Season: Anonymous Identified Baby Dumped by Anonymous Identified Mom in Nebraska (?)
Last Wednesday a perfectly safe, healthy, and possibly identified newborn was saved from the jaws of the trash compactor when she was dumped off "anonymously" at the Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff. According to news reports, two women (KNEB says they were "a young girl and an older woman') dropped off the infant at the ER counter. The women according to reports, spoke briefly to the admissions clerk "but gave little information." But maybe enough:
[Police Capt. Kevin] Spencer said police were checking on the welfare of the mother, who was believed not to have received medical care after giving birth. Criminal charges were not being considered against the woman, who probably gave birth at home.
KNEB (Scottsbluff) filed a slightly different report:
Helser says the mother and father of the child, and the baby's exact birth date, is unknown. Scottsbluff Police, worried about the welfare of the mother, have encouraged the public to provide information to help locate her. Police don't believe she received any medical care while delivering the child.
Over on Nebraska Television, Beth Baxter, from the Orwellian-sounding Region 3 Behavioral Health Services, sort of tsks tsks Nebraska's "safe haven" law (but not enough to offend her corporate state superiors), saying that legalized anonymous dumping is "usually never the families (sic) first choice." even if the state advertises it as the "loving option" for parents frothing with murderous intent. Then, she skips to pimping Nebraska's new Boystown-operated Family Help Line "manned by professionals who can listen to the stories of the family and then refer them at the local level, so they can get the types of services and support they need."
You know. The same kind of "professionals" who advised parents and guardians to "legally abandon" their Big Kids during 2008's Nebraska Fiasco. In fact, for all we know, one of these "professionals" told mom and grandma, in appropriately and bureaucratically soothing tones, to drop off their 'lil dumpling at Regional West. It's our little state secret
All news reports mention Nebraska's "first" (and only) catch last year under NuSaveHaven (SafeHaven .2), but fail to include that Baby Boy Ana's family retrieved him almost immediately from the no-shame-no-blame-no name-fast-track-anonymous-and-secret adoption spammer. We hope Baby Girl Regional West's mom does the same. But please, leave identity-erasing, irresponsible grandma back on the corn farm when you do it.
In the past, Nebraska DHHS has sent out press releases on "safe havenings," but there's none on this one yet.
Go to Children of the Corn for a complete set of Nebraska Fiasco blogs by Baby Love Child and me with resources. I need to rework the stats, but everything else should be OK.
BONUS: NTV included this fabulous quote from Nebraska Fiasco promoter Senator Mike Gloor taking pride in the now defunct Big Kid Dump law (SafeHaven.1)
I think that speaks very well about Nebraskans and the attitude the rest of the country has about Nebraskans. I think it's lost in this dialogue. I also think it speaks to our Midwest values. We have a focus on children and finds ways to provide those services to children.
Gloor has a great future as Laura Silsby's speechwriter.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Reckling's statement is not posted on the DFS Safe Haven or DFS press release page. News reports, however, say that the parents, whose names remain confidential, will continue to work voluntarily with the department. The statement does not say what services they will use.
Baby Boy Ana is the first infant dropped off under Nebraska's "new and improved" baby dump law. We hope he is the last. See the entries below for details on the case.
If any more news on this case surfaces, we'll keep you updated. The most detailed account of yesterday's hearing (so far) can be found at the Fremont Tribune.
Welcome home, Baby Boy Ana!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
The August 4 Lincoln Journal Star reported more details in the "safe haven" abandonment of Baby Box Butte, now known as Baby Boy Ana.
According to court documents, recounted by reporter Joanne Young, but not released to the public:
...show the baby boy still had a partial umbilical cord intact when dropped off by a woman who said she was the child's aunt. Without giving hospital staff her name or the mother's name, she provided some family medical history.
Two days later, while HHS was working on placing the baby with foster parents who could adopt him, a woman contacted HHS, saying she was the biological mother. Officials met shortly after that with her and the alleged father, maternal grandparents and aunt...
...Court documents show the mother, whose name has not been made public, reported she had not known she was pregnant until she went into labor.
She had started birth control, but had stopped after three months. She then noticed she was gaining weight, but never larger than "one size in jeans." She said she thought the "bloating" she was experiencing was from taking the birth control pill.
She had a period after stopping the pill and another two months later, she reported.
On July 20, she started cramping and felt the urge to push. That was when she realized she was pregnant, she said. She filled a bathtub with water, climbed in and delivered the baby. She sterilized a pair of scissors, cut the umbilical cord and used bobby pins to seal the ends.
She reported she was scared and didn't know what to do next. She knew about the safe haven law, and asked her sister to take the baby to the hospital.
At the meeting with the family, Mary Mockerman, a nurse at the hospital, identified the aunt as the woman who brought the baby in. She had given the aunt her personal, unpublished cell phone number and said the call requesting the baby be returned to the mother came to that cell number.
Dr. Bruce Forney, an Alliance family practice physician, examined and confirmed the mother had recently given birth.
The baby stayed at the hospital three nights, and both of the alleged parents visited the baby. The mother stayed at the hospital and began nursing the infant.As discussed in our two previous entries, three days after his legal abandonment at Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance, Nebraska HHS and Box Butte County Judge Charles Plantz placed Baby Boy Ana with his grandmother and mother while HHS continued its investigation. The baby's permanent placement with his family is contingent on HHS findings.
Box Butte County Attorney Kathleen Hutchinson isn't pleased with the quick turn around. According to the same article, Hutchinson thinks the state needs to "step back and think about why the child was turned over to the state, and not rush into placement."
Unicam Speaker Mike Flood (left) agrees. "We need to look at the broader picture for all children who find themselves in this unthinkable situation."
Baby Boy Ana would not be in this "unthinkable situation" now if Flood, his Unicam cronies (such as Sen. Arnie Struthman who is thrilled that the law he sponsored and "hoped would never be used" has been used), and outside agitators hadn't created this "unthinkable situation," first with LB 157 the Big Kids law, and later, it's aged down LB 1 Little Kids law.
We don't remember anybody (with the possible exception of Nurse Mary Mockerman) caring about what led up to Baby Boy Ana being turned over anonymously to the state and thrown into this "unthinkable situation" --until his family turned up to reclaim him from the loving arms of the state and his state-chosen adopters.
Nobody cared about the "unthinkable situation" of the woman, alone and frightened, who gave birth to Baby Boy Ana or about how Baby Boy Ana's father's parental rights were being sideswiped in the new and improved Nebraska Kid Grab.
We certainly don't remember Flood & Crew shedding tears, other than those of embarrassment, over the 50 Big Kids whose parents or guardians either dropped off or attempted to drop off at state approved dump sites during last year's Nebraska Fiasco.
