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.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Keep in mind, this was the roughly 16 hour drive from near Sacramento California to the Southwestern-most corner of Nebraska, and Kimball County Hospital . Basically a 'cross the state line and dump him quick before the law changes' dump.
Nebraska DHHS has their press release about his case from the 22nd. They label him the 36th case in the official statistics (link opens a PDF.)
Our unofficial stats, find him somewhere closer to at least number 47. (We feel secure in saying even our estimates are low.)
He is now in the process of being sent back to California.
These first two articles go into a little bit of detail about the way in which he was dumped:
Nebraska to send back abandoned Davis teen
She told the boy to pack his bags, and with her oldest son and a friend, drove all night.
Only when they were at the hospital did she tell her son she was leaving him there.
She said the boy got out of the car and walked into the hospital without looking back.
The woman said she had expected to feel relief but instead felt "sick to my stomach."
California 'haven' teen being sent back
The mother didn't stay long after reaching the Kimball hospital, local officials said.Interestingly, there is no word about whether the Mother went in with him to dump him or not.
She left "as soon as she dropped him off," said Kimball County Attorney Dave Wilson.
If not, would he have otherwise been another self "haven" wherein the kid shows up without a designated dumper?
I'll be keeping my eye out for more details on this, as Nebraska has refused to accept self "haven" cases in the past as part of the official "safe haven" program. I'm wondering if an exception was made for this boy as they had traveled so far.
The following article (& videos) lay out the woman who adopted him's side of the story. (Legally, she's his "adoptive mother.")
Yolo Mom Who Abandoned Boy In Nebraska Speaks Out
Lori says she struggled to raise Kevin ever since taking him in as a foster child at age four.(He had reached 14 by the time he was dumped.)
Be sure to see the 3 videos connected to this last piece. In one, the woman claims she was unaware that Friday was the last day before the law was set to age down, she thought it was going to change at the end of the month. (Note that at the end of this video segment, the California law is erroneously described as being for infants 14 days and younger, California's legalized abandonment law actually only applies to infants 3 days old or less.)
Despite her promise:
She told Kevin, her 14-year-old son, "if you walk into this hospital, they will find a home for you."Odds are pretty slim a 14 year old with a so called "troubled past" is going to be adopted by someone new anytime soon. He has been in Nebraska foster care for the last few days as preparations were being made to ship him back to California.
This final article confirms his adopted status:
Davis mother drops kid off in Nebraska
She had adopted him when he was four years old.19 of the 34 kids included in the most recent version, updated November 17th, of the Nebraska DHHS "matrix of commonalities of safe haven cases" (link opens a PDF) are currently or had previously been state wards.
12 of the 34 tabulated cases were listed as "Adopted/Guardianship or Relative Placement."
As the California boy came in after this latest version, he has not been included in these statistics yet. (Nebraska made it up to 36 officially counted cases before the law changed, the "matrix" only goes up through number 34 so far.)
As I have said before, the crisis these generation 1.0 of the dump kids in Nebraska face is in many cases a crisis of adoption and kids already entangled in state care.
The next generation, those dumped under version 2.o of the dump law, those 30 days and younger, remain to be seen.
There has however been one case of a self "haven" who falls squarely between the two generations, a 12 year old who was disqualified and is going by and large unnoticed. He came in on Sunday after the law had aged down.
But as for Kevin, from California, he is unfortunately just another kid dumped into Nebraska's "returns department" for no longer desirable adoptees.
Sure, everyone wants one when they're young and cute, but similar to many adopted pets, as they grow older, bigger, and less manageable, now kids like those once cuddly and adorable pets have been dumped, abandoned by those who no longer wanted them.
Monday, November 24, 2008
BASTARD NATION LETTER TO GOVERNOR AND UNICAM: AGING DOWN DID NOTHING TO CHANGE MESSAGE THAT IT'S OK TO DUMP YOUR CHILD
Dear Governor Heineman:
Bastard Nation, the Adoptee Rights Organization, is deeply troubled by the decision of last week’s Special Session, to repeal LB 157 and replace it with the equally odious LB 1. By doing so, Nebraska, institutionalized child abandonment, making it just another normal choice for parents unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities to their children.
Since their inception in Texas in 1999, Bastard Nation has opposed all so-called “safe haven” laws, which we call “baby dump laws.
The causes of child dumping are social isolation, fear, family dysfunction, mental illness, substance abuse, poverty, and lack of social services or ability to access those already in place. LB 1 and its previous bill, don’t address these deep-rooted social and economic problems. They just make them “go away,” out of sight out of mind. The problems of parents, whether they are a frightened 15-year old mom of a newborn or a 55-year old grandpa caring for a mentally ill grandson, are very real, and they cannot and should not be solved by a quick-fix, government facilitated and promoted child abandonment program.
Child abandonment is child abandonment no matter at what age and what kind of a comforting name you slap on it. Just because a child can’t remember what was done to him or her, doesn’t lessen the act, the pain, the harm, or the questions those kids will endure throughout their lives. Nebraska’s new plan to divvy up children by age, into those worthy and those unworthy of abandonment protection is not acceptable nor is it best child welfare practice. Aging down to 30 days simply creates a new set of abandoned children and their families who will suffer the lifelong consequences of bad legislation.
