In Nebraska, two more children were abandoned this weekend at hospitals. One girl and one boy, each 16 years old, were brought to hospitals by parents who left them there, saying they could not care for them any longer.
Since Nebraska's safe haven law went into effect in July, allowing caregivers to abandon children without fear of prosecution, 27 children have been left at hospitals or police stations, most of them pre-teens or teens. The law, which was intended to protect newborns, has no specified age limit because lawmakers at the time felt it would be arbitrary -- do you allow a person to give up a 6-month-old, for instance, but not a 7-month old?
Some states' laws protect only newborns. The laws are set up to avoid instances of babies being abandoned in random places or, in the case of some teenage mothers, being left to die because the mother is afraid of repercussions.
It's so sad that people feel it necessary to give up their children. Several families have left more than one child. I can't imagine what mental harm it will do to these kids to know that their own family didn't want them any longer, or couldn't care for them any longer. One hospital worker told NPR that he heard children crying and saying, "I'll be good, I'll be good" when parents were leaving. It's heartbreaking.
I wonder, though, if the ability to leave a child without penalty would prevent some cases of child abuse or neglect? Is it possible that some of these children would have been subject to even worse fates?
The Nebraska Legislature has called a special session beginning November 14th to amend the law to prevent parents from abandoning older children.
What do you think? Should the safe haven laws be for newborns only? What about a 1-year-old? A toddler? Should there be an age cutoff? Or should we look at what's happened in Nebraska with older children as a symptom of last resort, and allow it to continue under certain circumstances?
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