I’ve split my latest entry in half. The two weren’t coming together as one and read awkward. The second half will be posted later tonight

KCCI-TV (DesMoines) and the Associated Press reports that last night a woman took her 18-year old adopted daughter to Lincoln’s BryanLGH in an attempt at “safe haven.” The adoptee is reported to have learning disabilities, is bi-polar, and refuses medication.

From Assistant Police Chief Jim Peschong: “The adoptive mother says that the daughter refused to take some medication for some conditions… She won’t listen to her, can’t control her.”

The Omaha World-Herald reports that the mother sought assistance from the state but “got nowhere.” DHHS, which has previously denied 18-year olds “safe haven protection” says it’s looking into the case. (see addenda below for update)

So far, one other dumpee has been confirmed as adopted, 2 others reported (but not confirmed) as kinship adopted. I believe there are more.

Previously, two attempts to use the law on 18-year olds–a do-it-yourself in Grand Island and a traditional dump at Immanuel MC in Omaha–have been denied by DHHS. 18-year olds are “too old” for “saving.” And it seems it’s not legal for somebody to “save” themselves from parent or caregiver abuse and neglect since LB 157 is only about “saving” abandoners from being prosecuted for an act that anywhere else in the world is considered reprehensible, cruel…and actionable.Who saves the victims?

What options do 18-year olds have in Nebraska?

Not many.

Too old for foster care (unless already enrolled). Too young to be on their own.

Here is the experience of the 18-year old who attempted to “safe haven” himself in Grand Island six weeks ago and Joan Schwan, the therapist who tried to help him:

She saw the gap most recently when she housed the Grand Island teen, who in September, attempted to turn himself in at St. Francis Medical Center under the safe-haven law.

He was over the age of 17 and wasn’t turned in by a parent, so didn’t qualify to enter the Health and Human Services system, Schwan said.

He stayed in her home with Schwan and her family for three weeks, while Schwan tried unsuccessfully to find him placement in various community service programs.

The Salvation Army, which runs a shelter for homeless men, requires participants to be 19. The Boys and Girls Town Shelter was full and had been multiple times over the past year when Schwan had contacted them on behalf of other clients.

“There’s a gray area between 18 and 19 in Nebraska. You can’t sign a lease for an apartment until you’re 19. You can’t be part of adult protective services until you’re 19, but yet you can’t be made a state ward after you’re not 17 anymore,” Schwan said.

State wards who are designated prior to being 18 can remain a state ward through the age of 18, she said.

Schwan said Grand Island’s safe haven teen was told to leave home by his mother’s boyfriend, had lived for more than a year with his grandmother in an area storage unit and has been in four high schools over the past four years.

“He just wants to finish school,” she said.

Kids like him need a safe place to go — even just temporarily, Schwan said.

Likewise, she said there are families with high-needs adolescents who need a safe place to take those children — even if it’s just temporarily.

“Having been a foster parent and taking in, sometimes, adolescents who have a lot of issues, you can’t leave a 16-year-old at a regular daycare, yet there are 16-year-olds you can’t leave home for various reasons,” Schwan said. “You can’t leave them with regular respite providers.”

High-needs adolescents may have issues with fire-starting, drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, stealing, mental health issues, anger, dishonesty with their whereabouts, or engage in self-harm, she said.

“If we had a respite place, when a family is under stress they could take the child and say, ’We need a break,’ we wouldn’t be having to drop them off at hospitals,” Schwan said. “They could have time to regroup, cool down, develop a plan.”

Living in a homeless shelter and graduating from high school are such modest goals. It’s hard to begrudge him.


Addenda: As I was finishing this entry, Nebraska DHHS issued a press release saying did not consider the Lincoln attempt a “safe haven” but is providing assistance to the young woman on a voluntary basis.”

It also announced a successful dump of a 17-year old boy at Creighton this morning. No details.

This leaves us with a total of 30 Big Kids dumps and 11 attempted dumps.


  1. I live in Nebraska. I’m embarrassed by the entire situation. There is nowhere for these kids to go and nowhere for parents to go for help with these kids. Even Boys Town has gotten impossible to get your child in to. There’s a waiting list years long and you have to “know someone who knows someone” to get anywhere. The mentally ill and abused children have aboslutely no place to go in this state. And nobody cares.

  2. Thanks, Mindi. It’s seemed from the beginning of this fiasco that Boys Town has been portrayed as the “answer.” The state told the public, “if you’ve got a problem with your kid call Boys Town or the United Way.” I had no idea Boys Town was backed up so bad, but what in the world is it or the United Way supposed to do with the hundreds of not thousands of families and kids in need of intense, long term help? The entire system is broken and I think unfixable, at least under current practice. And the cause of these problems is legion. Fixing it may take decades.

    The Unicam lifted up the rock, poked a hole in it, and now expects business to get back to usual. They’re offended that the rest of the country is offended by their “unique” law. They’re offended that they’ve made the state the laughing stock of the country. They think (or pretend they think) they’ve put Nebraska ahead of the game, and that other states should follow its lead.

    Every state, of course, is sitting on top of this hellhole, and the arrogance and ignorance by which it’s treated is enormous.

    Nebraska leggies refused to take unput from individuals and organizations who know the score. LB 157 had no support from child welfare and adoption agencies in the state–even in its original traditional “safe haven” form. Nada. There was scant support from other organizations. As far as I know the final language of the bill had no support from anybody–if they even knew about it, since it seems to have been pretty much snuck through. The leggies wanted to pass a bill–any bill–and this is what they got. The leggies were warned what would happened and they didn’t care.

    The special session will be a joke. And in January it will be business as usual. It’s too bad this mess won’t be used to start repair. These bums need to be thrown out of office.

  3. Can someone clarify something about this fiasco? If these kids are being dropped off I am assuming that the people dropping them don’t bring with them a neat packet with all of their legal paperwork, school records and so forth.

    Legally, who do they become under these laws? What are their birthdates, names, and so forth?

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