Health care professionals, including the professional nurse and the prenatal educator, are in a position to play a major role in public and professional education that leads to the prevention and management of newborn abandonment and latchkey children in this country. As infant abandonment and latchkey kids are still a present predicament in today’s society, nurses must be constantly vigilant and prepared in handling such events. Awareness of the present laws regarding newborn abandonment and “latchkey children” would be necessary in order to provide a high quality nursing care not only for these children but also for the mother and/or parents who have committed such acts.
Newborn Abandonment: Latchkey Kids
The exercise of newborn abandonment soon following delivery has continually been present in the community. Taking place in primordial and modern cultures, the reasons for infant desertion are diverse and reliant upon the social standards of a particular geographic area at a specified moment. Since the need to abandon a newborn never had any sponsor organization in the United States, such unwanted newborns have been deserted in a way leading to their demise. In addressing the problem, various states have approved refuge legislation to rescue the lives of abandoned infants. The directives characteristically identify a mother’s capability to leave her infant to a health care provider. On the other hand, disapproving feelings and a lack of exact data may delay a health care provider’s capability to perform a refuge law. In accordance with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, thirty two to thirty four newborns were discovered dumped every year from 1997-1999 (SABF, 2008).
As infant abandonment is still a present predicament in today’s society, nurses must be constantly vigilant and prepared in handling such event. There is a need for them to be equipped with the proper knowledge of what needs to be done when faced with such situation. Awareness of the present laws regarding newborn abandonment would be necessary in order to provide a high quality nursing care not only for the infant but also for the mother who has committed such act. Not only are they expected to know the legalities of the situation, they should also know what to do about it. Aside from being aware, they should also be ready to take the necessary action when confronted with the actual situation. Nurses not only provide care to the ones needing it, but should also be prepared to take matters into their hands on situations such as this.
The media progressively conveys occurrences of public desertion of infants, occasionally ensuing in neonatal casualties. These are commonly portrayed in news and other special reports, telling about abandoned babies found in certain areas, wherein the deserter is usually not identified. Despite the fact that these attempts have frequently happened, a new concern has moved forward to find out the motive why infant abandonment remain to be existent in the present civilization. This renewed interest has led to changes in social and health care policy, attitudinal changes of the general public, and legislation to address the issue. These changes were the initial steps taken by the concerned sectors in order to adapt to the situation. The society needs to cope with this rising problem, and this could only be done by imposing stricter rules and policies. Many of these policies, laws, and community sentiments affect nursing practice. Before preventive measures can be implemented, health care professionals need a better understanding of the reasons for which women choose to publicly abandon their newborns instead of selecting adoption or abortion. For sure, they have their own reasons for their actions, many of which we do not know, as the society is quick to judge about what is wrong or right. Until then, all providers must be able to manage a newborn abandonment situation whenever or wherever it occurs. A negative attitude about the women who commit this act and a lack of knowledge regarding the state’s existing “safe-haven” laws may impede the health care professional’s ability to provide sensitive and effective care within the context of the law. More problems arise afterwards, since the welfare of the abandoned child becomes a concern. The term used in a planned adoption is “relinquished” an infant. Legally, abandoned infants are those dropped off by an anonymous person who is not obligated to provide information but, at least, has chosen a place of abandonment where the infant will be safe.
Many health care professionals are innocent of or impartial in the changes that these refuge laws may convey. Some may be caught unaware, leading to inappropriate actions by these health care professionals. Though certain women may make use of officially approved safe-haven places for instance fire stations to lawfully desert their infants, it is expected that the majority of these women will abandon their children in the care of a professional health care provider. As much as possible, these health care providers should be the first consideration for those who are planning to abandon a newborn child, since they’re the ones equipped with the knowledge and skills to handle such a situation. Any care giver working on any hospital or operating on any division may be spoken to by a distressed lady in the parking area, lobby, front entrance, canteen, or some other open locations in the hospital. If this lady gives her newborn child to any health care worker and states the need to lawfully desert the child, the healthcare worker is accountable for handling the circumstances not considering the medical area of expertise, as well as education in newborn delivery. Again, there is the need for these professional health care providers to know the necessary steps in handling the situation. Even though statistics concerning the instances of child abandonment in the country are almost not possible to acquire, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approximates that over a hundred instances of communal infant abandonment transpire annually with about 3 percent of those newborns die (ABC News, 2000; Sussman, 2000).
