Babies Do Remember: Repeal “Safe Haven” Laws

See my Adoption BEWareness Month blog for details on my November mission: exposing the things people don’t want to admit about adoption.

Before we begin, please read both Bastardette’s and Baby Love Child’s ongoing coverage of the Nebraska crisis and “safe haven” laws. They have done an excellent job of sorting through the chaff to find the real nuggets of truth in this crisis.

Later this week, Nebraska plans to age down their “safe haven” law, which has been used to dump at least 30 kids (not infants), some across state lines, some who were adopted and whose adoptive parents couldn’t “handle” it anymore. All trashed like unwanted toasters in their time of need.

Aging down safe haven laws does NOT make them right.

The argument behind limiting Nebraska’s law to newborns is the same as the thinking in other states, as expressed by Nebraska’s Governor:

The Nebraska law has had “serious, unintended consequences,” Gov. Dave Heineman said. “This law needs to be changed to focus on infants.”

And “safe haven” advocate/nutter Tim Jaccard is quoted as saying:

A national expert on safe-haven laws commended Nebraska officials for moving to impose an age limit, but he said action should be taken now to prevent older children from receiving the scars of abandonment.

“It affects children,” said Tim Jaccard, president of the National Safe Haven Alliance. “When children are older they have the ability to understand what’s going on and they’re thinking, ‘Mommy and Daddy don’t want me anymore, so they’re throwing me in a hospital.’ That’s a psychological blow.”

And it’s not for a baby? Somehow, we are still living with the myth that “infants don’t remember.”

Thirty-odd years ago, I was a Healthy White Infant whose mother made what today would be called an “adoption plan.” She sought out a kind doctor who gladly helped her through her pregnancy and birth. (Gladly, I’m sure, for whatever my adoptive parents paid for my gray-market self.) The assumption was, since I was adopted at birth, I would not remember.

The hell I don’t.

My entire life has been overshadowed by the trauma that I experienced when I was an infant. I missed my mother desperately as a child (still do), although I was repeatedly told I didn’t remember her. But my adoptive mother smelled wrong. She acted in ways I couldn’t fathom, and vice versa. My adoptive father said at my christening that “oil and water don’t mix.” I was a month old; presumably I was acting in a way contradictory to good little tabula rasa infants, like pushing away and crying. Nobody bothered to consider that I might have been traumatized by being adopted. Today, I still suffer the consequences.

So do my children. They’re biological, so I know from personal experience what being pregnant is like and the communication that exists pre-birth. My kids and I definitely knew each other at birth–why wouldn’t we? We had been intimately linked for nine months. As newborns, my children could discern me, their mother, from other people. They knew my scent and my voice. If they had been taken from me they damn well would have borne the scars of it. And they, too, have been deprived of their family origins because they have the unfortunate luck to be the offspring of a Bastard.

Adoption is not a one-time event, it has lifelong, generational consequences. So does being abandoned in the name of “safe haven” laws.

There is so much scientific research today about newborns, yet “safe haven” advocates and sealed-records supporters would have you believe that infants don’t remember. I find particularly disturbing the dichotomy between the new-parent materials I received when pregnant (“Play Mozart in the womb for mathematical prowess!”), what I was told as an adoptee (“You were too young to know the difference”), and what we are being told now about safe haven laws (“If they’re babies they won’t feel abandoned”).

Pushing back the age limit on “safe haven” laws does nothing other than render mute those who are most affected by it. Eighteen years will pass before “safe havened” infants can speak their minds. Speaking as someone who quite easily could have been “safe havened” had such laws existed when I was born, I can tell you that abandonment at any age is trauma with no cure.

But why don’t you ask those “safe havened” kids themselves, the ones who are old enough to voice an immediate opinion? One of them posted this on his MySpace page:

**choose me** Im so damn lonley.

We must protect the children who cannot speak for themselves, or whose words are disregarded. Repeal “safe haven” laws!


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  2. First, let me say I was adopted at 8 months old and have absolutely no memory of anything before that. No matter what your personal experience has been, safe haven laws do protect infants from being killed. Being left at a hospital, firehouse, police station, etc. is infinitely better than winding up dead in a dumpster. I praise the courageous lawmakers who have passed laws like this in strong opposition to the pro-choice culture of death that exists in this country.

  3. First, let me make something abundantly clear. I am pro-choice, and this is a blog about the rights of adult adoptees. If you want to post your opinion that abortion is wrong or that safe havens are good… go elsewhere.

    That being said, I did go ahead and put through the comments I have received so far even though some of them say exactly that.

    Because whenever I hear adoptees say they’re glad they weren’t aborted and are grateful to have been adopted, it always seems like a knee-jerk reaction. No child wants to be taken from his or her mother, no matter what kind of person she might be. Adoption is not the answer. Supporting mothers and families is.

    I was born a week after Roe v. Wade. I am keenly aware of that legislation’s impact on my life and one thing I am actually grateful for, as an adoptee, is that my kids will have a choice.

    Safe havens are NOT about saving kids from dumpsters or toilets. These children were NEVER IN DANGER. That is a lie perpetuated by the safe haven advocates, many of whom are also sealed records advocates. Go back and read Baby Love Child’s and Bastardette’s blogs, please. They have done a far better job than I could correlating the ties between the adoption industry, safe haven advocates, and the right-to-life movement.

    “Safe havens” are about curtailing the usually lengthy process of parental rights termination, so that adoptive parents don’t have to worry about the dreaded Return Of The Stereotypical Birth Parent (coming soon to theaters near you!). In the process it also severs the adoptee’s ties to their birth family in such a way that they can never be traced. All the better to obtain those Healthy White Infants that are so marketable, and the kids who fall by the wayside? Well, you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelette.

    “Safe haven” laws should be repealed and replaced by true support structures for children and the families upon which they depend. Legalized child abandonment is not a solution, it’s sweeping the problem (and the kids) under the rug.

    Improper – my adoptive parents used knowledge of my identity as a weapon too. That is yet another reason why control of that information should be returned to the adoptee upon reaching adulthood.

  4. Yipee I embody:

    “the dreaded Return Of The Stereotypical Birth parent.”

    But I am not “Stereotypical” -whatever that means.

    My son told me after 38 years apart that when he first heard my voice he knew that he had always loved me.

    THAT trumps all.

    PS: The adoptive parents are threatened by my success in life. Go figure.

  5. http://Anonymous says

    Babies remember. The mother who raised me (really my sister-in-law, but I didn’t know it then) thought it was “ridiculous” when she saw mothers talking to their babies in their carriages as they walked down the street; she said babies didn’t understand!!! Gives you some idea of what my relationship with her was like! My personal memory goes back to two years old at least. I remember my first Chritmas gift and now know it came from my “real” grandmother – long story how I found that out. Safe Haven Laws may have been started with good motives, to stop dumpster babies, but have turned sour. Clearly supporting families and mothers to keep their children with them is the way to go. Money/support needs to go that direction. Clear to me anyway. In some situations kids need to live in another setting while keeping contact with birth family getting professional parenting help. I didn’t know as a kid my “parents” were not my birth parents. Both had died before I turned 2. But intuitively I got I didn’t quite fit in that family. One of my childhood fantasies was to run an orphanage! I played “orphanage” with my dolls! It was a wonderful place to be in my fantasies and I thought about it at night before I went to bed – it was a great place to be!

  6. Jason, when men get pregnant, then I think they can have a say in what a single, independent woman chooses to do. But, until then, you and other men are talking about something which you will never experience. Is it that control thing, hmmmm?