Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Safe Haven.

Once again I find myself here at home taking care of Baby E. It has been nearly a full week of diarrhea for the boy, and it's putting a fair amount of stress on our little family. Yesterday he visited the hospital again, and they suggested that his situation may be bacterial as well (or instead of) viral. They set up a diagnostic test of his stool to find out, so M. spent the bulk of the day back and forth between medical facilities. When she finally got to the front of the line of the testing center, she was told they would need a bigger sample. It would take about five grams (how much is that?) to get a proper reading. Babies don't poo in big chunks. Anyway, I tried to run it by after work, but they were already closed. Sometimes nothing comes easy.

So E. is taking a nap, and I'm thinking about a story I heard on the news the other day. Nebraska has approved a change to their "Safe Haven Law". I didn't know it, but it turns out that every state in our union has a similar provision on their books. Apparently if you have a kid, yet for one reason or another you can't (or won't) take care of him/her, you can drop your child off at a hospital without prosecution. I guess too many babies were ending up in dumpsters. What made the land of the Cornhusker different was the age limitation, or lack of it. Many states restrict a "parent" from passing off his/her responsibility once the tyke reaches a certain cutoff point. In 13 states, that threshold is thirty days.

For some reason there were no parameters in the Nebraska law. Last Friday the last unwanted offspring (14-years old) was left at a hospital, making him the 36th minor to be abandoned since the problematic law went into effect in July. Reportedly many of these individuals were preteens, and one was actually 17-years old. A majority was said to have serious psychiatric or behavioral problems. Occasionally, people were driving in from out-of-state to ditch their responsibilities. I find that particularly sad. Are people really so desperate in our modern age to free themselves of their burdens? Is our social support system so inadequate that this is the last resort?

Obviously this isn't an option anymore. It's likely that Nebraska will end up imposing a limit of thirty days after birth for its "Safe Haven Law". But it's also clear that the problem is not going away. Todd Landry (Nebraskan state bureaucrat) expressed the official position: "The role of the state’s child-welfare system is to protect children who are fundamentally unsafe." He made it quite clear where the authorities stand on the issue- for "safe" children,"it is not the role of government to intervene". Of course that statement evokes certain questions about how we organize our society. If people are reaching out for help by simply ditching their kids under circumstances where they won't be prosecuted, is the government acting in an invasive manner by lending a hand?

From my point of view, this unfortunate phenomenon should be a wake-up call. A large segment of the populace is adamant that human life begins at conception. "Pro-life" warriors insist that every "act of creation" must be allowed its opportunity to be born. Yet evidently society's responsibility ends once the new being exits the birth canal (or after some arbitrary period like 30 days). Under this perspective, mothers who get pregnant are left entirely to their own devices in providing for the children they bear... regardless of whether or not they truly wanted them in the first place. Perhaps the anti-abortion crowd needs to realize that not every soul is equipped for parenthood. If they are unable to face this simple reality, they should be prepared to step in and provide support for every child that is abandoned, no matter at what age.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just sitting here wondering if you would have enjoyed Nebraska as a teenager.


4:46 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Always with the jokes...

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having worked in education for many years. I can only imagine how many kids people would have liked to have seen safe-havened in another state. And, I'm not talking parents, but teachers and administrators. We could have filled a couple 72-passenger buses annually, and gladly given up the state's meager subsidy.

Then again, that's not that dissimilar to NYC paying people's bus fares to relocate in Eastern PA to avoid paying welfare.


8:23 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

It's a sad commentary that its easier to hold teachers to high standards than it is to apply them to parents.

I've told people out at this end of the state about the 70's social engineering that brought "diversification" to the Lehigh Valley- they are usually fairly astonished by that. Adds an entirely new meaning to "busing".

11:39 AM  

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