Effect Measure

Safe haven for teens

Both of our children and all three of our grandchildren were with us yesterday afternoon, which set me thinking about the Nebraska “safe haven” law. If you haven’t heard about it, Nebraska has just joined the other 49 states by enacting LB 157, a law that allows a parent to abandon an unwanted child at a hospital, no questions asked. These kinds of laws are promoted by child welfare advocates as safeguards for newborns who might otherwise be left to die of exposure or deposited in the trash somewhere. It happens.

But Nebraska went all the way. Instead of a law like California’s, which limits the authority to drop off babies to parents and covers only newborns up to 72 hours old, the Nebraska law allows anyone to drop of an unwanted minor. In Nebraska you are a minor until age 19:

While lawmakers may not have intended it, the month-old law raises the possibility that frustrated parents could drop off misbehaving teens or even severely disabled older children with impunity.

“Whether the kid is disabled or unruly or just being a hormonal teenager, the state is saying: ‘Hey, we have a really easy option for you,'” said Adam Pertman, executive director of a New York adoption institute and a frequent critic of safe-haven laws.


“All children deserve our protection,” said Sen. Tom White, who helped broaden the measure. “If we save one child from being abused, it’s well, well worth it.”

White said it doesn’t matter if that child is an infant or three years old or in the care of a parent or baby sitter. (HuffPo)

So with a house full of our kids and their kids I was thinking about this law. Don’t get me wrong. Mrs. R. and I think our kids are terrific. We think are grandchildren are super terrific. But now our kids go home and take their kids with them and peace and quiet are restored and responsibility vanishes. As good as our kids are — and were — there were times when they were growing up when we would gladly have dropped them off at the nearest “safe haven,” no questions asked. Maybe we would even have driven all the way to Nebraska, although more likely we’d have left them off on the highway before we got there.

I’m joking, of course.


  1. #1 DM
    August 25, 2008

    I’m joking, of course.

    “I’m joking, of course. Probably”


  2. #2 Susan Och
    August 25, 2008

    That made me laugh.

    My teenagers were wonderful: smart, responsible, ambitious. But that was in public. At home they were often smart-ass, lackadaisical, and “too tired” to help with chores. I figured that this was the way things were supposed to be. It would be much worse to have a teenager who was perfect at home but running amok as soon as they left the house.

    Parenting is not for wimps. A drop off for any age seems like an invitation to view babies as cute accessories that can be replaced s fashion dictates.

  3. #3 Ann
    August 25, 2008

    I love children and always get upset with those that are abused etc.

    BUT…JUST WHO IS GOING TO TAKE THOSE CHILDREN, WHERE WILL THEY PUT THEM, AND WHO WILL PAY FOR THEIR CARE?? It is so very difficult now to get older children adopted, what kind of system are they going to develop to take care of tens or hundreds of dropped off kids?

  4. #4 albatross
    August 25, 2008

    I wonder how many parents will actually drop their kids off. I’d expect this to be so rare that the few cases that ever happen involve some seriously messed up parents and kids both. I do wonder how they’ll handle custody issues–when the meth-addicted mom drops off her toddler in an unaccustomed burst of responsible behavior, what keeps her from coming back to demand the child back later when she’s all partied out for awhile? How do they deal with the dads who want custody, or the other family members?

    Family law is just inherently ugly, I think. I’m glad I don’t have to figure any of that stuff out!

  5. #5 Cathie Currie
    August 25, 2008

    Unfortunately, parents who abuse are often very needy for the attention the child brings to them, and for the attention that the child gives them. Abused children are used as a release for parental anger, frustration, and in the case of sexual abuse — for sexual urges. Abusing parents have poor decision skills – so they often say something to the effect of ‘if I didn’t have my child with me, then people will think I am a bad person.’ Then they smile the biggest happiest blankest smile — what drove that part of their affect I never understood.

    Some of the children who are dropped off will have medical needs that exceed the parents’ ability. The most horrific abandonment I observed was an adolescent who had been diagnosed with recurrent brain cancer the previous day. The parents dumped him off on family members, the family members dropped him off at the hospital, where he was turfed to psych even though we did not have an adolescent inpt unit. We were expected to dump him off as some state facility — which were all far away from our medical center. My heart still wrenches –

    But I do hope parents will use the new policy when they cannot cope with their responsibilities. I also hope a mechanism will be available for reclaiming children when a crisis has resolved, after ensuring that enough time has transpired that their situation is much more stable. Ping pong renouncements and reclaiming will not help anyone.

