One man who felt he wasn’t capable of continuing with his responsibilities as a single parent after the death of his wife decided to drop off nine of his 10 children at a hospital in Nebraska.
The law that allowed Gary Staton of Nebraska to go through with this was the Nebraska Safe Haven Law, which gives parents the right to drop off any child in immediate danger under the age of 19 at a hospital.
The highly controversial piece of legislation targets an issue that most people don’t shed much light on. Parents who believe they are unfit to care for their children should be able to give them up for a better home. As much as people should be accountable for their actions, children shouldn’t suffer because we’re trying to teach responsibility.
The safety of children far outweighs the cost of trying to teach parents how to be responsible. However, questions should be raised about the reasons why parents can no longer care for the children.
Nebraska’s Safe Haven law should put in place requirements or alternative options for parents. The law needs to be more specific in terms of releasing children. It should ultimately take in children who clearly need it, but also implement alternatives like trying to place the children with other relatives first. It should try to find ways to help alleviate the situation for the family before taking the children into custody, such as helping to find jobs or offer some kind of program where the children can be watched a few hours a day while the parents try to gain some stable ground. If no resolution can be reached, the children should then be able to enter into state custody.
The emotional affects of a parent abandoning a child could be very troubling, but it is in the best interest of the child to be financially as well as emotionally supported by people who are able. Even if the situation isn’t as extreme, as say parents with substance abuse problems, those who are suffering through depression and can barely care for themselves can be just as damaging as a drug user.
Children who are left to depend on their siblings or themselves for survival when their parents are present physically, but not mentally, grow up faster than they should. They should have someone looking out for them instead of having to fend for themselves.
It should also offer counseling to both the parent and child. Counseling may give hope and encouragement to parents to do their best at raising their own kids. However, there will be cases where it is clear the parent is no longer capable of doing any good to their children and they should not be anyone’s parent. They should be allowed to give the kids to the state and let them have a chance at a better life.
Birth rates have been steady at 4 million births a year since 2000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. That means there are a lot of parents out there, but not all are capable of raising children. If they themselves feel they are unfit parents why should we force them to raise children? It’s not a crime if someone is not a good mother or father, so why should we make parents into criminals if they choose to give up their kids for their own safety?
The law is intended for mothers in crisis situations and is meant to protect infants from being abandoned and potentially harmed. In Florida the law places an age limit on how old a child can be upon surrender. But what about children who are suffering because their parents can’t properly look after them but are older? Does it make their upbringing less important because they are no longer infants?
Parents should not be held criminally responsible if they can no longer care for their children properly. Being financially, emotionally and mentally unstable, combined with various other events that happen in life, creates a situation that can overwhelm the parent and push the children’s priorities down the list. Parents who do not have the ability to be a good parent can take a step in the right direction by recognizing it and releasing their children to capable hands.