October 14, 2008 in Nation/World

Mother abandons son, 13, under safe-haven law

By JEAN ORTIZ and JOSH FUNk Associated Press
 

OMAHA, Neb. – A Michigan mother drove roughly 12 hours to Omaha, so she could abandon her 13-year-old son at a hospital under the state’s unique safe-haven law, Nebraska officials said Monday.

The Detroit-area boy is the second teenager from outside Nebraska and 18th child overall abandoned in the state since the law took effect in July.

“I certainly recognize and can commiserate and empathize with families across our state and across the country who are obviously struggling with parenting issues, but this is not the appropriate way of dealing with them, whether you’re in Nebraska or whether you’re in another state,” said Todd Landry, who heads the state’s Department of Health and Human Services’ division of children and family services.

There was no sign the boy was in immediate danger before he was abandoned early Monday, but an investigation into his situation was continuing, Landry said.

The boy has been placed in an emergency shelter. Landry said the family doesn’t appear to have ties to Nebraska, and he wasn’t sure if the family had sought help in Michigan first.

State officials have met with the boy’s mother, Landry said, but wouldn’t immediately address her reasons for leaving her son.

“Regardless of why or how, our focus remains on the safety of the child,” he said.

Nebraska’s safe-haven law is unlike similar laws in that it allows anyone, not just a parent, to drop off a child, of any age, at any state-licensed hospital without fear of prosecution for abandonment. The law doesn’t absolve anyone of other charges like abuse or neglect.

State officials have stressed that the safe-haven law should be used only for children in immediate danger; some worry the broadly written law could make the state a dumping ground for unwanted children.

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