Well, it’s happened again. An infant found dead in the trunk of a car. Last time, it was a two-day old infant found in a shoebox in a dumpster near the park. Do people not know about Safe Haven Laws? Have they not considered all of the people out there who would be happy to adopt their child? I’m thinking that the word just hasn’t spread, and that these women don’t know about, or understand, the Safe Haven Laws. Here is a synopsis…
Beginning in Texas in 1999, “Baby Moses laws” or infant safe haven laws have been enacted as an incentive for mothers in crisis to safely relinquish their babies to designated locations where the babies are protected and provided with medical care until a permanent home is found. Safe haven laws generally allow the parent, or an agent of the parent, to remain anonymous and to be shielded from prosecution for abandonment or neglect in exchange for surrendering the baby to a safe haven.
- To date, approximately 47 States and Puerto Rico have enacted safe haven legislation. Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands have not yet addressed the issue of abandoned newborns in legislation.
- The focus of these laws is protecting newborns. In approximately 15 States, infants who are 72 hours old or younger may be relinquished to a designated safe haven. (Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.)
- Approximately 14 States and Puerto Rico accept infants up to 1 month old. (Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia.)
- Other States specify varying age limits in their statutes. Other limits include 5 days (New York); 7 days (Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Oklahoma); 14 days (Delaware, Iowa, Virginia, and Wyoming); 45 days (Indiana and Kansas); 60 days (South Dakota and Texas); 90 days (New Mexico); and 1 year (Missouri and North Dakota).
In most States with safe haven laws, either parent may surrender his or her baby to a safe haven. In four States (Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, and Tennessee), only the mother may relinquish her infant. Idaho specifies that only a custodial parent may surrender an infant. In approximately 11 States, an agent of the parent (someone who has the parent’s approval) may take a baby to a safe haven for a parent. Six States do not specify the person who may relinquish an infant.
The purpose of safe haven laws is to ensure that relinquished infants are left with persons who can provide the immediate care needed for their safety and well-being. To that end, approximately eight States require parents to relinquish their infants to a hospital. Other States designate additional entities as safe haven providers, including emergency medical services, police stations, and fire stations. In four States (Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Vermont), emergency medical technicians responding to a 9-1-1 call may accept an infant. In addition, four States (Arizona, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Vermont) and Puerto Rico allow churches to act as safe havens, but the relinquishing parent must first determine that church personnel are present at the time the infant is left. Generally, anyone on staff at these institutions can receive an infant; however, many States require that staff receiving an infant be trained in emergency medical care.
Anonymity for the parent or agent of the parent is expressly guaranteed and all states provide an assurance of confidentiality for any information that is voluntarily provided by the parent.
On this topic, there is a wonderful organization out there called Project Cuddle that works with these women to save their babies and find them placements (my husband and I have registered with this group). I wish there were more organizations out there that did this! I would love to get some bumper stickers made and have every person I know put them on their cars…if it could save the life of just ONE baby, it would be worth any cost. Spread the word, people. “Safe Haven begins with me.“