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 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 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 depression and money issues.
The Nebraska version also allows parents from other states to drop off their children (Coodley 61). So in some cases children from many parts of the country were dropped off. Lawmakers plan to discuss an age limit now or discuss measures so that parents could give up their children in a “campus-like setting where they could live and attend school” (Coodley 61). Many people think it is wrong to just leave your child at a hospital and forget about it, but there are worse fates for children whose parents did not know about the Safe Haven Laws.
The risk of homicide on the first day of life is 10 times greater than the rate during any other time of life (Herman-Giddens 1425). In a population-based study called Newborns Killed or Left to Die by a Parent, five authors describe cases of infant death and abandonment in North Carolina, “Over a 16 year period in North Carolina, we report 34 newborns known to be killed or discarded in the first day of life by (or likely) the parents, an annual rate of 2. 1 per 100,000 newborns” (Herman-Giddens 1428). Sadly, only a few deaths were unintentional, “The majority of these cases (91. %) were ruled as homicides, while three were found to be unintentional due to natural causes” (Herman-Giddens 1428). Mothers were usually the ones that abandon or kill the newborn, “mothers were the perpetrators in all cases where the perpetrator was positively identified” (Herman-Giddens 1428). This why people need to be educated on the Safe Haven Laws, many of the deaths previously stated could have been prevented if the parents had known about the safe haven laws. The babies lives could have been spared if the parents had known that they had another option that would have protected them and the child.
Many people say the Safe Haven Laws will not only prevent newborns form being killed or abandoned but also abortion. The number of people that are against abortion are increasing. They are even starting to make laws and rules about abortion now, so maybe the Safe Haven Laws will become more widely known. Many people that get an abortion are either scared of becoming a parent or believe that they are not prepared to become a parent. The Safe Haven Laws make it easier for a new mother who is ill-prepared to raise a child, transfer care and responsibility for the child to someone who will provide better care.
Since the laws protect the identity of the parents, a lot of younger parents will be more prone to using them. People will feel more confident in giving up their child if they can do it anonymously. The law is designed to lower the risk of child abuse and neglect and perhaps lower the rate of abortion in the event of an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. Whether people believe it is wrong or right to use the Safe Haven Laws, there are still stories about newborns being abandoned and there are people around the United States giving the newborns found dead, a respectable resting place, like medic Tim Jaccard.
The 56-year-old father of three has taken it upon himself to give burials to newborns babies found dead and abandoned by their parents. So far Jaccard has buried 80 babies in Island of Hope, each of them linked by the last name he gives them-Hope- and the tragic facts of their brutally short lives. The burials are not simple affairs: Each child gets carnations, a tiny white coffin lined in satin, a teddy bear and volunteer bagpipers to escort them on their final journey. The funerals are held in a church nearest to where the baby was found in case “the mother wants to come,” says Jaccard, “Maybe it will help her heal. Granite headstones with brass plaques mark the burial sites, each shared by two babies. Says Jaccard: “I want to give the babies some dignity,” (Meadows 139). Jaccard sees these tragic events happen frequently and he can almost understand how the mothers must feel but many people do not believe that a mother could abandon her child. No one can really understand how a mother feels about having a child, since everyone is different. Some mothers are just too scared, too young, or too unprepared to care for a baby.
A lot of people think that infant/child abandonment only happen in poorer countries where the mother cannot provide for the child. “The image frequently brought to the mind of the general public is of a pitiful and destitute child who is hungry, dirty, desolate, and alone. Descriptions of street children as ‘huddled in corners, walking around aimlessly, dirty, disheveled-a pitiful site’” (Panter-Brick 132). What people do not know is that child could be living in the United States and is very lucky to even be a child because many newborns never get the chance to grow up and play as a child and grow into an adult.
It’s very sad knowing that the mothers did not know that they had a very simple alternative to what they did. All the newborn’s mother had to do was drop it off at a hospital. Many people do not even know that there is a law called the Safe Haven Law or what it is all about, and that could potentially be a major problem, since the number of infant deaths does not seem to be decreasing. Women do not know they have another option. The laws need to be more enforced that they are already.
Many times we only hear about the laws when it was too late for a little one, if at all. If the laws were more openly talked about think of how many lives could be saved every year, how many mothers could rest easy knowing that the child they gave up is safe, and how many new families could be made. There are alliances around the United States dedicated to reaching these women and encouraging them to make the right choice for themselves and more importantly the babies, whether it is safe-haven relinquishment, adoption, or parenting.
The National Safe Haven Alliance is working to publicize safe havens more effectively so at-risk women know that this compassionate alternative exists for them and their newborns. I think that if more women know about the Safe Haven Laws more of them that are not prepared for motherhood would take this alternative. This is because if the pregnancy is unplanned or unwanted many mothers are ashamed and afraid of what will happen in the future or what people might think of them.
Because we are human and we care about what other people think about us, some will go to the extremes to save their reputation even if that means abandoning and innocent baby. Since the Safe Haven Law is anonymous is could ease the worry of the mother. She could continue to live her life knowing that the child she gave up can go on to live a better life than what she could have provided. In the future hopefully the rate of abortion, fetal homicides, and deaths will be able to decrease because of the Safe Haven Laws.
Mothers need to know that there are so many options for them to choose from that can result in the babies living a healthy life. In conclusion, the Safe Haven Laws, also known in some states as the Baby Moses law, are laws that decriminalize leaving unharmed infants with designated safe haven official so that the child becomes a ward of the state and can become adopted to a caring family. These laws are new alternatives to giving up babies. Many mothers are scared and not prepared to take care of a child and these laws protect both mother and/or father and the baby so that they can both live their lives.
The Safe Haven Laws are a good alternative for scared and unprepared parents that believe they have no other option. They need to be publicized more so that parents in a tough situation know that they have this safe option. When more people know the facts the laws also will help to decrease the number of abandoned infants, fetal fatalities, and abortion. The laws can save a life, give the parents a chance to live a guilt and worry free life, and they can also give a family that cannot have children the opportunity to adopt a child. The Safe Haven Laws give an innocent child a chance to survive and grow up to live a normal life.
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