December 9 the lame duck Ohio House voted unanimously (92-0) to amend the state’s “safe haven” law. The Senate had already approved the measure in May. A record of the votes in both houses is here
SB 304 expands the age infants can be “legally abandoned” from 3 days to 30 days, moving Ohio from the low to close to the high end of the traffick scale. It also adds an “educational” component, authorizing the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) in collaboration with the Ohio Children First Cabinet Council, to create a program “for informing at-risk populations who are most likely to voluntarily deliver a child under [appropriate sections of the Ohio Revised Code.]” Translation: every female over the age of 9.
Passage, unfortunately, is no surprise.
On May 22, SB 304 passed the Senate 32-1 Twenty-one out of our 33 senators sponsored the bill. Sen. Jeff Jacobson (R-Butler Twn.) the lone dissenter said of the bill:
I don’t believe that the link is so clear that those who are distraught enough to consider destroying a life after a birth will be deterred from that because they find out there is a legal way to rid themselves of a child. I do think this encourages the comodification of children.
On May 13, a week before the vote, Erik Smith and I testified against the bill before the Senate Health, Human Services, and Aging Committee Seven of the 12 members were sponsors. (You can read my account of the hearing and portions of my testimony here.
When I called the Statehouse to get details on the hearing, the aide to the committee chair evinced shock–well actually gasped over the phone– that anyone would oppose such a benevolent state enterprise. At least the Senate Committee was polite. Members actually asked me a few pertinent questions before invisibling me. Like the aide, they were aghast that anyone, especially an adopted person, might find their bill a bit distasteful. They were pitifully unaware that every adoption reform organization in the US oppose dumps and that even prominent dump proponents oppose expansion beyond three days. They simply could not grasp the significance of either opposition blocks.
The committee met Erik’s testimony, based on pesky matters such as separation of powers doctrine, non-custodial parental rights, and void judgments, with amusing repartee on legalise. When Erik informed them that the law they were seeking to expand had been ruled unconstitutional recently by Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Judge Peter Sikora, in re: Baby Boy Doe (145 Ohio Misc.2d 1, 2007-Ohio-7244), their boredom didn’t miss a beat
Once passed, SB 304 was basketed over to the House Health Committee where 18 of its 22 members adopted it; that is, signed on as sponsors. This is the same gang of arrogant rate takers, propped up by Ohio Right to Life, who earlier this year walked out en masse during often tearful natural parent testimony in favor of unrestricted obc access for all Ohio adoptees, not just those born on politically appropriate dates. (Read here for my first person account of that bloodletting). SB 304 reposed in the dead zone where most bills go until resuscitated by the sound of the end-of the session rubber stamp pounding at its door.
THE PLAYERS PLAY
The anti-aborts at LifeNews.com sent out a press release from the adoptee hating Ohio Right to Life saying it “promoted and testified” for the bill. Mike Gonidakis, executive director of ORTL who I’ve heard considers himself an ethicist, without saying why, declaimed, “We believe that extending the timeframe when a parent can use the Safe Haven law will help protect babies.”
Ann Stevens, spokesperson for the Montgomery County JFS crowed to WHIO-TV, Dayton, “People before Safe Haven were leaving kids outside by doorsteps. This way, we can assure babies are taken care of right away.” Note to Ann: since Ohio’s law went into effect, Dayton has had two neonaticides that I’ve documented. There may be more I missed.
No doubt Helen Jones-Kelley, (right) putative director of ODJFS would agree; that is, if she weren’t on a 30-day unpaid paid administrative leave after the Ohio Inspector General and Franklin County Prosecutor investigated her unauthorized cyber snooping on Joe the Unlicensed Plumber and “unrelated” on-company-time-and computers fundraising for the Obama campaign during the recent election. (here and here)
When Jones-Kelley was director of Montgomery County JFS and Children’s Services (the two agencies combined a few years ago) she over-saw three “safe haven cases” and named each child… Kelley. Within days of the “safe surrender” of the first Kelley–Joseph Devon Kelley–the baby’s mother attempted to navigate his return home through juvenile court. The Dayton Daily News was locked out of the hearings and the records sealed, but it’s safe to assume that Master Kelley was returned and given a real name. (Dayton Daily News January 8, 2003, March 28, 2003, paid archives; copies in my possession.) Curiously, the birth certificate that Jones-Kelley told the Dayton Daily News she filled in and signed for Kelley 1 is not listed in the Ohio Birth Index–nor are any other surnamed Kelleys during her regime, though she claimed to name them all after herself. Even if the obcs have been sealed, they should be publicly indexed on Vital Stats computers downtown.