    And I hope that a child can walk in and declare themselves unwanted. Though, again, children in abusing homes are very often realistically concerned that their situation could get worse without their parents — because they truly understand that the normal role for a parent is to protect them. They are correct in thinking that they might have more abuse if they do not have even an impaired an adult with them. Unfortunately, people who do not have an adequate frame of reference describe this in other ways — that the child feels more comfortable with the abuse, seeks abuse, etc. Adding yet another layer of abuse to the abuse . . .

    Abandonment is not a solution for child abuse — it is only a safety mechanism of the last resort.

    BTW, the two signs I found that seemed to protect parents against abuse were a good sense of humor, and the forthright admission that one’s child can be truly, utterly, totally, and unforgivingly infuriating – expressed with matching affect . . . and a bit of bewilderment . . . and then followed with relief at having unburdoned oneself. 🙂

  6. #6 PhysioProf
    August 25, 2008

    If this existed where I grew up, my parents would have surely dumped my insolent degenerate teen ass!

  7. #7 M. Randolph Kruger
    August 26, 2008

    But hey guys, it falls in with the great Big Brother plan. We dont need Daddy’s or Moms any more. We got the government to take care of all of our little needs. I dont know who the bash here. Republicans dont want to pay for abortions and its a position that I agree with. Dems want to pay for them. Now we have a post birth abortion if you will of a type. Dont worry about that kid… Government will take him/her off your hands and it doesnt cost you a dime. Zowie, now they can call their Uncle (Sam) dad… Sounds like a really bad redneck joke.

    I wonder what would be cheaper? Taking care of a kid or aborting a fetus? Probably 50% end up in the system after they enter it and end up making more babies. Its upside down again and parents who cant afford a kid can simply dump them off like the dog they cant feed any longer. Or if its one thats a problem… Now there’s the threat to a kid. Shape up or ship out. When they dont you can legally say…Pack your shit… You are leaving. Now you can mean it.

    I saw the other day that a kid in Canada had lawyered up and taken her parents to court for removing her internet connection. The girl was surfing porn, YouTube, MySpace until 2-3 in the morning with shitty grades to go along with it…of course.

    The High Court agreed with the kid and ordered the internet connection restored. Now I wonder if I can get THEIR number and talk them into a short move for a short period to the US. ..?????

    This has all sorts of possibilities.

  8. #8 revere
    August 26, 2008

    Randy: Big Brother — like wiretapping, lying us into war, telling us what to teach our children and what to do and not to do in the bedroom, whom to marry? That kind of Big Brother? Or the Older Brother that helps us when we are down, picks us up when we fall, teaches us how to do things?

  9. #9 Deb
    August 26, 2008

    I would like to see a campaign to break the abuse cycle. In the eighties, it became “okay” for a woman to leave her abusive husband. Woman shelters popped up in many cities. It was widely publizced through movies, tv, stories, that men shouldn’t hit women and they didn’t have to accept it.
    I grew up in a extremely abusive enviroment. My parents actually almost let me die from neglect. I spent over 2 weeks hospitalized after that. I had a wonderful aunt offer to take me, but I said no to stay with my family. I suffered even more after that. I didn’t know my mother knew and wanted me to go. Never ask a abused child if they want to leave, they will almost always say no. My life got even worse after that. I know for a fact my parents would have spent many years in jail, if this had happened now.
    I think that if they protray this as a safe place for teens, that it is okay leave a truly abusive situation it would save alot of lives.
    Mr. Kruger, you can make this a big brother issue, try to politize all you want. But you have no idea what it is like to go through hell as a child. I am glad this is happening. If only 1 child is saved, it is worth it to me.

  10. #10 Ren
    August 26, 2008

    Unintended consequences, anyone? This is almost as bad as a law we had in Maryland that completely changed meaning based on the position of a comma in a sentence…

  11. #11 M. Randolph Kruger
    August 26, 2008

    All the same Big Bro. Revere. Its beyond both Republicans and Democrats now. It has a life of its own by regulation.

    Deb… Dont jump until you know you are froggy. My next door neighbor beat his kid literally into a vegetable and the last time in our all knowing society my parents called the cops a week before she was brain dead. 11th time in two or so years. He picked his then 15 year old up and body slammed her into the floor. He was about 250 and she couldnt have been more than 110.

