Policy & Practice: Advocacy

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November 10, 2008

Honorable Members of the Nebraska State Legislature:

I am writing on behalf of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute to strongly urge you - as you move to amend LB 157 - to view this as an opportunity to reshape practices so they will genuinely help children at risk by addressing the root causes of the problem of unsafe infant abandonment.

In the way of quick background, the Adoption Institute is an independent, nonpartisan nonprofit that does not make money from adoption and has no financial or other vested interest in this issue or its outcome. The Institute is the pre-eminent national policy, research and education organization in its field; its mission is to improve the lives of everyone touched by adoption - especially children - by promoting better laws, policies and "best practices" that are based on sound research.

I understand your current special session is restricted to imposing an age limit on children who may be abandoned anonymously under Nebraska law. When the 101st legislature convenes in January 2009, I respectfully request that it consider additional amendments to the state's safe haven statute that address the following principal findings of research conducted by the Adoption Institute:

In a sense, the unintended consequences of Nebraska's current law - the abandonment of 30 children, ranging in age from 22 months to 17 years - are a magnification of the same issues that safe haven laws have raised in other states (albeit for younger children). Narrowing your statute to cover only infants up to 3 days old is a vital step to limit these "unintended consequences." The research indicates, however, that taking additional measures will not only do far more for the at-risk children safe havens were created to save - but will also help the women who abandon them. A few years ago, the Adoption Institute released a groundbreaking report on safe haven laws such as LB 157, raising serious concerns about their effectiveness and consequences. The report - available at http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/old/whowe/Last%20report.pdf - concluded there is little evidence these statutes are working as their proponents had hoped, principally because they do not address the roots of the problem. In addition, our research indicates these laws cause an array of negative, unintended consequences, including encouraging women to conceal pregnancies and give birth alone in unsafe settings (risking their own lives and those of their babies), and then to abandon their infants, undermining adoption through established legal procedures. In order to address the flaws in safe haven laws, the Adoption Institute has identified a number of policy recommendations, including to: Thank you for your consideration of my testimony and for your concern about at-risk infants. Please feel free to contact me directly at 617-332-8944 or apertman@adoptioninstitute.org.org if you have any questions, require additional information, or want to discuss any aspect of this issue.


Adam Pertman
Executive Director