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by Abigail Van Buren

There's Got to Be a Way to Protect Unwanted Kids

DEAR ABBY: Why is there no place for people to safely leave unwanted children and babies? Shouldn't there be a law stating that a child left at a police station or hospital would be immediately available for adoption?

Abby, so many children need time, effort, prayer, money, and visible, vocal adults to help them. I'm referring to the many little ones who are abused, maimed, brutally tortured or left to die horribly alone every year. This happens often with unwanted, resented or hated children. The parents or other legal guardians feel there is no other way to get rid of them. The deaths are not always intentional, but the abuse is.

The stories haunt me: a baby girl, unwanted by both parents, whose burned body was left in a garbage dump in the desert; a well-dressed baby pulled out of San Francisco Bay; a newborn infant left beside an infrequently traveled road; another baby left in bushes near a playground. And a mother who buckled her children into car seats and rolled the car into a lake!

These are not predators who take children from their homes, out of yards or off the streets. They are mothers, fathers, or the lovers of the legal guardians who do these terrible things.

What of the teen mother who can't cope with being a child herself, let alone being a mother? The abusive father who can't cope with his own life, let alone the demands of a child? The grandparents who, having raised their own children, find themselves in the twilight of their lives trying to raise a grandchild? These are people who don't want to admit to themselves or to society at large that it's easier, sometimes even a relief, to destroy the baby in their care.

If parents or caregivers could leave these children at a "safe place" with no questions asked -- and no effort to prosecute them for abandonment -- perhaps fewer children would die.

As it is now, law enforcement is compelled by law to track these people down. It's left for strangers to grieve for these children. I know this letter is unprintable, but I just had to give vent to this. The burned baby left in the desert haunts me like no other. -- DOROTHY L. MILLER, PITTSBURG, CALIF.

DEAR DOROTHY: Thank you for your heartfelt letter. Crisis nurseries that provide respite care for stressed-out caregivers exist in some cities, and I'm told a small percentage of the children left in them are abandoned each year.

Before the laws can be changed, society's attitude toward parents who relinquish children needs to change, so that parents and caregivers are not perceived as "bad" for placing children for adoption. There are ways to safely surrender children -- adoption placement services; however, until people are no longer stigmatized for doing so, a percentage of these children will be abused, and some will die.

I know that a number of people who work with battered and traumatized children quietly agree with your proposed solution. However, until parents who are unable to fulfill the idealized role of parenting are no longer condemned for admitting it, nothing will change.

DEAR ABBY: Some months ago you asked your readers to define "elderly." That prompted me to write this poem:

REALITY CHECK

I feel young and full of pep,

Rushing hither and yon.

Enjoying every passing day

Seldom woebegone.

Until the daily news proclaims:

"Elderly Woman Hit by Car."

And I am halted in my tracks,

My pleasant world ajar.

Forced to face reality --

That "elderly" woman is younger than me!

-- ELIZABETH VAN LOAN, BRADENTON, FLA.

DEAR MS. VAN LOAN: Right (or write) on!

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600