Nebraska had it right the first time. It was the last state to pass a “safe haven” law. It could have been the first to repeal before more families are harmed or even destroyed.
Last week, Nebraska’s children needed an advocate—a friend. For those too young or unable to speak for themselves, they needed a voice. Up until the very vote on Friday morning, a bill could have been introduced to permanently repeal LB 157 with no amendments or new bills later. Nebraska could have initiated a child-centric, compassionate common sense approach and message that the state does not support any form child abandonment under any circumstance. The Unicam rejected that option and took the quick-fix out.
Nebraska’s kids got a law that continues to abuse them through legal baby dumping. They got a task force that will pat itself on the back and do nothing. The victims will remain voiceless.
Aging down LB 157 did nothing to change the message that it is OK to dump your child. As long as Nebraska condones the abandonment of any child, all children—and their families-- are in danger.
The article provides more information about some of the kids from the parents' perspective.
As for the kids themselves, the article contains a small but critically important detail that may explain part of the reason the directly affected kids' voices in all this have been so absent.
In Tyler's case at least, he is effectively shut up by conditions the state has put upon his placement:
After staying at a youth shelter, Tyler was recently sent by the state to live with a relative on his father's side. The relative declined to allow the child to be interviewed, saying it was a condition of Tyler's placement with his family. State officials also declined to make Tyler available.(emphasis added)
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Yesterday, via a Moonie Times (Washington Times) article we get this little gem:
Ironically, not a single one of those children relinquished was an infant, said Tracey Johnson, executive director of the National Alliance of Safe Havens. Besides, she added, Nebraska has one of the best social service networks in the country that provides temporary foster care until parents and children "can get their heads back together."(emphasis added)
You have got to be kidding me.
Ms. Johnson is talking about a system currently under federal restrictions that came as a result of a federal inquiry!
Nebraska removes more kids per-capita from their families than any other state. They have the most kids living in state care. (As of October '08.)
Nebraska has been hard at work trying to bring it's current system up to even the most basic child welfare standards in order to avoid up to potentially more than $250 million in penalties.
When federal officials conducted the previous audit, Nebraska failed to meet minimum national standards for protections against a list of priorities including child abuse and neglect foster care, financial support and health care.
The federal inquiry came as part of a national drive to curb domestic violence and to try to reduce the number of homicides related to domestic violence.
In 2002, Nebraska was among the states with the highest per capita numbers of child fatalities.
Back in 2006, this is how the Columbus Telegram summarized the situation not long after the number of children in the state's child welfare system reach an all time high (in April):
Hahn said the governor was simply telling HHS how to handle the issue, but there was no plan for resolution.In 2006, despite Governor Heineman's hype, the numbers continued to tell a sad story.
“There is no specific action, no funding commitment to make these things happen,” Hahn said. “He is providing neither the mechanism nor the funding to make (improvements).”
“The situation is so critical a lawsuit was filed against the governor and the state of Nebraska,” he said, referring to a pending federal lawsuit that alleges the state is endangering children with an “understaffed, underfunded and unresponsive” foster care system.
The class-action lawsuit was filed last year in U.S. District Court in Lincoln by New York-based Children's Rights, the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest and several private law firms on behalf of the 6,000 children in the state's foster care system. One of the children, identified only as “Paulette V.,” was placed in 17 different foster homes or facilities and was repeatedly physically and sexually abused during 12 years in foster care.
The lawsuit says many foster homes are overcrowded, often housing as many as six children at a time, and many children do not receive adequate medical care or mental health services.
Voices for Children in Nebraska gathered some key facts here that provide a sketch overview of out of home care in Nebraska based on the 2006 census report (the most recent):
- 10,972 children in out-of-home care-Source: Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, 2006
- 55.1%of children in foster care have experienced four or more placements- Source: State Foster Care Review Board, 2006
- 36%of children in foster care have had four or more different caseworkers- Source: State Foster Care Review Board, 2006
By 2007, the Feds were arguing Nebraska had improved enough to avoid penalties, but the groups the brought the suit pointed out the ongoing problems, see Federal Government Approves Nebraska's Improved Child Welfare System; Nebraska Appleseed Argues Still a Long Way to Go for:
Recently, the federal government found that Nebraska had improved its child welfare system enough to avoid federal penalties. In response, Gov. Dave Heineman claimed that Nebraska’s satisfaction of its federal Program Improvement Plan, was a “major milestone.” Unfortunately, these improvements still do not meet even minimal federal standards for a decent foster care system, and Nebraska’s Health and Human Services System recognizes that there is still far to go. - While even marginal improvements in this system can be deemed good news, to hail the federal approval as a major step or a signal that significant changes have been made in Nebraska’s child welfare system would be a mistake - and a costly one for foster children in Nebraska.(emphasis added)
All of this set against a backdrop wherein Nebraska's children aren't doing so well:
- According to Voices for Children's annual Kids Count report for 2007 (by way of this Journal Star article)- 15 percent of Nebraska children were living in poverty and 36 percent were from families considered to be low income. And, between 2000 and 2005, the report stated, the poverty rate for Nebraska children rose 50 percent.
