Friday, January 10, 2014

Round Table: Safe Haven Laws

In today's Round Table, the Lost Daughters discuss the so-called safe haven laws.

Laura Dennis: I don't know much about safe haven, except that I used to get a huge lump in my throat every time I saw a sign publicizing a safe haven drop-off location (adoptee fog dissipating).

Deanna Shrodes: I'm not well versed on safe haven laws either. But like Laura, I get a lump in my throat every time I hear a story like this. And I read the comments and realize, people don't have a clue from an adoptee standpoint.

Julie J: I'm opposed to safe haven laws. Most people are in favor of them because they believe babies are being saved, babies who otherwise would be left in secluded dumpsters or restrooms to die. The fact is, since safe havens started, the numbers of infants dangerously abandoned have not decreased. They have stayed the same. Why? Because the groups of mothers who would dangerously abandon their babies are mentally ill. They are still doing it. They are not the same group of mothers who would lovingly wrap their babies in blankets, leave them someplace where they know they will quickly be found safely and cared for. Safe haven babies are additional babies who could have either safely stayed with their own families had they had the proper support and resources, or else they could have been adopted through the traditional channels.

Safe havens leave too many unanswered questions. How does anyone even know the anonymous baby found was actually left by the mother and not by somebody else with other motives? How does anyone know the mother is OK? Does anyone even care? Does the father know? What about his rights?

All safe haven is, is a streamlined route for strings-free adoption that is more unethical than traditional adoption because there is little chance that the abandoned child will ever have an accurate record of their birth or know their true origins. It is encouraging an unnecessary system that further and permanently victimizes adoptees. Of course this additional supply of healthy, typically white, and highly profitable, infants is a dream come true for prospective adoptive parents and for the adoption industry. There is little chance that the adoption will be contested. There is little chance the adoptee will later be able to find their families. While those aspects may be seen as bonuses to the adopters, they are not for the adoptee.

Yes, a small number of babies will probably still be abandoned no matter what; however, society should not be endorsing this practice by encouraging legal abandonment as a legitimate option. Obviously there is some sort of crisis going on in that child's family's life. Their family needs help, and safe havens do not address that. They address other parties' needs. Better alternatives might include a crisis nursery where the baby's family could temporarily leave their baby in a safe place while they get help for whatever problems led to feeling as if abandoning their baby was the solution.

Safe haven laws are just feel-good legislation that make people think they are doing something helpful, when in fact, it is doing more harm.

Julie Stromberg: Safe haven laws are a band aid measure to a larger problem: people in crisis. Allowing people to drop off babies at designated places does absolutely nothing to address the issues of why the babies are being dropped off in the first place. If the baby was kidnapped, there would be no prosecution. If the mother was in trouble and desperate, she will still be in trouble and desperate. If a father is unaware that the mother of his baby is using safe haven, the father AND baby will be denied each other. And vice versa if the father drops off the baby. The list of variables could go on and on.

And what about the baby? Safe haven might help a baby stay alive but it certainly doesn't guarantee a positive outcome. Adoption, as we all know, doesn't guarantee anything. All safe haven does is guarantee that the baby will have no personal background or history at all and that it is sanctioned by law to be this way. Safe haven intentionally, and legally, creates foundlings. Why would we, as a society, want to purposefully do that?

Angela Tucker: It seems to me that the safe haven laws are yet another attempt that serves to allow the general public/lawmakers feel good about themselves. Prospective adoptive parents routinely reference the safe haven law in this view: a well-meaning teenager delivers a baby safely, but soon thereafter feels unable to parent, thus deciding to leave the baby in a place where a loving couple is bound to find and love the child. However, the reality is that there are cases such as the awful case of Melissa Drexler who likely more accurately define the demographic that a law such as this is intended (but will not) reach. Safe haven laws certainly do not reduce the rates of infanticide, though they may be helpful in a narrow way. Overall I think it gives anti-choice folks more ammo towards their thinking that forcing someone to have a baby is no big deal if they could just utilize this law. This bleeds into the idea that if only adoption was cheaper and easier no one would choose abortions.

Karen Belanger: Safe haven laws send the message that babies are a disposable commodity without parents being responsible for the future of these children at all. We have become a disposable society in the last few decades and now with these safe haven laws babies/children can be left anonymously while continuing to send the message to others that abandoning is what is best for unwanted babies/children. And who is to say "who" the adult is that is leaving these "unwanted" babies at safe havens to begin with? Couldn't it just as easily be a relative/ boyfriend/husband/grandparent who has taken this child to be left? As much as I dislike the way the system of adoption functions, at least there is a certain amount of responsibility to ensure that these babies/children have recourse and access to pertinent and vital genetic and medical information for themselves and for their future children. I only see these laws and increasing child abandonment in the future, and possibly multiple children by parents/families if it becomes that easy to abandon them and endanger their lives even further.

Lynn Grubb: I am not in favor of the safe haven laws for the reasons outlined by Julie J. If a mother feels overwhelmed enough to abandon her baby, there are already people and places she can call or take her child. Child Protective Services is a place (contrary to what Lifetime Movies portrays) where you can safely take your child when you are in crisis. Social workers will either help the mother receive services within her own home (if possible) or be sure that the child is placed into a temporary foster home or with a family member which is in the child's best interests. A child is better served by being raised by safe family members than being raised by complete strangers.

Dropping off a child without any identification and having that child adopted without a thorough investigation into the rights and responsibilities of the parent(s) is unethical. I believe that everyone in the community is responsible for the well-being of all of our children. It has never been otherwise acceptable or legal in this country to abandon a child and I don't believe passing laws making it legal to abandon children is helpful in any way.

Also the mere act of abandoning a child at a safe haven location should be a red flag to that mother's mental or emotional state and it should be considered in custody proceedings. That child -- like all other children in the U.S. whose parents cannot meet their responsibilities (whether it be drug abuse/financial/mental, etc) -- should be appointed an attorney, should receive due process under the law, an investigation by a Guardian Ad Litem, caseworker and custody proceedings before adoption is even considered.

Liberty: I have heard adoptee advocates who are well versed in legislation say that safe haven laws sometimes give lawmakers reason to NOT reform adoption practices, support birthmothers, open access to birth certificates (they see anonymity as unavoidable with the "baby drop off scenario"), etc.

Von: In Australia we have no safe haven laws and only a handful of abandonments each year. Some politicians are proposing we introduce legalised abandonment and all it entails -- a no strings route to adoption, a method all about adults nothing about the rights of the child. All children have a right to know who they are; it's time that was taken seriously.

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