NOTE: I am at, of all appropriate places, the annual NCFA conference in Washington. I've bailed out of the last 2 sessions to get something up about the Nebraska kid dump fiasco. I'm checking of the hotel later today, and will be back with more, and to add/fix some links and don't have time to add right now.
To date 14 children have been dumped into hospitals and police stations (not a legal dump spot) under Nebraska's "safe haven" law." None are newborns, the targeted "beneficiary" of such laws.The kids left in Nebraska "safe havens" have mostly been teenagers. On Wednesday, a father left off 9 siblings at the Creighton University Medical Center ER.
Here is a brief run-down.
BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME
September 1: Boy 14 (left by Omaha police station)
September 13: Boy 11 ( left by grandmother (another report says mother) at Immanuel Medical Center, Omaha); Boy 15 (left by guardian aunt at Bryant Medical Center West, Lincoln)
September 20: Girl, 13 left by mother at Immanuel Medical Center Omaha)
September 24: 9 siblings, 1-17 (left by father at Creighton University Medical Center ER)
WHAT DID THEY EXPECT?
But...but....that's not what we meant!
Backpedaling Cornhusker politicians seem to forget what they passed:
Section 1. No person shall be prosecuted for any crime based solely upon the act of leaving a child in the custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska. The hospital shall promptly contact appropriate authorities to take custody of the child.
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.”
WE ARE SHOCKED, I TELL YOU, SHOCKED!
Here's some stuttering quotes from the bozos who passed this law and are now scratching their heads.
Senator Ray Aguilar:
Teen mothers were hiding the fact that they were pregnant and there were situations where they would dump their baby off in a dumpster and the baby would die. That was the intent of the law; to try and protect against that.
And then he forward pedals:
It does bring light that there are situations out there where people have no other alternatives, and it is probably a good situation that they could take advantage of this.
Senator Lowen Kruse:
It is not designed for 11 year olds or 15 year olds. And the legislature is going to have to go back in and change that a bit.
Sen. Vickie McDonald:
We discussed the possibility of something like this happening, but we did nothing to address it thinking possibly it wouldn't happen.
Sen. Brad Ashford:
I would have expected an infant case, probably more than I would a 15-old. If it does save a child, then it's worth it obviously. this is a new law. I'm sure we will have some data on what happened in these two case(s) (sic) and then we'll have t watch it over the next several months to see if it raises to the level of abusing the system."
Sen. Tony Fulton:
If word gets out that you have an unruly children, or that when you have unruly children, you can just drop them off and be clear of any responsibility, that's a problem."
And, of course, the Nebraska law' sponsor Sen. Arnie Struthman:
This was never the intent of the bill.
People are leaving them off just because they can't control them They're probably in no real danger, so it's an easy way out for the caretaker.
We really opened a can of worms. We have a mess.
This is a situation that I felt could possibly be coming. I didn't realize it would happen this quick.
Voices for Children, the child advocacy organization that remained neutral on the safe haven bill, now claims they feared the Nebraska scenario:
Omaha World Herald: "This is what we feared," said Kathy Bigsby Moore, executive director for Voices for Children of Nebraska. "It appears this law has now created a new front door to the child welfare system."
When the bill went into effect, Sarah Ann Lewis, VFC's policy coordinator told the press:
We hope the intent of the law, which is to be in the best interest of children, is followed, but we're not sure whether or not this is the best-designed policy to do that," We'd rather see mothers use the services already in the community, like adoption or counseling, instead of abandonment."
Safe Haven advocates have remained suspiciously quiet. I understand Tom Atwood discussed the issue of teen dumping last week for Nebraska Public Radio, but so far I've been unable to find a reference to his appearance. Tracey Johnson of the National Safe Haven Alliance says "We don't endorse the way it was done." I have been unable to find any statements from big dump industrialists Tim Jacard, Dawn Geras, and the Morriseys.
NOW is absolutely now the time to demand repeal of "safe haven" laws in all 50 states. Nebraska politicians are talking about calling a special session to "tweak" their abomination. That's not good enough. Ditch this thing now.
Those of us who have opposed baby dumping from the start warned that this would happen. That newborns, under the paranoia of dumpster and death, would be the first and that the age of dumpees would scoot up. Some safe haven advocates have even feared the result of their own good deeds. LA County Supervisor Don Knobe, for instance, one of the strongest "safe haven" supporters in the country, has refused to support an increase in the age time frame of abandoned infants in California and even lobbying against an increase.
Since 1999, we have seen "safe haven" laws go from a supposedly "rare" emergency child custody law to a child welfare law, and now an unruly child law.
This needs to stop right now, and the best place to start is Nebraska.
Please go to Baby Love Child for a wonderful series of analytical articles on Nebraska.
Shame on Nebraska--When "we told you so" barely begins to scratch the surface
Nebraska Dump Law: Just how deep does this rabbit hole go?
Nebraska, 11 dumps in 24 hours