The November 16, 2004 Dayton Daily News quoted Jones-Kelley on legalized baby abandonment, “It’s the best gift any mom can give a child.” (paid archives; copy in my possession)
But let’s continue.
Bastardette’s nomination for dumbest “safe haven” lede of the year goes to Columbus NBC 4’s Denise Yost who apparently has never heard about adoption. “Ohio is a safe haven for new mothers who have no option but to abandon their babies as fast as they can and that could soon be expanded.” Despite the poor sentence structure, Bastardette envisions new mothers in big boots rushing in from all over the country, a la Nebraska, stomping down greeters at the dump door.
Yost interviewed Crystal Ward Allen, Executive Director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. “When young moms are in crisis, they don’t know the ins and outs of the Ohio Revised Code. We wanted to do more public education.” Thank God we have PCSAO to steer us through the Ohio Revised Code!
Since Friday I’ve attempted to access PCSAO’s webpage without success. Firefox times out; Internet Explorer tells me the page is unavailable. I found PCSAO’s mission cached:
PCSAO is a proactive coalition of Public Children Services Agencies that promotes the development of sound public policy and program excellence for safe children, stable families, and supportive communities. We do this through advocacy, research, training, consultation, and technical assistance.
I admit that I’m pretty ignorant about state child welfare agencies and their fellow family fuss budgets, but I do know that PCSAO is an important player at the Statehouse. Until I can download PCSAO’s page and learn more about it, I can’t comment on its “safe haven” role or any fiscal interest it may have in making baby abandonment a successful and lucrative social experiment in Ohio. I have also been unable also to find its relationship (if any) to Ohio’s Children First Cabinet Council. If you go here, though, you can read the cabinet’s membership description, and it sounds like PCSAO probably has a seat at the table.
The testimony of PCSAO lobbyist Greg Kapcar, at the May 13 Senate hearing suggests that PCSAO has a stake in dump expansion and will be involved in shilling…er… I mean, promotion development Below is my account of that testimony, posted on the Daily Bastardette, two days after the hearing was held:
After our testimony on Wednesday, Greg Kapcar, Assistant Leg Director for the Public Childrens Services Association of Ohio gave proponent testimony. (Jim McCafferty, director of Cuyahoga County CS who loves safe havens, is on PCSAO’s board). Kapcar was especially excited about an amendment added at Wednesday’s hearing to authorize baby dumping promotion, though when asked what kind of promotion was planned he didn’t know–exactly. Prompted by my earlier testimony that there was no evidence that babies 72 hours or older were being abandoned or killed in the state (which falls right in line with the Centers for Disease Control report on infant homicide), a member of the committee asked if he had any figures on that. Well…no, he didn’t, but “it’s better to err on the side of safety.” (Mr. Kapcar also referred to adoption as the “final solution.” I wish my anti-adoption mom friends had been there!)
But, let’s continue.
According to the Warren Tribune “Marcia Tiger, executive director of Trumbull County Children Services “does not anticipate a problem with the expanded timeframe because 30 days still is a narrow window for abandonment to occur.” But then Trumbull has hardly been inundated with “safe haven” dumps. The county’s only dump was in December 2003 when a boy was dropped off at Trumbull Memorial Hospital just in time for Santa to transfer him to a middle aged forever foster-to-adopt single mom with grown kids.
Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Childrens Services told WTVG-TV, Toledo that he wasn’t sure if expanding the timeframe to 30 days was necessary. He quickly extracted his foot from his mouth, though, adding, “We certainly are supportive of any legislation that is going to keep babies safe and keep babies alive.”
