LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska lawmakers have approved a critical change to the state's safe haven law today, limiting it to infants no older than 30-days.
The original law was designed to protect unwanted newborns. But because of problems with how it was written, a flood of children and teens have been abandoned by their parents in the past three months.
No Kids Over 30 Days Old
During a rare special session this week, Nebraska lawmakers voted 41 to six to swap the states current safe-haven law for one limiting it to babies no more than 30-days old.
The move comes after more than 30 children were abandoned at hospitals in the state - including some from other states - and some as old as 17 years old.
One recently widowed father said he could no longer afford to care for his family.
But while many agree that the new law gets back to the true intent of the safe-haven law, mental health experts say the controversy exposes the needs of families in crisis.
Kathy Bigsby is with Voices of Hope, a crisis intervention center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
"These are parents who have been trying to get services for their children for a very long period of time and either have not been able to find the services or haven't been able to afford the services or haven't been able to get the right services," Bigsby said.
"This is a problem or an issue that cuts across our entire country and one of the things we're finding is that as we all recognize and know parenting teens can be a tough job," she continued. "Parenting is not an easy thing to do. We all face challenges in raising our kids and helping them to grow up to be productive adults and sometimes we need others to help us to do that."
Nebraska's governor is expected to sign the bill which will become effective immediately.
Meanwhile, Nebraska's lawmakers have created a task force to address the needs of families in crisis.