I read this morning on the CNN website a report about a father who brought in his nine children and left them at the Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The children ranged in ages from 1 to 17. The report stated that it is the fourth time that children who were 11, 13, and 15 years old had been left at the hospital since a “safe haven” law was passed in July, allowing children to be left at a hospital if they were in immediate danger. In the wake of the unexpected response of parents dumping teenaged children, Nebraska officials have scheduled a meeting for today to seek to clarify the provisions of the law.
I understand the original intent of the framers of the law as being that of providing emergency protection for newborn infants whose parents (or frequently one would suspect whose single, unwed mother) face the daunting task of being a parent with little or no preparation for raising a child and perhaps with extremely limited resources to do so. I’m not excusing such conduct even in these cases that the law is obviously designed to address, but when parents decide to opt out of their responsibilities after many years of raising a child, I can’t help but wonder where we are heading as a nation and a culture.
I am in no way advocating that there shouldn’t be protection afforded to children who might be at risk of physical, sexual, and other forms of abuse from unloving parents. Innocent children shouldn’t have to be subjected to such treatments under any circumstances and there ought to be safe havens where they can be cared for and protected. I suppose that I’m just utterly baffled and bewildered that in at least four cases, parents of teenagers would take advantage of the good intentions of lawmakers to protect newborns and would abuse that law by seeking to shirk their responsibilities of raising their children.
I’ll confess that I don’t know what the solution to this parenting crisis is and wouldn’t want to be sitting in the seats of those Nebraska officials who must wrestle today with the unexpected outcomes of the safe haven law passed in July. I fear that the growing economic crisis in our nation will only exacerbate these kinds of problems. Of course I’m firmly convinced that a right relationship with Christ is the fundamental need of these parents, together with meaningful membership in a nurturing and supportive local church. This disturbing trend should serve as a wake-up call for our churches to redouble our efforts to help families as they struggle with the pressures of everyday living.