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Safe Haven Law Reveals Bigger Problems

Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.

That's a phrase that's floated in my brain a lot lately as I've kept abreast of the kids being abandoned under Nebraska's safe haven law that we discussed last month. Today, even as a 5-year-old became the 35th child abandoned under the law since September, lawmakers in the state have convened a special session to revise the law that allows parents to drop off any child at a hospital without prosecution. Parents have also tried to drop off four 18-year-olds, but were told that those children were too old to qualify under the law.

Social worker Courtney Anderson, who works in the emergency room at Immanuel Hospital in Omaha, told NPR that many of the parents, who are mostly single parents, are frustrated with their children's behavior. They're dealing with runaways, truancy and , in almost all the cases, mental health issues. Some children are numb, showing little emotion, at the reality that their parents are leaving them. Others are upset, begging the parents not to leave them. None of the children she's seen have arrived with any belongings.

It's easy for the Nebraska legislature to just change the age limit of drop-offs under the law and call it a session. But the state's law has called out a much larger issue to be dealt with. Parents need easy-to-find, easy-to-get help and support handling the big issues that come with having teenagers.

We see some of them in the news and our communities regularly: gangs, bullying to the extreme, shootings, early sexual activity. What are the problems our teens face these days and what can be done to help them and their families?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  November 14, 2008; 2:30 PM ET  | Category:  Teens
Previous: The Best Places to Raise Kids | Next: Finding Toys, Both Safe and Inexpensive


Why should Nebraska be allowed to set any age limit except: MINOR ?

Is not a 14-year old just as precious to Nebraska as a 1-year old?

Why such blatant discrimination? In fact every state should be required to accept any minor "dropped off" - if they are truly as concerned as they pretend to be around election time.

Posted by: anderson2 | November 14, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Many states have some form of safe haven laws. Most are restricted to babies, even newborns, and only Nebraska has no age restrictions at all.

Teens with problems... The list can go on for years. Last night I was riding home from the dentist on a local bus - not my usual commuter-only ride home - and overheard the conversation between two high school-aged girls. One was visibly pregnant, and the other had a very young baby in a stroller. The discussion they were having was about not showing fear when facing down rivals with knives or guns...

Would it have helped those girls if their parent(s?) had dropped them off at a hospital or firestation a year ago before either had gotten pregnant? Maybe, or maybe not - I just can't say. In a world as messed-up and scary as they live in, would being abandoned by one's care-giver be a help, or are their lives already so destroyed that no one from any social service agencies could have had any impact?

Posted by: SueMc | November 14, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

If the parents of the 5-year old were desperate enough to leave him at a hospital, I'd hate to think what would have happened to him had the law not been in place.

Posted by: floof | November 14, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

I think by the time someone drops off an older child the damage is done.

It's just plain miserable dealing with difficult teens, and every teen is difficult. I wish those girls on the bus would have stopped to think what they're getting themselves in for. Everybody loves a baby and nobody thinks about 14-15 years on.

A child -baby or teen- needs a family. Two parents can weather a storm much better. But parents need support. They need education and jobs, they need a break sometimes.

It's so typical of our country. We do very little to support families and couples, the media idolizes single parenthood. Then we wonder why people are dropping their teens off.

Posted by: RedBird27 | November 14, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

fr Redbird27:

>...It's just plain miserable dealing with difficult teens, and every teen is difficult....

Not true. Every teen is NOT "difficult".

Posted by: Alex511 | November 17, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Not true. Every teen is NOT "difficult".

Posted by: Alex511 | November 17, 2008 9:32 AM

Hear, hear! My 16-y-o is a consistently delightful young man. His 11-y-o brother, on the other hand...

Posted by: SueMc | November 17, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

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