None of these weepy crocks cared about the "broader picture" of how "all those children who find themselves in this unthinkable situation" felt last year about being shooed off into ERs courtesy of Nebraska's wacky lawmakers, while their families sped away from the parking lot under cover of law. Or how some of these parents and guardians in their own "unthinkable situation" were treated by HHS: portrayed as immature, uncaring, deadbeats, and criminals threatened with prosecution for following--sometimes on the advice of HHS employees--the letter of a two-sentence law that said it was legal and dandy for anyone to abandon anybody's kids of any age at government approved dump sites.
Last year Flood & Crew had no problem with the state's quick return of out-of-state dumpees. Cross-border kids barely had time to unload their backpacks at over-crowded childrens shelters before they were volleyed back home to be somebody else's problem.
And absolutely nobody cared about the speeding-bullet turn-around last November when the governor called a special session of the Unicam to "re-evaluate" child grabbing in Nebraska. Instead of dismantling their fiasco and taking the time to work out real solutions for Nebraska's massive child mental health and welfare mess (which by the way does NOT include newborn discard) they zipped through a re-write turning the Big Kid Law into a Little Kid Law erasing the most silent and small from public and political sight and conscience and continuing Big Kid limboland.
Baby dump addicts assume murder is the default solution for an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. They have convinced lawmakers and the gulliable uninformed public that there are only two options: the dumpster or legalized abandonment. Responsible alternatives aren't mentioned: counseling, public assistance, temporary surrender, permanent surrender for adoption, and family communication. When a parent trips down the fast track without knowing those real alternatives, she (and it's almost always a she) is praised for her courage. That is, for not defaulting to her natural instincts of discard and death. When she makes the "loving" decision to not kill her baby and runs to the nearest legal dumping ground, she is praised for using the law "to save a life." But when she realizes her panicked mistake and wants her child back, she's considered dangerous. After all, any woman who "safe havens" her baby though the state-advertised, encouraged, and facilitated dump program is a potential killer.
No one has argued that every newborn who is "safe havened" should be returned immediately upon request. Each case is unique. There is no indication in the Baby Boy Ana case that a quick return is not in the interest of everyone. Hospital staff, HHS, the baby's guardian ad litem, and the court agreed that the baby should go home immediately. Hutchinson, Flood and their ilk didn't learn a thing from the Nebraska Fiasco last year.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday and Friday news reports (here, here, and here) circulated that the biological parents of the newborn had contacted authorities as early as July 22, to see about the return of the infant.
Saturday, the Alliance Star Herald and Omaha World-Herald gave details. The papers report that on July 22, two days after the baby was left at Box Butte General Hospital, the mother, her relatives, and the baby's father contacted the hospital, asking for the baby's return. The baby had been put on a routine 48-hour hold and officials were preparing to release him to a foster-to-adopt family. HHS, consequently, decided to keep the baby for another night at the hospital where both parents visited him, and the mother cared and stayed with him.
Reports in both papers are substantially the same. The quote below is from the Alliance Star-Herald, a more detailed account than appears in the World-Herald:
The biological parents of a baby boy abandoned under the state’s Safe Haven Act had asked for the baby to be returned after changing their minds about surrendering the child under the state’s Safe Haven law, according to court documents filed in Box Butte County Court.
An aunt dropped off the baby boy July 20, according to officials with the Department of Health and Human Services. The baby was placed on a 48-hour hold by law enforcement, which is standard practice in cases until custody is established with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
According to an affidavit filed by a guardian ad litem assigned to the case, the mother of the child didn’t realize she was pregnant and gave birth to the infant in a bathtub of water. She sterilized a pair of scissors, cut the umbilical cord and used bobby pins to seal the ends. The mother reported that she was scared and didn’t know what to do next. She heard about the Safe Haven law and requested that her sister deliver the baby to the hospital.
Two days later, the biological mother and relatives contacted a Box Butte General Hospital official and said that the biological parents wanted the baby. The baby had been ready for release and HHS officials were in the process of placing the baby with a foster-adoption family.
On July 23, under a plan arranged by HHS, Box Butte County Judge Charles Plantz (left) granted legal custody to the agency while the parents undergo genetic testing and psychological assessment. Plantz made it clear in his order that HHS should proceed with its plan to place the baby with his biological mother while its investigation continues. The maternal grandmother is taking a leave of absence from her job to help care for the infant and his mother. The Star-Herald says the grandmother will move into the mother's home, but the Herald-World says the mother will move into the grandmother's home. The father will be allowed easy access to the infant.
According to court documents, Larry Miller, the baby's court appointed guardian ad litem said, "NDHS believes this arrangement will provide safety for the baby." Hospital officials filed an affidavit in which they said they believe it would be best for the mother and baby to be together so the mom could nurse and bond with him. (Note: court documents are not available to the public; information on them comes from news reports.)
The next hearing on the case is scheduled for August 18. The HHS name assigned to the baby, the names of the parents, and the initials used in the court proceedings have not been released. The current location of the baby is unclear, but it sounds like he is with his mother.
Baby dump promoters and the press went into a dither when the baby, as per Unicam specification, was delivered in tact to Box Butte General Hospital on July 20 by someone identified and now verified as the baby's aunt (mother's sister).
Nebraska politicians such as Arnie Struthman (right) and associated baybee pimps like to brag to scared and uninformed suckers that legalized anonymous baby dumping is a no-muss-no-fuss-no-questions-asked-walk away-from-the-problem child surrender with no legal or social consequences. Apparently, these propagandists forgot to tell this to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. HHS threw out a dragnet for the parents as soon as the baby was dropped of.
As I posted last week, HHS publicized far and wide:
It’s important to gather information like family medical history to meet this child’s current and future needs.
HHS spokesperson, Jeanne Atkinson went even farther. According to in the July 23 Omaha World-Herald:
A newborn dropped off this week under Nebraska's revised safe haven law might have to spend six months or more in foster care unless his parents can be found.State law allows courts to terminate parental rights after children have been abandoned for six months or more.That would free the infant boy, who was left at a western Nebraska hospital Monday evening, for adoption.Getting an adoption finalized could take additional time, said Jeanne Atkinson, a spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
See, the folks at HHS (for all their missteps during the late Nebraska Fiasco), know that "safe haven" is a spurious law that conflicts with all sorts of state and national child welfare laws and policies, not to mention professional child welfare standards and ethics, not to mention it's bad for the kid and its permanent legal disposition, not to mention it makes the state look like its turning its children into figili della Madonna. After the Nebraska Fiasco, any attempt at legal anonymous newborn dump and grab will raise questions and hackles.
