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Nine Children From One Family Abandoned at Safe Haven

OMAHA, Neb. -- The mother of nine kids left at an emergency room in Creighton University Medical Center died from a brain aneurysm 17 months ago, days after delivering the youngest child.

The father, Gary Staton, dropped off the kids Wednesday night at 8 p.m., officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said.

"I was with her for 17 years, and then she was gone. What was I going to do?" Staton said. "We raised them together. I didn't think I could do it alone. I fell apart. I couldn't take care of them."

Staton said he was overwhelmed by his family responsibilities and had to quit his job. He said he couldn't pay the rent or utilities.

"I was able to get the kids to a safe place before they were homeless," he said.

He said he made the final decision Wednesday to take the children to Creighton University Medical Center. He said he handed a woman there the birth certificates and said he was there to surrender his kids.

"I hope they know I love them," he said. "I hope their future is better without me around them."

Past History

Staton and his wife were cited in 2004 for child neglect. An article in a North High School newspaper quoted Staton's oldest daughter as saying she graduated at 16, in part to care for her younger siblings.

"I was always feeding kids, checking homework and sending kids to bed," Amoria Micek was quoted in the paper as saying. "I just don't have anyone backing me up any more."

The state's Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that an 15-year-old boy was taken to Immanuel Hospital at 5 p.m. and an 11-year-old boy was taken to the same hospital at 8:30 p.m.

One of the boys was placed in foster care and the other is still at the hospital undergoing evaluation.

The case brings the total number of children left at Omaha hospitals during the past 24 hours to 11.

Staton will not be charged because of Nebraska's new Safe Haven law, which states any child under the age of 19 can be left at a hospital if they're in immediate danger.

The two additional cases are the fifth and sixth tests of the state's Safe Haven.

Before Wednesday, children ages 11, 13, and 15 were dropped off at hospitals since the law was implemented in July.

State May Revisit Safe Haven Law

Nebraska lawmakers said they may need to clarify the law, which was intended to protect newborn children, if a parent is overwhelmed.

Sound off on the Safe Haven Law in our forum

Further, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman called for an amendment to the state's Safe Haven law Thursday, saying lawmakers likely wrote the bill too broad of a stroke.

"I'm absolutely surprised. When this bill was being discussed in the legislature, we had the discussion that this was going to be about young children and when they were in immediate danger," Heineman said at an opening for an early childhood care center in Millard. "Like the rest of the country, we wanted to be there to help. Unfortunately they wrote the language too broad. We now need to amend that to change that."

Heineman urged parents to take advantage of area nonprofits instead of abandoning children at hospitals.

"I want to continue to encourage parents to really think twice before you leave your kids at a hospital, unless they're in danger," he said.

Department of Health and Human Services Reacts

Nebraska's Safe Haven law was not intended for those having difficulty parenting defiant and unruly youths, according to the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

Thus, they may still be charged.

"There seems to be a misconception that when a child is dropped off at a hospital, the parents are absolved of responsibility. That couldn't be further from the truth," said Toddy Landry, director of the Division of Children and Family Services in Department of Health and Human Services.

Landry said in a press release Thursday that the courts will get involved in the lives of families who drop off children.

He said courts are likely to require parents and guardians to participate in parenting classes, family therapy, conflict resolution or other services and may order child support payments while they are in state custody.

"I am very concerned about the situations we've seen so far. I empathize with parents who aren't sure where to turn, but I want to encourage those families to use other options before taking the drastic step of abandoning a child," Landry said in the release.

Other options include community support groups, crisis hot lines, treatment centers or other services. Faith-based community services can also be a source of support, Landry said.

"Get the help before you get so desperate to where you drop off your kids at the hospital," said April Blevins, of Lutheran Family Services.

United Way Offers Alternatives To Child Abandonment

The United Way of the Midland's Kathy O'Hara suggests that parents call the 211 hot line where trained specialists will identify the appropriate resources for the caller, which may include:

* Counseling: More than 24 agencies in Omaha that counsel youth and families dealing with drug abuse, domestic and sexual abuse and other issues.
* Parenting Classes: More than a dozen are offered in Omaha
* Crisis Shelters: Age requirements are often guidelines at these shelters.
* parenting Helplines
* parent Support groups
* Residential facilities: Placing a child into a residential facility can be complicated due to waiting lists and legal issues.

As a last resort, law enforcement can be contacted.

"It's important to recognize the potential trauma abandonment can cause for children of all ages," Landry said. "For the benefit of the child, it's important that LB 157 only be used when the child is in immediate danger of being harmed."

Posted by: Puchiko
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Posted in: News by NewsBot on September 26, 2008 @ 12:00 AM



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