David Earl Johnson, LICSW

2 minute read

This is a sad story. But it’s simplistic to blame the abandoned children solely on poor mental health care. While the statistics are stunning about the incidence of mental illness in these children, another problem involved is the insufficient income of the parents, likely an inter-generational history of neglect and abuse, as well as the stigma of asking for help. Iowa Independent

“The state of Nebraska faces a situation most parents can’t comprehend. At last count 34 children, ranging in age from 20 months to 17 years, have been left at Nebraska hospitals under the auspices of a vaguely written “Safe Haven” law. The Nebraska law, which was signed in February and became effective in July, was to be the last, given that all other states had already enacted similar legislation. During debate, however, Nebraska lawmakers took a unique slant. Instead of attaching an age to the law — ages that some lawmakers deemed “arbitrary” — the legislators opted to write the law so that any “child” could be handed over to the state at designated drop-off points, such as hospitals, without any legal recourse against the child’s guardian. As a result, parents have driven several hundred miles — from as far away as Miami-Dade County in Florida and Pima County in Arizona — in order to leave their children with state officials in Nebraska. The children left in Nebraska come from various socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Twenty-two are considered white, 11 are considered black and one is Native American. Twenty of the 34 children are between the ages of 13 and 17. They have three things in common. 1) Thirty-two of the children resided in or near an urban area. 2) Thirty of the children were living in a single-parent home. 3) Thirty of the children had previously received mental health services, with 11 of those receiving treatment above an outpatient level.”

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