When I first heard that the parents of Baby Box Butte had come forward (with no details) I thought either they (1) wanted to reclaim him or (2) wanted to make legal surrender and adoption proceedings easier. Scenario 1 is usually the case when parents come forward. They realize they panicked or were misinformed and want their baby back. In Scenario 2, parents realize they panicked or were misinformed and want to make a genuine adoption plan for the good of their child and themselves. In the nearly 10 years I've researched legalized dumping I have not found one single case where a parent or a family member who petitioned for return was denied.
I believe there are two reasons for this:
- Child welfare workers by in large do not like "safe haven" laws and except when thwarted by legal anonymity laws that binds their hands, hold a higher child welfare standard than do politicians and amateur do-gooders via counseling, education, and informed consent whether the final decision of the parent(s) be reunification, kinship care, temporary foster care, or adoption.
- The state fears if victims of "safe havening" are not returned, except for good cause, a parent or relative will seek legal redress. Since "safe haven" laws are already dancing on thin ice, the chance of overturning a law on constitutional grounds given the right circumstances in any state, is good. Not only would costly time-consuming litigation be necessary, but if the plaintiff were successful the entire law could be overturned, and adoption placements of safe havened children be vacated. If the case goes up the law ladder far enough, the entire Ponzi scheme could collapse throughout the country. Keeping families in tact post-dump, then, is simply utilitarian even if it is the right thing to do.
Congratulations to Judge Plantz for the quick turnaround on this case and putting the skids on further harm to this family. I hope the soon-to-be permanently reunited family gets the support and assistance it needs, and that others who may be in similar circumstances study this cautionary tale and seek real help and support, not the state-facilitated political feel-good baby abandonment solution they will regret.
This seems as good a place as any to add this note.
I know that many find it difficult to believe that some pregnant women are unaware of their pregnancies. I've been less skeptical. I believe that sometimes women are in deep deep denial but in other cases they simply don't have regular pregnancy symptoms or are misdiagnosed.
A good friend of mine was 6 1/2 months pregnant before she was finally diagnosed. She had always been told she could not have children. When she exhibited pregnancy symptoms at least two OB-GYNs guaranteed her she was not pregnant. When she was referred to a specialist in a near-by town, guess what! Since then, I've been rather interested in this phenomena and always read articles on the subject when they pop up in the popular press. There is also quite a bit of academic literature on the subject. The truth is, undiagnosed and unknown pregnancy is not as rare as you'd think.
The Learning Channel is currently running a show, I Didn't Know I was Pregnant. I watched several episodes last week. The women featured don't appear to be mentally disturbed or in deep denial. They are not baby dumpers or potential dumpers. The simply had little or no reason to suspect they were pregnant. The show's website features Top 10 Reasons Why Women Don't Know They are Pregnant, a succinct lay guide to undetected pregnancy.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Monday evening a baby boy was left at Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance under Nebraska's aged down new dump law created over the legislative special session. Nebraska law, originally accepted older kids, but was "aged down" in the wake of their "big kid" dump fiasco that made international headlines.
This marks the first legalized infant abandonment in Nebraska since the final "big kid" dump in late November '08.
Quoting Marley's piece,
According to Nebraska Health and Human Services Chief Executive Officer Kerry Winterer (RIP Todd Landry), in an HHS press release:
“It’s important to gather information like family medical history to meet this child’s current and future needs,” he said.
Officials asked that anyone with information call the HHS office in Gering at 308-436-6559, the Box Butte County Sheriff’s Office at 308-762-6464, the Alliance Police Department at 308-762-4955 or the Nebraska State Patrol at 308-632-1211.
While it appears the "fiasco" taught Nebraska at least a little about the vital importance of preserving at least a few scraps of information for the kid, clearly Nebraska has yet to learn the broader lesson:
EVERY SINGLE LEGALIZED CHILD ABANDONMENT MARKS A FAILURE:
- a fundamental failure of the state to protect the long term interests and human rights of these kids.
- A failure of the state to treat these instances as what they are, marking a crisis for the parent (s), be that psychological, economic, covering over traumatic events such as incest or domestic abuse, etc.
- The state inexcusably providing what amounts to a "make it all just go away" vent, whereby underlying core issues, and genuine needs, are simply ignored. The kids themselves are left to deal with the legacy of such.
Monday marks yet another sad day, a day on which the State of Nebraska failed one of its most vulnerable and least able to protect their own interests, and a day when whatever family this child once had is left to disappear into shadows with their own lifetime's worth of a festering secret that can never be rectified.
Nebraska had an opportunity after seeing what legalized child dumping or what is oh so politely reframed as "safe haven," meant to those old enough to speak of their own experiences of being "legally abandoned." An opportunity to dismantle its dump system. Instead they chose to preserve it, aging down to those unable to speak about their own experiences. In essence, Nebraska found a way to silence its most directly affected and experienced critics, at least until they grow older, long after this crop of politicians leaves office.
No, this is not some "greater good," this is not a "save," nor should this act be celebrated. This is nothing more than rot from within. Shame on Nebraska for maintaining its system of secrets and lies, pushing the lifelong consequences of such down onto a newborn.
Nebraska's post-fiasco law permits designated dumpers to drop off babies 30 days and younger no questions asked.
Did we say no questions asked?
According to Nebraska Health and Human Services Chief Executive Officer Kerry Winterer (RIP Todd Landry), in an HHS press release:
“It’s important to gather information like family medical history to meet this child’s current and future needs,” he said.
Officials asked that anyone with information call the HHS office in Gering at 308-436-6559, the Box Butte County Sheriff’s Office at 308-762-6464, the Alliance Police Department at 308-762-4955 or the Nebraska State Patrol at 308-632-1211.
What ever happened to no shame, no blame, no name?
The press release does not appear on the state's "safe haven" page or HHS press release page. If and when it does, I'll link it here. I'll also update when Nebraska's self-servers comment on how they saved just one...
Alliance, Nebraska, population 8,959 (2000 census) is located in northwest Nebraska. Before it became Nebraska's first post-fiasco dumping ground it was known mainly for its replica of Stonehenge constructed from automobiles.
UPDATE: The HHS press release is now up. Click here.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Yesterday, Gary Staton, 36, appeared before Douglas County Juvenile Court judge Elizabeth Crnkovich to settle guardianship of his two oldest sons, 16 and 17, "safe havened" last September at Creighton University Hospital during the Nebraska Fiasco. Crnkovich, who has worked with the family for the last six months, did not terminate Staton's parental rights, but appointed unnamed legal guardians for the boys " who are currently in foster care and attending high school together. Calling the Statons a "good family" Crnkovich told Gary Staton, "I've worked with you a long time and through that have known the challenges and have known the circumstances that brought us to this place... What you've done today, oddly enough is very generous."
On March 12, Staton voluntarily terminated parental rights to his seven youngest children, "safe havened" at the same time. Those children are currently living with his late wife's aunt in Lincoln. According to Action 3 News Omaha, she plans to adopt them.
