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  1. #1
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    Thumbs down New Nebraska law allows parents to abondon kids under 19 years old at hospital with no questions asked

    OMAHA, Neb. Nebraska's new safe-haven law allowing parents to abandon unwanted children at hospitals with no questions asked is unique in a significant way: It goes beyond babies and potentially permits the abandonment of anyone under 19.
    While lawmakers may not have intended it, the month-old law raises the possibility that frustrated parents could drop off misbehaving teens or even severely disabled older children with impunity.
    "Whether the kid is disabled or unruly or just being a hormonal teenager, the state is saying: 'Hey, we have a really easy option for you,"' said Adam Pertman, executive director of a New York adoption

    institute and a frequent critic of safe-haven laws.
    Nebraska's approach is surprising because it is the last state in the nation to adopt a safe-haven law.
    But instead of following the lead of other states, which focus on the abandonment of newborns, lawmakers here wanted to extend the protection to all minors. And in Nebraska, that goes all the way up to age 19.
    "All children deserve our protection," said Sen. Tom White, who helped broaden the measure. "If we save one child from being abused, it's well, well worth it."
    White said it doesn't matter if that child is an infant or three years old or in the care of a parent or baby sitter. As for what constitutes a minor, he refers to common law, which interprets it to be anyone under age 14.
    State Sen. Arnie Stuthman, who introduced the original bill dealing only with infants, agreed to the compromise after the bill became stalled in debate.
    "The main interest I have is that it gives the mother or a parent another option of what to do with a child before they do something drastic," he said.
    The measure, which took effect July 18, does not absolve people of possible criminal charges -- for example, if a child had been beaten.
    And since the law does not specify, it technically allows anyone, not just a parent, to legally surrender custody. Most other states narrowly define the role of the person surrendering the child.
    Some hospitals have fielded questions from the public about the law, but no children have been dropped off.
    "I hope there never is one," Stuthman said.
    Pertman, who directs the New York-based Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, said his research going back several years shows safe-haven laws are not accomplishing what they intended. Women who are distressed enough to want to abandon their children are not the ones reading billboards or getting the message about these laws, he said.
    Pertman finds Nebraska's law particularly alarming because it is not focused on infants and parents.
    Casting such a wide net "circumvents every rational practice in child welfare that I'm aware of," he said. "That's as nicely as I can put it."
    California, for example, allows parents to legally abandon a child at a hospital or other designated safe zones within 72 hours of birth.
    The brevity of the law could trigger litigation over its meaning, said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor.
    "This law is obviously written in almost skeletal form," he said. "Drafters will sometimes try to say as little as possible so they don't create ambiguity, but drafters here succeeded in writing the law in such a limited fashion that the entire provision is ambiguous."
    Nebraska lawmakers acknowledge the courts will have to sort out the details, and they have said they are open to revisiting the legislation if necessary.
    The Nebraska Hospital Association has been working to help its 85 member hospitals statewide establish procedures for dealing with abandonment cases.
    Sen. Ernie Chambers, who voted against the law, said he would prefer to address the reasons that parents abandon their children rather than offer them safe haven.
    "I don't think such laws are wise," he said.
    Kathy Bigsby Moore, executive director of the child advocacy group Voices for Children in Nebraska, said she also worries how the law might affect adoption rates.
    "The sad thing is we have plenty of other mechanisms for people to use," she said. "I'm not sure the safe-haven law is really going to help in a majority of cases."

  2. #2
    Jenna's Avatar
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    What's the process in other states for when parents want to give up custody of their non-infant children to the state because they can't take care of them, and why is that better than this safe haven law?

  3. #3
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    Parents can go to court here and relinquish their parental rights on their teenagers so it seems to me all this is doing is removing a step. The end result is the same. Obviously, even there it's very rare.
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    I fully support 'safe haven,' no questions asked laws for newborns. Up to age 19 though? Thats a little ridiculous. "You better start behaving or we'll drop you off at the hospital and you'll never see us again," just doesn't cut it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    I fully support 'safe haven,' no questions asked laws for newborns. Up to age 19 though? Thats a little ridiculous. "You better start behaving or we'll drop you off at the hospital and you'll never see us again," just doesn't cut it.

    You gotta wonder though how many parents have wished to get rid of their teenagers.

