This is what happens when parents aren’t parents

Published 3:02 pm Sunday, November 23, 2008

Being a parent is a role I have yet to take on.

But I would hope that when I become one I won’t approach it like those dropping their teenagers off at Nebraskan hospitals.

In July, Nebraska’s newly established “safe haven” law became effective. It’s a law similar to other decrees states have adopted. North Carolina has a Safe Surrender Act that was adopted by the General Assembly in 2001.

The individual state laws allow the decriminalization of abandoning children, mainly newborns, with officials or at a hospital, police station, fire house or even a local department of social services.

These laws were intended to thwart familiar cases where newborns are left in dumpsters, garbage cans and other unsafe places and protect an abandoned infant from an untimely death.

With most laws, an age limit was cited for the infants that can be left behind legally. The Safe Surrender Act, for example, only permits infants up to 7 days old to be left at/with the designated sites or officials.

And then there is Nebraska.

Unlike other states, Nebraskan lawmakers left a giant loophole in their “safe haven” law, attaching no age limit for a child to be legally abandoned.

Since the adoption of the law in July, more than 30 children (most over the age of 10 and no infants) have been dumped off at hospitals in the state.

Yep, more than 30 irresponsible “parents” have utilized that huge loophole to “rid” themselves the task of raising their own children. Some parents even drove from different states to leave their child at a Nebraskan “safe haven.”

The reasons have been varied in the cases; one father left nine out of his 10 children at a hospital because of financial reasons and others have been due to the unruliness teens tend to exhibit.

On Thursday, one media outlet reported about a mother who said she had no choice, but to drive her 12-year-old son 1,000 miles from their home in Georgia and leave him at an Omaha, Neb. hospital.

According to the mother, her pre-teen was at the point where he was incontrollable. She had to lock up her valuables from her son and he had been expelled from two schools.

She said each option had been exhausted to get her son help, but the “system had failed her.” The mother then asked the public not to judge her as a parent.

While I can’t imagine at this point in my life dealing with an unruly teen, I can tell you if I had stole from my mother or had been expelled from school I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this column. She would have obliterated me from Earth a long time ago.

Whereas corporal punishment is not my intended debate here,

what is disturbing is that so many parents handed off their children when they saw an opportunity.

It seems to be a drastic move, even in rough financial times; the primary belief is that these parents would do everything in their power to keep their child.

As for the behavioral problems, no teen is a cake-walk to raise. I agree the societal environment that exists now is not like that in past. However, the role of parents in a child’s life is still vital.

These people are supposed to be parents. No matter how or when they became parents, the responsibility became solely theirs when they chose to have and keep the child.

The notion of bailing out on your son or daughter just because they’re a teen with behavioral problems is despicable.

It’s just another example of how self-absorbed people are now days; instead of seeking help for their children they choose to dump them onto someone else (in this case the Nebraska taxpayers) just so it’s not their problem anymore.

On Friday, Nebraskan lawmakers fixed the loophole in the law. In a 43-5 vote in the state Senate, the “safe haven” law was revised to state no child older than 30 days can be legally abandoned.

While the law in Nebraska is now amended, it all makes me wonder what will happen to other teens unwanted by their parents. Where will they fall along the wayside?

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.