- 45,000 Nebraska children (10.1 percent of the child population) did not have health insurance coverage in 2006 (according to this Voices for Children press release- link opens a PDF)
- Also, from the same report (by way of the Journal Star article cited above) 71 percent of all black children living in Nebraska were from low-income families, which the report described as families earning 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less. In 2006, the federal poverty level was $20,000 for a family of four, so such a family could have an income of up to $40,000 and still be considered low income under the report’s guidelines. Of the state’s Hispanic children, 61 percent were from low-income families. For white children, it was 26 percent.
- The same Journal Star article included this important figure-In 2006, 10,972 children were in out-of-home care at some point, an increase of 175 over 2005 and 611 over 2004.
As I quoted earlier:
"We're trying to decide which hole to put a finger in, meanwhile the whole dike's falling down around us," said Topher Hansen, president of the Nebraska Behavioral Health Coalition.Then you have Governor Heineman's initiative to get the young and cute out of the system as quickly as possible, some via reunification with their families, some via adoption.
Heineman specifically instructed child welfare officials to "prioritize" the cases of kids 5 years old and younger coupled with "find permanent homes for children who have been out of their homes for at least 15 of the past 22 months."
In other words, if they're young and in the system, place 'em out whenever possible.
Again, from the Voices for Children out-of-home care and adoption page:
456 adoptions of state wards, up 79% from ‘05 (Source: Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, 2006)The older kids, of course are not "prioritized". They are left to bounce around in the child welfare pinball machine until they age out.
But even in other adoptions, Nebraska is showing disregard for parental rights.
In this November 4th piece, In re Adoption of Rylee R. we see how issues of abandonment and Nebraska's premature elimination of parental consent as the prelude to termination of parental rights and adoption clearly in at least this case has been far too hasty, running roughshod over the rights of parents, leading to a reversal in court, (link opens a PDF):
The finding of abandonment, and the resulting consent to adoption, was improper because the petitioners did not provide clear and convincing evidence to establish the father’s intent to rid himself of parenting obligations in the 6-month period prior to filing the petition.The technical definition of "abandonment" by an adult under Nebraska state law appears to rely upon six months of essentially no contact before a child can then be declared legally abandoned.
In order for a court to eliminate the necessity of obtaining consent to adoption in Nebraska, a child must be classified "abandoned."
(Note that in our blog posts we use "abandoned" as an act as seen through the eyes of the kids themselves, not the technical Nebraska legal definition. The dumped kids most certainly feel "abandoned" by their parents when left at state designated dump sites, whether such lines up with the legal definition or not. This being "child-centered" writing, we go by what they kids themselves experience.)
The push for moving kids out of the public system is in many ways ultimately a cost saving measure (all denials to the side) and an attempt to shift from a public model to a privatized/outsourced/subcontracted model of delivery of child welfare services.
To accomplish the change, state child welfare officials for the first time sought bids from private agencies.
They signed contracts worth a total of $32.7 million this year with five agencies. Each is to provide a full range of services for one or more regions of the state. Contractors were chosen on a mix of program quality and cost. Each will be required to report how well their programs help children and families.
The contracts replace those the state had with 116 agencies, each of which provided a more limited range of services in limited locations.
(Please read the full article to get the full context of the subcontracting measures.)This Lincoln Journal Star article explains more about the contracts and gives the dollar amounts involved:
Agencies to provide servicesThe big 'winner' here is Boys and Girls Home and Family Services Inc. who have facilities across Nebraska, Iowa and even in Alaska.
These agencies have signed contracts to provide services in a specific region under the new system.
Southeast Service Area: OMNI Behavioral Health, $2,846,347; Cedars Youth Services, $3,580,925; and Visinet Inc., $2,730,983.
Western Service Area: Boys and Girls Home of Nebraska Inc., $5,096,562.
Central Service Area: Visinet, $1,899,229; and Boys and Girls Home of Nebraska, $2,488,125.
Northern Service Area: Boys and Girls Home of Nebraska, $7,674,062.
Eastern Service Area: Boys Town, $1,953,930; OMNI Behavioral Health, $3,931,574; and Child Saving Institute, $957,967.
Doing even a quick web search on such, we learn what kind of "parasitic organizers" are working on evangelizing kids in the Boys and Girls Home program.
Here for example you will find the Siouxland area Youth For Christ program aimed at the Boys and Girls Home kids.
This could refer to either the Boys and Girls Home and Family Services in South Sioux City, Nebraska or the first of the B&GH facilities based in Sioux City Iowa (the Iowa location is apparently the residential program), but it does give one a feel for the the kinds of "projects"/ministries Boys and Girls Home feel are appropriate in their residential settings.Opportunity for New Program at Boys and Girls HomeEvery Sunday YFC is at the Boys and Girls Home Community Center presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to approximately 60 young people. We call this "Sunday Live". They call it church. In one hour we say hi to every young person that comes through the doors, sing praise and worship songs and take a look at God's word. This is a vital ministry, but every significant story we have to tell about the young people we meet at the Boys and Girls Home takes place outside of this time. When we become involved in a young persons life, we see God's hand move.
