Teen left at hospital, Neb.'s 30th safe-haven case

The Creighton Medical Center, where nine siblings were abandoned by their father on Wednesday, is seen in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008. Eleven children ranging in age from 1 to 17 were left at hospitals Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008, under Nebraska's unique safe haven law, which allows caregivers to abandon not only infants but also teenagers without fear of prosecution. Nine of the children came from one family. The five boys and four girls were left by their father, who was not identified, at Creighton University Medical Center's emergency room.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
By  | 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- A 17-year-old boy left by his mother at an Omaha hospital on Monday is the 30th child abandoned under Nebraska's safe-haven law, state officials said. The boy from the Omaha area was left at Creighton University Medical Center on Monday morning, said Todd Landry, director of children and family services for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The state was still investigating the case and additional details were not available, he said.

Nebraska was the last state to enact a safe-haven law, intended to protect unwanted newborns from being abandoned.

Some have interpreted the state's law as meaning it could apply to children as old as 18, because it uses the word "child" and doesn't specify an age limit. Those interpretations take the word "child" to mean "minor," which in Nebraska includes anyone under the age of 19.

However, Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jeanne Atkinson said a separate state law pertaining to juveniles won't let authorities take in children older than 17.

Landry said an 18-year-old woman left at a Lincoln hospital by her mother on Sunday was not being handled as a safe-haven case.

Lincoln Assistant Police Chief Jim Peschong said the young woman's mother told officials at BryanLGH Medical Center West that her daughter, who was adopted, suffers from several disorders, including a learning disability, and is bipolar.

"The adoptive mother says that the daughter refused to take some medication for some conditions that she has," Peschong said. "She won't listen to her, can't control her."

Atkinson said the young woman was placed in an emergency shelter and was being offered extra help.

Atkinson said she could not say how many other 18-year-olds have been left by parents or others at state hospitals under the state law.

The Legislature opens a special session on Friday to change the law.

Four children from out of state have been abandoned at Nebraska hospitals since the law was passed. All four have been returned to their home states, including an 8-year-old boy who was flown back to Indiana on Friday and turned over to state authorities.