Thursday, November 30, 2006
Are Safe Havens Safe?
A Mother's Choice
Do laws that let women abandon their infants protect babies or encourage parents to desert them?
By JENINNE LEE-ST. JOHN
The baby now named Tessa Leavitt was born in a motel bathtub on the night of June 18, 2005. Her mother cleaned her, breast-fed her and cut the umbilical cord herself. The next day, the young Hispanic woman swaddled the infant in a white towel and took her to Fire Station 15 in Whittier, Calif., where she rang the doorbell and told the firefighters, "I want to give up my baby." When the paramedics arrived 30 minutes later, she put the child on their gurney and left. "It was eerie," recalls firefighter Kevin Cull. "The ambulance went off in one direction, and she just crossed the street and walked off in the other direction."
Tessa's birth mom gave up her child under California's Safely Surrendered Baby Law, which lets parents avoid prosecution for abandoning their newborns if they leave the infants with staff members of emergency rooms or other approved places, including fire stations. Since 1999, 47 states have adopted similar laws permitting children to be relinquished, with age limits ranging from 3 days old in 16 states to 1 year in Missouri and North Dakota. In California the baby must be under 72 hours old, but a bill recently passed by the legislature would extend the deadline to 30 days. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not stated a position on the measure, has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto it. The longer grace period has renewed debate over whether such leniency actually protects children or encourages parents to desert them.
The record doesn't help answer that question. Since 2001, when California enacted its safe-haven law, more than 150 newborns there have been surrendered safely, but at least 160 have been illegally abandoned. The experience has been similar in other states. In the five years before 2001, when North Carolina began allowing the surrender of infants up to a week old, there were 10 known cases of babies who were illegally abandoned and died. From 2001 to '04, nine infants were illegally abandoned and died, while five or six were given up under the safe-haven law. Illinois, which this summer extended its safe-surrender deadline from three days to seven, has had 27 official relinquishments since 2001, but 44 babies were simply abandoned, 20 of whom died.
Opponents of safe-haven laws say these statistics prove the statutes don't work and may even increase the numbers of children who are given away. "These laws are persuading women who wouldn't have abandoned their babies in any form to do so," says Adam Pertman of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Even some people who favor legal surrender of newborns are uncomfortable with expanding the law's reach to month-old babies. Los Angeles County board supervisor Don Knabe has lobbied Schwarzenegger to leave California's three-day law intact. He says pushing parents to make an early decision ensures that unwanted infants get the care and medical attention they need, and dissuades parents from abusing a baby and then waiting for the bruises to fade before giving up the infant. "If someone waits 30 days to surrender a baby, there is no way to determine if that baby suffered any harm during that time," he says.
But advocates for longer amnesty periods say it's important to provide an alternative for parents who try to keep their newborns but become dangerously overwhelmed. "If the baby's being abused, don't we want to save that baby too?" says Dawn Geras of Save Abandoned Babies in Chicago. Alberto Torrico, the state assemblyman who sponsored California's 30-day extension, and Donne Trotter, a state senator who pushed the later deadline in Illinois, agree. They argue that parents should have time to decide if they are fit. "The reality of raising a baby really dawns on you once you get it home," Torrico says.
Still, the main impetus for drafting surrender statutes was dealing with brand-new moms who would not hesitate to leave their babies in Dumpsters. "They don't look at the baby as a human being," says Debbe Magnusen, founder of Project Cuddle, a national hotline to rescue unwanted babies, who has helped mothers ranging in age from their teens to their 30s. "It's a tumor or an object or a problem." Spreading the word about the existence of surrender laws has been hard. The details of California's are supposed to be taught in sex-ed classes and publicly advertised. But with no state funding available, it's up to local governments and private foundations like Magnusen's to promote the law.
Somehow Tessa's birth mother found out about it. And giving up her baby gave the child a chance at a good life, at least in the eyes of Donna Leavitt, who with her husband Rob ended up adopting the girl: "I can't help but think that the safe-surrender sign at the fire station helped lead Tessa to us." The Leavitts would love for their daughter to meet her birth mom. But in most cases that is unlikely, since the law allows surrendering parents to be anonymous. "Many of these mothers do not like their babies," says Magnusen. "We're not asking them to love the baby, just not to kill it." In California, they may soon have more time to make that decision.