Review of Literature
A descriptive study was planned to observe the manner and awareness of nurses in Texas, the foremost state to officially implement a safe place law. Self- awareness of the nurses’ capabilities to handle an infant abandonment incident was also evaluated. The reason of this study is to measure and take into account the present degree of understanding, established position, and self-awareness of readiness of these nurses responsible with implementing the state law when an infant is lawfully deserted. Proposal for the training of all healthcare workers, strengthening community consciousness, and the call for additional amendments in institutional and communal guidelines are also accessible.
Texas was the foremost state to ratify a safe-haven law to deal with the problem of infant abandonment. On September 1, 1999, the Texas law was implemented to offer a distraught woman with an accountability substitute to infant abandonment. This law is recognized with opening a nationwide interest group to attend to this concern and allows a lady willingly and secretly to entrust the care of her baby to an emergency health service worker. This will be done in all confidentiality, as long as the lady would be able to give justifications to her actions. Because of this, it is expected that the number of community desertion will increase a few moments after. Because of that, the Texas legislation was created in answer to a sudden increase of community desertion. Throughout the initial ten months of 1999, thirteen infants were deserted in the Houston community. The same circumstances took place in the Dallas neighborhood in 1997 when eleven infants were left alone by their mothers.
As said by news reports, thirty five other municipals have ratified the same laws ever since the fall of 1999 (Bernstein, 2001). Whilst every municipal law is distinct, the entire refuge laws include a number of significant doctrines. These comprise keeping secrecy of the birth mother, giving liberty from trial or an assenting protection, involving the child be safe in a declared period of time, and given that a sketch of the place to be regarded as a safe place in that municipal (Chagnon, 2001). Disparities in municipal laws or municipals without regulations were observed to cause difficulties in the problem when parents traverse state lines to desert their infant in a bordering state (Peter, 2002). This is because of the different laws being followed in different places, so in order for those who wish to desert a newborn, they have to go to other states wherein leaving a baby in the proper care is permitted.
On the other hand, a main predicament has been distinguished with the ratification of the latest safe place laws—nobody is aware. It is already there, it is already existent, but still only a few members of the population know about it. Information dissemination is needed in order for the people to know and be aware that there is a law regarding desertion of a newborn child. As said by a different broadsheet report, little resources have been allotted therefore makes it hard to notify women at possibility of deserting an infant or to teach health care workers about their responsibilities in this circumstances (Borucki, 2001). During 2001, the media gave an account that, in Indiana, a single lady lacking of health insurance birthed, unaided, on the flooring of her trailer. Afraid of the expensive rate of medical services, she did not seek any treatment. Her lover, nevertheless, did manage to call to the neighboring emergency room to ask regarding putting the child for adoption. The nurse he had a conversation with was unaware of the safe place law in the area or of her responsibility in implementing that law. The incorrect information the nurse provided the distressed parents made the mother to abandon her baby in a public area. The mother was afterward imprisoned for 42 months (Bernstein, 2001). This occurrence could have been avoided if both the parties knew about the safe place law, especially for the part of the nurse, who should’ve provided care not only for the infant but also for the mother. The woman got imprisoned on the grounds that she was unaware of the law regarding deserting her child.