God has chosen to work through His people to reach people and that is through connection not performance. It is for this reason we covet your prayers asking God to build a unit mentor ministry in each unit at The Boys and Girls home. Each unit is comprised of 6-10 young people. We like to think of these new mentors as surrogate grandparents. The Boys and Girls Home has 20 such units.
We are asking God to use us as His servants in this project; that we might get to experience His grace in the lives of the 200 plus students. The doors are open.
According to this Daily News Miner article on the opening of the Alaska facility:
The home’s philosophy is modeled after Dr. Sandra Bloom’s “Sanctuary Model,” a theory that focuses more on trauma-based issues that provides structure but in a nurturing manner.Suffice it to say, Bloom has some rather bizarre notions of what words such as "Trauma" "or "violence" mean:
Trauma is contagious. It spreads from person to person...and
Thinking about violence as a contagious disease...The so called “Sanctuary Model” is based upon components such as
Training in attachment theory for all administrators, staff, support staff"Attachment theory/disorder" or "Attachment therapy" is not an official term used in the DSM IV. It is at best a piece of ambiguous language or "unvalidated diagnosis". From the theory article (see footnote  for citation):
Attachment disorder is an ambiguous term. It may be used to refer to reactive attachment disorder, the only 'official' clinical diagnosis, or the more problematical attachment styles (although none of these are clinical disorders), or within the alternative medicine field, the pseudoscience of attachment therapy as a form of unvalidated diagnosis.Also see this Wikipedia page for:
The definition of Attachment Therapy is disputed and there is no generally recognized definition. For example, it is not a term found in the American Medical Association's Physician's Current Procedural Manual, 2006. It is also not found in Bergin and Garfield's Handbook of Psychotherapy and Behavior Change, fifth edition, edited by Michal J. Lambert, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.Quack "therapies" based on the notion of "attachment disorder" have a body count. Be sure to see this brief wikipedia entry on Candace Newmaker and Colorado's and North Carolina's "Candace's law" enacted in her memory.
Other sub-contractors include ("faith-based") Boys Town and ("faith based") Child Saving Institute (a partner agency to Project Harmony, the intake path for many of the "safe haven" kids.
I profiled CSI and Project Harmony all the way back at the beginning of the Nebraska "safe haven" dumps.
As I quoted Nebraska State Senator Nantkes during the "safe haven" discussions:
“How many task forces do we need? How many class action lawsuits do we need? How many Department of Justice investigations do we need?”If the Nebraska child welfare ongoing quagmire, barely staying one step ahead of federal penalties, is what Ms. Johnson and perhaps the National Safe Haven Alliance thinks passes for "one of the best social service networks in the country" they either haven't done their homework, or are clinically insane.
Then again, if the whole point is to fast track those under 5 out into adoptions, should we be the least bit surprised when the National Safe Haven Alliance, an outgrowth of the National Council for Adoption loves it and thinks everything's just ducky?
The state of Nebraska has never counted kids who turn themselves over under the legalized abandonment law.
So once again, another "safe haven" attempt goes down the memory hole.
Marley and I of course, are counting all the "attempted" uses of the law and the interactions kids are having in relation to the law. So he will be included in our unofficial stats.
(Our statistics are based on what they kids themselves are experiencing in relation to the law culled from media reports. They are child-centered, unlike the Nebraska DHHS stats that dismiss many cases which makes it clear to kids, their experiences do not count.)
I call cases like this self "havens" as there is no real "haven" on the other end of such for the kids.
They also end up being counted in our stats as what I've been referring to as "ghost in the machine" cases. The kids are experiencing these things in relation to the dump law, but are never recorded in the official history.
A 12-year-old boy apparently tried turned himself in as an attempt to use Nebraska's former Safe Haven law.
He arrived at Children's Hospital just after 11 a.m., today. The hospital handled the situation as a safe haven case. Omaha Police were called and the child was moved to Project Harmony.
The Omaha police department says his parents filed a missing juvenile report for the child the same morning. The child is not being considered under the safe haven law.
This is not the first case of a child trying to use the safe haven law. A 16-year-old tried to turn herself in under the old safe haven law in October. County attorneys said her case did not qualify under the law.
Unlike this list of older kids, the next will (at least if all goes according to the state's plan) be made up of those 30 days and younger.(emphasis added)
Well sure enough, nothing ever goes as planned.
Today marks the first of the non-legalized big kid dumps:
Safe Haven Use Continues After Law Changes
A 12-year-old year old boy was dropped off today as a Safe Haven at Children's Hospital.
A representative for Children's Hospital says he was dropped of at 11:11 a.m.
Friday was the last day parents could use the safe have law for children up to age 18. After two months of children being left at Nebraska hospitals, a new Safe Haven bill was signed into law. Gov. Dave Heineman signed the bill Friday afternoon. It now only allows children 30 days or younger to be dropped off.
More details are not available at this time.
