“Safe Haven” Laws Destroy Adoptee Identities

Questions are a burden to others. Answers are a prison for oneself.
— The Prisoner

There is a war going on over the identities of adoptees, under the guise of so-called “safe haven” laws. Take a look at this position paper from Bastard Nation, plus this impressive analysis courtesy of Baby Love Child. As Dave Barry says, no, I am not making this up. “Safe haven” laws are designed to destroy kids’ identities in order to fast-track them into the adoption market.

Please go read BLC’s analysis. Here’s what she has to say (from her blog posts on the Nebraska situation):

There is no ‘fixing’ these laws. Even should it be modified to apply only to “newborns” (define and prove that one…) or kids in ‘imminent danger’ (again proving that one will be no end of tricky) it will STILL deny infants their identity, circumvent all best practices in child welfare and adoption, and create a class of kids relinquished in a ‘paperfree’ manner.

After all, how can one have open records when there are no records to get?

(Now these boys [the tweens/teens dumped in Nebraska] being less than desirable adoption fodder, what with being termed ‘unruly juveniles’ and all, odds are pretty slim they’d be finding a new adoptive home within the week. Young, cute, and perhaps less verbal dumplings on the other hand, are in high demand, with phone calls coming in wanting to adopt almost from the first mention on many local newscasts.)

[T]he unseen and often unvoiced full horror of the law is that it intentionally encourages legalizes child abandonment AND effectively works to short circuit the fundamental identity rights of adoptees.

Do you know why international adoption is so popular? Because it’s less likely that adoptive parents will have to deal with the birth family. And what’s happening right now? Foreign countries are closing their doors to U.S. prospective adopters, and the adoption reform movement is making strides in opening records. What to do? Create a domestic subset of legally relinquished, guaranteed tabula-rasa children prime for adoption. Presto! Restock the supply chain, reassure customers, get rid of the nay-sayers, and give the politicans good election-year campaign material, all at the same time. “Safe havens” are a safe bet, politically, because it’s for the children, and you’re not against helping children, are you?

As for the lack of paperwork, baby dump advocates call it “non-bureaucratic placement.” And ANY person who has custody of the kid can dump, no questions asked. One of the Nebraska tweens was legally abandoned by his aunt. Imagine this: somebody gets ticked at you, swipes your kid and dumps him/her at a “designated safe haven.” We all know (from the recent Texas “sect” case, and elsewhere) that once a kid is in the foster care system, it’s damn near impossible without money and influence to get that kid back. As a parent, your rights are now zero. And as an adoptee, that child-turned-adult’s rights will also be zero. They won’t have any sealed records to open because no records will exist. How convenient for adopters like these who refuse to acknowledge that adoptees had lives and families prior to adoption.

Baby dump laws should be repealed. They’re not about saving kids, they’re a new twist on perpetuating the same old secretive system. Adoption should be rare and as transparent as possible. If we really want to save kids, we must protect their rights until they are adults and able to speak for themselves.


  1. Well…BN and a host of other ethicist, theologians, child welfare and adoption experts have been saying this since the very first baby dump law was being debated.

    There are other reasons – worse reasons – to be against them -besides loss of identity. The fact that ANYONE can dump anyone else’s kid for starters!

    The fact that they do NOT solve the problem they were intended to solve. Mothers who are so frantic and in a state of denial and depression when giving birth that they commit infanticide – will NOT use such an option!! *ALL* have said so from day one.

    But just as with sealed records, all the experts were ignored and the baby broker industry – with their lobbyists – won out! (How unusual for the US to put profit before people!) More babies for sale!

    And now, they have been passed in EVERY state. Nebraska, the last to pass such an ill-conceived plan went way further than all the rest!

    Read: http://tinyurl.com/45ocry

  2. http://Anonymous says

    Please see the link >


    Many thanks.

  3. Excellent post.

    I’m always glad to see another add their voice to the demand for full repeal.

    I think it’s increasingly clear, many adoptees (or Bastards, such as myself) are voices of a particular expertise and sanity, opposing these disastrous dump laws.

