family values

Walk Away Nebraska -- Family, Children And A Law With Unintended Consequences

In a GOP stronghold state, the meaning of family values and the public interpretation of a law having several unintended consequences have hit an interesting crossroad: over the last two weeks, parents have taken advantage of a "safe haven law" that permits them to drop off children they can no longer care for at Nebraska hospitals with the request that they be taken care of.

The law was "designed to protect babies and infants from abandonment," but apparently it left a few loopholes: parents have dropped off at least seven teens, and one parent dropped off his entire brood -- nine children who ranged in age from 1 year old to 17 years of age. (According to the article, a psychologist said of the man that he lacked common sense.)

In the Chicago Tribune's online blog Triage -- the source from which this story is drawn, and is linked to at the top -- Judith Graham ends with the following quote:


The moral of this story appears to be that safe haven laws need to be very carefully and narrowly written to ensure they’re not abused by parents.

Making sure an unwanted baby finds a home where he or she will be healthy and cared for is one thing. Telling difficult teenagers or nine children "you’re not my responsibility any more" is another.

The same moral -- adjusted for context, obviously -- can be applied to most laws created at state or federal levels. If taken seriously, it might help mitigate disasters that are precipitated through purposeful misleading and carefully constructed re-interpretations of "the letter" of the law.