Safe Haven Law – Abandoned Infant Protection Law

In the U.S., many state legislatures have passed legislations to address infanticide and abandonment to infants. In 1999, Infant Safe Haven Laws of the “Baby Moses laws” have been enacted as incentive for parents in crisis. The Safe Haven Law allow mothers in crisis to relinquish their new born babies designated places where they are protected, cared, and provided with the right medical care until a permanent home is found for them. Generally, safe haven enable the parent or the parent’s agent to remain anonymous. The law shield parents in crisis against criticism and prosecution of child abandonment in exchange for surrendering the child to a safe haven.

Who Can Leave a Child to a Safe Haven?

In many states in the U.S., either the mother or the father or the parent’s agent can leave the child to the safe haven. In Puerto Rico, the mother is the only one allowed to leave the baby to a designated safe haven. Only the custodial parent can leave the child to a safe haven in Idaho. In the District of Columbia, a child can be relinquished to the safe haven only by a custodial parent who is legal resident of the district. In almost 11 states in the U.S., a parent’s agent (someone who has the parent’s approval) can relinquish the baby to a designated safe haven.

In New York, California, and Kansas, someone who wishes to relinquish a baby to a safe haven must have a legal custody to the child before he/she can do it so. However, 8 states do not specify who can relinquish the child to a safe haven.

Who are the Safe Haven Providers?

Safe haven laws have been enacted with the purpose of ensuring that relinquished new born babies are left to people who can provide them with immediate care for necessary for their well safety, security, and well being. With this purpose, Puerto Rico and the other 16 states in the U.S. require parents and parent’s agents to relinquish their infants to health care facilities such as hospitals or emergency medical service providers.

Fire stations are also designated safe havens in 27 states. In 25 states, personnel law enforcement agencies such as police stations can accept relinquished infants. Also, emergency medical personnel responding to 911 calls cal accept relinquished infants in five states. In addition, churches are also safe havens. But, relinquishing parents should ensure that church personnel are present before the infant s left.

Safe Haven Responsibilities

Safe have providers are required to provide emergency protective custody to the baby right after relinquished to them. Also, safe haven providers should need to provide immediate medical care should the baby may require.

In the District of Columbian including 13 States, when the baby is relinquished to non medical care facilities, the infant must be transferred to a hospital immediately. The safe haven provider should call the local welfare department about the infant relinquished to them. In other states including the distinct of Columbia, the safe haven provider is required to ask the relinquishing parent for medical and family history of the infant. Also, the providers should attempt to give the parent or the parent’s agent insight about the legal repercussions of leaving the infant to them as well as information on referral services. In 4 States, safe havens offer parents a copy of the baby’s identification bracelet in the event of reunification at a later date.

Safe Haven Law Protection to Parents

In the District of Columbia and approximate 13 States, the identity of the parent or the parent’s agent is protected by the statute. In Puerto Rico and 26 States, safe haven providers are not required to compel to provide the local welfare department and other authorities about the identifying information of the parent or the parent’s agent. Also, 14 States assure confidentiality of the sensitive information voluntarily provided by the agent of the parent or the parent.

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Also, most States guarantee the protection of the parents of the agent of the parents against criminal liability for relinquishing the child. Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and approximately 34 States do not prosecute the parent for child abandonment if the infant is relinquished to a safe haven. Safe relinquishment of babies in 16 States is affirmative defense against any criminal liability of the parent for abandoning the child. However, the privilege of immunity and anonymity is forfeited is safe have providers discover evidence of child neglect or abuse.

What are the Consequences of Relinquishing an Infant/Baby?

Once the bay has been relinquished to a safe haven and the safe haven provider notified the local welfare department that a baby has been relinquished to them, the department assumes full custody to the infant. The local welfare department is responsible for placing the abandoned baby to a pre-adoptive home as well as for petitioning to the court the revocation of the child’s parents for parental rights.

Before the child is placed to a pre-adoptive home, the District of Columbia and approximately 14 States require the local welfare department to request a report from the local law enforcement departments whether the infant is missing or not. Also, 5 states require the local welfare department can only file for termination of parental rights petition if there is no putative father registry.

The District of Columbia and approx 20 States have procedure in helping the parents to reclaim their baby. Usually, the procedure is within a specific period of time, when a termination for parental rights petition is not yet filed by the local welfare department or granted by the court. There are 5 states which also have provisions for fathers of babies who do not relinquish their child to petition for the baby’s custody. In Puerto Rico and 17 Sates, the act of abandoning a baby to safe haven is presumed to be stripping of parental rights to the infant and no parental consent is required for adapting the child.

Immunity of Safe Haven Providers

In the District of Columbia and 44 States, safe haven providers accepting the child’s custody for relinquishment are relinquished from any liability for anything that may happen to the baby while at their care unless evidence of major negligence is found out.