14-year-old Iowa girl abandoned under Nebraska law
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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A 14-year-old Iowa girl was abandoned Tuesday in Nebraska under its safe haven law, but the person who left her could face prosecution in the girl's home state, Nebraska health officials said.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said the girl is from Council Bluffs, Iowa, just across the Missouri River from Omaha. She was left at Creighton University Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon, and her case was reported to Iowa authorities.
The girl is the 17th child overall and the first from another state to be abandoned since the law took effect in July.
It was meant to protect the lives of infants by letting a parent leave them at any state-licensed hospital without fear of prosecution, but the law doesn't set any age limit.
The law's legal protections might not apply since the girl is not from Nebraska, said Todd Landry, director of the department's division of Children and Family Services.
"We have made a formal report of the abandonment to the Iowa child abuse hotline," Landry said in a statement. "We are working with the Iowa Department of Human Services to resolve this situation as quickly as possible."
Nebraska HHS spokeswoman Jeanne Atkinson said few details were known Tuesday evening because the girl's situation was still being investigated.
Creighton hospital spokeswoman Kathy Brennan said she didn't know the circumstances of the girl's case. Hospitals in previous safe-haven cases have called police and turned the abandoned child over, and Omaha police have referred questions to state health officials.
Health officials have stressed that parents should seek other resources before resorting to abandonment. They've urged desperate parents to ask for help from family, faith-based groups and other community services.
Many children left to date under the safe-haven law have been teenagers or preteens. The law mentions "child" without defining it, and as a result encompasses anyone up to age 19.
Nine children abandoned last month were siblings abandoned by a father who said he was overwhelmed.
State lawmakers are already discussing changes to the law they passed in the spring, but they may not be able to act until the Legislature reconvenes in January.
Gov. Dave Heineman has been reluctant to call a special session of the Legislature.
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