Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nebraska's Safe Haven Law Will Save Children's Lives

Despite the off hand "Oh then damned rubes did it again" attitude towards the news that Nebraska became the last state in the country to finalize a state wide safe haven law for children, and despite the mainstream media's portrayal of the new law as so far that people will be dropping unruly teens and babysitters will be allowed to drop off kids at hospitals because their parents are late from a dinner date, the truth of the matter is that every other state in the country wishes they had had the foresight and vision to have real safe haven laws of their own.

Nebraska's Legislature did exhaustive studies on child abuse, why it occurs, what happens when the Department of Social Services gets involved and how many times they actually reunite a child with their family permanently, and most importantly, in how many instances was it clear that an abused child who ends up dead could have been saved had there been a way for a parent to simply walk away.

Some accounts even went so far as to claim that child advocates and pro-adoption agencies were 'outraged' over the new laws, in and of itself something of an oxymoron when one considers it. But after calling several Nebraska agencies that deal with family issues, I'd love to know who these people are that are unnamed in the newspaper's (several) articles.

The Malone Community Center, State of Nebraska Child Protective Services, Cedars Youth Service, Lutheran Family Services, St. Vincent De Paul Society, The Salvation Army, Child Saving Institute, Adoptions Worldwide, Boys Town Ranch, and Kids Can all say that the law will see a reduction in the instances of child abuse. As State Senator Pete Pirsch put it " If it saves one child's life, it's well worth all this extra trouble."

Technically, the wording of the law could conceivably allow for teenagers to be left abandoned at a safe zone. That wording was intentional according to several state lawmakers, who say that in being ambiguous, they hoped that a court case would eventually ensue, and the courts could then set guidelines as to what would amount to an acceptable 'drop off' as it were. The Legislature's intent was to save children, all children, not just infants whose mothers no longer want them.

Recognizing that in many of those instances, the mother is more than likely to be suffering from post-partum depression, Nebraska decided that there needed to be some way for parents of children older than one year, that really don't want a child, but may have had him or her due to outside pressures, to have a place they could leave the child in safety. A place the child would be cared for until he or he could be placed in adoption.

Many of the nay sayers are decrying the new law, claiming that parents shouldn't be able to abdicate their responsibilities. And that may be so in one sense. But what of the child who is truly not wanted by either a single parent or in a household where both parents are drug addicted? What if those parents realize they are neglecting their child, abusing their child, and know they are not capable of nurturing that child in a safe environment? This law says that there is a way out. Existing laws in other states only allow for infants, in some cases, only up to 72 hours old, to be left in a safe haven. Nebraska says that all children should be able to access safety from abuse, whether it be physical or mental.

Nebraska has not always been a progressive state. There were many years they lagged behind the nation when it came to helping their fellow citizens. But the past ten or so years has seen a great enlightenment among the people and the state government. They recognized that everyone has a basic right to have access to food, and have gone further than any other state to make sure there are networks of food banks, open every day of the week, so people may not go hungry.

They have instituted some of the best homeless shelter programs in the country. State of the art facilities that have actual social workers that help plan and work with homeless people in order to get them back into society, working, and capable of supporting themselves. There are several programs designed to help addiction of all types, and those programs own actual apartment buildings in order to allow for the reintegration of recovering addicts into the world of reality.

There are so many different programs that give away furniture and household items without the hand wringing waits that many other charitable organizations put people through. They have the attitude that you wouldn't be there if you didn't need the help.

Soup kitchens abound all of the place. If you missed the time for a meal at one place, no worries mate, the place three blocks down will be serving in an hour. That's what Nebraska has turned into. A loving, care about your neighbor state, that although considered a 'red' state, is really all blue at heart. The safe haven law that goes further than the laws in any other state are only indicative of the larger picture of the biggest heart in the Heartland, and should be an example for more to follow, not a source of derision and scorn.

Many people become outraged at atrocities committed every day here in America. Atrocities against children. Horror stories of the mother who didn't want her baby any more, and cooked it in the microwave oven because she thought it had a demon. Entire families slaughtered by a child who was being abused and had no way out. Story after story on the nightly news, and yet, here is a state that says "We're going to do something to try to stop this", and everyone comes down on them as though they decided to give all the kids to a foreign nation or something.

The law is not perfect, but they'll fix it. And come on, how is anyone going to drop off a teenager at a safe haven? 19 year olds? Give it a rest. At 18, they're of legal age and can come and go as they like. If everyone would step back and take a look at what the state of Nebraska is trying to tell the nation, they also might see that the words of the good State Senator wring oh so true. "If we can save just one child, it will all be worth it............................" Get on board and support Nebraska's efforts, and possibly take a look at your own state Legislators, asking them what happens to a baby that's unwanted, and just happens to be four days old instead of three.

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