NOTE: I am at, of all appropriate places, the annual NCFA conference in Washington. I’ve bailed out of the last 2 sessions to get something up about the Nebraska kid dump fiasco. I’m checking of the hotel later today, and will be back with more, and to add/fix some links and don’t have time to add right now.

To date 14 children have been dumped into hospitals and police stations (not a legal dump spot) under Nebraska’s “safe haven” law.” None are newborns, the targeted “beneficiary” of such laws.The kids left in Nebraska “safe havens” have mostly been teenagers. On Wednesday, a father left off 9 siblings at the Creighton University Medical Center ER.

Here is a brief run-down.

September 1: Boy 14 (left by Omaha police station)

September 13: Boy 11 ( left by grandmother (another report says mother) at Immanuel Medical Center, Omaha); Boy 15 (left by guardian aunt at Bryant Medical Center West, Lincoln)

September 20: Girl, 13 left by mother at Immanuel Medical Center Omaha)

September 24: 9 siblings, 1-17 (left by father at Creighton University Medical Center ER)

But…but….that’s not what we meant!

Backpedaling Cornhusker politicians seem to forget what they passed:

Section 1. No person shall be prosecuted for any crime based solely upon the act of leaving a child in the custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska. The hospital shall promptly contact appropriate authorities to take custody of the child.

According to Sen. Pete Persch in an August 15, 2008 article in, the only way Nebraska “safe haven” pimps could get their bill passed was to expand the already crazy template of newborn abandonment to an even crazier law to legalize all child abandonment:

State Sen. Pete Pirsch, whose compromise amendment eventually became the law, said using the broad language was intentional, because several senators felt strongly that the safe haven protection needed to be extended to all children.

Unaware that language has consequences Pirsch continued to bray on:

In my opinion, the need to pass a safe haven bill outweighed the need for perfect language,” “The risk to babies’ lives far outweighed the possibility of a few inconvenient circumstances with older children.
Here’s some stuttering quotes from the bozos who passed this law and are now scratching their heads.

Senator Ray Aguilar:
Teen mothers were hiding the fact that they were pregnant and there were situations where they would dump their baby off in a dumpster and the baby would die. That was the intent of the law; to try and protect against that.

And then he forward pedals:
It does bring light that there are situations out there where people have no other alternatives, and it is probably a good situation that they could take advantage of this.

Senator Lowen Kruse:
It is not designed for 11 year olds or 15 year olds. And the legislature is going to have to go back in and change that a bit.

Sen. Vickie McDonald:
We discussed the possibility of something like this happening, but we did nothing to address it thinking possibly it wouldn’t happen.

Sen. Brad Ashford:
I would have expected an infant case, probably more than I would a 15-old. If it does save a child, then it’s worth it obviously. this is a new law. I’m sure we will have some data on what happened in these two case(s) (sic) and then we’ll have t watch it over the next several months to see if it raises to the level of abusing the system.”

Sen. Tony Fulton:
If word gets out that you have an unruly children, or that when you have unruly children, you can just drop them off and be clear of any responsibility, that’s a problem.”

And, of course, the Nebraska law’ sponsor Sen. Arnie Struthman:

This was never the intent of the bill.

People are leaving them off just because they can’t control them They’re probably in no real danger, so it’s an easy way out for the caretaker.

We really opened a can of worms. We have a mess.

This is a situation that I felt could possibly be coming. I didn’t realize it would happen this quick.

Voices for Children, the child advocacy organization that remained neutral on the safe haven bill, now claims they feared the Nebraska scenario:

Omaha World Herald: “This is what we feared,” said Kathy Bigsby Moore, executive director for Voices for Children of Nebraska. “It appears this law has now created a new front door to the child welfare system.”

When the bill went into effect, Sarah Ann Lewis, VFC’s policy coordinator told the press:

We hope the intent of the law, which is to be in the best interest of children, is followed, but we’re not sure whether or not this is the best-designed policy to do that,” We’d rather see mothers use the services already in the community, like adoption or counseling, instead of abandonment.”

Safe Haven advocates have remained suspiciously quiet. I understand Tom Atwood discussed the issue of teen dumping last week for Nebraska Public Radio, but so far I’ve been unable to find a reference to his appearance. Tracey Johnson of the National Safe Haven Alliance says “We don’t endorse the way it was done.” I have been unable to find any statements from big dump industrialists Tim Jacard, Dawn Geras, and the Morriseys.

NOW is absolutely now the time to demand repeal of “safe haven” laws in all 50 states. Nebraska politicians are talking about calling a special session to “tweak” their abomination. That’s not good enough. Ditch this thing now.

Those of us who have opposed baby dumping from the start warned that this would happen. That newborns, under the paranoia of dumpster and death, would be the first and that the age of dumpees would scoot up. Some safe haven advocates have even feared the result of their own good deeds. LA County Supervisor Don Knobe, for instance, one of the strongest “safe haven” supporters in the country, has refused to support an increase in the age time frame of abandoned infants in California and even lobbying against an increase.

Since 1999, we have seen “safe haven” laws go from a supposedly “rare” emergency child custody law to a child welfare law, and now an unruly child law.

This needs to stop right now, and the best place to start is Nebraska.

Please go to Baby Love Child for a wonderful series of analytical articles on Nebraska.

Shame on Nebraska–When “we told you so” barely begins to scratch the surface

Nebraska Dump Law: Just how deep does this rabbit hole go?

Nebraska, 11 dumps in 24 hours


  1. OK…not really to your post, but I can’t find an email address.

    When vacationing with a very good friend of mine, I discovered you two might know each other. Do you remember rpu99 from Bastard Nation?

