Guest Author - Joyce Orzak
Anyone who reads this column regularly knows Iím fascinated with Safe Haven laws. Safe haven laws protect newborns and infants from parents who arenít ready to accept the responsibilities of having children. Every state now has official laws regarding the safe surrender of a baby or young child.
Nebraska has taken the typical Safe Haven law one step farther, to allow older children to be surrendered. How old? Well, just this past weekend, an 11-year-old and a 15-year-old, both male, were given up in separate Nebraska hospitals.
Nebraskaís broader laws encompass not only age, but also who can surrender a child. Under the new laws, any caregiver can relinquish a child.
What do you think of leaving a teenager at a Safe Haven location? Does it exploit the original intent of the law to shield younger, helpless children from abuse and neglect?
Hereís a quick rundown of frequently asked questions about Safe Haven Law:
Will the mother be prosecuted for leaving her baby at a safe haven location? Sometimes a complaint in juvenile court will be filed, leaving the mother to respond or default. Generally no criminal action is taken, as long as the child being surrendered shows no signs of abuse or neglect.
What happens if the mother wants the child back? Depending on location, a parent may be able to file for custody of the child again, with completion of child welfare and parenting classes.
Where can I safely drop off my baby? Safe haven locations include hospitals, emergency medical services, police and fire stations. Personnel there will be qualified to care for your baby and administer any treatment necessary. Call your local hospital or police station for specific information; in case of an emergency and you canít find information elsewhere please call 911 and tell them you want to surrender your baby under the safe haven law.
What will happen when I drop off my baby? In some cases, you may be asked to provide a medical history and offered information of the legal consequences of leaving the child. You will never be forced to give your name, personal information, or required to accept any counseling. You may safely and anonymously surrender your child at any safe haven location.
Is surrendering my baby at a safe haven location the same as abandonment? No; it is absolutely not child abandonment. In safely surrendering your baby, you are taking a responsible, mature step to ensure your babyís health and welfare. As hard as it may be, know that you are taking the important first step toward getting your child placed in a loving home thatís best for him or her.