7 December 2011
Safe Haven Laws
The Safe Haven Laws for newborns is an alternative to leaving infants in unsafe places. Not all women who get pregnant are ready to raise a child and sometimes they see no options except to abandon the baby. Safe havens provide a new option; it allows a birth parent to leave a newborn infant (less than 72 hours old) with a medical worker in a hospital, a medical worker at a fire department or other emergency service organization, or peace officer at a law enforcement agency. If the infant is left with a person at one of these places, and has not been abused, the parent will face no legal consequences for making this choice. When a parent cannot care for an infant, leaving the baby at a safe haven may be the best choice for the child. The laws are fairly new and some people do not even know what they are, but if more people were educated about the laws it would be beneficial to many lives. The Safe Haven Laws are a good alternative for scared and unprepared parents that believe they have no other option.
The birth parent (mother or father) is the only individual that can take a child to a safe haven and the laws only provide protection from persecution for the child’s parents. This is another way to protect the infant. Many people could try to give away a baby without the parents’ knowledge. The process for dropping an infant off at a safe haven is quite simple. The birth parents do not have to call before taking an infant in. A birth parent may take a newborn to a safe haven at any time until the child is 72 hours, or three days, old. This is the law in most Hardy 2
states but some states do have different policies. The birth parent is not required to provide any information, including his or her name. However, it would be beneficial to the child if the birth parent chooses to provide basic health information. If the parent decides to give medical information they will be given a form to guide them in providing the most important information. Also, if the baby needs medical attention it will be provided. The staff person who accepts the baby will contact the county children services agency and the baby will be place in an adoptive home.
The Safe Haven Laws are fairly new laws, first being legislated in 1999. The law began in Texas where it is known as the “Baby Moses law”. Since then “approximately 49 states and Puerto Rico have enacted safe haven legislation” (Child). The majority of the states focus on the safety of newborns and infants. “In approximately 13 states, infants who are 72 hours old or younger may be relinquished to a designated safe haven. Approximately 16 states and Puerto Rico accept infants up to one month old” (Child). The other states have other forms of the law and different sets of age limits (Child). It is up to the state’s legislation to decide whether or not they want or need a Safe Haven Law and what the age limit will be, if one at all.
One state has a very different form of the Safe Haven Law, Nebraska, which has no age limit. In Nebraska, an accidental outcome of the state’s lack of an age limit (in other states, often between 3 and 30 days) at which infants would no longer be accepted became a site of last resort for desperate mothers. At last count, 34 children have been left at Nebraska hospitals under the state’s Safe Haven law. In the first two months of the Nebraska law, the majority of children were teenagers, 90% of whom were previously involved in some Hardy 3
type of mental health services and over half of whom were at one time or currently wards of the state. Even mothers form other states, hearing that their children would be safely cared for, drove to Nebraska to turn in their children. (Coodley 61). State officials were shocked when parents started dropping off their children at safe havens, but many parents had good reasons why they did it. Many parents claimed it was because of...