“Please don’t bring your teenager to Nebraska”

interesting little scramble of panic happening in nebraska right now, due to their “save haven law” which allows parents to drop off children at hospitals if they can’t care for them, without being charged with abandonment. the law extends to 17 years-old. but as lawmakers are working to lower the age to 3 days old (that’s quite a change, but apparently reflects the original intent of the law, which was to provide for infants whose parents don’t think they can care for them), a small number of parents are actually flying their teenagers into nebraska to drop them off before the law gets changed. wow.

36 thoughts on ““Please don’t bring your teenager to Nebraska””

  1. I’m actually writing a curriculum issue on it for Cokesbury’s LinC curriculum right now. The issue will be published and available after Thanksgiving. As I’m researching each case (over 30 so far) they are each very complex…no easy answers in a lot of those situations. It would be very easy to pass judgment on the parents, but many of them are living in fear for their lives and not getting help from their local and state agencies. Hopefully this whole situation will also shed some light on some overwhelmed and underfunded social service agencies. Unfortunately, most churches are not equipped to help in these cases either…that may be another mission field for youth workers.

  2. My initial thought is, “Are you serious?” But given a second to ponder the story other questions come to mind. Maybe this is what’s best in the situations these people are in. Its horrible if its just to rid themselves of a “problem.” But maybe the Lord will use these abandonments to work miracles in the lives of these kids that might not have been available without such an opportunity. So many questions. I look forward to seeing what you have to share with the rest of us later Melissa.

    Marko, your last word still summed it up pretty well… WOW!

  3. Looking for miracles out of these abandonment? The reason we have war, infighting, priests abusing children is because of religion. Maybe you should stop believing and hoping for miracles because it ain’t gonna happen.

  4. You people live in fairy land. Don’t you realize those kids are emotionally sick? The parents can’t take care of them and might even be afraid of them. Afraid to sleep at night, because there are diseases of brain and they have no one to turn to for help. And whoever wrote that line about turning to family and friends, they live in fairy land also. Most people have no idea of the horror of mental illness and actually, it best if they never have to learn.

  5. Nebraska where I live is in a terrible state of affairs. Not only do we have this “safe haven” problem, we have a large number of hanidcapped people living in this state with little or no help from the state government. Infants to old. NE veterans again young and old fighting with the St. of Neb “good ol’e boys” concept of government. “NEBRASKA THE GOOD LIFE ” is what our state motto is, but if you live here you would know what it is like to have all doors slammed in your face when it comes to aid. Plenty of money for foot paths and foot bridges to Iowa. Very little to the homeless and the like. Nebraska is very lucky they have had only a small number of children dropped off. My hope is that this “problem” sheds some light to just how dysfunctail real life is here. Our government of Ne is full of rich people who don’t have any idea of what it is realy like to have a handicapped child, a mentally ill person , or a homeless person in a state of peril. Come on Todd Landry cheif exc of DHHS for ne could you acutally do something that would make a difference to the “real people”? Believe me “safe haven” is the least of our problems.

  6. Isn’t Boystown in Nebraska? Just send them there. What’s the problem. The kids need a loving home. It’s in the kids’ and our best interests. If a parent is desparate enough to bring them to the Nebraska hospital, the parents are not fit. We must take care of our orphans. All states should have such a safe haven for children. It’s a great investment that will pay dividends in lower drug abuse and crime years from now.


  8. This is America.. yet we have millions of people living on the streets.. young and old. Grenerations of homeless. Parents who work and try their best to provide. Our vets, our children, our seniors. Having a safe place to go at any age is a blessing. Is it right? Is it wrong? They day we can stop asking these questions is when they no longer need to be asked!

  9. Sorry marko your right this isnt angry land. Amykay if I don’t take it personally who will? I live here. We are in terrible trouble here and I just want someone to understand the situation. NE has many problems and no way to solve them. No solutions. We have the “you can’t fight city hall” mentally here. The “good ole boys” are in charge. I still maintain that the “safe haven “problem is the least of our problems.