After the hearing Action 3 decided to stalk Staton, forcing him to sneak out down the backstairs of his new house without comment. A reporter, however, managed to nail Staton's father-in-law, Jack Manzer, who said the kids are in school, making new friends, and doing OK.
"Any hard feelings toward Gary? I'd like if things would have come out better, but no he's their father and that's just the way it is."
If anything good came out of this case at all, it's that the Statons have been able to stay together, more or less, though I can't even imagine to begin to know how these kids feel.
I'll include additional details if they come out tomorrow.
In the meantime, still no expected newborns thrown into the maw.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
GARY STATON TERMINATES PARENTAL RIGHTS
According to Omaha Action 3 News, Gary Saton, 36, the widower who "safe havened 9 of his 10 children (the oldest is a legal adult) at Creighton University Medical Center last September, went to court Monday (March 9) to formally terminate his parental rights. Since their abandonment, the seven youngest children, ages 2-15, have been living with an aunt (sometimes described as a great aunt) in Lincoln who will remain their legal guardian until each turns 19. The two oldest boys are, at their own request, living in foster care in Omaha so they can finish high school together. Staton was granted visitation. He planned to visit his former family in Lincoln Monday evening. No word otherwise, on Staton's current situation except he has moved from the family's home which has been condemned by the city.
Last October, a week after their "legal abandonment" and placement in Lincoln, the seven youngest Statons became the subject of a tug-of-war between their aunt/ HHS and their court appointed advocate, Thomas Incontro. Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Elizabeth Crnkovich (otherwise a voice of reason during the Nebraska Fiasco) found the placement inappropriate after Incontro complained that some of the kids, living with the aunt only a couple of days, were sleeping on air mattresses or sharing mattress on the floor, none had been enrolled in a new school, and the state wasn't "helping enough."
To hear Mr. Incontro and Judge Crnkovich talk (she reportedly said the children were in "unlivable conditions), you'd think we are all be prepared for the sudden arrival of seven abandoned children into our homes, complete with beds, therapists and school supplies. I bet Incontro and Crnkovich are!
This nuttery is from an October 1, 2008 broadcast on KETV:
The Lancaster County judge ordered the children removed because their aunt's home didn't have enough room for them.
Three of the kids were sleeping on the same mattress and two others shared an air mattress. None of them are in school because they have moved to a different county, said their attorney, Tom Incontro.
"They wanted to stay together and they wanted to stay with family," said Todd Landry, the Director of Health and Human Services. "We had a safe family member they could go to on a short term basis."Health and Human Services workers checked out the children's great aunt and found the home was too small to house seven children."We knew they were going to, very temporarily, on a very short term basis, be sharing a bed," Landry said
Incontro said in court Wednesday that the aunt who stepped forward to help the kids is not prepared to care for them. Judge Elizabeth Crnkovich ordered them to be moved by the end of the day.
"I think we might have rushed this a bit," Incontro said. "I think in this case we hurried up, got that done and didn't put into place the things the kids need immediately."
But later Wednesday, the Department of Health and Humans Services appealed the judge's decision, saying it's in the kids' best interest to stay together and live with a relative who cares about them
"They are happy to be together with family," said Landry.
The Staton kids again have been shuffled into foster care, which is where they started after their father, Gary Staton, dropped them off at Creighton University Medical Center last week. Staton avoided charges because his actions were protected under Nebraska's controversial Safe Haven law."It bothers me," Incontro said. "The kids went back to family, now may not be with family for a few days, and that concerns me. But if it's not appropriate, it's not appropriate."
Compare these two:
Todd Landry: They wanted to stay together and they wanted to stay with family. We had a safe family member they could go to on a short term basis...They are happy to be together with family."
Thomas Incontro "I think in this case we hurried up, got that done and didn't put into place the things the kids need immediately."
Let's get this straight. We are not talking about long-term deprivation, but emergency shelter for a family of seven abandoned children, suddenly separated from their father and 3 older siblings, and whose mother is dead, According to the child advocate and judge, it is more important for children to sleep in their "own" beds in strangers' homes immediately after a family tragedy, than remain together in safe surroundings with a loving family member. Air mattresses! Oh my! Did neither Incontro of Crmkovich go to college?
Just before Christmas, Judge Crmkovich reversed her order after DHS and the aunt improved the "living" situation and the Staton kids were given into their aunt's custody. Gary Staton never showed an interest in regaining custody, though he has attended hearings, therapy sessions and stayed in contact with the kids.
TODD WE HARDLY KNEW YE: TODD LANDRY HEADS TO TEXAS
To no one's surprise, Todd Landry, director of Nebraska's Children and Family Services, and the official state voice of the Nebraska Fiasco, has announced he will soon depart for more friendly climes...or as he puts it "I have a great opportunity come my way, and I decided it was the best thing for me and my family." No doubt.
On April 1, Landry will become the executive director of the Lena Pope Home a private child and family agency in Fort Worth, Texas. He served well, if not so wisely, in Nebraska for 20 months.
Back in September 2008, Landry gained the opprobrium of stressed-out parents, under-staffed professionals, and shocked-I-tell-you-shocked politicians with his "insensitive" statements about the state's big kid dumpers. As soon as Landry released the dubiously titled, Safe Haven Law Does Not Absolve Parents of Responsibility press release and made subsequent public comments implying that dumpers are lazy, irresponsible, and immature, I figured he was out.
Now that Landry is on the last train to Fort Worth, pols who made the mess he was charged with covering up and cleaning up, are weeping copious crocodile tears:
Sen. Tim Gray chair of the Health and Human Service Committee called Landry's departure "a loss for Nebraska."
"Sen. Amanda Gill, head of the task force looking into issues related to "safe haven" law, although critical of Landry during the Fiasco, praised him for his current cooperation in finding ways to help troubled children.
Sen. Gwen Howard, who could hardly keep her socks on during the Fiasco, told the press, "The safe-haven issue was certainly difficult for everyone. I do believe that Todd Landry wanted to do a good job."
Nobody, of course, has complained that on Landry's watch the state collected $273 million in child support payments, an all-time high. But, then, enforcing child support doesn't make the Unicam look stupid.
Landry should write a book: 20 Months of Nebraska Hell: My Life as Collateral Damage
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Despite their protests that Nebraska's "safe haven" was their last resort and they wanted their kids back...., here's a rundown from yesterday' Omaha World-Hearld on other cases. No names published:
- Ten parents are participating in Juvenile Court proceedings and services in the hope of getting their children returned.
- Seven other parents or guardians have not attended court hearings to pursue being reunited with the children. Prosecutors probably will try to terminate their parental rights.
- Two people rescinded legal guardianships, but in both cases, the biological parents had not had their rights terminated. At least one parent in each case has been involved in court.
