Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Sep 25, 2008 10:39 pm CDT
In recent years, many states have adopted new laws allowing parents to abandon infants in safe places such as hospitals and fire stations. The idea was to protect babies and offer overwhelmed parents a legal way out, instead of prosecuting them for felony child abandonment as traditionally has been done.
Nebraska put a new spin on such statutes, though, when it adopted a version that didn’t impose any age limit concerning the children who can be abandoned without criminal consequences. Yesterday, several parents took advantage of that opportunity, leaving a total of 11 children (nine were from one family) at hospitals, according to the Associated Press.
Three more children were dropped off earlier this month under the new law, which took effect in June, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Although the safe haven statute protects parents from being charged with child abandonment, it still allows criminal cases to be pursued if they are found to have harmed their children, the newspaper notes.
Government officials and child welfare experts said the law wasn’t intended to encourage parents to give up older children, and expressed concern about the emotional consequences to children of being abandoned. They urged struggling parents to seek assistance rather than simply give up their children, the World-Herald reports.
“Do not hit and do not quit,” advised Jim Blue of the Lincoln-based Cedars facility. “When you feel like doing either, reach out for help.”