The late 1990s saw a surge in infant abandonment, many resulting in the baby’s death. In response to these incidents, a movement erupted to allow parents to relinquish custody of unharmed newborn infants without fear of prosecution. At the time, parents risked criminal prosecution for neglect or abandonment.
“Baby Safe Haven” laws or infant abandonment laws were created to remove the potential for prosecution so long as children were given unharmed and given to proper authorities. Since the first Safe Haven law was enacted in Texas in 1999, all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed Safe Haven legislation, and every state has reported lives saved through the existence of these laws. Due to less-than- perfect-reporting methods, we are unsure of the exact number but know that since development of the law, over 3,500 babies are alive.
The National Safe Haven Alliance (NSHA) works with states to promote these laws and increase public awareness that options exist. Together, the Alliance and states work together to save the lives of innocent infants and to protect the lives of their mothers through education and advocacy as well as the development of best practice models.
Safe Haven laws have been remarkably successful. Unfortunately, babies are still illegally and unsafely abandoned, in part because women do not know that they have another option. It is important that these laws are widely promoted and that women in need are informed that they are not alone, they are supported and there are resources available.
National Safe Haven Alliance volunteers work tirelessly to provide training education to Safe Haven providers while also providing confidential support and anonymous alternatives for at risk parents. By relinquishing an infant to a Safe Haven provider rather than abandoning the infant we prevent dangerous or even deadly outcomes.
There has been recent confusion with the development of baby boxes. Baby boxes are not located in every state and are not promoted by NSHA. There is a current Safe Haven law in EVERY state including District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Safe Haven providers and locations exist in EVERY state.
The National Safe Haven Alliance offers 24/7 crisis response with the country’s top subject matter experts that will advocate for parents, infants and Safe Haven providers providing support and most important, HOPE .