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Nebraska- first out of state child abandonment, numbers spin, & upcoming public hearing announced

This is the latest in a series of posts I have done criticizing Nebraska’s legalized child abandonment laws. You can find my earlier posts via my Nebraska tag.


Nebraska, meet your neighboring state, Iowa.

Tuesday, Nebraska’s legalized child abandonment law took its latest inevitable twist, a 14 year-old Council Bluffs Iowa girl was brought across the Missouri River and abandoned at an Omaha’s Creighton University Medical Center.

Nebraska CFS proceeded to shit the proverbial brick, calling up the Iowa child abuse hotline and making a formal report in hopes of having the girl’s guardian prosecuted in Iowa:

Todd Landry, director of the state’s Children and Family Services, said the safe-haven law’s legal protections may not apply in this case because the girl is from Iowa, and whoever abandoned the 14-year-old might be prosecuted in that state.

“We have made a formal report of the abandonment to the Iowa child abuse hot line,” Landry said in a statement issued Tuesday night. “We are working with the Iowa Department of Human Services to resolve this situation as quickly as possible.”

Despite the broadly worded nature of the Nebraska law, those dealing with the day to day practicalities of it’s implementation see the writing on the wall, if they don’t do SOMETHING asap, to stem the tide, Nebraska will indeed, enter the national consciousness as a dumping ground of kids of any age. (I can just see the vacation postcards now, “Nebraska, where your kids can become memories!”)

This was nothing if not predictable. And yes, predicted, long before the law went into effect.

What the Nebraska legislature failed to grasp was that upon unleashing this child welfare fiasco, they made their state a NATION-WIDE dumping ground for kids. There’s nothing in the Nebraska law that prevents anyone ( see the “physical custody”clarification at the bottom of this Bastardette blog post) from anywhere showing up, kid in tow, and leaving them at any approved Nebraska dump site.

Now Nebraska wants those who dump in their state prosecuted in their home states. Yeah, good luck with that. After all, such would mean for example, those gambling in Vegas, upon returning home to a state where gambling is not legal being prosecuted for their activities in Nevada!

For those of you counting, she’s abandoned kid number 20, if you count the police station (unauthorized child dump site) dump, the 18 year-old who ‘abandoned’ himself under the Nebraska law, and the redirected dump that turned into a psych ward commitment at the urging of a Lincoln police officer, none of which are included in the Nebraska DHHS legalized abandonment stats as they are attempted, but not tabulated child dumps.

As the numbers grow, the numbers spin increases, resulting in articles headlined misleadingly, 9th Safe Haven Case Reported Tuesday.

Just as I posited in my previous post, clearly there are those who wanted to dump or were even attempting to dump, who were instead redirected. The attempted dumps are left unreported, other than a pair of mentions in passing:

Emergency room nurses at Saint Elizabeth Medical Center said they believe they have averted three potential Safe Haven cases since the law went into affect in July.

This belongs alongside the quote used in my previous post:

Casady says this is the second time LPD has helped a family considering using the safe haven law.

This is in the context of an officer talking a dumping guardian out of dumping and into committing the teen to the hospital’s psych ward instead.

These two quotes allude to potentially four more cases that would have resulted in child abandonments under the law had it not been for the intervention of hospital staff or police.

This is only what is ‘visible’, the few bits and pieces reported in local media. How many other ‘near-dumps’ have occurred is simply an unknown.

Nebraska hospitals are reporting phone calls from relatives wanting to bring in kids:

“People are calling up, ‘Can I bring my child or my nephew to the emergency room? we need help,’” emergency director Libby Raetz said.

As the numbers of legally abandoned children in Nebraska continues to rise, the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees have announced a joint public hearing on the legalized child abandonment law:

The Legislature’s Judiciary and Health and Human Services committees plan to hold a joint public hearing on the safe-haven law on Nov. 13.

Gov. Dave Heineman has not ruled out calling a special session of the Legislature to fix the law, but he has been reluctant to do so.

