Nebraska has changed it's Safe Haven Law, known as LB157, to allow parents and caregivers to legally give up their older children and teenagers, not just newborns and babies.
And parents are taking the state up on it's offer.
Just this weekend, two separate cases saw a teen and preteen dropped off at two Nebraska hospitals. Neither seemed to show signs of abuse and neither seemed in imminent danger - a necessary requirement, according to lawmakers.
Apparently, lawmakers did not mean for parents or guardians to give up troubled older children or teenagers and are now intending to revisit the amended law that took effect in July of this year.
Most states have Safe Haven Laws that allows parents to give up their newborn babies (some up to 12 months old - it varies by state) but law makers now fear that caregivers, ambivalent about the children in their care, are going to use the law to simply drop teens off and not return.
According to this MSNBC story, "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 to include the word "child."
The law doesn't further define child, and some have interpreted that to mean anyone in Nebraska under the age of 19. Others have taken the common law meaning of child — those under age 14.
Stuthman's bill was signed into law as a way of protecting children from immediate danger or harm, said Landry, who didn't believe the two cases Saturday carried that sense of urgency.
Stuthman said Monday that he was surprised that two older children were abandoned on the same day. He said the cases didn't meet the intent of his bill, but he said they will open lawmakers' eyes as to the issues affecting children and families.
"I clearly do not believe this was the intent of LB157," he said."
I'm not quite sure what to make of this story! On the one hand, caregivers should not give up kids when the going gets tough (otherwise, every parent with a colicky baby would be dropping him or her off in record numbers!). On the other hand, maybe these kids have a story of horror to tell, even if there are no obvious signs of damage to begin with. Maybe they are actually better off in foster care, although that's hard to believe. The safety of the child is of paramount importance, and unfortunately, not all children are safe with their parents of legal guardians. With Nebraska enacting this amended law, other states may follow.
For more information on your state's Safe Haven Law, click here http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/
After you select your state, Click on Infant Safe Haven Law, in the Child Welfare section.
What do you make of Safe Haven Laws including older children or teenagers? Should the child be in imminent danger or should caregivers be allowed to simply give up the child if they feel like they are not the best guardian of him or her - no questions asked...?
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