Note that the stats on Nebraska dumps are behind due to Computer Hell. I plan to fixt that today unless something else happens.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Burried deep down in it is this revelation:
After getting help from Immanuel staff, seven parents and guardians who wanted to use the safe haven law ended up taking their children home, spokeswoman Kelly Grinnell said.Which means that counting just these seven attempts from Immanuel Medical Center alone, the numbers go up.
Looking over Marley and my unofficial statistics, we caught several "attempted" dumps at Immanuel through media reports.
I do not know if the seven overlap with, or are in addition to the ones we found:
25.- 26. October 21 2008
female 16 (with baby)
Dumper: self, escorted by aunt
Place Omaha Immanuel MC
NOTE: mother attempted to SH herself and her baby
37. November 3, 2008
Must have been one hell of a road trip.
Safe haven case No. 36 beats deadline
One last child came in under Nebraska's unique safe haven law before the law changed Saturday.
A 14-year old California boy was left late Friday afternoon at the Kimball County Hospital in Kimball by his mother, who had driven to Nebraska.
Kimball County is in the southwestern corner of the Panhandle.
The boy was placed in a foster home while Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services staff collect more information about the family and contact appropriate agencies in California, according to an HHS news release Saturday morning.
Last Minute Safe Haven Case Makes 27
A 14-year old boy from Yolo County, California, was left at the Kimball County Hospital, in Kimball, late Friday afternoon by his mother, who drove to Nebraska.
Todd Landry, director of the Division of Children and Family Services for the Department of Health and Human Services, said there was only one use of Nebraska’s safe haven law on November 21, the last day on which the safe haven law applied to children up to age 18.
The boy is currently in a foster home. DHHS is in the process of gathering additional information, including contacting the appropriate agencies in California.
This brings the total number of uses of LB 157 to 27, and the total number of children left at a hospital to 36 since September 13. LB 157 went into effect on July 18.
The following is a listing of kids reported on by the media all but one of which that got at least far as a hospital, taken there either by parents or guardians to be legally abandoned. While some made it into the official state tabulation others were dismissed as attempted but not meeting criteria, such as the boy left at a police station rather than a hospital.
Others are what I've termed self "havens," kids who handed themselves over via the "safe haven" expecting to find help, only to be left uncounted, as the dump law protects those who do the dumping, not to the kids themselves.
All these are culled from media reports that Marley and I have pulled since the Child dumping in Nebraska began back on September 1.
We already have almost all of them listed here on our unofficial tabulation of the damage the Nebraska dump law has done to date, but tonight, as Nebraska attempts in vain to close this chapter of its legalized child abandonment social experiment only to begin another, that of the legalized abandonment of younger kids only, I felt it was important to really look at these kids again.
Not by way of 'one last time' as both these kids and Nebraska itself are going to be living with the consequences of these three months of child welfare disaster for a long, long time yet to come, but as a way of understanding that kids dumped under what I've termed dump bill 1.o are not to be forgotten.
Behind every one of these statistics is a kid.
And a shattered family and home.
And friends and schools.
And neighborhoods and extended communities.
And for them, things will never be the same again.
So before everyone rushes off into dump law 2.0 let's take a long hard look at what damage has already been done. These kids are going to need support and attention for a long time to come.
Please understand that if I understand the testimony of various Nebraska hospital representatives from last Monday correctly, these are only SOME of the kids that were taken to state hospitals.
Even by what little we've been able to pull from newspapers and television webpages, the Nebraska DHHS numbers are an undercount. Potentially a vast undercount.
But this is the tip of the iceberg we've been able to document.
Every one of these kids has a name but to protect the kids, we leave that off the data. I'm numbering them here for the first time not because these kids are numbers to us, but so that readers can see and compare to the DHHS tabulation (35.)
Marley and I are both adult adoptees. From what I'm told, I spent a least a little time in foster care. We empathize with these kids for many reasons, both obvious and deeply personal.
These kids are ultimately what this blog is about, working to prevent more kids being added to this, or any other state's "safe haven" roll of shame.
By shame I don't refer to the parents nor the kids. I'm speaking of the state itself. It is nothing short of shameful that legalized child abandonment has become social policy in this country (everywhere except Washington D.C. that is.)