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    Thats Nebraska for you! I live in this state, and we just got a memo on what to do if it happens at our local hospital!
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by pgg View Post
    You gotta wonder though how many parents have wished to get rid of their teenagers.
    Don't *all* parents want to get rid of their teenagers at some point?
    --"D.B.A.D." --Me

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    Quote Originally Posted by pgg View Post
    You gotta wonder though how many parents have wished to get rid of their teenagers.
    I just (within the last 2 weeks) had to send my 14 year old to live with her father. It wasn't a casual decision, and I know it's the best for her. Hardly the same thing as turning a child over to the state, but still an agonizing decision. If there are parents with so little attachment to their kids that they would drop them off at a safe haven, never to see them again, then I can only think the kids would be better off away from them.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishmick View Post
    Don't *all* parents want to get rid of their teenagers at some point?

    Not me.. I was an angel

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ender View Post
    I fully support 'safe haven,' no questions asked laws for newborns. Up to age 19 though? Thats a little ridiculous. "You better start behaving or we'll drop you off at the hospital and you'll never see us again," just doesn't cut it.
    Jackpot, we have a winner! Therein lies the problem with this law.

  11. #11
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    We have the same law here in Washington.

    It's worked a couple of times.

    It is supposed to prevent abandoned babies.

    Not sure what the deal is on raising the age to 19 though.
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  12. #12
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    I actually agree with Ender, scarey thought, but there should be a cut off age there. Way to easy to use that threat the same as kids do with "I'm gonna call and say your abusing me" type threats. There is a solution somewhere. I don't know what it is but there must be some medium ground. People need to take responsibility for their actions instead of just disposing of their problems on society's doorstep. Things are definately out of control.

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack View Post
    I actually agree with Ender, scarey thought, but there should be a cut off age there. Way to easy to use that threat the same as kids do with "I'm gonna call and say your abusing me" type threats. There is a solution somewhere. I don't know what it is but there must be some medium ground. People need to take responsibility for their actions instead of just disposing of their problems on society's doorstep. Things are definately out of control.
    I agree. There are too many things way out of control...but that's what happens when society sets up the Nanny State that we have and parents refuse to teach their children personal responsibility.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by irishmick View Post
    I agree. There are too many things way out of control...but that's what happens when society sets up the Nanny State that we have and parents refuse to teach their children personal responsibility.
    There are too many parents out there who don't understand the concept of personal responsibility themselves, there's no way they can teach it to their children.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ender
    I fully support 'safe haven,' no questions asked laws for newborns. Up to age 19 though? Thats a little ridiculous. "You better start behaving or we'll drop you off at the hospital and you'll never see us again," just doesn't cut it.
    I agree.




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    Quote Originally Posted by irishmick View Post
    Don't *all* parents want to get rid of their teenagers at some point?
    Hmmm, I don't know about that. Although I bet there are a great many that want to give their teens a swift kick in the ass or two.

    Quote Originally Posted by pgg View Post
    Not me.. I was an angel
    Apparently I was too.


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  16. #16
    pgg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CTR man View Post
    Hmmm, I don't know about that. Although I bet there are a great many that want to give their teens a swift kick in the ass or two.



    Apparently I was too.
    I seem to recall a conversation with my dad where he pointed to a baseball bat and said he could always punish me no matter how tough I was. It kept me on the straight and narrow. I went to parties but never drank... I chased women instead

  17. #17
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    Since my dad was former LE, I found out quickly never to push his buttons. My dad was a very patient man. He always preferred to talk rather than to resort to physical violence, (i.e. spankings, etc), with us kids. He had this look that if you didn't quit screwing around, you were going to get it. We usually took heed of that.

    Once, when I was in my late teens to early twenties, I thought I was going to get hit. I put my arms in front of my face to protect my self. Unfortunately for me, dad thought I was going to hit him and his LE experience kicked in. Mind you that he hadn't been in LE for close to 20 years. He had both of my wrists in a one handed human handcuff so fast my head was spinning. He did not let go until he was sure that the situation was under control. I knew better than to raise a hand as if to strike to either of my parents, and he wanted to make sure that it stayed that way.

    To this day I still wish I had him around. I could sure use his wisdom.

    Too many parents these days want to be friends to their kids, instead of being parents.


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