    I will mention, I’m beginning to see some articles stating that the NE dump law may not automatically terminate all parental rights from the dump forward. Not being a legal analyst, I’m still trying to get a full grasp on exactly what the Nebraska law does and doesn’t do. I’ll continue to research further and see what I can come up with on that front.

    Otherwise, great post.

    As Nebraska seems likely to revisit the law in a vain attempt to ‘tweek’ it, let’s put the pressure on. There is no repair that can ever make dump bills good for kids. They cannot be fixed.

    In this rare moment of international attention on the dump laws, we must speak loudly and clearly, dumps laws are inherently not ‘good for kids’.

    (And naturally, many thanks for the link and quote.)

  4. Years ago when birth mothers would abandon their children at someone’s doorstep or at a place of business, it was a terrible thing. Now it is great for birth mothers or parents who have had their children with them for a few years to abandon them at a Safe Haven place. It is certainly teaching society that it is great to not accept responsibility. And who cares about the child growing up knowing that they were abandoned in that way. By this time they have probably been placed in an adoptive home and that is all that matters to the lawmakers in the states with closed records. That is where it all stops in their opinion – it does not matter that the adult child would like to know their origins.

  5. By way of the further research I promised,

    Nebraska DHHS has a statement (dated yesterday) up on their website attempting to clarify the issue-

    “The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is letting Nebraskans know that leaving a child at a hospital does not terminate parental rights.”

    Follow the link to read the statement in its entirety.

    For what that’s worth.

  6. http://Anonymous says

    My own Myspace blog on this issue:

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    Murphy’s Law and the LOUTC…
    Current mood: aroused
    Category: News and Politics

    There is a subset of Murphy’s Law (Whatever can go wrong WILL go wrong) known as the Law of Unintended Consequences. Nebraska just proved it.



    Nebraska was the last State in the US to pass a Safe Haven Law. These have been very popular; the idea being that instead of a pregnant teen or unwed mother choosing abortion or dropping her infant in the nearest Dumpster (or the high school restroom) she could drop it off at a police station, fire station or hospital with no questions asked and not be charged with abandonment or endangering a child’s welfare – essentially she could escape all responsibility.

    Right to Life groups urged these laws, as a way to reduce abortion. I don’t consider myself anti-life; but to me, if you’re pro-life then for pity’s sake BE CONSISTENT! Oppose the death penalty, and especially treasure life AFTER birth as well as before. Which means supporting children and families with health care and some level of support that allows living in human dignity, not degradation. But so many times RTL support stops at birth.

    Which brings us to Nebraska. I enjoyed studying symbolic logic in my salad days, and one method of proof I recall learning was RAA – Reductio Ad Absurdum. In order to prove a syllogism, you take its opposite and carry it to its logical conclusion; if that conclusion is false (or absurd) then since the contrary is false, the syllogism must be true. Granted, it’s not the most elegant proof but sometimes it’s the only method.

    Nebraska, after many debates, finally passed a very short law. What this law says is that no adult may be prosecuted for abandonment, endangerment or neglect (except for abuse or malnourishment) if they bring a child to a hospital. Problem is that Nebraska defines a child as anyone under 19. Note it doesn’t even have to be the child’s parent!

    In the months since the law went into effect, about half the children abandoned have been teenagers. This week a widowed father brought in 9 of his 10 children, ages 1 to 17, and dumped them. Parents, guardians, aunts and grandparents have been solving their own problems at their children’s expense. Thus the Law of Unintended Consequences rears its ugly little head.

    Of course, the State of Nebraska now realizes that it will be more expensive to place these children in foster or institutional care than simply providing support to families in distress. But you reap what you sow.

    I believe the entire premise is wrong. RAA, remember? THIS is the result of being so intent upon saving babies – and not providing family services – that children get hurt. If a law produces this result, I believe its entire basis is mistaken as well as the rationale it represents. No-fault abandonment is not a solution.

    The source of my anger is this; either as a nation, a society, we value children or we don’t. I understand the distress that unwed mothers are under when society looks down their noses at them, when family and friends, the very people who should be supportive and excited about this new life, turn away in judgement and leave them only bad alternatives. Abort, surrender, or see your life’s plans go down the drain by becoming a single mother – which is the least bad choice? I am fortunate that I have never had to face that choice – though my birth mother did – and I have only sympathy, not judgement, for those who do.