A review of the literature exposed a lack of official researches dealing with infant abandonment and the healthcare workers responsibility in avoiding or supervising a circumstance where in a mother may be considering such actions. Both sides of the table are either misinformed or uninformed about the matter, which could have saved the lives of both mothers and the newborn babies. It is not clear who is responsible for this problem, but it is clear on what is lacking about the situation. It is about the information about the law that needs to be disseminated in order for it to be useful. Moreover, not much writing subsists in any regulation to support in the recognition of mothers with a possibility for such action. The research that exists regarding the issue can be accessed through nursing database under psychology and law. Press reports also offer subjective data on municipal laws and particular occurrences of abandonment.
Infant desertion is in general considered as appalling misconduct in present civilization, apparently absurd and opposing to individual integrity and compassion. The public has a one-sided perspective on the topic, which is always against the person who deserts the newborn child. The people who remain unaware about this law would always look at the mothers and simply judge them as criminals, without considering the reasons of these women on why they have to desert their newborn children. The instances of leaving behind children soon following childbirth has always been present (cited in Borucki, 2001). Although particular figures are not accessible, demographic researches give a somewhat consistent method to recognize societies where neonaticide presumably came about (Meyer ; Oberman, 2001). In a usual populace, one hundred baby boys are given birth to for every one hundred baby girls. Baby boys have a greater mortality rate because of poor health and abnormalities for the first year, thus generating a reasonably worldwide and constant 1:1 proportion of males to females in a populace after a year. While a group of people shows a gender proportion that deviates considerably from that standard, a configuration of neonaticide or infanticide is assumed (Kristof, 1991). There is not much evidence on this assumption, but it is likely possible to have happened.
Taking place in ancient and modern civilizations, the motives for infant abandonment are diverse (Meyer ; Oberman, 2001). Financial aspects are frequently considered as a causative reason to this incident and comprise indigence, population regulation, division formation, self-indulgence, revenue, and abuse of manual labor (Bloch, 1988). Even back in history, there have already been cases of desertion of the newborn, especially those who came from struggling families. Prejudiced environment and principles or values of cultural and national dominance furthermore take part in a mother’s decision when she is under an unplanned pregnancy and has inadequate choices accessible in handling the circumstances (Green, 1999). This usually leads to the decision of leaving the baby, to where, we really do not know, which is why it could have made a difference if they know about the safe place law so that they know where it is legal to leave behind a newborn child. Mental ailments and psychological unsteadiness also report for a part of the occurrences where infants are abandoned in public areas or rarely harmed or slaughtered (Oberman, 1996). Spiritual values, both in primeval period and in present day generation, offer an ethical foundation for individual act and form the pattern of what is suitable conduct in a certain civilization at a specific period in time (Rascovsky & Rogers, 1995). Several religious groups have rituals of offering an infants’ life, whereas others have prohibited abortion and massacre.
As a result of the variety of unanticipated incidents, it is hard to foresee the place and time abandonment will take place. No one is able to pinpoint when and where the mother would choose to leave a baby, as there are a lot of options where she could leave the newborn child. It is possible to pinpoint the mothers who would have the tendency to leave their newborn child behind, but when and where, is still unanswerable. Insufficient studies have concentrated on building a report of mothers at risk. One research reviewed the major threat aspects for modern infant abandonment and murder as motherly in cause and associated to age, schooling, and after-childbirth hang-ups, mixed emotions towards getting pregnant and emotional wellbeing (cited in Borucki, 2001). This observation is opposed by psychologists who have discovered the incident curtails athwart every societal, cultural, and financial stages (Hurst, 2000). Demographic assumptions are proposed to be an adjunct to culpability and do not deal with the domestic and public concerns concerning both males and females that may give to modern practices of infant desertion and murders of neonates in the country.
