Nebraska’s governor will soon sign a bill that makes changes in Nebraska’s safe-haven law to prevent parents from abandoning toddlers and teenagers at a hospital. The law allows parents and guardians to drop their children off at hospitals as a means of helping mothers abandon unwanted babies, but unlike other states, Nebraska lawmakers did not include an age limit when the bill was originally passed.
Since the law took effect in July, nearly three dozen children have been dropped off at Nebraska hospitals. Without debate, Nebraska’s Senate today approved the changes which specify only babies 30-days old or younger can be abandoned.
An emergency clause makes the change go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. Nebraska’s governor is expected to sign the changes into law sometime this afternoon (Friday). A group of state senators in Nebraska is also creating a "Children in Crisis" task force. Nebraska Senator Amanda McGill says many of the parents who went to a Nebraska hospital to abandon their kids had tried for years to get help.
"These kids who were being dropped off may be teenagers, but they’ve been exhibiting signs of mental disorder since they were five, six, seven years old," she says. McGill met with one of the women who recently abandoned her child at an Omaha hospital.
"She told me her story dealing with two of her troubled children, spending years trying to get the services they need," McGill says. "They were from a rural area. There weren’t a lot of services available to them. We aren’t going to solve this entire problem in the next 40 days. It goes much deeper than trying to find an alternative, last-ditch effort to get their kids help."
Thirty states have so-called "safe haven" laws. Saturday morning Nebraska will join 13 other states with a 30-day age limit for abandoning an unwanted baby at a hospital. Iowa’s safe haven law specifies babies up to 14 days old may be abandoned at a hospital or health care facility and the parent will not be charged with abandonment.
The law in Iowa after the case of "Baby Chelsea" — an infant abandoned by her teen mother and found dead in the eastern Iowa town of Chelsea.