1. September 1, 2008
Place: Omaha police station
2. September 13, 2008
Dumper: custodial maternal aunt
Place: Lincoln Bryan GHMC West
Special family status: in kinship care
3. September 13, 2008
Dumper: maternal grandmother
Place: Omaha Immanuel MC
Special family status: reportedly adopted by maternal grandmother
4. September 20, 2008
Place: Omaha Immanuel MC
5. September 23, 2008
Place: Grand Island St Francis MC
September 24, 2008:
6. female, 1
7. male, 6
8. male, 7
9. female, 9
10. male, 11
11. female, 13
12. female, 14
13. male, 15
14. male, 17
Place: Creighton UMC
15. September 24, 2008
Place: Omaha Immanuel MC
16. September 24, 2008
Dumper: guardian maternal uncle
Place: Omaha, Immanuel MC
Special family status: in kinship care
17. October 5, 2008
Place: Lincoln LGH West
18. October 5, 2008
Dumper: aunt at request of guardian maternal grandmother
Place: Omaha, Immanuel MC
Special Family Status: in kinship care
19. October 6, 2008:
Place: Lincoln Bryan LGH West
20. October 7, 2008
Place: Omaha, Creighton MC
Special family status: in kinship care
NOTE: Iowa dump
21.- 23. July 16-October 6, 2008
Place: Omaha, St. Elizabeth MC
NOTE: 3 attempted
24. October 13, 2008
Dumper: mother with grandmother, and aunt,
Place: Omaha Immanuel MC
Special family status: adopted
NOTE: Michigan dump
25.- 26. October 21 2008
female 16 (with baby)
Dumper: self, escorted by aunt
Place Omaha Immanuel MC
NOTE: mother attempted to SH herself and her baby
27. October 21, 2008
male 10 months
NOTE: attempted safe haven with DIY mother
28. October 22, 2008
Place: Omaha Immanuel MC
29. October 25, 2008
Place: Lincoln Bryan LGH East
NOTE: Georgia dump
30. October 27, 2008
Place: Omaha Creighton MC
31. October 28, 2008
Place: Omaha Immanuel MC
32. October 28, 2008
Dumper: mother and stepfather,
Place: Lincoln Bryan LGH West
33. October 29, 2008
Dumper: Legal guardian grandmother
Place: Nebraska MC
NOTE: already state ward
34. November 2, 2008
Place: Papillion, Midland Hospital
NOTE: Arizona dump; girl previously lived in Papillion area and she and her mother returned from living in Arizona a few days ago
35. November 2 , 2008
Place: Omaha Children's Hospital
36. November 3, 2008
Dumper: legal guardian
37. November 3, 2008
Place: Omaha, Bergan Mercy Hospital
NOTE: Indiana dump
39. November 7, 2008
Place: Omaha, Bergan Mercy Hospital
40. NOVEMBER 9, 2008
Place: Omaha, Creighton MC
41. NOVEMBER 10, 2008
Place: LincolnLGH West
42. November 13, 2008
Place: Lincoln, Boys Town Research Hospital
NOTE: Florida dump
43, November 13, 2008
Place: Omaha, Methodist Hospital
NOTE: sister, 17 escaped before dump was complete (below)
44. November 13, 2008
Place: Omaha, Methodist Hospital
NOTE: attempted (brother, 14--above--was successfully dumped)
45. November 14, 2008
Place: Omaha, Immanuel MC
46. November 18, 2008
Dumper: her guardian, a relative
Place: St. Francis Medical Center in Grand Island
We will continue to fight for these kids as best we can, lest they be forgotten and burried under the bureaucracy. Many, particularly the older kids and self "havens" are already in many ways forgotten as they never even made it into the official history.
Unfortunately, rather than being able to end our list here, we may need to return to this to add newly uncovered details as they emerge.
And sadder still, we now need to start a second list of Nebraska's next dumped generation, those dumped under dump law 2.0.
Unlike this list of older kids, the next will (at least if all goes according to the state's plan) be made up of those 30 days and younger.
None of this ends here, this sadly, is only the beginning.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thursday November 13th, before the Nebraska legislature’s special session began, two siblings about to be legally abandoned by their mother at Methodist Hospital decided they didn’t want to be among Nebraska’s dumped kids statistics. The brother and sister ditched the dump and ran.
The boy, age 14, was found pretty quickly, but his 17 year old older sister proved to be elusive.
Within hours of their attempted escape, the first newscast hit.
Methodist Hospital Confirms New Safe Haven Case; Children Flee KPTM(Fox/Faux news)
Posted: Nov 13, 2008 04:51 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2008 04:46 PM
Methodist Hospital confirms to KPTM FOX 42 that it received the state’s latest safe haven case Thursday afternoon.
A hospital spokesman says a mother left her 14-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter at the hospital between 3:15 and 3:30pm.
The pair ran from the hospital some time after they were dropped off. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says the girl left the hospital, but the boy is in the state’s custody.
Nebraska DHHS counted both of the kids as “safe haven” cases, (link opens a PDF) even though the girl had fled before law enforcement could arrive. The Nebraska DHHS press release about their case and the incident, labels them the 32nd and 33rd kids in the official count.
Whereas usually, I’d call the Nebraska official stats too low, undercounting many instances of kids interacting with the “safe haven” systems out of the official tabulation, this may be the one and only instance of an overcount, the count going one kid extra high due to counting a kid who escaped before law enforcement could arrive and she could become an official “safe haven” case.
As we would later learn, her brother only entered the system after being tracked down off hospital premises by police and taken into custody.
My co-author on Children of the Corn, Marley Greiner picked the story up that evening, giving it the headline on her evening update piece:
BORN TO RUN! TWO ESCAPE SAFE HAVEN MOM November 13, 2008
We made the decision that in our Nebraska unofficial statistical tabulation based on media reports, that she was more aptly characterized as what Marley has labeled an “attempted” dump. Based on the numbers we’ve uncovered, her brother was at minimum kid number 43. She would have been at least the 44th kid to interact with the law at least on the level of being taken, in this case under flase pretenses, to a hospital for the purposes of dumping them.
