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"It was the parents not wanting to continue the journey with their kids," Landry said...
September 25, 2008 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Safe Haven laws have been around for almost a decade. Not wanting to be left out, Nebraska passed their own this past year, with some possible unintended consequences.
posted by docpops (43 comments total)

 
It beats killing the little tykes when you've passed your stress level.
posted by etaoin at 5:01 PM on September 25, 2008


I don't get the outrage over being able to save older children from negligent parents. I'm trying to understand why society would want to force a parent that intends to fail their child, to continue the farce. Seems like we are all better off getting the kid into an environment where someone does care about them.
posted by nomisxid at 5:03 PM on September 25, 2008 [8 favorites]


Christ! Hasn't he heard of pulling out?
posted by Mr_Zero at 5:05 PM on September 25, 2008


UR DOING IT RONG
posted by scrump at 5:05 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, unintended consequences? I think this is exactly the kind of the system was set up for, a parent so out of it in one way or another drops off his kids in a known safe place and takes off. Better than leaving them in some alley in Omaha.
posted by Science! at 5:06 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


My guess is that the one dad that dropped off NINE (9!) kids was just fucking with the system to try to get the law revoked. I mean, he's totally off the hook. Like, what the heck changed his mind about being a dad? 7 was OK, 8 was OK, 9 was OK for a while... then *snap* he needed to get those kids the hell out of there. Maybe he bought a new table saw and needed somewhere to put it. But it just boggles the mind. How could he possibly decided he no longer wanted to raise nine kids anymore?
posted by GuyZero at 5:11 PM on September 25, 2008


I think this is exactly the kind of the system was set up for...

I'm all for harm reduction, but I don't think it should be totally legal to just abandon nine kids. There's got to be a backstory there.
posted by GuyZero at 5:14 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Frankly, anyone who decides it's reasonable to abandon his (or her) children at a "safe haven," regardless of his or her reasons, isn't fit to be a parent anyway.
posted by dersins at 5:15 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Where's mom? Or are they starting over again.

"Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate."

(Had to wedge a Palin in here one way or another...)
posted by Eekacat at 5:15 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


How is safe haven different from ordinary adoption? I suppose the parents remain anonymous?
posted by jeffburdges at 5:21 PM on September 25, 2008


OMG that is like getting a babysitter for life, for free! Where do I sign up?
posted by poppo at 5:22 PM on September 25, 2008


It does certainly create a unique threat device for maintaining order at home.
posted by docpops at 5:26 PM on September 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


What the hell is it with people who assume the father doesn't care? The economy is in really bad shape if you're working class. It's unlikely he's one of the stockbrokers or bankers of the world, and taking care of nine children would be an enormous financial burden.

Did it occur to anyone that this might be the best solution? They'll be fed, housed, and clothed, and that might be more than that father can do.

That might have been the most responsible choice he could make.
posted by Malor at 5:28 PM on September 25, 2008 [13 favorites]


I'm all for harm reduction, but I don't think it should be totally legal to just abandon nine kids. There's got to be a backstory there.

It's for cases where a parent might get desperate and harm the child. It's meant to prevent cases where a baby ends up in a dumpster.

My guess is that the one dad that dropped off NINE (9!) kids was just fucking with the system to try to get the law revoked. I mean, he's totally off the hook.

I seriously doubt it's a stunt to challenge the law, though. Or it's not a very informed one if it is. Since it's doubtful he'd get custody back now. Or at least there's going to be a lot of legal stuff to go through in the meantime:

"The law only protects people from prosecution against the actual act of leaving the child at a hospital. There seems to be a misconception that when a child is dropped off at a hospital, the parents are absolved of responsibility. That couldn’t be further from the truth."

Landry noted that the courts will now be very involved in these families’ lives. Courts are likely to require parents and guardians to participate in parenting classes, family therapy, conflict resolution or other services in an effort to reunite youth with their families, and may order child support payments while they are in state custody, he said.

posted by Tehanu at 5:35 PM on September 25, 2008


Did anyone notice they said up to age 19? By the time I was nineteen I didn't even live at home except for holidays and other rare trips from college. I can't imagine what I would have done if my parents had called it quits in the middle of my high school career. Definitely would have been scarring - as if your self worth as a teen isn't shaky enough. We didn't have money either, but giving everyone an easy out of every sticky situation often leads to more problems than it solves.