French psychologist Catherine Bonnet conversed with twenty two women respondents from 1987 and 1989 by means of a psychological analysis method in an effort to comprehend why females decide to get gain of French ruling allowing unknown, free childbirth expenses and instantaneous appointment of the newborn for adoption (cited in Borucki, 2001). The regulation gave these mothers with an option to infant abandonment and was they utilized instead of a intended adoption. The meetings exposed that the motivation following this alternative originated from dissent of being pregnant and dreams of violent behavior to the fetus frequently ensuing from mental and sexual ordeals undergone by the respondents during their youth. For that reason, these mothers hardly ever required prenatal check ups and did not went through the hospital before the delivery of the baby that was afterward left behind.
In the country of China, the rise in latchkey kids and murders of infants at some point in the eighties corresponded precisely with directive and enforcement of delivery preparation by the Chinese administration (Kristof, 1991). On research studied six hundred twenty-nine family units and discovered that the natural father in his middle age, of standard education and earnings, mainly frequently decide to leave the newborn child. Women who gave birth often conveyed emotive hurting and sorrow for the action, but had no choice or other alternatives in the paternal family. This is a cultural barrier which needs to be given great consideration. There are those who practice desertion of infants without considering whether they’ll be able to survive or not, or what environment would they grow up into. With this at hand, we can see that there are still gray areas which need to be fully addressed by the law regarding safe place desertion of newborn babies.
The earliest current legislation dealing with the concern of infant abandonment ensuing in the demise of the child was the British Infanticide Act of 1922 (Meyer & Oberman, 2001). The basis of this decree is the idea that a mother who performs this offense may do so due to the one-sidedness of her mentality having not completely gained health from the effects of childbirth (cited in Borucki, 2001). Over twenty distinct countries have implemented the same laws restraining the defendant’s responsibility for the offense of neonatal murder by placing the greatest offense with which she can be indicted as homicide, not massacre (Oberman, 1996). The United States has not established this ruling.
A given sample of twenty family units with working fathers and mothers and young children who go to neighborhood after-school activities was associated with an expediency sample of twenty family units with working fathers and mothers whose young kids did not go to the activity. The units were associated to study the correlation among family distinctiveness and manner to after-school activities and the utilization of these activities by family units with working parents. A family with a teenager is likely to have an effect on their choice to utilize the program. Additionally, even though an after-school activity was simply reachable in this neighborhood, sixty seven percent of kids who were not involved in the program go home following school. Moreover, twenty percent of the kids with an average of eight years old, who did not go to the program, go home, on their own or with younger brood. These results show significant connotations for community health and school nurses to discover modern ways in satisfying the requirements of a particular society at risk.
Each day thousands of kids come home after school hours without anyone to be with in their houses. Weekly, thousands of fathers and mothers decide to leave behind their kids unaccompanied at home as they go off to their jobs, do certain tasks, or for societal activities. It is projected that greater than forty percent of kids are home alone at some instance, although not often during the night (AACAP, 2004). In other extreme circumstances, a number of kids use a great deal of their time with no parents that these children are regarded “latch key kids”, denoting to the home or apartment key strung noticeably all over their collar (AACAP, 2004).
The film “Home Alone”, and its follow up movies, have shown a kid’s survival abilities in an extremely amusing, but unlikely way. Though comically portrayed for the purpose of entertainment, the movie was able to address the concern about these latch key kids. The reality is that there are a lot of these kids who experience this in every day of their lives, not only for the holidays which was portrayed in the movie. The realism confronting kids who are usually alone at home are out of the ordinary. There are a lot of concerns and possible threats that parents ought to regard prior to placing a youngster in these circumstances. This is a very dangerous situation to be into, considering the fact that these children are not old enough to defend themselves if situations have turned into problems which they have to handle.
According to American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2004), parents must regard the following: (a) child’s maturity, (b) meaning of house rules and expectations, (c) ways on reaching their parents in case of emergencies such as telephone numbers or addresses, (d) possible dangerous circumstances such as health emergencies, occurrences of fire, intoxication of drugs and alcohol, unexpected visitors, firearm; (e) time and manner of responding to a house visitor or phone calls, (f) usage of telephone for urgent situations, numbers to call such as 911, (g) making use of of the world wide web, (h) certain acquaintances and guests going in the house, (i) obligations for younger brothers and sisters, (j) utilization of free time such as watching television or playing video games, (k) access to “adult” type materials and media.