Oh, and in case anybody is wondering, not one glassy-eyed, desperate mother has wandered into any Nebraska hospital since its new and improved law went into effect to save her "unwanted newborn" from the trash.. Nor has any newborn been dumpsterized. Obviously, somebody's not doing their job!
Saturday, January 3, 2009
From the same folks who last fall brought us at least 50 abandoned and traumatized teens and pre-teens via their "unique safe haven law" comes the news that the majority of Nebraska senators responding to a pre-session poll by the Associated Press, would support a measure to ban abortion in the state. Most support an exception for rape, incest, or the health of the woman, but four reject all exceptions.
According to an article in the December 31 Beatrice Daily Sun:
23 Nebraska state senators [out of the 40 who responded] said they would back such a ban. That's despite the precedence of Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a woman's right to have an abortion.
The full AP survey has not been released. According to a commenter named "Eric" on Kyle Michaelis' New Nebraska Network blog The Coat Hanger Caucus: Almost 1/2 of senators support abortion ban (December 30) Senators Adams, Carlson, Coash, Cornett, Flood, Fulton, Gay, Gloor, Hadley, Hansen, Harms, Heidemann, Janssen, Karpisek, Langemeier, McCoy, Nelson, Pankonin, Pirsch, Schilz, Stuthman, Utter, and Wightman indicated they would support a ban on abortion. "Eric" speculates from past record that Senators Ashford, Christensen, Dierks, Dubas, Fischer, Friend, Giese, Lathrop, Lautenbaugh, Louden, Mello, Nordquist, Pahls, Price, Sullivan, and Wallman would also most likely support some type of ban.
Here's where it gets interesting. In another AP poll of senators published in the December 24, 2008 Lincoln Journal Star, In the wake of the recent changes to Nebraska’s safe-haven law, do you feel the state needs to increase services for older children with behavioral problems?, anti-abortion Senators Janssen and McCoy said "No" and anti-abortion Senators Flood, Gloor, Langemeier, Pankonin, Pirsch, Schilz, Stuthman, and Utter declared themselves "Unsure." Speculative abortion-ban Senators Ashford, Friend, Louden, and Schilz also declared themselves "Unsure." Stuthman, who fought to the bitter end the November Special Session of the Unicam to revisit the "unique"kid dump law he sponsored that made Nebraska the laughing stock of the country, said he was unsure if additional services were needed because, "We need to make sure that the services that we have are being utilized."
And for sheer audacity: Stuthman and "Unsure" Senator Pankonin at the time the "safe haven" poll was published, were members of the Children in Crisis Task Force. The task force formed by Governor Dave Heineman, after Stuthman's "unique" law was replaced with one that limited dumpees to the age of 30 days, was charged with finding a solution--in three meetings--to problems exposed by the old "safe haven" law which Stuthman held so dear to his heart. Senator McGill, who chaired the task force skipped the question.
Apparently these senators dozed through the Nebraska Fiasco and the testimonies of dozens of Nebraskans who made their lock-out of putative in-place state and private social services up close and personal during the Unicam Special Session. I hope those parents and guardians who bussed in and knocked on the statehouse door didn't expect the task force to actually do something other than bloviate out their nose. A task force, after all, is where politicians safe haven their political asses. If it saves just one.
I wrote the following about"unsure" and family unfriendly Senator Pete Pirsch back in September when Big Kids began to clog up ERs. Pete proudly opposes abortion, thinks teen dumps are inconvenient but OK if they save a baby someplace else, and can't figure out if Nebraska's child welfare system is broken enough yet to warrant a second look--at least from him:
According to Sen. Pete Persch in an August 15, 2008 article in stateline.org, the only way Nebraska "safe haven" pimps could get their bill passed was to expand the already crazy template of newborn abandonment to an even crazier law to legalize all child abandonment:
State Sen. Pete Pirsch, whose compromise amendment eventually became the law, said using the broad language was intentional, because several senators felt strongly that the safe haven protection needed to be extended to all children. Unaware that language has consequences.
Pirsch continued to bray on:
In my opinion, the need to pass a safe haven bill outweighed the need for perfect language,” “The risk to babies’ lives far outweighed the possibility of a few inconvenient circumstances with older children.”No AP abortion questionnaire comment by Pirsch was published , but dump pusher Tony Fulton's response is quoted in the Beatrice Sun :
Direct abortion is the purposeful taking of innocent human life, and unintended consequences are psychological, emotional and spiritual harm to the mother.
There are also far-reaching physical consequences suffered by the unsuspecting mother. If the courts overturn Roe, Nebraska should follow suit and redouble our efforts to help desperate mothers who may be in situations contemplating abortion.
No help for "desperate mothers who may be contemplating "safe havening" their babies, though. (What is an "unsuspecting mother," anyway?) I guess to these jokers dumping off Big Kids or even small ones you're not quite attached to yet, does no "psychological, emotional" and spiritual harm" to mother or child as long as it's done with the legislature's friendly facilitation as we had this last fall.
Here's what Lavennia Coover (below) wrote in the October 4, 2008 Omaha World-Hearld after she was virtually thrown out of Immanuel Hospital when she "safe havened" her mentally ill son Skyler in a last ditch attempt to get help for him:
While I was at the hospital I had to request to speak with the social worker on duty at the hospital . I also spoke to the police and the intake nurse for child and adolescents. During the time I was at the hospital trying to give all the information that I felt was needed to ensure my child got the help he desperately needed, and told the staff that if they needed anything else to please call me, because I was trying to do was get the help my child needed,and and staff continually telling me I could leave now! I gave my name and phone numbers and told the staff that if they needed anything else to please call me, because all I was trying to do was get the help my child needed and was unavailable to us in the area of Nebraska where we lived. Todd Reckling (administrator of Nebraska's Office of Protection and Safety) also stated to me that I would be contacted within 48 hours of the whereabouts of my child and the next steps. It has been four days and I have not heard anything and when I try to find out I am not able to get any information. ...
...the help my family received from the state was as follows: the state took custody of my child. I was told I was a worthless parent and the judge didn't know if I deserved my other two children...
Coover, a law abiding school teacher who thought the "safe haven law" actually meant what it said, was later charged with neglect. Her case is pending.
There is no talk of an abortion ban being introduced in the Unicam this coming session, but it doesn't take a Cornhusker English Department POMO to deconstruct that baby dump 2.0 could be one of those "efforts" to help desperate mothers" contemplating abortion, even though abortion is perfectly legal and is not an issue for women who dump who often don't even acknowledge they're pregnant.
As for the task force, not much has been written. The Kearney Hub reported that a December 1 meeting was "productive" according to people who attended. Task Force chair Senator Amanda McGill said, "the group spent the day talking about and suggesting possible solutions to the problems facing children with behavioral, mental and emotional problems." Most ideas, she said centered around four themes: access to services, resources, early intervention, and crisis management. No word on the second meeting, but the third was canceled due to "bad weather."A "legislative proposal" is pending.
