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The Full Story

Twenty-five years ago, in response to alarming numbers of infant abandonments, states across the country took action and passed landmark Safe Haven laws. In 2022, our numbers indicated a rise in illegal infant abandonments and we are still receiving data for 2023. Today, the profile of at-risk parents is much broader and there is the potential for increased crisis pregnancies and birth situations. While these Safe Haven laws have made an important difference, those of us working on the frontlines, on crisis hotline calls, in pregnancy centers, in hospital emergency departments and birthing units, in adoption law, and foster care, have learned a great deal in the last twenty years about how to ensure the safety of families and infants better. We advocate for updated legislation that will resolve inconsistencies in current law, improve data collection, provide for outreach and education, and incorporate safe, holistic, best practices to better support parents and babies in crisis.

 

Our 4 key recommendations: 

 

  1. Minimum standards for federal Safe Haven law. 

       A. A parent may anonymously relinquish an infant up to a minimum of a 30-day age limit and recommendation of no more than 60 days, without fear of prosecution, if the Safe Haven requirements are upheld. States may have an expanded age limit without prosecution for the parent unless a physician determines evidence of physical abuse post-birth.

 

       B. Infants exposed to substances during the gestational period are eligible for relinquishment under this law.

 

       C. Safe Haven providers include but are not limited to staff (and volunteers) at 24/7 staffed hospitals, fire stations, police stations, and EMS providers who may respond to the location of a surrendering parent. 

 

       D. A parent may relinquish in the hospital after the delivery of an infant.

       E. A parent may attempt to reclaim parental rights within 30 days after relinquishment. 

 

      F.  Temporary custody of the Safe Haven infant is assigned to an approved designated state agency that oversees their placement, and/or a licensed child-placing agency that has agreed to facilitate adoption placement for the infant. 

 

      G. A putative father’s registry and process established in every state and made available to the public.

 

     H.  Guidelines and safety standards required for the use of infant safety devices at 24/7 staffed, designated Safe Haven locations.

 

2. Funding for education and signage for all designated Safe Haven providers and locations.

 

3. Funding for a statewide, 24/7 Safe Haven crisis hotline, community education (including in schools), and public awareness efforts in every state. 

 

4. Funding for state agency (DSS or similar) development and oversight of Safe Haven program, which includes Safe Haven law and crisis hotline awareness efforts in every state, education for Safe Haven providers, and reporting of infant relinquishments, illegal infant abandonments, infanticide, and in-hospital infant abandonments and relinquishments. (This must include open access and dissemination of state, public reports to the CDC.)

Let’s Work Together

Share your support for national, Safe Haven law minimum standards with your federal elected officials

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