Many states, and countries for that matter, have found it saves lives to allow women who have recently given birth but don't want to keep their kids to be able to abandon them safely at hospitals or police stations without fear that they will be tracked down and made to pay or otherwise care for the child they want no part of, nor arrested for not caring for their child they can't or don't want to care for.
Most of these laws specify a time limit of something like 3 days or a couple weeks. I think that's a little short because what about the people who change their minds at birth when they see their child, then try to live with it and realize their first instincts were right. We couldn't extend this up to a year? Or longer? Well, Nebraska did. Apparently it was unintentional that their law allows for the abandonment of children up to 18 years old. Because people have been taking them up on their offer for kids as old as 17 and according the the news, the lawmakers are freaking out.
Nebraska's reaction is to say, "NOooooooo! that's not what we meannnnnnt. Don't do thaaaaaat, people! We meant babies. Only helpless babies, not the annoying older kids that are hard to place." Their plan appears to be to revise the law to specify infants only.
But every time I think about it, the fact that parents of mostly grown kids are desperate enough to risk giving up all rights on their kids in perpetuity makes me wonder what kind of options there are for families in need. Because the fact of people using the law means there's need. So instead of knee-jerking to take away this law that people are finding useful, can we not look at WHY people are doing this? I haven't had any conversations, yet, with my social services friends - there has been other stuff in the air - so I don't know what social service professionals think here.
But what I think is that clearly some parents need options. I work with machines more than people, so I don't know what the alternatives are. But if someone is worried that their partly or mostly grown child would be better off somewhere else, with someone else, rather than in their care, what options are there to address this? Can you drive up to social services and say:
- I can't afford to have my kids anymore.
- I'm worried that I'll hurt my kids if they stay with me.
- My spouse died and I cannot cope with the kids.
- My child's teen years are driving me to drink.
- I'm worried for my life because my teen is out of control.
Maybe some people figure their kids are old enough to know how to find their way back later, if they drop them off in Nebraska now. Maybe they're depressed, unemployed, or ready to smack. Maybe they're just done and honestly don't want the kids. Maybe they seriously need a vacation. Maybe they don't know about other options. But if people are driving to Nebraska to drop their kids somewhere safe, then there is need to either help parents cope, or take over the care of kids people no longer want or can care for. And if there is need, someone needs to step in - if we honestly believe that all people have a right to live once born.
So instead of, or in addition to, Nebraska rolling back their law to cover only newborns, can there not also be some terrific publicity of what the options are for older kids at risk? In every state? Because I honestly don't know if there are any. And clearly other people don't know either because they're driving to Nebraska to turn over their non-newborn kids where they can't fear reprisal. And I find it odd that the first reaction reported by the news is that somehow this useful law is flawed and should be rescinded when it is clearly meeting a need.