The December 28, 2008, Omaha World Hearld published an extremely long and enlightening article, Nebraska system leaves many frustrated in search for mental health treatment which lays much of the blame for the run-up (and presumed continuation) to the Nebraska Fiasco on the lack of intensive mental health services for Nebraska's wards at the door of Magellan Behavioral Health, the state's private HMO that determines who gets what treatment in the state's foster care system. As the gatekeeper, it pinches the state's pennies and remains a mystery, even to juvenile court judges. Undoubtedly your own state has similar blockages to quality intensive care for the mentally ill caught in the child welfare system.
The January 2 Gothenburg Times reports that any attempt to fund much of anything new will get the cold shoulder when the Unicam meets next week. The problem: The state's projected $377 million gap between anticipated tax revenue and spending.
Now that the Nebraska Fiasco is but a sordid memory it's business as usual.
There is no good way to work the into the above blog, but I wanted to include it here as a extended addenda that brings some of the Nebraska Fiasco into context.
Kyle Michaelis also wrote a blog highly critical of Governor Dave Heineman, which I didn't see until today, holding the governor personally responsible for the Nebraska Fiasco: Does Dave Heineman Deserve Blame for the Safe Haven Debacle? Here is a portion:
The dilemmas raised by this whole situation have been numerous and ugly. The one thing they all have in common is that they've made Nebraska look very bad. Unfortunately, most of the mockery and scorn has been directed at our state legislature. That's extremely unfair, especially since it was Heineman who signed the bill into law and who later delayed in calling a special session while the situation grew into a genuine crisis.
Of course, it's unfair to point a finger at any one person for a bill that passed the legislature with only one dissenting vote. But, Heineman gave the final go-ahead and hasn't been held to account in the sligthest - even though he admitted to its flaws upon the bill's signing on February 13th, 2008.
Gov. Dave Heineman signed the state's safe haven bill late Wednesday morning, though he said he has some misgivings about the broad nature of the Nebraska measure....This wasn't some unforeseen consequence. Heineman recognized the possibility that we'd see precisely what came to pass, and he signed the legislation anyways. Every time one of those children has been dropped off, it's been Heineman's safe haven in action...
"Yes, I am going to sign it. Yes, I have some concern," Heineman said during a Wednesday morning news conference. "We have decided to expand beyond infants."
But senators can make adjustments to the law in future years if problems develop, he said.
...Recognizing that so many parents and guardians could be brought to such a desperate act as abandoning their children, Heineman might have embraced this incredible responsibility he'd helped thrust upon the state. Instead, his only focus has been personally avoiding the political consequences without any apparent compassion for the suffering and frustration that have become increasingly evident in so many Nebraska families.
Michaelis closes with these observations which are relevant to the Nebraska Fiasco
...Anyone that has been working directly with this issue could have told Landry and Heineman, but they didn't want to listen. I remember about 3 years ago, Heineman wanted to reduce the number of children in foster care because Nebraska had the highest per-capita rate. Result? All of his hacks set out to reduce those numbers NOT by finding ways to be proactive. Nope. They actually CUT OUT voluntary cases, and then required us Case Managers to start writing up fewer case plan goals. Say, for example, if a child was removed because a dirty house (we're talking cockroaches everywhere, animal feces on the floor, no food in the house, etc). We find out after the removal the parent is doing drugs, and that's why they can't take care of themselves let alone their home and their kid. Sorry, but we could no longer address drug use. If we could get them to clean up the home to an acceptable level, we'd put the kid back right away, and maybe not even persue a case beyond the initial hearing. Did it correct the real problem? Nope. But it sure got those numbers down for Dave Heineman.
Who knew Nebraska was so family unfriendly?
Saturday, December 27, 2008
But at the very bottom of the article under "Related Blogs"this gem, dated November 17, 2008 is linked to the story courtesy of Carbolic Smoke Blog: Number of children abandoned under Nebraska's safe haven law jumps from 34 to 852 when Father Flanagan drops off orphans from Boys Town at local hospital.
Witnesses say Flanagan was “downright giddy,” rubbing his hands together and laughing. He told befuddled hospital workers that “the kids are your responsibility now. It was either this or bankruptcy, so they boys had to go. This will give me a chance to reorganize and turn Boys Town into something profitable, like a Walgreens.
I'll have some genuine good news from the Nebraska Fiasco up this weekend.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Announcing SECA- Stop Encouraging Child Abandonment, working to repeal the legalized child abandonment laws
Last Friday, December 5th, 2008, the SECA web-page finally went live. (http://www.stopdumpingkids.com/)
SECA, short for “Stop Encouraging Child Abandonment,” is a concept that has been a long time coming.
From the first of the legalized child abandonment laws passed in 1999 until now, efforts to repeal and stop the dump laws have suffered from a lack of an alliance dedicated to focusing primarily on the issue.
Before SECA, responses to dump laws had been piecemeal, portions of existing organizations’ broader missions. Over the years numerous organizations have opposed and testified against the legalization of child abandonment, and individuals have contacted legislators and worked against legalized child dumping. But, there had been no one place dedicated to dismantling the evolving child abandonment infrastructure.
Thus, SECA has finally been created.
Stop Encouraging Child Abandonment works toward nothing less than the full and permanent repeal of laws that legalize child abandonment.
We feel it is not the proper role of any government to encourage child abandonment as policy.
We approach this work firmly grounded in a human/civil/identity rights perspective. We support kids, women, and reproductive autonomy.
The need for SECA had become apparent over the past nine years, but the child welfare crisis in Nebraska with its law legalizing the abandonment of older children finally made it clear to the broader public, a formalized response to legalized child dumping is necessary.
Since the beginning, the consequences of such laws have been clear to those of us “in the field.” With bills rushed through state legislatures and policy and legal criticisms by and large dismissed, the general public simply never had reason to even think about the consequences of “safe haven” laws. Most people had never heard the voice of a kid who had been legally dumped. They had never seen the desperation of mothers and families utilizing the legalized abandonment laws.
Nebraska changed everything.
Nebraska’s older kid dumps, and the state’s eventual age down of eligible dumpees from 18-year olds to those 30 days and younger has solved nothing. It has merely attempted to put off dealing with the inevitable consequences “safe haven” laws create until the infants abandoned under the new law grow old enough to speak for themselves.
The child welfare abandonment disaster across the United States, legalized everywhere except Washington DC., is far from over. It is just beginning.
Out of that context, SECA was born, not so much a formal organization, for now more of a collective voice of allies, organizations, bloggers, and individuals among others working together towards the repeal of the dump laws.
If you are interested in working against the legalized child abandonment laws, or already are, SECA can serve as a resource in that work.