  2. Neb. dad who left 9 kids says he was overwhelmed

    An out-of-work widower who abandoned nine of his children at a hospital under Nebraska’s new safe haven law said he was overwhelmed without his
    wife and just “fell apart.” “I hope they know I love them,” Gary Staton told KETV. “I hope their future is better without me around them.”

    How pathetic! This was a family that needed resources to connect them to various social services, not to be abandoned at a hospital. It seems to me that the need that the so-called Safe Haven law is filling is not really safety, as it does not seem any of the older kids and teens were endangered, but a way to cut through red tape by overwhelmed parents who
    don’t know where to turn for help.Wouldn’t a well-publicized hot line with good connections to immediate services for families in crisis be a much more sane idea?

    Is ANYONE with the least bit of common sense or social work expertise really looking at any of these laws, and especially this one with no age limit? People who are abusing and endangering their children are not going to dump them, either because of shame or because they see abuse as
    legitimate “discipline” that it is their right as parents to inflict on their kids. They are not about to drop those kids anywhere; that is why CPS sometimes has to step in.

    New mothers who would kill their babies or throw them in a
    dumpster are not going to use the Safe Haven because they are too much in denial and mentally ill at the time to think that rationally. SAFE HAVENS DO NOT SAVE LIVES! They complicate lives by offering a bad choice made in panic, rather than compassionate and rational care for parents and children in crisis of any kind.

    What they do is provide an opportunity for parents who are scared, overwhelmed, ignorant of what help they could get in crisis to do something profoundly damaging to children, abandon them to strangers and walk away. These are families that could have been helped to stay together, or to make other in-family arrangements for care of their children, or to explore foster care or legal surrender where that is the
    lesser evil, which it would not be in most cases. Think of the father of nine kids; how different and better those kids would have felt if he had said, “I can’t do it alone, we need help, we need counseling, we need respite care, etc and we are going to call this hotline and find it and work through this crisis as family” rather than driving them to the hospital and leaving them. Yes, they may get that help now, but will they ever forget being abandoned? Does anyone even consider that that emotional scar should be avoided not encouraged by the state? It should not be a step any parent feels they have to take in order to get help for their family.

    I really hope that the unlimited abandonment policy in Nebraska sheds some light on the laws in other states that encourage infant abandonment rather than legal surrender or help to raise the child. The whole thing is a monstrosity of bad law based on sentiment and hysteria rather than rational thought and real need and services. I don’t get why so few people see that.


  3. It makes one wonder just what will eventually happen. Will Safe Haven be a daycare facility for some while they are overcoming being “overwhelmed”? I have to wonder what type of parent would dump his children because of feeling overwhelmed. But there are social agencies who this man should have turned to not a dumping station for children.

    New mothers who are mentally unstable enough to kill their newborn could kill them no matter how close a Safe Haven is to the place of birth. Just as a mentally unstable person could kill their child no matter how close a Safe Haven might be that would take the child.

  4. Maryanne said. “I really hope that the unlimited abandonment policy in Nebraska sheds some light on the laws in other states that encourage infant abandonment rather than legal surrender or help to raise the child. “
    Thanks for putting it so succinctly. That is my hope too. Then at least some good will have come out of this.

  5. This is absolutely the worst scenario come true. People can run away from the responsibilities of parenthood to half-grown children and then look like pitiful victims. Meanwhile, desperate mothers of newborns are falling for this crap and children are losing their heritage. It’s enough to make me want to scream.

  6. “I have to wonder what type of parent would dump his children because of feeling overwhelmed.”

    Not knowing the guy, I can’t say – other than I do think that personal limitations and circumstances have a lot to do with how well a person is able to navigate the complex maze of health and SS options. Easy to imagine it ain’t so, but my guess is that there but for the grace of the Great Panjandrum himself, plus maybe some difference in I.Q as well as a few other important variables, go many of us.

    IMO the fault lies less with the dumpers themselves than with this ridiculous law that opens the door to legal abandonment, and in the case of babies and very young children, ANONYMOUS legal abandonment.

    Alarmingly, there’s a survey
    which claims that 65% of respondees believe Safe Haven laws should be expanded to include children of all ages.

    Maryanne’s suggestion of a well-publicized hot-line to immediate services makes a whole load of sense.
    SHs as an open door to SS makes no sense.

    In fact, SHs per se make no sense.

  7. I’ve been collecting a lot of news articles today. I’m putting up a new blog in a few hours, and once I get home and can print out everything I’ve got and write more in detail about this mess. It appears that Nebraska social services is useless. It’s not that they don’t exit, they’re just impossible to access. In the case of Staton, he seems absolutely overwhelmed. While I don’t think parents should be left off the hook on this, the root cause of this may be horrible social services. I’ve got a lot of news stories and these are parents (most are single moms or guardians) who are at the end of their ropes with no help forthcoming. 3 of the were counseled by “professionals” to SH.

  8. It has been suggested elsewhere that SHs be melded with social services in anticipation of a thorough overhaul of the whole system (as if, whenever).
    However I fail to see how sinking a bad law into the existing morass would be a wise move.
    It seems to me it would just help to screen SHs from public scrutiny (which would be MOST undesirable, non?) Besides doing nothing to improve the quality of existing social services.
    Considering that the Staton kids had already been through the foster care system back in 2004 (taken not because of parental abuse or lack of love, but because of simple ineptitude on their part), it’s really sad that this family should have had to come to such a pass.

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