“The governor remains hopeful that a special session won’t be needed, but this issue must be addressed immediately at the beginning of the next session,” Heineman’s spokeswoman Jen Rae Hein said Wednesday.

From Lawmakers Schedule Safe Haven Hearing:

With new evidence almost daily that Nebraska’s Safe Haven law is having unintended consequences, Senator Brad Ashford, chairman of the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and Sen. Joel Johnson, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, Tuesday announced a hearing.

The joint hearing will be held to allow the public to comment on two key issues. The first issue: the use of the Safe Haven Law by parents and guardians since the bill went into effect and the need for possible amendments.

The second issue: what resources are available to children living in crisis, the process a parent or guardian must follow to access that help and whether any of this needs changing.

The hearing will be held November 13th at 1:30 p.m. in room 1113 of the State Capitol.

(the piece then goes on to list the DHHS officially abandoned under the law count.)

Not to be outdone, Nebraska’s Governor, Dave Heineman, released a statement yesterday. See Nebraska Governor’s statement on safe haven law (link opens a PDF) for the full text.

Among other details we have confirmation from the governor that none of the kids dumped was in “immediate danger”:

Children from eight families have been left at hospitals under the safe haven law. None of the children involved were infants and none was in immediate danger. While they cannot be charged for abandoning a child, parents and guardians using Nebraska’s safe haven law can be charged for other offenses. Courts are also likely to require parents and guardians to participate in parenting classes, family therapy, conflict resolution or other services in an effort to reunite youth with their families. Child support payments may be ordered while children are in state custody.

We also get the reiteration that the state may try to collect child support out of the abandoned kid’s guardian while the kid is in custody. These comments echo the Nebraska DHHS press release put out Sept. 26th, Safe Haven Law Does Not Absolve Parents of Responsibility.

The Governor’s statement continues:

Abandonment of an older child is potentially very devastating. Human services professionals have highlighted the difference in giving up a baby who will grow up knowing their birth family wanted a better life for them versus the impact of a parent giving up on an older child.

There are so many incorrect assumptions in this I scarcely know where to begin.

Abandonment of ANY child is devastation.

Just because an infant is not old enough to have a first hand account of the event, that hardly means they will not be affected deeply by it throughout their lifetime.

The primary difference between the abandoned infant’s perspective and the abandoned child’s perspective is in whether or not they remember and have an existing INTERPERSONAL relationship with those previous family members. It is important to remember than A relationship exists between them whether they have ever spent time together or remember one another or not. The permanent loss of that family, even if not personally remembered through an abandoned child’s first hand accounts does not mean that loss is something moved past with ease.

Speaking as an adopted adult who lives behind the wall of sealed records, although I may not have personal memories of my family of origin, that hardly means they somehow matter less to me.

Further, the personal information cut through that break in ties, the child’s identity ‘rights’, heritage, and cultural context, genetic, etc is a lifelong loss. In practical terms, it means living a lifetime without access to the kinds of information other citizens take for granted.

The role of the state, rather than encouraging the loss of such, should instead be to protect those citizens most vulnerable and most unable to speak out on behalf of their own interests. Make no mistake about it, speaking personally, as the living result of another form of child welfare social experimentation, when the state intentionally deprives infants of those bedrock assumptions that other citizens simply have, the state is causing lifelong harm. It deprives people of information, while they are infants, and the effects will echo down through the lifetimes of the class of people directly affected, their families, and their own children.

“Wanted a better life for them” is also another coded piece of language adopted people are all too familiar with.

The more we began to uncloak the secrecy surrounding the circumstances of our own relinquishments is the more we found the real reasons very few womyn relinquish their children to adoption, most womyn would keep their children if only they could. We were often surrendered due to to lack of resources and poverty, as well as the climate of shame inflicted on many pregnant womyn, the young, the poor, those whose families reject them.

To our horror, some of us have found parents who were not consenting parties. Womyn forced to sign papers, fathers simply left out of the equation altogether, other extended family members desperate to ‘keep up apperances’ and ‘make the problem/baby just go away’ pushing relinquishment as the ‘only answer’. To say nothing of industry pressure.

