In today’s high-pressure parenting world where we’re all striving to be the best we can be, it’s almost unthinkable that a mother would drop her kids off at a fire station — but it’s still happening. One Texas mother allegedly left her two young sons at a local fire station after their father abandoned the family, saying she couldn’t take care of the children on her own.
Texas authorities are now looking for the relatives of the 9-month-old and 2-year-old boys who were left at a Houston fire station on Monday, over Labor Day weekend. The boys were reportedly surrendered at the fire station by their mother after their father told her that he didn’t want children anymore. After telling firefighters she could no longer care for her children, the mother was not allowed to take her kids with her because of her mental and emotional state. The children were cared for by the firefighters and have since been placed in foster care.
This case of abandonment is of particular interest because of the safe haven laws in Texas. Also called the Baby Moses Laws, Texas Safe Haven Laws permit parents to leave babies 2 months old or younger at a local fire station, hospital or EMS station without penalty. Since these boys have passed the Baby Moses age limit, there is a possibility their mother could face charges for giving them up.
As a parent, it’s easy to read a story like this and feel your heart break into a hundred pieces. But before we react and condemn this mother for being so quick to give up her kids, let’s take a moment to think about where she was really coming from.
She felt like she had no other choice.
This mother’s decision may be tough for many of us to understand, but it’s a welcome alternative to many of the more disturbing stories we read in the news every day: Mothers and fathers abusing, neglecting and even killing their children because they are overwhelmed, mentally ill or simply incapable of being a parent at that stage in their life. This mother admitted defeat, and she took her kids to a safe location. We can’t punish her for that.
We can think more about how she got there — and what led this mother to feel so desperate and so alone that she was willing to give up her family. It’s safe to assume she didn’t have any outside support to help raise her children, after she was abandoned by the partner she was depending on for financial and emotional support. In her thinking, this left her with no other choice but to give up the children she could no longer provide for. But this doesn’t have to be the case for every mother who has run out of options.
Although most safe haven laws are similar to Texas in that they don’t extend much past the newborn stage, organizations exist specifically for this purpose, to help single mothers get back on their feet. Non-profits like Extended Family provide financial assistance to single parents and their children, in the form of housing, transportation, food, clothing, education and medical expenses. Charities like the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities in all states offer rental assistance to single mothers and their children to prevent homelessness and child abandonment. Feeding America gives food to families through local food banks. There are also single parent support networks designed to provide single parents with resources and a sense of community so that they feel less alone.
This mother’s actions may seem drastic, but her story isn’t at all unique. If you’ve never felt panic rise in your throat because you have no idea how you’re going to provide for your children for another day, thank your lucky stars — and make a donation or find a support program to plug into. Instead of blaming a mother for running up the white flag, we can support struggling parents so this doesn’t happen again.