I never intended to write a “political” blog, and I believe I am tolerant of others’ choices. Our individual perspectives and rights must be respected, and while there are some unusual laws in this country, most were arrived at after careful consideration and debate.
Yet, I am absolutely confounded and saddened by Nebraska’s recent change in law, which allows parents to relinquish their children ages 0-19 at area hospitals. I wrote about it here, publishing it with bittersweet feelings. I am so thankful to be a mother, and while I haven’t yet faced my boys’ teen-age years, I believe that it is my role as a parent to love, protect and stand by my children, providing them a safe home until they are old enough to be on their own. It’s a no-brainer, really.
I understand that Nebraska’s Safe Haven law was intended to protect children in abusive situations, but the law actually allows the abusing parents to drop off the kids without question. Isn’t that the same as saying it is OK to abuse and it is OK to abandon—and there is no consequence? Where is the justice?
The child, on the other hand, is given the huge burden of rejection and abandonment, and is then shuttled from one foster care environment to another until his or her 18th birthday, and all the while the child knows where he or she once had a bedroom with all their personal belongings, they know where and even how to contact mom or dad (but are now not allowed to)—this type of rejection seems insurmountable, but by the grace of God and a whole lot of therapy. It answers every human’s fear of being “unworthy”, or “unlovable”, when it really it was the parents who had the short-comings, and should have sought (or be made to seek) help to become better at parenting, not just give up.
Since Nebraska’s Safe Haven law came into effect at the end of August 2008, eleven children ranging in age from 1 to 17 were left at hospitals by their caregivers without fear of prosecution. You can read the entire story here.
Nine of the children came from one family, left by their father, who was not identified. Unrelated boys ages 11 and 15 also were surrendered Wednesday at Immanuel Medical Center. The abandoned siblings were in no danger and it wasn’t clear why their father gave them up.
In fact, none of the cases involved abuse. Todd Landry, director of Health and Human Services’ division of Children and Family Services, said that in nearly every case, the parents who left their children “felt overwhelmed” and had decided they didn’t want to be parents anymore. “None of the kids dropped off so far have been in danger,” he said.
“It was the parents not wanting to continue the journey with their kids,” Landry remarked.
State Sen. Arnie Stuthman said he introduced the bill intending to protect infants. In a compromise with senators worried about arbitrary age limits, the measure was expanded. “Abandoning teenagers was not the original intent of the law,” Stuthman said. “People are leaving them off just because they can’t control them,” he said. “They’re probably in no real danger, so it’s an easy way out for the caretaker.”
Youngsters abandoned under the Safe Haven law are generally placed in protective custody while the courts decide where the child should live. Under previous law, a parent who abandoned a baby could have been charged with child neglect or abandonment, both misdemeanors, or child abuse, a felony.
Aside from renting a bus and driving to Nebraska to collect those kids and bring them home with me (can you hear my husband gasp?) I ask you to join me in sending a prayer for their well-being, safety, and a resilient belief in their own self-worth. For all parents, I pray we find courage, perseverance, and forgiveness. The adolescent storm does blow over, and children do eventually grow into responsible adults (sometimes in spite of us.) Hopefully, we as parents act responsibly. I don’t even want to imagine the life I would have lead if my parents had thrown in the towel and allowed a government agency to take over for them.
There are, however, government agencies who can help with parenting issues, joblessness, and welfare. Help is out there. What are your thoughts? How do Nebraskans feel about this?