  10. To James Cotton

    As one who was one of those ‘miracles’ I say yes, God can use abandonment to save and change lives. But I want you to know that just because Romans 8:28 is true, that does indeed work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purposes” that does not mean that that good does not include a great deal of pain, and for such as me, a cross that I will bear till I die. God was very good to me and gave me a brand new family at the age of 16 when it looked like after years of hoping that there was no hope. But on Christmas day of that year I was given a new family. But I would never wish such on another and abandonment should be discouraged as much as possible. Divorce, death, abandonment, rape,…all of these are bad…can God use them for good, yes…can they be part of His hidden will?, yes…are they part of His Perfect Will…as is defined in the Bible…No! Death entered this world from sin…it has been defeated by Jesus, and a day will come when death will no longer happen, rape; Horrible…Abandonment and divorce, two peas in a pod.

    Let our country not suscribe to ‘open theism’ and God mercies as an excuse to sin. Take care of your children, and show mercy to those who have not been. God bless the family that understood this and saved my life.

  11. what a wonderful thing that we all can share thoughts and feelings here. Perhaps if we all keep talking we can have our intentions turned to reality! We all want the same thing right?? A roof over our heads and food in our bellies? Together as a nation we can change!

  12. Hey “donna” want to run for state government of ne? I sure would vote for you. Together as a nation we can change yes, that is true. Please bring us all the children, we here in the “heart land” will give what we don’t have to everybody. Come on people. Come yea to Neb we need all the national media attention we can get. I for one would love to see what Todd Landry would say to the nation about the DHHS mess here. Ne failed the federal government many times. Our state run facilty for hanidcapped and mentally ill people FAILED to pass federal guide lines for operation. Yes i said failed. Much to my dismay not just this year but, past recent years as well.Our state system is broken here, and we need all the attention we can get. Ne the last state in the union to sign up for “safe Haven”. One word in the law one word “Child” is what all this fuss is about. This is just a prime example of the “good ol’e boys ” in their finest hour. America help us. Please. Together we can change.

  13. Perhaps the legislature is considering the wrong solution. Instead of limiting the protection Nebraska offers to unwanted children, Nebraska should negotiate with the home states of the traveling unwanted children to take more responsibility for those children. Nebraska should accept responsibility for its children.

    And is it likely that refusing to help parents who take the drastic and painful step of leaving their children at a hospital is short sighted? Perhaps (and it pains me to suggest this) those children are better off in the care of an agency than with their overwhelmed and unwilling parents. Do we believe these children are hearing “I don’t want you” or “I can’t take care of you” for the first time at the hospital doors?

  14. I have been watching this situation for months when it first broke. I have been involved with our counties child service and the stories are heartbreaking.

    some of the stories out of nebraska are truly unbelievable and the parents turning the kids in at the last minute .. is tragic

  15. Also, as a ‘plug” for adoption ….

    The sad aspect about “abandoned” kids and adoption is that we have more churches than kids awaiting adoption.

    I believe that we really need to see where the churches are in this situation.

    Skip, yes there are ‘mental issues” and they are very complex but we do have the power and capability as a community to help the situation.

  16. This is an amazing story and one filled with such sadness. I realize this is not a political issue, but why is it that Nebraska one of the republican states that went along with the wedge issues and voted Bush and McCain for the last three elections produces this story. Something is very wrong.

  17. I found this blog on a traceback from CNN.

    Anyway, this story is particularly poignant for me. See, I had to, in essence, commit my daughter (less than 10 years old) to an institution this week. She’s got very bad autism and is frequently violent. Protective services in this state wouldn’t help us because we weren’t beating the child – she was beating us. (And so you know, a child with no control over herself or her strength can be very dangerous – she’d bloodied my nose several times before she was 8.) We couldn’t even get anyone let us place her until our neighbors reported the issue. At least one agency suggested we legally abandon the child and just deal with the legal ramifications (i.e. going to jail). After three years of fighting, despairing and sometimes hoping I could stomach suicide, we finally found a place that will take her for a little while while the state actually deems to help us.

    So I can’t blame these people. I don’t know their stories, but I am betting a lot of them are like me. Parents who love their kids but are pushed beyond human capacity, their house a war zone and living in fear of their own children. Not because they are bad parents, but because no one or two people can be the sole support for such a human being, no matter how much we love them.

    So yeah, don’t judge. You have no idea what Hell on earth can be like. Of course, if you really cared, you’d offer to take some of these kids yourself. And then you’d understand the fear, pain and despair as well. If you are sickened, you don’t understand what is actually happening to us.