    But this law is frightening. Like laws permitting assisted suicide, this says that unborn life is more important than born life. Instead of insisting that the responsibility of bringing new life into the world is primary, of insisting that every child deserves to be raised by loving parents, this says it is OK to have a child with no idea of his or her parentage, heritage, medical history, or where they fit into the world. Adopting an infant with no name or identity is going to lead to issues. The law does not even require the “donor” to identify themselves! DNA testing someday may be their only hope of finding medical or social history.

    I hate the term “slippery slope.” But this is one; now that we have legislated away parental responsibility, we have made it acceptable to abandon children “no fault.” Yes, the law was intended to benefit infants – every other state limits anonymous abandonment to a year or less. But the principle is the same, and at least Nebraska unknowingly recognizes that infants don’t stay that way; they become children, teenagers, and adults. Even where states only allow infant abandonment, it is STILL ABANDONMENT and for society to sanction it is simply a violation of all humanity. In order to prevent a few abortions, do we sacrifice the quality of life for many children? This, friends, is a classical moral dilemna with losers either way.

    Once upon a time I journalled that this country needs a Children’s Bill of Rights. What I am seeing instead is a culture of “adults” who place their own needs, their own desires to “move on” from their mistakes, above the responsibilities we once assumed willingly and held sacred. The human mind is capable of rationalizing almost anything in order to avoid pain and seek pleasure. What we demonstrate by our actions, by our democratic adoption of laws such as this, is that adult happiness comes before children’s.

    There HAS to be a better solution. Surrender and adoption are not a perfect solution to the problem of unwanted children. But it’s a better solution than the Nebraska one…

  7. You know, I think the only REAL reason these Safe Haven Program drafters and the Adoption Industry want Safe Haven Laws/Programs is so the babies who might be left in a dumpster won’t die so THEY won’t lose a product. One dead baby=a ton of money lost. They don’t give a damn about the future welfare of an infant left at a firestation, because if they did, they would want that baby and ALL Adopted children and adults to have the psychological peace we WOULD have if we had same right as Non Adopted people to know our heritage. Safe Haven Programs are just another sleezy way to ensure sales. I think I am going to write a blog about this..and this blog 73 was great.

  8. This sad outcome was not unanticipated. Adoption reform activists around the nation, who have long viewed ALL “so-called” safe-haven” laws as lacking in
    foresight and basic humanity, predicted this poorly drafted law basically allowed any and all parents to simply opt out! We would never make divorce or loan repayment so simple but, reponsibility for minor children can be abdicated with no sweat. Why?

    Proponents of safe-haven laws, most of whom are dependent on adoption for their livelihood, advocate allowing overwhelmed relatives (not just parents)to drop off children (the age limit varies) without submitting any
    information, not their name, not the child’s medical background, nothing!

    Their reasoning is that safe-haven laws will prevent unwed mothers from abandoning their infants in unsafe conditions or committing infanticide. They are approaching unplanned pregnancies in a manner similar to going after mosquitoes with a Gattling gun instead of a fly swatter.

    And, unfortunately, infanticide continues in states with safe-haven laws and there are no studies that show the safe-haven laws in place have altered the frequency with which this occurs. The reason for this is quite simple. The combination of circumstances that prompts a woman (or perhaps a girl) to abandon her infant in an unsafe situation arise out of trauma and an inability to reason clearly caused by the pregnancy itself. Women who
    conclude that they cannot rear the child they have borne can make an
    adoption plan — a much safer option for the child and the mother.

    Safe-haven laws are nothing more than feel-good, pat-ourselves-on-the-back substitutes for a solution of the problems of ineffective sex education, promiscuity, date rape, incest and other causes of unplanned pregnancy. Notice, I said substitute. Safe-haven is NOT a solution.

    Children, whether infants or unruly teenagers, are not problems to be solved in such a cavalier fashion. They may present problems but these can often be solved with love, adequate care and parenting, either from their biological parents or someone else willing and able to assume the duty. Children are our future and we owe them nothing less.