OMAHA, Neb. – An Iowa teenager who was abandoned at an Omaha hospital under Nebraska's safe-haven law is back home, in part because the grandparents who dropped her off soon changed their minds, a county official said Thursday.
The 14-year-old girl from across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was left at Creighton University Medical Center on Tuesday. She was the 17th child left under a state law that took effect in July but was the first from out of state.
Her abandonment set off concerns that Nebraska's broadly written law could make the state a dumping ground for unwanted children. The law absolves anyone of abandonment charges for leaving a child of any age at a state-licensed hospital. It doesn't, however, overlook other possible charges, including if a child had been neglected or abused.
Brenda Beadle, a chief deputy in the Douglas County attorney's office in Nebraska, said a child protection case would not be filed in the 14-year-old's abandonment because it didn't seem appropriate.
Beadle said she believed the girl was adopted by her grandparents. She declined to discuss the circumstances in which the girl was left at the hospital, saying only that it stemmed from a "supervision issue."
The prosecutor's decision was made in part because the grandparents wanted the girl back, Beadle said. But factoring in were assurances that the grandparents had the help they needed to safely welcome the girl back.
"Given that family lives in Iowa and had resources in place, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do," Beadle said.
The Iowa Department of Human Services will follow up as needed, she said.
Officials with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services have stressed that the safe-haven law should be used for children in immediate danger only.
State officials have said parents and caregivers need to understand that abandonment starts a judicial process and that parents who change their minds may find it difficult to regain custody.
Officials have encouraged parents to seek other resources before resorting to abandonment. They've urged desperate parents to ask for help from family, faith-based groups and other community services before abandoning their children at hospitals.