9 Children Abandoned Under New Nebraska Safe Haven Law

Posted by Jane Akre, InjuryBoard.com
Thursday, September 25,

Nebraska TV is reporting that a father of nine children dropped them at a hospital in Omaha just before 7 Wednesday night.

The states new Safe Haven Law allows children to be left at state-licensed hospitals without facing legal charges. KETV in Omaha is reporting that the children range in age from 1 to 17 years and are reportedly all from the same family. They have been turned over to child protection services.

The children were left at the emergency room at the Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha. The father has not been identified.

Safe haven laws were originally designed for a mother to relinquish custody of her infant at a safe and secure location if she was unable to care for the baby, without fear of prosecution. But the state law includes the word “child” and fails to specify any ages.

That means that in Nebraska, someone up to the age of 19, still considered a minor, could be dropped off.

Other states with Safe Haven laws specify a maximum drop-off age of one year old.

The Associated Press reports that teenagers are now being dropped off. Two teens and one pre-teen have been dropped off at eastern Nebraska hospitals and a police station.

Last month on the Huffington Post, Adam Pertman, executive director of a New York adoption institute warned that casting such a wide net, "circumvents every rational practice in child welfare that I'm aware of. 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.'  "

"All children deserve our protection," said Sen. Tom White to Huffington Post, who helped broaden the measure. "If we save one child from being abused, it's well, well worth it."

Nebraska is the last state in the nation to adopt a Safe Haven law. Prior to the laws, many children had been abandoned in inappropriate places that put them in danger.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services is holding a news conference this morning to discuss the law and its intent. 

Many predicted it might have far reaching implications when it was put into law in July and already plans are being discussed to amend the law during the next legislative session.

It will be up to the county attorney to recommend whether the child remains in the custody of the state or returns home. A judge ultimately will decide on the placement. There is no prosecution of the father or mother, unless the children have been abused.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 90,000 infants are maltreated every year in this country.  About one of every 43 infants is in danger, mostly during the first week of their lives. 

Maltreatment includes neglect as well as physical abuse, though the majority, 68.5 percent of the cases, involved neglect.




A "free-ticket" system

I see two major problems with Safe Haven Laws.... and both problems relate to the the words "accountability" and "responsibility".

Problem #1:  How many parents are going to see the Safe Haven Law as being their ticket to freedom?  ["Hey, I don't have to worry about taking care of my children, because if I drop them off at a hospital, the state will take care of them for me -- no questions asked!"]

Problem #2:  How many child placement/adoption agencies are hoping this law will only apply to easy-to-sell infants?  ["It's much easier to place a baby in a home than it is to place a child or family of children in another person's home."]

How exactly do child-drop-off systems and operations benefit the people needing help raising their own children?

about profits and panic

I totally agree with your observation and it is even worse. The safe havens, as originated in the Baby Moses laws in Texas, were originally intended to prevent babies from being thrown in dumpsters or otherwise being abandoned in unsafe places. The problem with the safe havens though, is that it requires a deliberate decision to drop the children there, where the baby dumping practice is an extreme case of panic stricken reaction. No one in his/her right mind would willfully and calmly put a baby in a dumpster. Doing so is not a rational decision, but  utterly erratic behaviour, driven by total panic.

Do you think, someone in such a state of mind would reconsider the dumping action and instead take a baby to a safe haven? Of course not, and the experience with safe have laws has already proven that dumping babies at unsafe locations hasn't declined as result of the implementation of the laws. Instead, as you already stated it makes it easier for people who would not put their children at grave risk, but want to rid of them anyway, to use the safe haven laws as an easy abandonment route.

The safe haven laws that swept the nation in a short period of time were staunchly promoted by the National Council for Adoption, that of course proclaimed the interest of the child as they always do, but in fact like to see higher abandonment figures so the agencies affiliated have an extra buck to make, or in some cases another soul to save.

An update on one family's case

More information on this case of "parental abandonment" has been revealed: 

Gary Staton went to Creighton University Medical Center to surrender his five sons and four of his daughters, who ranged in age from 1 to 17. He did not bring his oldest daughter, 18.

Staton’s wife died in early 2007, shortly after giving birth to their 10th child. The man told police he hasn’t worked since July and was struggling to make ends meet.

“I was with her for 17 years, and then she was gone. What was I going to do?” Staton said to Omaha television station KETV. “We raised them together. I didn’t think I could do it alone. I fell apart. I couldn’t take care of them.”

Calls by The Associated Press to a number listed for Staton went unanswered Friday.

State official: Staton didn't ask for help

A number of relatives have volunteered to take the Staton siblings, said Kathie Osterman, a spokeswoman for the state department of Health and Human Services. She said the children may be temporarily placed with those family members until a judge decides on permanent custody.

Osterman said Staton never asked relatives for help.

Todd Landry, director of the division of Children and Family Services, said the safe-haven law was designed to help children who are in danger, but none of the kids who were dropped off had been in harm’s way.

In addition to Staton’s kids, two unrelated boys were left Wednesday at a different Omaha hospital.

Landry said he empathizes with parents who struggle to raise their families, but “it is the job of a parent to be a parent.” He said there are resources to help them.  [From:  "Worst fears come true with Neb. safe haven law", Associated Press, Friday Sept 26,2008, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26902738/?GT1=43001 ]


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