We can be contacted through the SECA contact page.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Baby Safe Haven New England's Jean and Mike Morrisey, and their teen baby dump diva Renee Marcou pecked their way into the zippity-do-dah session of the Unicam, where leggies couldn't wait to pass LB 1, normalize child abandonment, and be out the door. Here's a picture of Mrs. Morrisey in her notorious white suit, "safe haven" spokesinger Ms. Marcou, and Sen. Arnie Struthman, who started the whole Nebraska Fiasco with LB 157. From the look on Struthman's face, he can die a happy man now. It's not everyday a fella can wreck his state's child welfare system AND get a thankful hug from an up-and-coming pop star hottie. Maybe they submitted testimony, twisted arms, or wagged appropriate cleavage behind closed doors, but neither the Morriseys nor Marcou testified during the Special Session, That would hardly keep them from the photo op, though. with the hint that they were important players in baby dump 2.0
According to a thinly veiled press release distributed by Baby Safe Haven Maharishi Mike Morrisey. (compare the November 23 press release on Marcou's MySpace blog page to the article in the November 25 edition of Marcou's hometown paper, the Wilmington Advocate-- embedded music video of her new release "Don't Let Go" included), Marcou was "asked" to travel to Lincoln and Omaha to "continue her [Baby Safe Haven] public awareness radio tour." Who invited her isn't revealed. We can guess.
This isn't the fist time the Ms have trolled through corn country. You can listen to a radio show with Mike on KLIN-AM back in September 2007, where he talks about Nebraska's baby abandonment "epidemic" and gives instructions on how to squeeze city councils to pressure the Unicam to keep up with the Joneses. Marcou has been hip-hopping all over New England at the behest of BSH (doncha just love that acronym?) spreading the joy to teenage girls who Marcou says she can relate to and communicate with. "I have seen the panic and know that things happen."
The media hound Morriseys hitched their wagon to Marcou's star about a year ago. It has been mutually beneficial. According to the press release, the spokessinger has made over 30 TV and radio appearances for "Baby Safe Haven New England" since then. Go over to My Space Baby Safe Haven and click on "videos" for an entire BSH-Marcou docudrama. Nothing sells records like dead babies.
During her whirlwind tour of Nebraska, Marcou dropped by the Koby Mach show on KLIN. Koby wasn't there, but Kevin Thomas was. In a nearly 6 minute interview, Marcou cluelessly discussed the corporate pop, politics. and cultural co-option nexus of which she is the culmination (so far) that the Morriseys constructed starting in 2004-2005 with their unforgettable Baby Safe Haven Rap and attempted recruitment of teens into their midlife crisis. What happened to the BSH ring tone? I wanted one. I am, however, the proud owner of a BSH t-shirt, gifted me by Jean Morrisey herself, during an encounter on Beacon Hill.
THOMAS: You predominantly started in the northeastern part of the country. How did you get in to the "baby safe haven" issue?
MARCOU Well, the directors of Baby Safe Haven New England reached out to me through an interview they had saw me on and wanted to know if I was interested. And, of course, I jumped right on it. You know, anything with a powerful message I like to be a part of. So--And I truly believe in it.
THOMAS: How long have you been in involved?
MARCOU Just about a year now.
THOMAS; And so when you go to radio stations and televisions stations--particularly in New England and now branching out to other parts of the country, as well--I know you were talking about Hawai'i a little bit earlier When you go to places like that, you are somewhat at home behind a microphone. Tell us, about your background first.
MARCOU: Well, I am a singer and a songwriter, so I'm pursuing a music career. I've been-- I've been doing that for so many years. I'm releasing an album coming out soon, and I really just got involved with the Baby Safe Haven Law about a year ago, you know. I want to grow with it and have it grow with my career as well.
and later, still trying to get an answer:
THOMAS: I'm a little curious as to how a pop singer/songwriter got involved in this. I know they contacted you, but what inside you made you get involved?
MARCOU: You know, it's obviously a good cause. I really believe in it. There's a powerful message, you know. As I'm growing as a singer, I hope that that this law will be able to grow with me and eventually be doing tours, you know all radio stations all over the country.
Through all that we still don't know why Ms. Marcou is engaged in promoting child abuse through abandonment, identity erasure, abrogation of parental rights, and an end run around best practice child welfare and adoption. We have no idea what she finds appealing about secret pregnancy and nobody-will-ever-have-to-know unattended birth. But it's a great career builder! After all, how many radio stations would have let her through the door without the BSH imprimatur?
That Ms. Marcou and her scavenger mentors are flitting cross Nebraska's airwaves urging young women to secretly drop their newborns into the OFFICIAL STATE DUMPSTER is... well...crazy!
Nebraskans don't dump their babies. In 12 years (1996-present) there were 5 reported cases of live newborn abandonment (2-3 left in relatively safe places) in Nebraska, 1 hospital abandonment, and 1 dead abandoned newborn, cause of death undetermined.
In the four months that Nebraska's "unique safe haven law" was in force, at least 50 cases of Big Kid abandonment or attempted abandonment were reported. More have probably been disappeared from the records. Absolutely no newborns were dropped off. And you can't say nobody knew about the law.
You can almost feel the hot tears of frustration: nobody, legally or illegally, dumped their newborn while the old law was in place.
Sen. Ernie Chambers (l) feels their pain,too. Chambers, opposed to any kind of legal child dumping, made possibly the most astute comment throughout the Special Session when he opined "toot-toot" as the safe haven train rushed down the track. Chambers told the Judiciary Committee that he could be guarantee that no newborns would be dumped in the state before the start of the regular Unicam session in January 2009. Maybe even longer. But the Monday Lincoln Journal Star reported in a frontpage puff piece on Marcou and the Morrisesys that "safe haven advocates say it's a real threat."
Damn it! Dump those babies now!
Marcou's new CD is out, and her album, "Don't Let Go" will be released soon. Her two singles have gotten a lot of play: Collide, about a female sexual predator picking up a one night stand and Don't Let Go which includes the words:
When everything inside ya tells you
Don't let go
Don't let your love slip away
How could you let her go?...
Hold on to me
How do I get through to you?
Don't, don't run away
Don't leave me here without your love
Who says baby dumpers don't to irony?
Or maybe they're a thick as a brick
Nebraska, having non-anonymous legalized child abandonment, now appears to want things closed on the back end, in the court hearings.
Clearly this is more of the state attempting to cover its own ass than any genuine privacy concerns as the names of both the parents and the kids are not merely in the public record, but some parents have come forward to the media doing interviews and using their children's names on Television and in print media.
None-the-less, yesterday Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Johnson took the "rare" step of closing the hearing. No reason was given for having done so.
