What About Oklahoma's Safe Haven Law?

Thursday, November 6th 2008, 5:57 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Dozens of people are choosing to abandon their children in Nebraska.  So far, 27 kids have been left since the state's Safe Haven Law went into effect in July.  That has some viewers wondering about Oklahoma's abandonment laws.

Oklahoma has had a Safe Haven Law since 2001.  Parents can drop off newborns, up to a week old, without fear of prosecution.  But after that, they will face charges.

Stories have abounded of parents driving across the country to ditch their kids in Nebraska.  This year, Nebraska became the last state in the country to enact a so-called safe-haven law.

But, unlike other states, no age limit was imposed.  Kids under 18 can be dropped off at hospitals, and parents can't be prosecuted.

"We are seeing the same situation as Nebraska is, but it's not tied to that law," said James Walker with Tulsa Youth Services. "It's always startling, even now."

James Walker of Tulsa Youth Services says several kids are dumped in his doorway each year.

Unlike Nebraska, parents who abandon their children can face serious consequences.  In Oklahoma, those with kids seven days old or younger can claim safe-haven.

The law was enacted in 2001 after several babies were abandoned in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.  But, the age limit has not stopped neglected kids from showing up at Tulsa Youth Services.

If the economy continues to go south, Walker expects more unexpected arrivals.

"If the family is struggling already with their teenagers, they become somewhat, can become the brunt of that stress," said James Walker with Tulsa Youth Services.

Meanwhile, the Nebraska Legislature has called a special session to address the age issue.  State lawmakers have said they plan to limit the age of children to three days.