Safe-Haven Law Exposes Problem

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Nebraska lawmakers are trying to change a recently created safe haven law. It was supposed to protect newborns from parents who didn't want them. However, the law did not include an age limit and the state is facing some unintended consequences.

Lawmakers are holding a rare, special session to end the recent flood of abandoned children in the state, including kids from at least four other states.

Many of the children have behavioral problems. Their parents are frustrated and desperate.

Tysheema Brown drove her 12-year-old son to Nebraska, all the way from Georgia. She says she could no longer control his behavior.

"I want some help to come his way," she said. "The safe haven - that would not fail me. I know it won't."

49 Other Safe Haven Laws

Forty-nine other states have safe haven laws to protect parents from prosecution, if they leave unwanted infants at designated hospitals.

The state's law went into effect earlier this year, but lawmakers never set an age limit -- meaning children of any age could be dropped off in the cornhusker state.

More than 30 children, some as old as 17, have been abandoned at hospitals here in Nebraska under the state's safe haven law, a law intended to protect unwanted newborns from being abandoned. CBN News asked residents what they think about the controversy that's put their state in the national spotlight."

"If it saves one kid it's worth it," said one pedestrian. "Even one teenager is worth it. It doesn't matter it's a kid, it's a person."

"It disturbs us greatly, my wife and I, because we have kids of our own and just thinking about doing that with them, it's inconceivable," one man said. "I don't think the law , the way that it's set up now where they're just dropping them off. It's an easy out for that family. I don't think that's right," he continued. "But I do think that something needs to be done to take care of the home situation, because what some of these kids are going through."

Another resident thinks Nebraska lawmakers did not pass the right law.

"I think that the legislators in Nebraska got it wrong," said the resident. "Because other states have that safe haven law and it was just for babies so new mothers would have a place to do them and wouldn't kill them."

Governor Says Law Needs to Be Corrected

Nebraska's governor wants to fix the problem.

"This law needs to be changed to focus on its original intent, which is to protect infants," explained Gov. Dave Heineman.

Child advocates say Nebraska's troubles reveal a nationwide gap in care for kids in crisis.

They say the right way to do this is to provide help before a parent ever gets so desperate.

Gov. Heineman has suggested the age limit be changed to 72 hours after birth. Other lawmakers propose a bill that will allow older children to be dropped off.

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Charlene Israel

Charlene Israel

CBN News Reporter

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