Sparks said he didn’t know “off the top of his head” how many babies had been dumped in Toledo-area hospitals, saying it was a couple year. According to my records–taken from statements made earlier by Sparks and quasi-official state records– there have been at least three boarder baby cases, re-invented as “safe havens.” That is, babies born in hospitals to identified mothers, and left there beyond the time of release. In the May 3, 2003 Toledo Blade Sparks announced that a month earlier a baby had been delivered at an unnamed Toledo hospital and left there by the mother “after having referred to the Safe Haven law.” A second baby was left after a hospital birth in July 2003 (no details), and another one (no details) between July 1. 2003-June 30, 2004. ODJFS reports that three (no details) were left in Lucas County in FY 2007 (ended June 30, 2007), but doesn’t specify if they were delivered on the premises or left after the fact. (Non-linked sources: Toledo Blade, May 3, 2003, July 24, 2003; December 1, 2005; paid archives in my possession)
In the December 1, 2005 end-of-the year wrap-up Sparks described the “safe haven” process:
The cases that I’m familiar with are cases where the mother’s gone to the hospital, she’s delivered the baby in the hospital and she’s said, “By the way, I don’t want this baby. I want to claim my Safe Haven privilege.”
SHUCK AND JIVE
It is clear from this and other anecdotal evidence that boarder baby incidents are being folded into “safe haven” reports to inflate stats to make the dump industry and its politicians feel good about themselves and build a bankroll.
Ohio has done little to promote baby dumping, offering only a webpage, brochures and posters, yet ODJFS claims that 54 babies have been “saved” since 2001. I’ve been Greyhounding between Columbus and Canton recently and the baby dump poster to the right hangs in the Mansfield bus terminal because earlier this year a baby girl was left on the steps of a church in nearby Bellville. Ironically, on Friday the baby’s father was granted custody and she’ll be with him by Christmas. If she’d been “safe havened” as the Ohio General Assembly would prefer, she’d be in the anonymous adoption mill.
One of the state’s biggest baby dump promoters was Twyana Davis. In 1995, at the age of 19, Davis left her newborn daughter in a trashcan at Ohio Dominican College. She completed her degree and probation, and regained custody of her daughter who was being cared for by Davis’ grandparents. She appeared on Oprah and other national and international media. Once opposed to “safe havens” Davis went over to the dark side a few years ago, in my opinion to get state and private funding for her now defunct non-profit 2nd Chance at Life, which worked closely with Franklin County Childrens Services, schools, and social organizations helping young young pregnant women and mothers. In the early part of 2006 Davis, then 30, was charged with rape (and here) after she confessed that the father of her abandoned daughter was her (then) 12-year old cousin, now all grown-up and a convicted rapist himself. Davis also confessed to sexually molesting other children, including one under the age of 2, but was never charged. Adjudicated a sexual predator, Davis was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. She must serve a minimum of 10 years and is required to be on the Ohio Sex Offender Registry for life.
Updated Ohio stats for this year should be released soon. Unlike Michigan and Kentucky data collectors (see below), Ohio does not release information as to the physical location of birth. (ie, hospitals) To read the yearly press release on Ohio “saved babies” go to the press release page and scroll through titles.
Michgan:, (up to 3 days). January 1, 2001-current: 50 of 62 “safe haven” babies were born and “safe havened” in hospitals
Kentucky: (up to 3 days). April 2002-March 20, 2007: 14 of 15 “safe haven” babies were born and “safe havened” in medical facilities.
Pennsylvlania: (up to 28 days) February 2003 – current: 5 babies safe havened; location of birth and “surrender” unknown.
Indiana: (up to 45 days) 2000-June 26, 2008: 6 babies safe havened (unofficial) ; location of birth and “surrender” unknown, but one mother “surrendered” after attending a “safe haven” seminiar.
Ohio is in deep fiscal trouble. Gov. Ted Strickland prposed a worst case scenario of a 25% budget cut, includng $300 million for ODJFS. Now, nobody wants to see that, but obviously cuts will be made. Let’s hope that how to abandon your baby “education” is dumped.