As Nebraska’s current dump law allows anyone with ‘physical custody’ to dump, and to date we’ve seen extended family dumping, questions of consent remain by and large unaddressed for some parties who may well have their legal rights trampled in the process.

Pushing the age limit in Nebraska down from any “child” under age 19, down to ‘newborns’ still does nothing to change the situations of those utilizing the legalized child abandonment laws, it takes the kid out of the equation, but structural issues such as poverty, lack of adequate child care, domestic violence, health care costs, etc remain intact.

Infant abandonment laws make the perfect cover for incest, hidden pregnancy, secret birth, then just dump the ‘evidence’.

Legalized child abandonment laws are harmful to womyn, to families, to communities, and most importantly, to the children themselves.

Again I’m stating the obvious, legalized child abandonment is clearly not pro-child.

To date, no state has ever shown conclusively that any child abandoned under this scheme was ever in immediate danger of being killed.

Just as we’ve seen in Nebraska, more often than not those abandoning the kids feel they have no other options and care deeply about the kids. They often view dumping them as a way of ‘protecting’ them, going so far as to in at least one case, insist after using the legalized abandonment apparatus that the mother still loved her son and wanted him to understand that she didn’t abandon him, and that she still wanted to see him. (Cognitive dissonance in the extreme.)

These are not those at risk of leaving babies in dumpsters.

Those who utilize the laws are simply entering the child welfare and adoption system through a newly created second door. A door that requires little to no paperwork, and has no waiting time to actually rid oneself of the kid. The ultimate in instant gratification abandonment.

As most states legalized child abandonment laws leave the womyn utilizing them anonymous, it has been impossible to build a profile of a ‘typical’ womyn who abandons her child under them. That said, while most states baby Moses laws marketing is aimed at ‘young girls’ often still in school, what little data can be culled from news reports etc, shows a very different profile, that of an older, often desperate womyn, sometimes married, sometimes with other kids.

Aging down Nebraska’s dump law to a 2.0 version narrowed to newborns still avoids the core issues those using the dump laws face.

Insisting over and over again ‘there is help out there’ while pointing the desperate into private faith based programs is again, the state abandoning its own responsibilities to its citizens.

The Governor closes with the following, making it clear what he wants to see is ‘infant’-based dump laws:

The few situations we’ve seen so far demonstrate the need for a change in Nebraska’s safe haven law. In the coming legislative session, I will advocate for changes that put the focus back on protecting an infant in danger. That should be our priority.

While this would ensure the infants- eventual kids- eventual adults will be silenced for a few years at least, all such a bill would really do is push back the timing on when the unresolved issues with the dump laws would begin to surface in that second batch of Nebraska dumpees.

Just as it took adoptees the time it takes infants to grow to age of majority, that 18 year-lag, and then those affected by the sealing of adoption records legislation in various states began to organize against sealed records, I predict the children of legalized abandonments will also face that 18 year-lag, and then begin to organize against what what done to them.

Every single day that these dump laws are in place is a day that yet more kids may suffer irrepiarable harm. The only genuine solution is full repeal.

The longer Nebraska politicians drag out debates about what is to be done is the larger the toll becomes, an ever increasing count of kids for whom the consequences are permanent.

I’ve already written about how the dump bills were built out of the structures fighting openness in adoption records.

Don’t condemn another generation to lives without the basic identity based building blocks they will need to live out their lives.

Learn from the example of what was done under the sealing of adoption records and the lifelong lasting legacy of harm that has caused, then understand, baby dump and child dump laws are just the latest structures built upon that flawed foundation.

As I’ve ended pretty much all my Nebraska dump law posts, I will continue to call for nothing short of the full repeal of legalized child abandonment laws.

They fail kids- for a lifetime.


Between the time I started this piece and finally posting it, the abandoned child from Iowa has since been sent back to Iowa. I suppose we can now label such a ‘return to sender’ abandonment. The 14 year-old is however, listed on Nebraska DHHS’s revised official count. (Link opens a PDF.)

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