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New Jersey- Boarder Babies being folded into “Safe Haven” statistics

(Yes, I’ve taken a brief break from blogging in the aftermath of the Nebraska age down. I’m still here, still working, and yes, ‘the blogging shall continue until morale improves’.)


So here’s a brief post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now. Start with this November 21st article out of the Star Ledger in New Jersey, How you can put a baby in a loving home.

Sure enough, “Boarder Babies” are being folded into New Jersey’s “safe haven” stats.

(See the National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center‘s 2005 Fact Sheet on Boarder Babies, Abandoned Infants, and Discarded Infants {link opens a PDF} for some basic information on the boarder babies phenomenon and some of the ongoing issues with “safe haven”/legalized child abandonment laws.)

Keep that in mind the next time you hear some legalized child abandonment advocate bragging about their alleged number of “baby saves.” How many babies turned in under the safe haven program? ‘Oh we’ve “saved” tons!’

Just don’t look too closely, or you might realize how many of those were exactly the problem we’ve had all along, boarder babies, now just moved out of one column and into another. Which is to say the “baby savers'” stats are for shit at this point.

Lumping in the boarder babies not only vastly inflates the “safe haven” numbers of alleged baby “saves,” (a pure mis-characterization, as it’s pretty damn difficult to “save” said babies from mothers who are abandoning them after birth at the hospitals where the children were born. These were babies who never had any genuine chance to be “at risk” of anything outside hospital walls, in some cases, they were never outside a nurse’s care.) but it also sets up one hell of a conundrum.

You have state and federal programs geared towards preventing boarder baby abandonment, trying to encourage womyn to take their babies home rather than walking out the hospitals without them while SIMULTANEOUSLY creating a separate program going the exact opposite direction, wherein the state actively encourages womyn to abandon their newborns or infants.

On the one hand, you have the state putting programs and funding towards family reunification and getting the kids out of the system whenever possible, on the other you have the safe haven program working at cross purposes in most states encouraging anonymous child abandonment making family reunification an impossibility, dumping kids into the system.

Articles such as this, New program hopes to keep ‘border babies’ in arms of their parents are common. Unfortunately even within existing boarder baby programs you have programs already pulling in opposite directions. You have the mothers themselves, as but one number, 63% (link opens a PDF) of them want to keep their kids, and yes, you have programs geared towards either keeping them together or working towards reunification, but at the same time you have Child Protective Services (often encumbered by guidelines created in relation to American drug law policy) making the final determination as to whether or not the child will ultimately be discharged to go home with their parents.

Boarder baby policy(ies) is already more than enough of a conflicted mess without adding “safe haven” laws into the mix.

Boarder Babies are not only a huge drain on the entire health system, they are the ongoing “background noise” of health care itself. This has led program after program aimed at dealing with such, (and the media) to label the ever mounting numbers of abandoned at hospitals post birth and after the mother’s discharge an all out “boarder baby crisis.”

Let’s be clear here. The alleged raison d’etre for the legalized abandonment/”safe haven” schemes was to “save” babies who were supposedly at risk of immediate harm. A boarder baby born in a hospital, and either abandoned by its parents or forced to be left behind by a child protective services determination is NOT and NEVER WAS in any danger. It was born in a hospital and in most cases has been in hospital care its entire life up to that point. To lump boarder babies into baby-dump/”safe haven” stats is not merely disingenuous, a BLATANT fabrication.

Unless of course, the whole point was always to increase the supply of adoptable history free infants, permanently separated from their parents of origin.

Seeing as to how the legalized abandonment laws were the (sick) spawn of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA), and the primary organization pushing for the dump laws, the National Safe Haven Alliance grew out of the NCFA, I’ll leave it to readers to make up their own minds about said motivations.

More recently of course you have the federal adoption ‘bonuses’ to states that move children from the public system into “permanent homes.” Children who are abandoned are automatically categorized as “special needs” and states placing “special needs” kids get even larger adoption bonuses.

When you hear the term “safe haven” keep in mind that much of what we’re really talking about here is fast tracked, so called “non-bureaucratic placements,” i.e. adoptions whenever possible.

While the preferred mythology of the “safe haven” babies is that of the alleged young and desperate (preferably white) teenage mother with nowhere else to turn, “safe havening” her (preferably equally white, or at least passable) newborn only to be adopted as soon as possible after relinquishment with (yet another preferably white, preferably heterosexual) loving couple out in the ‘burbs with a white picket fence and a dog, add the reality of boarder babies into the mix and clearly there’s more to to all this than first meets the eye.

When boarder babies are lumped under those same words, adopters may find themselves with a kid going through weeks of withdrawal or even lifelong effects after drug additions, lifelong effects that even experts can’t predict, or they may be receiving an HIV+ child. Due to the lack of prenatal care and the facets of their mother’s lives (poverty, inadequate food in the household, mental illness, addiction, etc) the adopters’ newly acquired little bundle of joy may turn out to be quite a bit more than they bargained on.

Under normal conditions, boarder babies are some of the least desirable kids in the adoption food chain, for many of the reasons I listed above. That said though, via re-branding, boarder babies can now go up for adoption as “saved” “safe haven” babies, suddenly now a desirable commodity to some.

This is tremendously beneficial to the state, as without the re-branding, boarder babies tend to languish in hospital care for months, only to eventually be bounced around the foster care system, they’re the kids nobody wants.

Take this older story out of the New York Times, BOARDER BABIES FIND COMFORT IN FOSTER GRANDPARENTS’ ARMS, in which the low income elderly are being recruited to deal with the them:

Besides providing a support system for the babies, the foster grandparents’ program tends to counter stereotypes of older people, said Marcia Vogel, the director. ”It shows how useful they can be,…

“Safe Haven” babies come “as is.” Most states actively make no point of collecting medical information or histories on the kids. The less known about them, the more marketable they are.

So it’s “buyer beware” for the adopters who clamour to get a hold of the little media friendly “saved babies.”

But that lifelong question mark of lack of information while a downside for the kids, is an upside for the state and its marketing. Phone lines buzz with desperate infertile couples trying to get a hold of “Safe Havened” babies after news reports.

So, how many other states are padding out their numbers of “safe haven saved babies” with boarder babies?

Perhaps more importantly, how many states are ‘solving’ their boarder baby problem by sliding them over a column?

I can just hear it now:

‘Wow! New Jersey, fewer boarder babies? That’s great! How’d you manage that?’

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