With reporting by reporting by Stacie Stukin/Los Angeles
Copyright Â© 2006 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
"Perhaps Tess’s mother might have offered to give her baby a way of obtaining medical information had she simply been asked if she chose to. Perhaps she might have opted to place her child through an adoption agency and even have an open adoption if she received any information that such an option existed for her. Perhaps, all she needed was someone to talk to her and ask her why she was choosing to do this and if she needed any help. Instead she was left to walk away.
"When people are found in the process of jumping off a bridge, they are not simply allowed to take their lives in a moment of extreme stress or depression. When they are talked down, they are not left to simply walk away. They are taken to a hospital for help. So-called safe havens are not providing a safe, morally acceptable solution for mothers, who in a state of— perhaps temporary—desperation who bring their babies there or elsewhere. Many experts agree with Pertman’s assessment that: “These laws are persuading women who wouldn’t have abandoned their babies in any form to do so” and the statistics support his claim." Quoted from "The Stork Market by Mirah Riben (in print) see http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
67 to One
Judge Approves Challenge to Madonna Adoption
Madonna's adoption of a baby David Banda can be legally challenged, a judge in Malawi ruled.
A coalition of 67 human rights groups filed a petition after Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie were awarded 18-month interim custody and allowed to take 1-year-old David out of the country.
Activists pointed out intra-country adoptions are not allowed in Malawi and argued the Malawian government "fast-tracked" the adoption. They want involvement in an assessment of Madonna's fitness as a mother.
At a court in the capital Lilongwe, Judge Andrew Nyirenda ruled that the groups can pursue an application for a full review of the custody order.
He said, "The applications from both applicants are accordingly granted and they are both joined as amicus curiae."
Just think: Of all the kids in all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she had to pick this one.
Maybe we should send the human rights groups some footage of her "fitness"!!!
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
CHECK IT OUT!!!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Dedicated to Madonna...
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed
With a word she can get what she came for...
There's a feeling [David might] get when [he] looks to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking...
And it makes me wonder...
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Mother Wants Abused Child Back
Dateline -- Tampa/Port St. Lucie
A local mother gave up her kids for adoption.. Now she wants them back after hearing the children were beat up.
The wife of a former Tampa Bay football player.
"Karl Williams" and his wife were in the process of adopting the three kids. Now those plans are on hold.
News 12's Gabriella Bruni joins us live from our Treasure Coast newsroom with reaction from the biological mom. Gaby?
Former Bucs wide receiver Karl Williams is not charged in this case...but his wife is behind bars in Texas tonight.
Karl Williams says in "this sworn statement" that he sometimes had to physically stop his wife from hitting the toddler...but other times, he admits, he did nothing. The child's biological mother lives here in Port St. Lucie... and wants her son back.
A young mother with a criminal past... Bonnie Schuler wanted to give her three children a good home.
"l knew they would have a better life with people who don't have children”
So she gave them up earlier this year, just as she was beginning to serve time for drugs. Her twin baby girls and her three year old son, Michael, went to live with former Tampa Bay Buccanneers star,
Karl Williams and his wife in Texas. But now, Schuler is regretting that decision, after learning that Vikki Williams was arrested and charged with child abuse.
"I've never, ever laid a finger on my children, and I never would expect anyone else to do anything like that to them."
Police in Texas got an anonymous tip and went to the Williams' home last week. They say they found a bruised and beaten little Michael, who the Williams' called Jalen, and sent him to a hospital. Medical reports indicate that the toddler had a skull fracture, cuts on his face, and was walking with a limp.
The findings shock Schuler, who says that Vikki Williams seemed like a fit parent.
"I only got to meet her twice. I knew she was a school teachers and stuff, but you never know these days."
Schuler says the children belong with her.
"That's Michael with his daddy, when we just moved to FL."
Recently released from prison, she's engaged to little Michael's father and the couple plan on moving into a larger place in Port St Lucie... A home where they would like to raise their children.
"I just want him back, safe with me, and happy, where he can forget about this. I never wanted anything like this to happen to my child.”
Vicki Williams told police that Michael got the bruises from falling off a trampoline. But she admits to hitting the boy, when she says he misbehaved. She also told police that she did not want Michael anymore, and planned on returning him to the adoption agency.
The adoption agency says as the kids' biological mom, Bonnie Schuler, has a good shot to get her kids back.
Live in the Treasure Coast newsroom, GB, WPEC news 12
I know that some of you feel that this might not work. I am willing to give it a try. I also know that some of you might not like the way it's titled. If you could look past this please do. It is for a good cause.
It's worth a try - can't hurt...SIGB IT!