You may have read MSN’s article today headlined Nebraska law allows abandonment of teens, regarding “safe-havens” potentially permitting parents to drop off kids as old as 19 years.
While Nebraska is the last state to adopt the safe-haven practice (a program typically involving a hospital accepting newborns from verified parents, no questions asked), the program has its opponents, but has also resulted in joy-filled adoptions and curbed potential infanticide.
I can’t imagine there is a parent in the world who has not suffered (immeasurably!) from the torments of a surly, contemptuous, possibly foul-mouthed teenage rebel. (Sorry, mom and dad. I know I gave you your share!) And I have no idea what parents of disabled children must go through, but I do know that children are not disposable. Abandoning a child must remain a crime everywhere.
I understand supporters of this law purport that it will help abused children, but I stand firm. It would be far better for a preteen or teen to choose to run away from abuse then to have his or her parents (or guardian–Nebraska does not require the abandoners be the parents!) drop the kid off. I’m not a proponent of running away, nor am I suggesting it be a solution for abused kids; I’m looking at it as damage-control. How many children in divorced families have you encountered who long for, who ache for a parent who has distanced him or herself from the children? I don’t care if mommy has a new family now or daddy is an alcoholic, children absolutely desire their parent’s love and attention. And if horrible reality TV shows such as Wife Swap can teach us anything, it’s that no matter how screwed up your parents are, they are the ones you love and want.
Perhaps I should bring up the fact that I was adopted. Taken in at only 3 months of age, my adopted parents are the only ones I know. Certainly, I put them through torment after torment as a teenager, but then rounded the corner to adulthood (and a family of my own) and throughout my adult life, we could all agree we are close and loving. However, I’ve always believed two parents are enough, thank you very much, and I’ve never sought to find my birth parents. Had my birth-mom chosen to give me up at age 10, for instance, I would feel entirely different. I’ve been told by women who’ve chosen to place their children up for adoption that their fear is their child will grow up with a sense of being unwanted. Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs supports the theory that we all must have a sense of belonging in order to thrive, and I can think of no crueler means of destroying this in a child then, after raising a child for 8, 10, 12, 14 (however many years), dropping them off, cutting them from your family and life irrevocably. This sounds like torture, the ultimate rejection. Who could recover from this? And where will these children go? Who will raise them?
My son Joseph, who is 3 and is showered with love daily, struggles with the worry that his place in our hearts may be shaken when he makes a mistake or breaks a rule. I have recently begun a ritual at bedtime when I snuggle him close and whisper to him, “Mommy always loves Joseph,” so that he will internalize that, no matter what, he is loved and accepted—always.
When parents bring a child into this world, they are responsible for them. If the parent cannot raise the child sufficiently, there are already laws in place to protect children from neglect and abuse. Children need protection; Parents should not be permitted to abandon them.