    Lisa was absolutely one of the prettiest girls and nicest I had ever known. Its not political, its bullshit on both sides. Its okay to have kids out of wedlock and then we get to pay for them to have those kids. This is where I diverge with my Republican base. They create a situation, then the Dems push it even farther. The point is that there should be no consequences for being a kid. There should be consequences for a lack of discipline as long as they are reasonable. Any home that has no discipline should be prepared to spend long nights at the jail, kids on drugs. The usual song and dance. Save one? Statistically I bet its less than zero. Do you know any that went into the CS system that didnt have problems afterwards. Me, I would put daddy’s into jail or onto a county work crew for abusing kids. Say for a year or so at a time. It gives the kids a breather. Mostly daddies anyway that are abusive. But the Dems ensure that you dont have to be responsible parent. We are going to clothe, feed and house them if they are indigent which you will be while Daddy is away. Creates a permanent cycle and ensures a permanent welfare recipient.

    And Revere while that isnt germane to the argument, it does go back to a time when respect started at home. The things that you talk about dont exist in families any longer. You back talked in a family you had personal consequences in my early years. You might get popped once or twice and thats not abuse. Now the kids call the cops. They have adapted to the situation. My next door neighbor would have been out of that house and in child services custody in todays world. Daddy would be getting anger management classes that while well intentioned serve only to piss them off. Child services has become a kid mill of moving kids in and out of foster to the family to the foster. Most times its because the kids are threatened. Honestly I now think that it ensures the future failure of this country. No morals, no personal responsibility…Kind of like what happened in Rome. The bend down Big Brother you speak of doesnt exist. He has a smile on his face but he is nothing more than the government with a different set of clothes on. When they do help its piss poor, misdirected, ill managed and costs way too much money.

    My wife grew up in an abusive situation. Terrible in fact to the point that four kids took on Daddy one afternoon after he went after the youngest one. They ALL ended up in the hospital. After Big Brother showed up, the kids after various stays in the hospital were placed right back into the home. He waited until they recovered and then went right back to it. Like type situations occurred until she was 18 as they moved across the quad state area. Always one step ahead of the CS division.


  12. #12 revere
    August 26, 2008

    Randy: All the same Big Bro. Revere. Its beyond both Republicans and Democrats now. It has a life of its own by regulation.

    And who makes the regs? And why are you bothered by one kind of Big Brother and not another?

    And in your example, the problem seems that Big Brother turned his back, not that he acted as BB.

  13. #13 M. Randolph Kruger
    August 26, 2008

    Thats fair, but the end result is that its an never ending mill. These are as a rule state run ops. My next door neighbor the Senator tells me that they get funded by how many kids they have in the system. So moms/dads, the legal system and CS always have something going. Abusive parents? Give those offenders 20 years mandatory. Then support the kids and moms if we have to but end the chain. Stabilize the environment for them rather than this endless social welfare thing where the beat me up, child raping dads and/or boyfriends dont ever come back until the kids are adults and can deal with it. I do agree with some of what you say, but not nearly all of it.

    One trip into the Tennessee legal system costs an average of 25,000 bucks give or take a grand. God knows what it would be in Boston, Chicago or New York …easily more. Better to put daddy or the offender in jail, show them there is accountability for their actions and toss the key for a good long while. That 25,000 could go a long way towards the upkeep if those kids are in trouble. Hell, we end up taking care of them anyway.

    And no, dont outsource it.

    Child welfare is expanding across the US and cost wise its getting out of control. Just nip it in the bud and put the baby beating bastards in jail and quit all of this psychoanalyzing masturbation like anger management that puts them back into the home in a short time like Deb says. The kid has to go home. Daddy can go to jail. To me its better to pay for Daddy to be in jail (probably has a record anyway) and to assist in the costs of the kid rather than this kid mill that we have created. I’ve got zero tolerance for people who abuse their kids and I think we should put the kids on notice too. There are consequences.

    Nothing political about this one. There is a difference in a spanking to a beating and a bigger one from the guy who rapes a five year old who is the live in boyfriend or father. They body bagged three of this type in the last month here. All had records, most of the moms too. If they have to take a kid out, then it should be permanent rather than this oh, I am all better now after having gone to the shrink and anger management.

    The only politics in it is how its handled. I think we are less effective now with CS rather than with them. If we turned it into a law scenario where the guy just is arrested, tried and sent over to the local jail then its a good start… Say 3-5 mandatory. Thats a lot of good time for the kids..They dont have to deal with it and it brings stability. Thats where CS would be more helpful.

    What effects do social workers actually have on the problems? Not much is my best read. Deb wouldnt have had the problems she did if her Dad had been in jail until she was say 20. Might have put her family on the government dole, but at the same time by being here she bravely states it the abuse didnt stop because he was there…They always end up back at the house.

