Profiles of Families that Have Used the Safe Haven Law

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Since Sept. 1, eight families have utilized Nebraska’s recently enacted “safe haven” law, which allows parents or guardians to place children up to age 19 in the state’s custody. The World-Herald used police and court records to profile the living arrangements of several of the youths and uncover the reasons they were abandoned. Three youths who were dropped off were adopted or in a guardian’s custody. Violent and destructive behavior (often due to mental illness) and a lack of access to treatment and resources was the most common reason caretakers gave for relinquishing custody. And one father dropped off nine of his 10 children, ages 20 months to 17, because he was overwhelmed after the death of his wife.

Because of the sheer number of adolescents abandoned since Nebraska enacted its law less than three months ago, state lawmakers are considering changing the law to cover only infants. About 15 states allow infants who are 72 hours old or younger to be abandoned, while 14 other states accept infants up to one month old. Sept. 28,