This particular case, dating back to September 1rst is not counted among the official Nebraska DHHS "safe haven" cases, as the boy was left off at a police station. Police stations are not state designated dump sites. The boy was however, placed in foster care following the abandonment, so he was certainly no less dumped than any of the other kids.
Not only is his case not among the officially state recognized "safe haven" statistics, but now his court proceedings have gone behind closed doors as well.
See Judge closes hearing over teen left by mother at police station:
In a rare decision, a Douglas County judge closed a court hearing Monday in a case related to the Nebraska safe haven law.Fortunately, the Omaha World-Herald is still paying attention.
The hearing was for a 14-year-old boy whose mother left him Sept. 1 at the Omaha Police Department, mistakenly thinking that it qualified as a "safe haven.''
His mother was expected to enter a plea to an allegation that she neglected the boy by leaving him at the police station.
When the hearing was about to start, attorneys approached the bench to speak privately with Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Johnson, who then announced that he was closing the hearing.
No written motion was filed, and no reason was given for the decision.
Unlike most of the rest of the world who seem to think the situation is now 'resolved' and attention can now shift elsewhere, the World-Herald staff appear to understand what a unique situation the Nebraska legislators and Governor created by passing their "child" abandonment law, and they continue to keep a watchful eye (as best they can what with closed hearings and all) despite the roadblocks thrown in their way.
The World-Herald objected in court and requested a delay to consult with its attorneys.In short, to whatever extent, the World Herald staff 'get it'. They understand that secret hearings on cases Nebraska would far rather just go away, far from the public's gaze are not an acceptable outcome.
Johnson would not delay the hearing, saying it was important to expedite the case for the child's sake.
"What an unfortunate decision,'' World-Herald Executive Editor Mike Reilly said. "The U.S. Constitution, Nebraska statutes and common law all call for the public's courtrooms to remain open to the public. Exceptions are to be made only through a public hearing process that was flouted here without explanation.''
The World-Herald is continuing to follow safe haven cases through those proceedings in order to educate the public about the law and its ramifications.Perhaps the paper, like those of us who have been nose down in the details of these cases have come to understand that what happened in Nebraska was extraordinary, and that the ongoing child welfare mess on the back is likewise extraordinary.
Certainly most of these kids who were legally abandoned would most likely not have been were it not for the actions of Nebraska lawmakers. Much as the world's attention is easily distracted, for some of us these kids are not to be forgotten.
Their ordeal, far beyond the mere act of being "legally abandoned" is ongoing. Their cases are only now beginning their journey of winding through the courts. Their custody issues and situational stability are still very much up in the air.
To the paper's credit, they understand that the issues these kids face didn't fade just because much of the media glare has moved on.
The World-Herald is also fighting for open hearings in the Gary Staton case. This will be particularly critical as the Staton kids are also at the heart of what may well be the first Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) claim in relation to any state's "safe haven" law.
Equally critically important, Nebraska DHHS has filed a motion to retro-actively strip identifying information out of public documents.
This would create the first retro-active removal of information already in the public record relating to kids dumped under the law, in essence, a form of after the fact anonymity, something the Nebraska lawmakers did not write into the law in the first place.
The DHHS is doing an end run after the fact, attempting to obliterate information already in the public record by way of the courts.
The World-Herald also is fighting efforts to close a hearing in one of the official safe haven cases.Back in the September 1rst case, we see precisely what Marley and I have been writing about, when one parent dumps a kid, the other parent's parental rights are trampled. Now it appears the boy's father hopes to gain custody.
That case involves a father who left his nine children at a hospital under the safe haven law. The case increased national publicity about the safe haven law.
An HHS attorney filed a motion to close an Oct. 8 hearing a day before the hearing and requested that identifying information about the children and witnesses be removed from public documents.
The HHS attorney argued that the children's need for privacy outweighed the public's interest.
The World-Herald argued that access serves an important function to provide information about the cases. Additionally, family members have granted press interviews.
That decision is on hold while HHS is appealing another issue in the case.
In the police station case, the guardian ad litem filed a motion last week requesting that visits between the teen and his mother be suspended temporarily at the suggestion of the boy's therapist.This morning, the Omaha World-Herald published another article about the closed hearings, Bruning upset haven hearing closed:
Action on that motion took place during the closed hearing.
The court's order detailing the mother's plea and any required services for her, determined during the closed hearing, was unavailable by the time the court closed for the day.
Johnson commended the mother for making positive progress.
A portion of the hearing about the boy's father was held in open court.
The couple are divorced, and the mother had legal custody of the teen.
The father has been visiting his son, and HHS workers recommended making those visits unsupervised.
The father's lawyer said he hopes that the teen can live with him.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning on Tuesday told lawyers for the State Department of Health and Human Services that they may not file motions to close hearings or seal evidence from the public without his consent, which he expects to be rare.Then we learn Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Johnson closed the hearing thinking that the boy abandoned at the police station was a safe haven case, which clearly, according to Nebraska DHHS it never was.
"I can't foresee a circumstance where that would be necessary," he said.
Bruning learned about the issue Tuesday through a World-Herald story about efforts to close two juvenile court hearings related to the safe haven law.
"The state's interest is that the public know everything we're doing," Bruning said. "That's what's going to rule the day at the end, even when the state business is a bit messy and less than pleasant, as it has been in these safe haven cases. It brings up difficult realities."
Juvenile court hearings are typically public and part of the usual process when a child is placed in foster care.
This is remarkable, as it means even judges hearing these cases are unaware that some of these cases never qualified as "safe haven" cases:
Douglas County Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Johnson closed a hearing Monday about a 14-year-old boy whose mother left him Sept. 1 at an Omaha police station, mistakenly believing that it qualified as a "safe haven."Clearly when it comes to the court phase, a ghost in the machine dump such as the September 1rst case is being treated as if they are official "safe haven" case. They're all lumped together for the judge hearing the case.
If even the judges hearing the cases can't distinguish those that are 'official' vs. those that never met the Nebraska legal guidelines, then where are we?
In any case, Attorney General Bruning said the closed hearing didn't come as a result of a DHHS motion:
Bruning said Tuesday that the HHS attorney, John Baker, did not make the motion to close the hearing.As for keeping the public record intact, the World-Herald brings up an interesting recent Nebraska precedent:
In the other case, an HHS motion is pending to close a hearing and remove identifying information from court records in the case of a father who left his nine children.
Jodi Fenner, HHS chief legal counsel, argued in court documents that the children's need for privacy outweighs the public's interest.
The World-Herald argued that access serves an important function to provide information about the cases.
Baker of HHS also argued extensively in December against the release of juvenile court exhibits about Robert Hawkins, the 19-year-old who killed eight people and himself a year ago at the Von Maur department store.
Sarpy County Juvenile Court Judge Robert O'Neal released the records, compiled when Hawkins was a state ward to receive mental health services as a teen.