Unfortunately, discovering youngsters left at home unaccompanied has turned out to be a scourge in the country. Latchkey kids were formerly observed just amongst the minor classes, however the condition has progressively broadened to the middle and higher social status. Very similar is factual of youth violence. Formerly, gun down and killings were related mainly with inside metropolis, or poverty suffering neighborhoods pervaded with violent families and negligent schools. On the other hand in latest period, the adolescent hostility scourge has penetrated the social order at each financial rank. A boost in the cases of both parents at work and single-parent family unit, joined with a reduction in extended family units that one time assisted with child care, have been a factor to the increasing lines of latchkey children (Page, 2002).
Kids without any supervision at home, who has limited activities to get busy after-school hours, have been a worry of teachers and lawmakers for years. Once being unsupervised at home merge with other risk factors for instance drug addiction, physical or sexual exploitation, low self-respect or knowledge problems, the probability of reduced developmental result that turn into actions of anger can seriously intensify (Page, 2002). These problems could have been avoided, if parents are able to watch over their children. This is a crucial age for these youngsters, and these are the times which they need supervision and guidance from their guardians and parents. If they were left unattended, then it is really possible that they’ll lose direction in their lives. Several studies have revealed that teenagers from difficult upbringing or particularly complicated conditions, mainly latchkey kids, are further prone to display aggressive conduct as a means to convey their emotional uproar (Page, 2002). In an attempt to avoid these troubles, widespread study must to be made to establish the most effectual method to forward these individuals’ pessimistic sentiments and attitude to more helpful channels (Page, 2002).
Health care professionals, including the professional nurse and the perinatal educator, are in a position to play a major role in public and professional education that leads to the prevention and management of newborn abandonment in this country. It is a good time for continuing education programs. By impacting practice, meeting education needs for patients and communities, offering new opportunities for advocacy for women and children, and creating opportunities for research, the topic of newborn abandonment and the resulting safe-haven legislation have added another dimension for perinatal care. Although the abandoning mothers are not likely to have attended childbirth classes or even prenatal care, they and their infants can benefit from the advocacy role of the perinatal educator in the community.
It is essential for nurses and perinatal educators to keep abreast of current legislation in the state in which they reside and practice, keeping in mind that the rules may change when state lines are crossed. Institutional policies reflecting current state law must also be developed. While maternity units or perinatal education units might be responsible for drafting a policy to address this issue, all personnel of the health care agency should be informed and know what to do when a newborn is being abandoned (Cesario, 2001). Even though most laws indicate that the woman may remain anonymous, any birth information that can be obtained may be helpful in meeting the needs of the baby and providing aid in placing the infant with an adoptive family. A question from a sympathetic health provider—such as, “What family history might be helpful if this child has an illness later in life?”—might generate data that would otherwise be lost. Another solution might be handing the mother a card and saying, “Please call or write if there is family information you think of that might be helpful to your child.” In her likely heightened state of anxiety at the time of abandoning her child, the mother may not be able to provide helpful information; however, she may respond later if she recalls kindness from the recipient.
Health care professionals who are fully informed of safe-haven laws in their states are in strategic positions to create and promote programs and other community action plans designed to address this issue. Nurses and perinatal educators are trusted by their communities and, as such, become an advocate for women and newborns. Their input in drafting and reviewing proposed legislation is ideal. Further research is needed in this area to identify women at risk for abandoning their newborns and the underlying reasons prompting women to resort to this action.
The enactment of rudimentary legislation does not provide an end to the issue of the public abandonment of newborns—it is merely a beginning (Cesario, Kolbye, & Furgeson, 2002). Continued multidisciplinary efforts and increased community awareness are crucial to meeting the health care needs of women and newborns.
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