Update: The father who dropped off his 9 children under the Safe Haven law has spoken to the press about why he left his kids at the hospital. Sadly, his wife died 17 months ago, leaving him to care for his children, and he was not able to financially, emotionally and mentally take care of them. You can read his story here. Other children have been left at hospitals since the Safe Haven law went into effect, and Nebraska lawmakers are currently working to clarify its meaning — and also are encouraging parents to seek outside help before abandoning their children.
Last week, a father abandoned his 9 children at the Creighton University Medical Center in Nebraska under that state’s Safe Haven law. The kids ranged in age from 1 to 17.
I don’t know what this father’s mental or financial situation was at the time he left his kids at the ER, and I’m not addressing his situation in particular here — who knows what challenges he faced? Still, I wonder if this law in Nebraska will inspire other parents to drop off kids that they are no longer able to, well, parent. (Several other pre-teens and teens have been abandoned at hospitals in Nebraska since the law went into effect.) While the law was not originally designed to give parents the option of dropping off their troubled teens or pre-teens, many people have interpreted it that way. Omaha State Senator Lowen Kruse told the Omaha Daily News that “there are better ways to deal with this issue, including programs that help teens and families cope.”
I know we’ve all been there with our kids — and frankly, I sympathize with parents who have to kick out older teens who are abusing them , stealing from them or acting in otherwise violent or criminal ways. At some point, you have to stop the insanity, and it’s never an easy decision. But an otherwise normal 11 year old kid? Unless you are financially destitute or mentally or emotionally incapable, I don’t see why you would dump your child at the hospital as if you’re dropping off a kitten at the animal shelter.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve talked to many parents who are struggling with their kids, and I personally have friends and family in very difficult parenting situations with children who act out and are at times very tough to deal with. Kudos to those of you out there who are sticking with it no matter what, even though sticking with it is not the easiest route.
What do you think? Is the Safe Haven law a good idea for parents in some situations? Are there cases where you think it makes sense for a parent to take advantage of it?
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.