Dropping off teenagers to be burdens of the state isn't going to make it easy on anyone. And speaking of our terrible economy, where will the extra government funds come from? You age out of foster care at 18. What are these kids supposed to do then? College or not, I wasn't ready to be completely on my own at that point.

Certainly there's some middle ground somewhere... My parents never claimed to be perfect, but thank God they never decided that their kids just weren't worth the effort - however futile it seemed at the time.

And before anyone flames out at me, I understand that there are always exceptions, and underlying circumstances, etc. But people abusing what should be a live-saving option for children should not be allowed to do so. That's all I'm trying to say....
posted by Kimothy at 5:44 PM on September 25, 2008


That might have been the most responsible choice he could make.
posted by Malor at 5:28 PM on September 25 [+] [!]


second most
posted by docpops at 5:46 PM on September 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


They all chose life!!! Sweet!
posted by Naberius at 5:48 PM on September 25, 2008


Christ! Hasn't he heard of pulling out?

That's exactly what he did.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:53 PM on September 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Safe Haven laws have been promoted by the anti-abortion movement as a method of keeping down the abortion rate, as this web page from the organization Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life indicates. It's a noble idea in theory, but the devil is in the details.
posted by jonp72 at 5:59 PM on September 25, 2008


Every sperm is sacred.
Every sperm is great.


It's also worth remembering the end of the scene, after Palin confesses that he can't feed all his children:

"...me mind's made up. I've given this long and careful thought, and it has to be medical experiments for the lot of you."
posted by tkolar at 6:04 PM on September 25, 2008


Honestly, that is exactly what safe haven laws are for. Or should be for - this would be an intended consequence in my perfect world.

No sane, caring parent, rich or poor, would give up a child this way. This is for only hardcore losers and bad cases, the worst people a child - from age 0 to age 18 - could have in their life. This guy dropped off nine kids? Fucking trash. But now his kids might still have a shot at a normal life.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:06 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


But now his kids might still have a shot at a normal life.

In most cases, hopefully a better life. A clear memory of your dad driving you to a place and dropping you all off for well and good is a not a "normal" experience though. That's gonna be tough to deal with. I think the law in intended for cases where the alternative is worse.

Siblings in foster and adoptive homes is a pretty complicated thing, too. They're probably going to get split up, with that many of them and such an age range.
posted by Tehanu at 6:10 PM on September 25, 2008


It's a well-intentioned idea; sadly, it just kinds of turns over the rock and shows us how unseriously we take raising kids in this society (or most societies). By the time the parent has gotten to the point of having to drop off their kids with strangers, a lot of failures have already taken place. Maybe they were all failures of the parents'....but maybe an intervention, program, or increase of opportunity could have forestalled it and let that family stay together. Or yeah, prevented the birth and subsequent suffering of an unwanted child.

Those poor kids.
posted by emjaybee at 6:46 PM on September 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


"It was the parents not wanting to continue the journey with their kids," Landry said Thursday at a news conference in Lincoln.

Continue the journey? This is pushing a euphemism past its logical limit, no matter how sacred parenthood seems to those who, uh, engage in it. What a bizarre thing to say in a news conference about a father abandoning nine children.
posted by desuetude at 6:54 PM on September 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


oh those 295th trimester abortions never work out. Messy. The Police get invovled. Badness.

Better to figure it before it gets that bad.
posted by The Whelk at 6:58 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


My guess is that the one dad that dropped off NINE (9!) kids was just fucking with the system to try to get the law revoked. I mean, he's totally off the hook. Like, what the heck changed his mind about being a dad? 7 was OK, 8 was OK, 9 was OK for a while... then *snap* he needed to get those kids the hell out of there. Maybe he bought a new table saw and needed somewhere to put it. But it just boggles the mind. How could he possibly decided he no longer wanted to raise nine kids anymore?

$100 says a woman was raising the kids but she is now out of the picture and he "can't handle them". He expected her to handle it just fine of course.

As soon as he remarries he'll be back for the younger ones.
posted by fshgrl at 7:56 PM on September 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Lovely assumptions.

