I'm assume most people reading here know what safe haven laws are and how they work. Most states put limits on the age of a child that can be legally abandoned, say 72 hours or 30 days. Nebraska, perhaps feeling out of sorts for being the last state to enact such a statute, decided that it would go all the way and set the limit at 19. As in 19 years. In Nebraska, you can take your teenage kid to a hospital, turn him or her over and walk away the same day with few questions asked.
I don't want to get into a debate about the efficacy or philosophy of safe haven laws (this Donaldson report is an interesting read). And I absolutely do not want to vilify people who use them. But even laying all that aside, I can't fathom what Nebraska's legislators were possibly thinking. Abdicating yourself of responsibility for a child who is old enough to find her own way back home should be a more difficult process than, say, returning a sweater, for pete's sake.
When the Nebraska law went into effect this summer, a lot of the folks I talked to thought the age limit was strange, but figured it would probably still be used mostly for infants in practicality. Well, it was used for the first time this week, in two separate occasions. And the kids dropped off? Two boys ages 11 and 15. In a kicker for the adoption community, the adults involved were an adoptive mom (kinship adoption) and an aunt who was acting as a legal guardian. Making this at least the second time each of these boys has lost a maternal figure. In both cases, behavioral issues were cited--everyone seems to agree that the kids weren't in any immediate danger.
I just don't know how anyone who cares about the emotional health of these kids can think a law that allows this is a good idea. Even if the courts eventually do decide that it's best for them to be in a different home, the manner in which they were allowed to be abandoned is deeply troubling. We as a society need to value our kids--no matter their ages--enough to make such dramatic changes to their lives with seriousness and deliberation.