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Nebraska- the Michigan Mom already under investigation and the failures of baby-dumps

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.


We begin with the mother (along with an aunt and grandmother) who drove from Michigan to Nebraska to dump her son,

New twist in abandonment of 13-year-old in Nebraska/Prosecutor’s office files a neglect petition against Southfield family

turns out she was ALREADY under investigation back in Michigan prior to the abandonment.

The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office has filed a neglect petition against the Southfield family of the 13-year-old boy whose mother drove to Nebraska to abandon him under that state’s expansive and controversial safe haven law.

The filing was not released for public review before Oakland County Circuit Court closed for the day, but a hearing was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today, deputy court administrator Lisa Langton said.

While the mother is protected by Nebraska law, she could face charges in Michigan, where she and her husband have four other children. And local authorities and court records say the family already was being investigated before the teen was taken to Nebraska.

The case also is causing a rift between social services and law enforcement.

Southfield Police Chief Joseph Thomas Jr. said he and county Prosecutor David Gorcyca were upset that the Michigan Department of Human Services did not involve them immediately in a case where a child was taken across state lines.

She abandoned the boy at Omaha’s Creighton University Medical Center with luggage, extra clothes and $10.

Sadder still, this was a apparently another ‘teach ’em a lesson’ dump. Not dissimilar to how parents have used the threat of and reality of juvenile hall in the past (see Mary E. Odem’s book “Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920″ for an excellent examination of how “delinquency” has historically been used against kids)

The boy told police his mother was stressed out and couldn’t deal with him anymore. He also she was trying to teach him a lesson. She has expressed remorse to Nebraska officials.

Apparently after driving 12 hours and legally abandoning her son to ‘teach him a lesson’ she is now sorry for having done so. Lovely.

This goes to the core of any legalized child abandonment law, how easy it becomes for events to unfurl rapidly. The kid will be dealing with such for the rest of his life, but for the adults involved, parents, legislators etc, it’s all about making it quick and easy.

And once again, we have private agencies in the midst of all of it:

As a student in Southfield Public Schools, the teen is “not a student with a bad profile,” and wasn’t known to be having difficulties according to Ken Siver, deputy superintendent.

But the family has files with both social services and law enforcement in Wayne and Oakland counties.

According to court records, in 2003, a neglect petition filed in Wayne County on behalf of the boy was denied. He also was prescribed mental health services for a delinquency charge in 2007.

In Southfield, both he and a sibling have open delinquency files, Thomas said.

A private agency tasked with placing the 13-year-old with relatives during a complaint “expressed concern about this child’s safety and remaining in the family in any way,” said Janet Snyder, executive director for Michigan Federation for Children and Families, a child-serving agency advocacy group.

Undoubtedly we will be hearing much much more about this case.

It’s important to keep in mind, though that the only reason we know that the mother was under investigation back in Michigan is because Nebraska’s dump law, unlike many states, does not have anonymous abandoners, and the that in Nebraska, unlike any other state, the dumped kid is old enough to speak for himself.

Had this happened in another state, with anonymous abandoners and a baby being dumped, no questions would be asked, the baby would simply enter the adoption stream and the dumper would go on about their life.

Which is to say baby-dumps can be used to cover all kinds of things.

‘Aging down’ a legalized child abandonment law is no solution. ‘Aging down’ merely increases the number of things that can be hidden under a dump law.


In a separate second story we learn of an Iowa woman who has scheduled a protest in Nebraska today:

An Iowa woman angry about Nebraska’s safe haven law is staging a protest at Creighton University in Omaha.

Judi Wheeldon of Council Bluffs, Iowa, said she hopes the protest, scheduled for 5 p.m. today, will help convince state lawmakers to convene and put an age limit in the law before the regular legislative session starts in January.

(Also see Lawmakers Not Ready For Special Session)

Iowa, of course has a baby-dump law. Targeting Creighton, which is merely a state designated intake center for the dumped kids is ultimately pretty pointless. It’s Nebraska lawmakers, not hospitals who decide the fate of this disastrous law.

If all Ms. Wheeldon is calling for is the aged down version, then the effect is that of calling for another shade of lipstick on the same old pig. Not calling for a fundamental change in the law, instead, merely a tweeking to make Nebraska’s look more like Iowa’s.

As I’ve said in all these posts about the Nebraska mess, the only real solution is a full REPEAL of the dumps laws.

Anything less just means a continuation of the current status quo, that of state’s continuing their sad and shameful course of action, encouraging child abandonment.

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