  18. Marko – what can I say, you bring out the best in us! :) Of course, if this blog didn’t have the occasional outburst, I would say that you weren’t exploring current issues enough. You can’t please everyone all of the time, but if people aren’t interested enough to complain, did you actually say anything?

    Scott – I’m right there with you. We’re taking our 4-year old to an autism specialist in February (1.5 hours away and gets scheduled months in advance). Thankfully I can still pick him up and throw him over my shoulder when it is time to go somewhere, but I don’t know what I’m going to do in a couple of years when he is bigger. I’ve only had one bloodied lip so far, but he is only 4. My wife has had quite a few more.

    So yes, some people might have spoken out of turn, but some of us here do know what you were going through. Those people who spoke out of turn spoke partially out of ignorance, but also partially out of a sense of idealism – what we wish things were like. Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect.

    If you feel the need to vent to a sympathetic ear, please feel free to follow the link to my blog (click my name) and leave me a message.

  19. Matt –

    We are, but most just “choose” (what a deliciously charged word) not to be.

    New sound system, or give the the money to a family to help them adopt and raise a child? New building, or raise an orphanage? Hire a new staff person (youth pastor?) or start a ministry to parents in crisis?

    It is always about the choices we make.

  20. Jeff –

    I totally agree that most churches have the money to make this happen but choose not to. But if parents are in such a situation that they are abandoning a child it will take more than money. There needs to be certain attitudes and structures present to be able to make a situation like this work out.

  21. i live in nebraska and am a youth leader here. i am praying, along with so many other people i know, this law is reformed and placed under the original scope and intent it was meant for- and soon.

    i am a little upset that for some reason parents are unaware or unable to receive the assistance i know is out there for parents with teens and children with developmental/mental disabilities. there is aid when needed and support.

    and maybe this is where the churches have slipped. it’s easy to say, ‘bring us your poor and needy but do not bring us your kids that are uncontrollable and in need of guidance, stability, and hard love.’

    are there any programs out there available to single parents dealing with children who have ‘issues’- for lack of a better word? programs supported by the church, that is?


  22. Safe Haven – least of problems – I’m sure there are things that seem more pressing but stop and think about that for a moment…abandoning family is the least of our problems???

    While there are definitely some desparate situations tied up in Nebraska’s situation, there are also some parents who just don’t want to parent anymore…sorry, but in most circumstances that’s not an acceptable option.

    While I realize there are definitely some circumstances that require outside help, there will be severe (and perhaps until much too late, unknowable/unfathomable) consequences to a society that simply lets families walk away from the decision they made to become a parent (and while you may not have planned your child, most of us did the things that produce a child with total consent at the moment). There may be some times that is the only option but they are few and far between.

    And as the parent of a special needs child, I do understand the life you imagined when you first held them in your arms can end up quite different than the life that is.

    By the way, before you think Nebraska is alone in this, most (I think it’s 47 out of 50) of the states have some type of safe haven law. Nebraska’s is simply one of the most recent AND it had a glaring loophole by allowing it all the way to 17. Most, if not all others have limited to sometime within the 1st year.

    Remember, too, Safe Haven laws aren’t intended to help with making the grueling decision to give up your child because their needs are beyond what you (or really any individual) are capable of meeting. The intention of Safe Haven is for parents who have a child but do not want them to have a place that they can leave them. That’s why typically the ages are so young…I’m having a baby and do not want it so I’ll leave it for someone else. Before you think that’s too harsh, stop and read the lawbooks and their justifications and remember this isn’t the same as making the decision (or the laws surrounding it) to institutionalize or imprison for medical/behavioral issues. That is a different heartbreaking situation with the greatest heartbreak usually felt by the parents.

  23. Oh yeah, adoption is a great option and solution, but before you blame Christians for not adopting, you need to try and you’ll find out how difficult it is becoming for Christians to adopt. Not impossible, just difficult, particularly depending on your view of certain parenting principles.

    And that doesn’t account for cost or the fact that many counties/states will not allow you to adopt directly, you have to become a foster family first.

  24. Matt – giving the money is the easy part. But here is the really cynical line I edited out the first time.

    Adopt a child, or throw a potluck?

    Of course, “missionally” oriented churches (I use the traditional protestant and not the theologically accurate meaning of missional here) would change that to …

    Adopt a child, or throw a potluck to raise money to send to trained professionals to do their part in the body of Christ.

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