What if the mother was already dead and he has something he's not going to get better from? What if this is the best he could do for them? Why favour some "he's trash" theory over all the other possibilities? If you can't imagine being that desperate, then lucky you for never having been that desperate.
posted by mandal at 8:12 PM on September 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


There is absolutely no way in heaven or hell this is the best he can do for them.
posted by fshgrl at 8:20 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Optimus Chyme writes "This guy dropped off nine kids? Fucking trash. But now his kids might still have a shot at a normal life."

Or maybe his wife died in a car accident last month and he's just been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. It seems unlikely to me that someone with custody of nine kids would be a complete sociopath.
posted by Mitheral at 8:51 PM on September 25, 2008


It seems unlikely to me that someone with custody of nine kids would be a complete sociopath.


Unlikely... or likely? There's not a static truth either way folks...

Anyway, local news here reported that they plan to revisit and revise the law to help solve this problem, which to me, seems to be the best plan of action. They reported that besides the 11 children left Wednesday, there has been an overloading of hospitals and other safe drop points with children - many of which seem to not be in any real danger. So really, this is becoming more of a recurring problem than just one incident.

Aside from saving the helpless children, the real issue lies in whether these older kids will be able to come to terms with their abandonment. For the ones that are merely "difficult" teens, dumping them is not going to help them get over their teen angst period. Hopefully I'm wrong and they'll all realize they're just as worthwhile with their new parents.
posted by Kimothy at 9:52 PM on September 25, 2008


docpops beat me to it. Can't we just get these guys a blow up doll, a sheep, carpal tunnel surgery--something, anything--once they've had an acceptable number of kids (in this guy's case, zero)?
posted by maxwelton at 10:35 PM on September 25, 2008


This is absolutely horrible! How traumatic for those poor kids. I'm sure it would have been far better had they been locked inside a car (minibus?) before pushing the lot into some river or lake.

And those poor Nebraska taxpayers, having to pay for these kids. Perhaps they'll have to build some work houses, where the brats can earn their keep. That'll fix that little problem. Maybe they can make crap cheaper than the Chinese, that way! You could structure the system in such a way, kind of like the old company store system, where the brats have to pay back every penny, and can't leave until they do. Then the military could offer to pay off their debt in return for signing up to be GI Joe/Jane, for a period of time based on the amount of debt. Maybe even let the private sector bid on them, too. Kind of an indenture sort of thing. To assure the cooperation of the subjects, keep the work house environment bad enough that anything would be an improvement. You could start offering them on the market as soon as they reach an age where state laws allow them to work. /snark

What I don't understand is why such a law would want to limit the age of the children. If the idea is to protect kids, why wouldn't you want to include all ages? For that matter, why not include dependants of any age? The older ones would probably take less resources, the littlest would be the easiest to find adoptive parents. Say your unemployed 20-year-old is no longer tolerable. What you going to do? Shouldn't there be some option better than just kicking them to the curb?

As has been noted above, healthy sane parents generally don't do this, nearly by definition (one of those cases where the act itself does a job of proving the mental failure). What else you going to do with your kids before you kill yourself? Might be better for the kids to be turned in (I don't like the word 'abandon' in this context, it isn't abandonment) and be spared some trauma.

It's easy to imagine some parents deciding that, by getting rid of their kids, they can enjoy a lifestyle far superior to what they've been living. But parents that would think that way aren't functioning as parents anyway, and those kids probably need extensive help. And by all means, do keep open the possibility of financial liability from the parents.

The program allows the first concern to be for the kids, as it should be. But with the kids looked after, society can then ask itself what to do to prevent such things.
posted by Goofyy at 10:55 PM on September 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


so, um, these 'safe haven' laws for dropping kids off...does it have to be your own children?

(the neighbors kids just got a karaoke machine and are all, apparently, tone-deaf)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:58 AM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Parental rights don't end automatically but parents who change their mind about abandonment may find it difficult to regain custody.

I should hope to shout.

The "no real danger" thing kind of bugs me on a couple of levels - what kind of danger do you need to be in? If it's an economic thing, are we going to see more of this? Are we finally going to see the warehouses orphanages of old? Newt, is that you?

