Friday, November 21, 2008

Nebraska makes wrong change to safe-haven law

Limits immunity to infants

Omaha — In an emergency session, the Nebraska legislature on Friday revised a law permitting parents or guardians to hand children over to state custody without fear of prosecution, limiting its reach to infants up to 30 days old.
Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill Friday afternoon, It will go into effect at 12:01 Saturday morning. Earlier this year, Nebraska was the last of the 50 states to adopt a so-called safe haven law, which was mainly intended to protect newborns from being abandoned to the elements or killed by panicked young mothers. But instead of specifying that the law only applied to infants up to a certain age, as in all other states, Nebraska’s version used the word “child,” opening the door to handovers of children up to age 18.
Since Sept. 1, to the shock of state officials and the public, 35 children, many of them teen-agers and including several from out-of-state, were left at hospitals under the law.
In most cases, distraught parents or guardians said that the children were uncontrollable and violent, and that they could not find adequate counseling and mental health services. The spate of drop-offs triggered local and national debate about the adequacy of aid for distressed families and teen-agers. Many legislators and child advocates said the desperate actions by caretakers had exposed serious gaps in the state’s public and private social aid, especially for families with troubled older children.
As the hospital drop-offs continued, Governor Heineman called a special session of the legislature this week solely to amend the law. On Thursday, the legislature established a commission to study the problem and propose new measures.

There were parents who felt it is the best thing for their family to abandon their children at a hospital. If they really felt that way, then clearly there are problems with the parent, the child, their living situation, or all of the above. Therefore the government should accept the child into custody and then see if there is a remedy within the family or place the child in protective custody. Now, the Nebraska law leaves that same parent in a vulnerable situation where something worse may happen. No need to go through the possibilties.

I know it is unseemly to have children just left at a hospital, but we the people through our government should try to think long term as to what is best overall. It is clearly best overall for a child to be removed from a circumstance where the parents feel so desperate as to leave them at a hospital.

Instead of forcing the parent to keep the child or pursue other more difficult routes to get help, the government should try mediation and intervention after this cry for help rather than making the cry for help illegal.

We need to address the root causes of many parent-child difficulties. In many cases there is a lack of moral direction. In some cases there are financial burdens. While in others, the children are unruly and the parent has very little legal recourse.

As Democrats we need to strengthen marriage in all respects. We need to defend it from redefinition by the leftwing extremists, and also fight back against the cultural decay that has accrued over the past generation.

Craig Farmer
making the word "liberal" safe again!

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