(Naturally, as time has gone on, and we’ve started to hear directly from staff at the hospitals themselves, it’s become readily apparent both of these tabulations are gross undercounts. Numerous kids had been taken to hospitals with intent to dump and in one form or another never made it into the official tabulation, be that because the kids were later taken back home, or simply considered disqualified from the official count.)
By the following day, the story was getting still more coverage. The legislative special session began on the 14th, and so in many ways, the fact that she was still on the run got overshadowed.
Unlike the girl from Iowa who had been legally abandoned in Nebraska only to be returned to Iowa (as such was Nebraska’s policy towards out of state dumps) who went on to become a teen runaway, this 17 year old girl had refused to be dumped in the first place.
Girl Runs During Safe Haven Drop Attempt WMUR November 14, 2008
According to the staff at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, the girl ran off before reaching the emergency room. Her 14-year-old brother stayed. He’s now in state custody, reported television station KETV in Omaha.
Video- Teen Runs After Drop
On Monday the 17th, in the public testimony portion of the Judiciary Committee hearing we heard testimony from Sara Juster of Methodist Hospital. She spoke briefly to the case.
I’m paraphrasing as I don’t have the hearing transcribed yet, but going from my own personal memory and notes, she felt hospital ERs were inappropriate settings for older kids dumps, specifically because hospital staff could not “forcibly restrain” kids being dumped. Kids were able to get away before law enforcement could arrive.
By the time Tuesday the 18th rolled around, we learned these two had an older sister who was not happy with the fact that her mother had tried to dump her siblings. In this interview with her more details came out:
Sister wishes teenagers hadn’t been left Omaha World-Herald November 18, 2008
The 28-year-old sister of two Douglas County teenagers left last week at Methodist Hospital doesn’t think her mother should have used the safe haven law.
The mother told the teens, ages 14 and 17, that they were going to the hospital to visit another sibling, who she said had suffered a serious allergic reaction, the older sister said Monday.
The teens ran from the hospital Thursday when they figured out the real reason.
Police found the 14-year-old boy at a house a half-mile away. His 17-year-old sister still is missing.
To date, the mother herself has not spoken out.
The children’s mother said Monday that the situation was complicated. She said she did not want to speak publicly until her younger daughter has been found.
The 17-year-old girl has been in the juvenile court system. In December 2005, she was placed on probation after being caught shoplifting. Her probation was revoked when she refused to obey a curfew, left home for 10 days and tested positive for drugs, according to court records.
She was sent to the Douglas County Youth Center and a home in Sarpy County for troubled girls, but got into more trouble - skipping curfew and not going to school. A year ago, she spent time at the youth treatment center in Geneva, Neb.
Despite that, she isn’t a bad kid, her older sister said. The 17-year-old held a part-time job and was expected to graduate from high school, her sister said.
We also learn a bit more about what happened to the brother who was caught.
The boy, who is a high school freshman, was taken into foster care but has been placed with relatives, his sister said. He has had no serious behavioral problems, she said.
“He can be annoying sometimes,” his sister said, “but even that doesn’t give you the right to give up on him.”
Not surprisingly, none of the three kids are any too happy with the mother.
After talking to her mother, she still doesn’t understand why the teenagers had to be left at the hospital.
“She knows that we’re mad at her,” she said. “I asked her if she feels guilty, and she does not feel guilty about it.”
By and large Nebraskans and the world for that matter were focusing on the special session. The girl, who remained ‘on the run’ throughout the week the legislature met, was paid little attention.
That said, the Omaha World-Herald stayed on the story and when word came that she had finally contacted other relatives, it too was overshadowed.
Safe-haven runaway contacts her relatives Omaha World-Herald November 20, 2008
A teenager is safe and plans to reunite with relatives after fleeing from an Omaha hospital when she realized her mother was abandoning her and her younger brother under the state’s safe haven law.
Relatives reported they had heard from the 17-year-old runaway Wednesday, the same day a Douglas County Juvenile Court judge worried aloud about the girl’s safety during a court hearing.
“She needs to know she’s not in trouble here,” Judge Elizabeth Crnkovich said. “She needs to come forward so we can take care of her.”
We also get a little more detail about the younger brother, he was found by the police at a relative’s house.
It must have been pretty harrowing to be taken from such into protective custody. One can’t help but wonder what went through his mind, did he feel he had done something wrong? If so, well, ironic that.
It used to be those who abandoned children were the ones taken away by the cops, not kids themselves trying to avoid being abandoned.
Police soon found the 14-year-old at a relative’s house and placed him in protective custody.
Crnkovich ruled Wednesday that the mother wouldn’t immediately be allowed to visit the two children. The judge ruled after a caseworker told her the 14-year-old boy was angry with his mother and didn’t want to see her.
It’s believed to be one of the first times a judge didn’t grant visitation to a parent or guardian who used the safe haven law.
“Can you blame him? Of course he’s angry,” said an adult sister of the two siblings dropped off.
Makes you wonder if the kids could just abandon the mom, you know, drop her off somewhere safe and never have to see her again.
As for the girl herself?
To date I haven’t found any articles saying she’s no longer on the run, though I suppose that could either be a failing on my part or a lack of interest on the part of the media.
