Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hit the lights, hush and it’ll be more better…

A bitch has been following the consequences of Nebraska’s Safe Haven law with great interest. Safe Haven laws are supposed to protect newborns and infants from unsafe abandonment by shielding parents from legal prosecution should they leave their child at a designated Safe Haven location. Nebraska’s law apparently does not specify an age limit and that has resulted in older children and teens being dropped off at Safe Havens.

The response to this has been fascinating. Some Nebraska lawmakers have accused parents of casually abandoning their children as if selfishness is the only reason a parent would ever utilize a Safe Haven for an older child. The media has frenzied over stories of large families being torn apart and parents driving across the country to deposit their teen at Nebraska emergency rooms.

What is lost is the window into reality that this so-called mistake offers.

Or maybe it isn’t lost.

Maybe some people want that shit to remain in darkness…out of sight and blessedly out of mind.

What they see is a law that needs to be rewritten to clarify the precise age when legal abandonment becomes illegal so parents will no longer be able to abandon older children.

What I see is an example of how society fails to meet the needs of parents, children and families and an opportunity to address that shit.

And that’s an uncomfortable thing for many Americans to confront. After all, state after state has been working feverishly to pass laws and propositions that are allegedly designed to protect families and marriage…children and society. The last thing supporters of all that paper want to hear is that they’ve moved all their troops to the western front of a war being waged in the east.

Hit the lights.

Why oh why examine the real pressures families face…poverty and the fear of hunger, homelessness and the fear of violence, mental health issues and the lack of options and so forth and so on.


‘Tis much easier to just turn out the lights…rewrite the law and toss all those cases into a box labeled Not My Fucking Problem.

And it’ll be more better.


***cue crickets***



Anonymous said...

My mother's oldest brother, my uncle whom I never met - whom, as far as I know, my mother never met - ran away when he was sixteen years old. He was by all accounts incorrigible and defiant and quite possibly mentally ill, though of course at that time no one in rural America put much stock in mental illness. You prayed, and if prayer didn't help you weren't praying hard enough.

He disappeared, at any rate. Hopped a freight car straight into oblivion. Died, at some point, unknown to his family. Died alone, most likely.

The tragedy of the Nebraska story is that there aren't more safe havens for the damaged ones, the cast off, the poor in spirit.

roslynholcomb said...

I don't know what planet these legislators were on that they couldn't predict the consequences of this law. I worked in social services for fifteen years. Five of those years were spent in child welfare. We rarely had a week go by that someone didn't abandon their teenager. They knew exactly what to say to force the state's hand and make us take their child. This happened with both biological and adoptive children.

Now, here's my take on the matter. Most assuredly there's not enough services in place to help people deal with children who have behavioral, emotional or psychological problems. OTOH, we had a lot of parents who had not put forth the effort to raise their children in the first place and when they became teens with discipline problems they wanted to get rid of them. We had a similar problem with Job Corps. More than once a parent would enroll their child (some as young as 16) in Job Corps, then move, leaving no forwarding address. One parent even re-located out of the country! This was not a kid with behavioral, mental or discipline problems, he couldn't have survived in Job Corps if he had been. This was a parent who simply didn't want to parent.

I coached parents of children with behavioral problems in how to deal with their children. It was literally a class, and more often than not the parents would undermine my efforts. Why? Because parenting a teen is hard ass work. I would say if the kid is acting out you have to shut them down. No extracurricular activities. No t.v., no video games. School, home, chores period. The parents didn't want to do it because they used those activities to babysit the kid.

Parenting a child with a DSM-IV diagnosis is even harder. Most assuredly there need to be more resources available, but they're not and to mind never will be. Americans claim to care about children but really they don't. All you have to do is look at the way we treat them. So, while the legislators were beyond dumb to write this law in the first place, parents have ownership in this issue as well.

The Empress said...

On a different, but somewhat related issue, it's not just economic hardship that has families forcing their children out of their homes. Gay teens are routinely banished from their parents' homes; I even experienced banishment from my father's house, for having an opinion and standing up for myself rather than putting up with abuse (but I was lucky because my mom lived nearby, so I could go live with her).

So you've got families that can't afford their children, and self-righteous gay-hating families who will not stop focusing on the gay-ness or unruly-ness of their teens long enough to focus on the fact that "that unruly child" or "that homo" is, in fact, their son or daughter. It isn't just economics separating children from their parents, it's hate too. People don't talk about homeless teens enough, "street kids", many of whom were made homeless by the same policies placing legal barriers in the way of gay families.

Why, oh why, can two gay parents not adopt a homeless gay teen? What's so wrong with that at the very least?

greer said...

