More states turn attention to abandoned-baby deaths

Lawmakers in Delaware are considering legislation that would allow parents to drop off their babies at a hospital emergency room without the threat of abandonment charges.

The issue has gained attention in recent months as lawmakers in several other states, including Alabama, Minnesota, Georgia, and Texas, are either considering or have adopted similar laws.

Delaware has had several high-profile cases of abandoned newborns, some of whom have died. New Jersey teenagers Brian Peterson and Amy Grossberg were accused of killing their baby in November 1996, after he was delivered in a Newark motel room. The two served prison time for the death of the child.

Then earlier this week, a construction worker found the body of an infant on the floor of a portable toilet in Bear, Del.

State Rep. Nancy Wagner says her bill would give custody of the newborns to the state Division of Family Services.

The notion is a good one, says Lydia Durbin, program manager for foster care and adoption services at Children and Family First, a private nonprofit agency.

But Ms. Durbin questioned whether it will matter to mothers who are likely to have their children at home, in motels, or anywhere else besides a hospital. She said the shame and fear that kept the mother from going to the hospital to give birth will likely keep her from going to the hospital to drop off her baby.

"The women are doing what seems to the onlooker to be totally irrational, irresponsible, and crazy," Durbin says. "But for that woman, in her desperation, there doesn't seem to be any other way."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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