Have you ever heard a story about someone who left their baby at a fire station? It may seem unthinkable, but some new parents may feel overwhelmed after having a baby and believe that they cannot parent their newborn. Massachusetts legislation offers protections in these instances under the Safe Haven Act, which became law in 2004. There are a few important things to consider about the Safe Haven Act, which is part of an effort to protect and prevent infant mortality.
WHAT IS THE SAFE HAVEN ACT?
According to Massachusetts law, “The Safe Haven Act allows a parent to legally surrender newborn infants 7 days old or younger at a hospital, police station, or manned fire station without facing criminal prosecution.”
REASONS AND STATISTICS
There are several reasons why a parent would choose to leave a baby at a designated location. Some face drug addiction, extreme financial difficulty, and/or are not aware of the support systems available to them. Regardless of the reason, they will not face criminal charges if the newborn is up to a week old at the time of surrender. In the United States, about 4,000 newborns have been surrendered under Safe Haven laws since 1999. Under Safe Haven regulation, infant abuse and neglect violate the terms of protection for the parent.
If the parent surrendering the infant is available or able to do so, they can provide information about the baby. This includes birth date, name, location of birth, etc. Information like this helps with understanding as much as possible about the baby before calling the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). Any information about the biological family’s medical history can be helpful as well.
A representative from the Safe Haven designated location then contacts DCF to report the incident. A DCF social worker collects the newborn, and unless there are signs of abuse and/or neglect, medically screens them entering them into the foster care system. After the baby receives medical care, they are placed into foster care. If abuse or neglect is suspected, a formal DCF investigation takes place into the surrender and nature of the abuse.
The Safe Haven Act seeks to provide a solution to infant abandonment and mortality. The same reasons that a parent may seek to surrender their newborns apply to women seeking abortions. There are alternatives and support systems available to women who feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting. While the Safe Haven Act does provide some protection for the newborn, there are still concerns for infants and children older than the 7 day age limit. Families need to know they have options. If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed with parenting, either before or after birth, schedule a free confidential consultation with Clearway Clinic today.