Wherever she is tonight, I hope she’s ok.
And no, I won’t count her as a “safe havened” case.
She and her brother did exactly what any kid would, they said no to being abandoned.
“Safe Haven” through the eyes of the kids being dumped is clearly anything but.
Update, full video of the vote is available here.
The Omaha World-Herald's index of all their dump law articles can be found here.
Today's Nebraska Legislative Agenda (link opens a PDF) and Legislative Journal (link opens a PDF) are now online.
As is the slip law copy of the Reissue Revised Statutes of Nebraska, Section 29-121.
On LB 1 (child abandonment continues at 30 days or less safe haven bill), those voting for legalized infant (30 days or less) abandonment were, 43:
Those voting against legalized infant (30 days or less) child abandonment, (which would have kept the Nebraska law at legalized "child" abandonment, those 17 or less in practice) were, 5:
Excused and not voting, 1:
Gov. Heineman Signs Safe Haven Update into Law
LB 1 goes into effect at 12:01am Saturday morning.
"The Sower" by Lee Lawrie, the massive statuary that sits atop the Nebraska Capitol
Honestly, what's left?
Marley and I have documented abandonment after abandonment of teens, tweens and just plain kids under Nebraska's original so called safe haven legislation, LB 157. We're written about the dire circumstances so many of these kids have come from, and the variety of ways in which their already buffeted and torn families have over and over again found services on paper but the doors to access little more than trompe l'oeil.
We've brought the stories of the 'ghost in the machine' dumps, left uncounted by the Nebraska DHHS, such as the very first child abandoned after the law went into effect. He is not in the official stats as he was left at a police station rather than a state designated dump site.
We've covered the self "haven" cases, also not included in the DHHS statistics, the stories of teens who turned themselves in only to be turned away. The self "haven" kids range from a desperate boy from Grand Island who had been living in a storage space with his grandmother and was merely trying to find enough stability to finish school, to a teenage mother honor student who self havened herself and her baby after being kicked out of her mother's house and claiming her mother took her support checks. She was also turned away.
In all of these cases, we've done the best we could to bring the actual voices of the kids themselves to the fore whenever possible.
We've written post after post about how aging down the dump law to infants was no solution. We've explained the legal, ethical, and child-centered reasons why dump law 2.0 carries with it all the hallmarks of failure.
It does however ensure the silence of the directly affected, for the time being at least.
Infants can't go on TV or MySpace to talk about how child abandonment affects them, at least they won't be able to for some years yet.
Infants can't run away from their abandoners at the hospital dump site rather than endure the consequences of being abandoned.
The next generation of dumped children in Nebraska will be pliable and unable to register their dissent for the foreseeable future.
Already the vote is being heralded as "solving the immediate problem," when in fact all the vote has done is vote for little kid child abandonment rather than almost all kids, particularly big kids child abandonment.
Nebraska has failed its children a second time.
Already the hastily formed "task force" is being heralded as the way forward, but the voices of the directly affected, people who have been abandoned, have been state wards, or are themselves adoptees are not listed as those with a chair at the table.
The task force will meet three times in December and hear from dozens of experts from across the state — hospital executives, juvenile judges, children's advocates and social workers.and
The Children in Crisis Task Force will first meet Dec. 2 at Boys Town in Omaha, an all-day discussion expected to include representatives from Boys Town, Alegent Health, Project Harmony, Creighton University Medical Center and others.I question how inclusive their definition of "everybody" really will turn out to be.
"Now we're going to get everybody around the table and come up with some concrete ideas," McGill said.In my post about the announcement of the task force, I pointed out at that any working group that does not accept as a bedrock foundation that child abandonment is a bad thing is not going to produce child-centric results.
Sure enough, right on cue, members of the task force are already crowing about how the dump law should be considered a "blessing":
Members of the task force offered no preliminary plans for changing the system, and they said it's too soon to know how much any possible changes will cost.Child abandonment is NEVER a "blessing" to the kids themselves.
Instead, they talked about how the roundly criticized safe haven law may end up being the best thing that happened for Nebraska families desperate for help. They called it "an opportunity" and "a blessing in disguise."
Only someone with zero empathy for the realities kids face in child abandonment could say such a thing, and yet this is the second time today we've seen precisely that.
Further, before LB 157 passed there were efforts to build a task force to study the issues involved they were soundly voted down. (Hopefully Marley will have more time to detail this in a later post.)
Today was not merely a massive defeat for kids, it marked another sad milestone, the whole of the "debate" was between most kid/big kid dumping and little kid dumping. There was no bill nor amendment, ever so much as offered up, that ever once questioned the idea of legalized child abandonment itself.
Thus even had they wanted to, there was no means by which Nebraska State Senators even had the option of voting against still more child abandonment.
It was never a question of whether or not to dump, it was merely a question of who to dump.
LB 1 started with the wrong premise, (what is the right age to abandon a child?) and went downhill from there.
The kids themselves never had a chance.
Today Nebraska state senators were asked to vote between two choices:
- legalized child abandonment encouraged and enabled by the state, and
- legalized child abandonment encouraged and enabled by the state