2 more teens abandoned under Neb. safe-haven law

By: AP
By: AP

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Two more teenagers have been abandoned at Nebraska hospitals under the state's much-criticized safe haven law, bringing the number of mostly older children dropped off to 26 since July, authorities said. The teens, both 16, were left at separate hospitals, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

One was a girl dropped Sunday afternoon at Midlands Hospital in Papillion and the other a boy abandoned at Children's Hospital in Omaha late Sunday.

Papillion police Lt. Chris Whitted said the girl and her mother had previously lived in Papillion, south of Omaha, before moving to Arizona. He said the mother didn't give a reason for dropping the girl off, but he added: "Obviously, there's concerns about being able to care for her daughter."

He said the girl "was unaware she was being dropped off" and has been placed in state custody.

Todd Landry, director of the state's Division of Children and Family Services for the department, said in a statement Monday that the girl had been a ward of the state of Nebraska from September 2007 to March. In March, a juvenile court judge dismissed the wardship based in part on the mother's desire to relocate to Arizona to be near extended family, Landry said.

The girl was a ward of the state of Arizona from August until sometime in October, Landry said. He said it's the Nebraska department's understanding that an Arizona court agreed to dismiss the case at the request of the mother, who sought to return to Nebraska to have more support from family and friends located here. Landry said he believes the mother and daughter returned to Nebraska just last week.

In the second case, Landry said the boy was left by his father just after midnight Monday. Neither Landry nor hospital officials offered additional details on that case.

Nebraska was the last state to enact a safe-haven law, which is intended to protect unwanted newborns from being abandoned. Some have interpreted the state's law to mean children as old as 18 can be abandoned because it uses the word "child" and doesn't include an age limit.

Health and Human Services officials, however, say they will not take in any children older than 17.

The Legislature plans to tackle the issue at a special session on Nov. 14. Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood said he'll introduce a bill establishing a 3-day-old age limit.

Associated Press writer Melanie Welte in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this story.

On the Net:
Health and Human Services: http://www.dhhs.ne.gov/SafeHaven/
(This version CORRECTS that girl was left on Sunday, not Monday.)

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