    What do you think? Change it because its not working and isnt going to work or continue with what we are doing? I dont think that being able to drop your kid of solves the problem. They’ll just go have another kid IMO. Kind of like intercourse until you get it right? I am not comfortable with Big Brother as you are well aware but maybe if it really was the Little Brother that stopped it rather than perpetuating it?

  14. #14 Cathie Currie
    August 26, 2008

    People not in the field have such simple solutions – and use those platitudes to shrug it off as another one of those inconsequential problems that produce whiners. Followed by a ‘Get over it.’

    Deb’s situation is a perfect example of how child abuse is a serious public health issue, and the response is ‘Oh yeh? I’ve got an even better story! Deb was brave to tell her story, and the only thing Randy want to do is smack her out of the ballpark. This is not a game of ‘mine is bigger than yours’. Child abuse is about human pain, suffering that lingers forever, huge expenditures of tax dollars that have not yet been productive, and the ensuing loss of human capital for our nation.

    The temporary humane solution is to provide safe places for children, in the hopes that they will be able to survive and find a better life. Our focus needs to be to help each individual child who is injured — to give them a chance.

    Some facts.
    Mothers and fathers are equally likely to physically abuse children — though size and strength matters and so mothers do not tend to kill as often.
    Physically abused children are not irresponsible children, and the abuse is not discipline that got out of hand — no parent in their right mind will hit a bully.
    Hitting a child is not child abuse unless it injures — hitting a child is not a nice/good/ok thing to do but it is not even remotely close to what child abuse actually is.
    Child abusers usually do not have convictions for other crimes — though they do have higher rates of drug and alcohol problems and are often the DUI/DWI who gets away without a record.
    Putting abusers in jail has equal monetary costs, perhaps more with appeals, compared to protection costs. On top of the abuse, you want the child to forever be accused of having jailed a parent?
    Children subjected to court procedures rarely can withstand the aggression, and until you work in a court you cannot immagine the horrific stress that is placed on an accuser as having done a ‘wrong’ by the defense, so they often become poor witnesses.
    Spouses back up their spouses for a whole raft of reasons, and they often are relieved if a child is taking the blows that otherwise might be redirected to themselves.

  15. #15 Cathie Currie
    August 26, 2008

    I forgot to add the economic implications:
    You want to add approximately 1% of our pop to the already 1% of our pop in jail? It might even be higher than that — because about 2 – 3 % of parents seriously abuse their children. With 2% of our pop in jail, we would double our current bill — but you think paying for jail is better than prevention?

    Approximately 10% of spouses hit each other annually — women hit as often as men, even though people do not want to believe that. Some people will hit a spouse but not children, some will hit children but not a spouse and some hit both. Children hit each other — sometimes with intent, and sometime not. I assume some children hit parents but, except for elder abuse, this is not studied.

    Family violence is a huge problem with long term and costly sequellae. Effective family violence prevention would put our tax dollars to far better use than our current policy to ignore it and pay for the consequences.

  16. #16 M. Randolph Kruger
    August 26, 2008

    Cathie with all due respect… It would seem that the problem is worse than it was 20 years ago to me. We have people putting kids into dog cages, hinding them in special rooms in the basements, abusing kids with all sorts of physical handicaps. Where I come from it would be handled in a more discreet way and daddy would get the message. A woman hitting a 250 pound man isnt abuse… its laughable. Turn that table on someone 100 pounds smaller and certainly weaker and you get the burning bed somewhere down the road.

    As far as being in court… I have sat two juries in the last five years one stemmed from a hugely long criminal record that started with the kid being abused himself as a child. All he did was beat a 4 year old almost to death and the kid had enough fractures on his body that it ensures a long painful old age.

    The other was the rape of a mental deficient. Might be a tad different where you are from but we are so social serviced down here its sickening. They dont want them to get out of it… they get paid for having them and the workload they generate.

    You could be right though. If you thought I was smacking Deb that wasnt the bent. Just the opposite. I watched a next door neighbor get beaten nearly to death as a kid. They would/will have gotten him for murder if she died or later dies. He did five years for criminal assault. He is already out and she is at the state home.

  17. #17 revere
    August 26, 2008

    Randy: By almost every measure — which you can find in a Bush admin. report “America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2008.” — today’s youth are better than you and your peers or my peers at their age. Less youth violence, drug use, teen pregnancy, even less sex than the end of Bush I. era. You are just another old goat who thinks the young folks today are going to hell in a handbasket. Go ahead. Tell them to get off your lawn.