I understand completely how some of these parents can just leave their children. If it wasn't considered abandonment and illegal to turn your child over to the state because you simply could not handle them anymore, I would. If all the agencies and county and state departments I went to begging for help would GIVE ME SOME I wouldn't feel a need to abandon my child. It's not a financial issue, it's a "this little f*cker has lost his mind and I refuse to live in fear of someone I gave birth to" issue. The only place that helped in the end was his school by allowing him to be put in MCJROTC. And even then I had to prostrate myself before the principal and head of guidance to get it done. It's the only thing that has kept that little black child from becoming a statistic. So yeah, I can understand why these parents do this.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to fathom the gut wrenching decision to abandon any child. There's no way anyone can make a blanket judgement on people on this issue. Too many variables involved.

Frogspond said...

They said "Family Values!"
I said "what exactly does that mean?"
I got no answer.

They said "family first!"
and I said "what about mine?"
I got no answer.

They said "Think about the Children!"
I said "I think about mine, every day that they won't let me see her because you said I am evil"
I got no answer.

They said "One Man, One Woman ONLY!"
I said "but thats not what is written in the book you quoted."
I got no answer.

They said "Give us money to fight sin!"
I said "What about the poor?"
I got no answer.

We have forgotten the future. The future is our children. Born to us, adopted, fostered, the neighbors kids. We are letting them slip away because we no longer care to look them in the eye and ask "how are you today" with an honest question.

Anonymous said...

More power to you. If only there were such a haven for the kids I know who are lost, neglected and damaged by their family situations.
Unfortunately, instead of trying to be the village every child needs our "Moral" arbiters are busy trying to force everybody back into the straitjackets of unreasonable and outdated roles.

Unknown said...

As much shit as my only child put me through and it was a boatload chica, never once did I consider abandoning him.

I was a single parent, very few life lines and no health insurance to pay for family therapy..but I managed to hold it together for years, finding ways to get the therapy we needed and the help to keep me from hurting him or myself. Believe me when I say the need to hurt myself was greater than the need to hurt him. I felt I had failed him.

I can not fathom how people toss children away...its beyond my scope of imagination.

Anonymous said...

Right on, sharkfu. If our communities (including but not limited to governments and churches) really want to assist/protect families and marriage, I can think of a ton of things that ACTUALLY affect my life (as a dad of 2 preschoolers), as opposed to troubling who can/can't get married or get an abortion. Namely: businesses can have family-friendly restrooms, good libraries, parks, indoor rec facilities for the winter, infant-friendly public transport, affordable childcare, affordable family counseling, decent paying jobs, parking spots for pregnant women, ...

Anonymous said...

"Why oh why examine the real pressures families face…poverty and the fear of hunger, homelessness and the fear of violence, mental health issues and the lack of options and so forth and so on."

If the government actually examined the real issues behind what families face on a daily basis, then they would have to get up off their asses and actually ACT as opposed to speaking in catch phrases.

If this current administration truly cared about the American family, then health care for children would be free, our public schools would not be in dismay, teachers would have the proper support and not be left out to dry, and higher education costs would not surpass what the potential student could afford.

The well-being of a family is not dependent upon if little Jane or John has two mommies or two daddies: the strength of a family relies on the social and economical support of its government and dominant institution. How can our government expect to have healthy, viable citizens if it doesn't take care of the meekest and most innocent of us all?

Richie said...

Being the parent of a GREAT kid who from time to time needs to have her ass kicked, I can't imagine ever needing a reason to use a safe haven law - but - I am not here to judge anyone. I have to say that those who used it have to live with their decisions, and we really are in no position as outsiders to make that call. I think with our new Government going to be in place soon, and the tone being changed all around - we may see a resurgence of family; not just family that's blood, but the village as family.

One final note: there is a lot of garbage floating out there in states about gay people adopting kids. We need to change the conversation. We need to allow every child to have a family. So for every family that is willing and able to provide for a child, the love, affection and financial support that is necessary to make them whole and productive members of society, the sexual orientation of the parents *really* do not and should not matter.

Joe said...

I've been losing my rest since reading one of those abandonment stories in an article on Friday... a woman whose adoptive little son is so out of control and dangerous that she attempted suicide. I think I'm just sad that the only option for so many people is institutionalizing loved ones... I think I just can't imagine that type of reality, and the fact that a "safe haven" seems like the only option available. Heartbreaking.

Maureen Lawlor said...

STEP 1: Write a law that permits admittedly incapable parents to abdicate responsibility without penalty.

STEP 2: Pat self on back, and wait for abortions to plunge because you have helpfully provided an awesome new outlet for unwanted infants.

STEP 3: Watch in horror as the children abandoned aren't adorable rolypoly newborns.

STEP 4: Amend law to permit only newborns to be abandoned. Ignore fact that NO newborns were abandoned under original law.

STEP 5: Pat self on back.


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