Woman drives from Georgia to leave son at Neb. hospital

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A woman drove her troubled 12-year-old son from Georgia to Nebraska and abandoned him under the state's safe-haven law, which parents have used to leave 20 children at hospitals since the law took effect in July.

The boy, from the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna, was dropped off at BryanLGH Medical Center East in Lincoln on Saturday night, said Todd Landry of the Department of Health and Human Services.

He is the third child from out of state brought to Nebraska to be abandoned under the law; abandoned children from Iowa and Michigan have been returned to their home states.

The Georgia boy's mother, who has not been identified, told the Lincoln Journal Star she regretted her actions but thought the safe-haven law was her last chance at saving her son.

The woman said she had tried but failed to get her son admitted to Boys Town in Nebraska. She said her own mother had sent her to the nearly century-old community, which was started as a home for at-risk boys but has grown to include young women and families.

Nebraska and Georgia officials are working together to decide what to do with the boy, who was placed in residential shelter care, Landry said.

Most states let parents and guardians drop off children up to a month old at hospitals or other safe institutions, but Nebraska's law is the only one in the country that allows caregivers to abandon children as old as 18 without fear of prosecution.

The law, intended to protect newborns, includes the word "child," which some have interpreted to mean teenagers. Most of the Nebraska Legislature's 49 senators have agreed to amend the law in January so it applies only to infants up to 3 days old.

Gov. Dave Heineman has resisted calls for a special legislative session, but said Oct. 20 that he would call a special session if there were several more safe-haven cases from out of state. On Monday his spokeswoman said Heineman has not changed his mind about the special session.

The Georgia woman, who was raised in Nebraska, told the Journal Star her son was first suspended from school in the first grade for various infractions, and by the 5th grade he was flunking school, stealing, lying to and defying adults, including his probation officer.

An expensive psychiatric evaluation showed the boy was defiant but the doctor would not prescribe any medicine, and overnight stays in juvenile detention made no apparent impression, she said.

"There's no fear in this little boy," she told the Journal Star.

The woman said she grew up in Lincoln with her single mother and three siblings, and her mother placed her at Boys Town in 1992 after problems at home led to her running away.

For her own son, she said, "Boys Town was my one and only last hope. There was nothing else for me."

On the Net:

DHHS' safe-haven: http://tinyurl.com/5v92yt

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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