  18. #18 Grace RN
    August 27, 2008

    If that kid had been mine, he/she would have gone home that night with the judge.

  19. #19 M. Randolph Kruger
    August 27, 2008

    If that were the case Revere then I wouldnt be watching the news this afternoon where another 3 kids put it in the toaster for just going to school. Maybe its just perception as you indicate but kids today are no different than yesterdays other than they have attorneys now. It might also be location. Here the nuts are in charge of the nuthouse. Sixteen shootings in July, seven of them gang related with kids under the age of 18. The gangs become their family. But the facts are what you make them I guess.

  20. #20 Julie Stahlhut
    August 28, 2008

    A woman hitting a 250 pound man isnt abuse… its laughable.

    This kind of thing is almost certainly rarer than its converse, but when it happens, it’s not funny at all. There are a lot of reasons why the man might not hit back — from a belief that it’s wrong, or from the concern that he’ll be the one arrested for abuse, for starters.

    Domestic violence is nasty stuff. It’s psychologically abusive and destructive even if it doesn’t result in physical injuries. It shows a complete disregard for the humanity of the victim, regardless of the victim’s age, sex, or size. And as for handling it “in a more discreet way” — this merely favors the person who snaps first. The reason we have criminal justice and social services systems is because it’s not constructive to have “justice” administered by a person who is in a vengeful rage.

  21. #21 TxPixie1966
    August 31, 2008

    Taking children from an abusive home is a great idea. But we need to make sure that whereever they are sent they will not be abused further. Anytime that a child is abused and sent through the foster care system the child is abused emotionally. They would rather be home and it tears their hearts out to get a visit with mom and not know when they actually get to go home.
    I don’t really care if its mom or dad doing the abusing… the kid loves their parents. The non-abusive parent gets the same amount of time with the child on a visit that an abusive parent gets. The non-abusive parent has to go through the same classes because they failed to protect their child from the abusive parent. If the abusive parent gets charged with abuse of a child… the non-abusive parents gets charged with failure to protect. CATCH-22. That is Big Brother. Daddy goes to jail for raping his daughter. Momma goes to jail for not stopping it.
    Most pedophiles do their dirty work without anyone’s knowledge and with threats to the child if the child reports to anyone. Like ” I will hurt your mom/sister/brother/father/cat or dog.” Most of the time if a parent is physically abusing the child… the other parent is abused in some way.
    If the problem is neglect… why is it neglect? Did one of the parents loose their job? Do the responsible adults make enough money to cover the necessary expenses? Would giving the family money that would normally go to a foster family or the help that would go to the foster family help the situation? Are they on assistance? Most likely they make $1.00 too much.
    And by the way, men are abused by women all the time. Most men are raised to believe they should never talk about somethingl like that… it shows they are weak.

  22. #22 g336
    September 1, 2008

    Prevention is the best cure.

    The idea that people with criminal records for violent crimes get to reproduce is just insane. The idea that people with histories of chronic substance abuse get to reproduce is just insane. None of them should be having babies, period.

    There is no right to reproduce. It does not exist. It is not in the United States Constitution or any other national constitution. The EU constitution talks about the rights of families but nowhere does it enumerate a right to breed.

    So let’s start with mandatory sterilization for anyone convicted of a felony. And I’ll bet that’ll cut the crime rate by about 2/3 while we’re at it.

    Next let’s terminate all parental rights in cases of child abuse, and seek out permanent adoptive families for the kids. The idea that a man who slams his daughter into the floor and sends her to the hospital should ever get to see her again (until she is a legal adult and it’s her choice), is just insane. First conviction, you never see your kids again, and since it’s a felony, you don’t get to make more kids and you’re not eligible to adopt or foster.

    See, Randy, we don’t even have to touch abortion with this one.

  23. #23 revere
    September 1, 2008

    g336: Under your policy, Australia probably wouldn’t exist. What’s the principle here? That being criminal is hereditary and that what we call criminal behavior is always bad for society? Or what? Should Jay walkers be prevented from reproducing? White collar criminals? Kids caught downloading? Drug addicts? Drug takers? What about the children of criminals? Is there a right to speak your mind? In the US but not in other countries. Does that mean that people who speak their minds in countries where it isn’t a right might not also not have the right to reproduce? Suppose abortion were illegal. Wouldn’t that produce a paradox? And who says prevention is always the best cure? Depends on the disease and the cure, doesn’t it? Does the state have a right to prevent reproduction? I think you are in very deep water and are drowning.

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