Safe haven law finally does its job

Monday, July 27, 2009

At last Nebraska's safe haven law has finally done its job.

Originally written without tight enough age restrictions, Nebraska's law allowing relatives to legally "abandon" children at hospitals without fear of prosecution became a national sensation when parents began using it to drop off troubled teenagers.

Called into a special session last November, the Legislature passed LB 1, which limited the age of the child to less than 30 days.

The full text of LB 1 (2008) reads: "No person shall be prosecuted for any crime based solely upon the act of leaving a child thirty days or younger in the custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska."

That's just what someone did a week ago at Box Butte General Hospital in Alliance.

Based on the law, the local county attorney does not plan to file any abuse or neglect charges. Department of Health and Human Services officials said they were doing their best to focus on the safety and well-being of the child, who would be placed in a licensed foster home.

Although not planning to prosecute, they were seeking information about the child's identity, so they could obtain a complete medical history.

That's one child in the eight months the law has been in effect, about the rate one could expect in a state the size of Nebraska.

But the original law did point out the need for better services for troubled teens, and it behooves elected officials and bureaucrats alike to make sure the momentum for improvement isn't lost.

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