The program allows the first concern to be for the kids, as it should be. But with the kids looked after, society can then ask itself what to do to prevent such things.

Damn straight.
posted by lysdexic at 4:51 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


My wife works for an adoption agency. A couple of years ago, they were approached by a father who came to the decision that he should put his three boys, ages 3-through-8, up for adoption.

He wasn't some guy who felt the kids were a hindrance to his lifestyle. This guy was a loving, caring father. His wife had left the family the year earlier, leaving him to raise the boys on his own, while holding-down two jobs. Low-paying jobs, at that. Simply put, he came to the point where he determined that he and the boys were headed to the point where homelessness was a real possibility, with the boys subsequently distributed into the foster care system. So, he made the hard decision and chose to try to get the boys adopted into stable, loving homes for the sake of their futures.

Trust me, this was not something he wanted to do. He loved those boys. They were his life. But, he knew that he was not able to provide for them in even the most basic manner a loving father wants.

Why do I share this? Because, I am more than a little disturbed by the volume of seeming assumptions that this father in Nebraska is somehow merely gaming the system in order to rid himself of kids that were getting in his way. Even the statement from the state works to paint the man as selfish, without once considering that there may have been far more serious considerations. As times get tougher, I fear you're going to see more of this.

And, by the way, the three boys in my story were successfully adopted by two separate families who both vowed to act as a connected "super-family" so that the boys never lose contact with each other.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:57 AM on September 26, 2008 [12 favorites]


Here's an update to the story. Sounds like the kids had a really unstable life. Their mother died shortly after giving birth to the last child, leaving the father with 10 kids to care for. The father was unemployed. They had had gas and electricity shut off.
posted by Ostara at 6:16 AM on September 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Thanks Thorzdad and Ostara for posting.

Folks, most people who would take the option of leaving the children in a safe place are not trash, selfish, or assholes. They're people in need who probably don't see any other option to make sure their children are properly cared for.
posted by onhazier at 6:39 AM on September 26, 2008


Why do I share this? Because, I am more than a little disturbed by the volume of seeming assumptions that this father in Nebraska is somehow merely gaming the system in order to rid himself of kids that were getting in his way

It's disturbing, but not remotely surprising. Our culture has very little respect for the value of giving up. We're raised with a variant on the protestant work ethic that says effort will solve everything. "Anyone can grow up to be President" isn't used as a statement on the opportunities in our society, it's a statement about what anyone can do if they try. Popular entertainment is filled with people pursuing unrealistic goals and fixing relationships by Trying Harder.

Obviously you're not going to get a best-seller out of Thomas The Little Engine That Found A Better Alternate Route Around The Mountain, but the fact remains that we're conditioned to view shooting for the moon as more noble than setting realistic goals.
posted by phearlez at 9:23 AM on September 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think Optimus's comment was a little harsh but...the father couldn't have called an adoption agency or child services? Asked for help from the family? I wonder what his oldest daughter has to say about her father's decision, as she was the primary caretaker for her siblings -- she should've been consulted before the children she helped raise got dropped off like foundlings.

The safe harbor laws are intended to keep babies out of dumpsters, not act as an paperwork-free substitute for social services.
posted by desuetude at 11:36 AM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Man, that is a sad story. Low-level metal illness coupled with 10 kids. It sounds like they were nice, normal kids too, in so far as they could be with parents that had low mental competency. it's odd because it really has nothing to do with safe harbor laws. The dad probably would have dropped them off even if it was a first-class felony. I feel bad for all of 'em.
posted by GuyZero at 11:57 AM on September 26, 2008


It sounds to me as if someone should have intervened in that 10-child family a long, long time before it had gotten to that point.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:33 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also from the article "one child's age wasn't covered by the law". Since the law covers all children under 19 does that mean a child of over 19 was dropped off? Foe some reason, I immediately thought of a developmentally disabled adult that had strained their caretaker parent to the breaking point. I agree with the others above, what a horrible thing to happen to to a child or teenager that KNOWS it is being abandoned.
posted by saucysault at 12:54 AM on September 27, 2008


Newspapers are now reporting that many of the kids being dropped off had severe behavioral problems and their caregivers (not always parents) had been unable to get any help from the social services that were supposed to handle such situations.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:05 AM on September 29, 2008


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