What is Safe Haven for Newborns?
SAFE HAVEN FOR NEWBORNS, TRULY MAKING A DIFFERENCE:
- 354 newborns not abandoned in Florida, left at Safe Haven (Fire/EMS and hospitals).
- Over 5000 girls/women assisted in their time of need or crisis.
- 72 mothers, their anonymity not a concern, choose to place their baby directly with a licensed adoption agency.
- 5 parents were helped to successfully regain their parental rights.
- 7 newborns were saved from abandonment in other States, and 1 newborn was saved in the country of Honduras securing their future.
At times, FAC has the opportunity to place Safe Haven Babies with our waiting families. The Safe Haven Law is designed to save babies from unsafe abandonment. It gives a desperate parent a responsible alternative to choosing life. Safe Haven law is a safety net that allows parents to abandon their unharmed newborns that are not more than a week old at any safe haven facility recognized by the state laws without prosecution.
Every state does have a Safe Haven law, but the law may be called something different. Additionally, each state has a different Safe Haven law. Each state includes hospitals as a Safe Haven, but other locations differ per state. In Florida, parents who leave newborn infants in the custody of a firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic at a fire station or emergency medical services station or surrender them to the emergency room of a hospital have the right to preserve their anonymity if they express intent not to take back the child. The law provides the parent of a newborn baby, who may be unwilling or unable to care for the child, a safe and anonymous option to relinquish parental rights.
In 1999, the first Safe Haven law was established in Texas and within ten years, all fifty states had enacted a unique Safe Haven Law to protect vulnerable infants and mothers in crisis. Since 2003, April has been recognized as Safe Haven Awareness Month in a number of states, including Arizona and Illinois. There is work being done in the process of establishing Safe Haven Awareness Month as a federally recognized awareness campaign.
The Safe Haven Law in Florida was due to the tragedy resulting from the abandonment of newborns. Fla. Stat. § 383.50(1) defines a “newborn infant” as a child who a licensed physician believes to be approximately not older than seven days when it is abandoned at the hospital, emergency medical service station, or fire station. There have been mothers at times who keep their pregnancy a secret then disposing of the baby in a dumpster, field, canal, hotel bathroom, and other hazardous places often causes the death of the baby. This could happen when a person is desperate, isolated, or in denial.
There are organizations throughout the US that are confidential, 24/7 multilingual, with referral helplines. These organizations help with counseling, parenting, health-related issues, adoption or confidentially placing their newborn with a “Safe Haven for Newborns.”
Safe Haven laws are aimed at preserving the anonymity of the parent surrendering newborns and express the intent to not take back the child. However, parents that surrender their newborn’s identity can be traced if there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect. Birth parents can reclaim their child according to Safe Haven laws any time before the court terminates their parental rights. The intent is that a parent would not return for the newborn. If a situation does occur where a parent wishes to reclaim the baby the parent would contact the Department of Child and Family Services to initiate this process and consider obtaining legal assistance to regain custody of the child. For a father that believes his newborn may be relinquished using Safe Haven law, contact the state putative fathers registry to register for notification and instructions. A parent must make a claim to the entity having physical custody or legal custody of the child or to the circuit court in which proceedings relating to the newborn infant are pending. A claim of parental rights of the surrendered infant may not be made after the judgment to terminate parental rights. However, birth parents may file a motion against the judgment if the parent proves before the court that he/she was unable to make a timely claim of the parental rights on account of receiving false information.
Pregnant? Need help? Consider your options….
Option 1: Parenting: If you want to speak with someone about parenting, there are helplines that will connect you with the nearest Pregnancy Resource Center. Please visit the Care Net website to find your nearest Pregnancy Resource Center and their staff will assist with ultrasounds, parenting programs, and local community resources available in your area. You can also visit the Option Line website for parenting resources. Option 2: Temporary Placement: Temporary Placement provides a short-term solution for parents in need who are not looking to surrender their children. For temporary placement options that support children of all ages and help keep families together, please contact the Safe Families Program for more information. Locally you can call 211 for resources for temporary placement. Temporary placement can also be with a friend or relative. Option 3: Adoption: Each State has a list of adoption agencies that are able to connect your services and families anywhere in the county. Florida Adoption Center can also answer any questions you may have, discuss the adoption plans available to you, and help you choose the best option that fits your situation. Option 4: Safe Haven: National Safe Haven Alliance Crisis Hotline can provide Safe Haven locations near to you and discuss this option in more detail. Please call or text 1-888-510-2229 to learn about your state’s Safe Haven Law. Your baby will either be placed through the Department of Child and Family Services with a foster-to-adopt family or directly with an adoptive family, depending on your state’s law.
If you believe Safe Haven is your best option, consider the following: Once you get to one of the accepted locations (In Florida, custody of a firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic at a fire station or emergency medical services station or surrender them to the emergency room of a hospital), you will need to relinquish your baby to one of the staff members at the location and explain that you are relinquishing your infant to them under the Safe Haven Law. You may be asked to fill out paperwork requesting medical information and other important facts about your newborn, yourself, and the father. Completing this information is optional and will be used to share important medical issues with the infant’s adopted family. After relinquishing the infant, the staff will ensure your infant is not harmed. After the infant is medically cleared, you will be free to leave with no questions asked.
The Florida Adoption Center is required to do the following with a Safe Haven adoption placement: assume responsibility for all medical and other costs, immediately seek an order from the court for emergency custody of the surrendered infant, and within 24 hours of taking custody of the newborn request assistance from law enforcement officials to investigate and determine if the infant is a missing child. The Missing Children Information Clearinghouse, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and any other national and state resources, may help the child-placing agency to know whether the surrendered infant is a missing child.
Parents who abandon their newborn infant according to Fla. Stat. § 383.50 are presumed to have consented to the termination of their parental rights with respect to the surrendered infant. Their express consent is not required for the termination of parental rights. A petition for termination of parental rights must be filed by the child-placing agency only after the expiry of 30 days from the date of surrendering the newborn.😊
Safe Haven Resources:
Florida Adoption Center. Adoption is an option if you are pregnant or have a child that you are unable to provide for and want a safe option. Open Adoption is available. Contact us at 321.250.5683 Serving Melbourne-Palm Bay-Orlando-Apopka-Altamonte Springs-Kissimmee-St Cloud-Vero Beach-Fort Pierce-Daytona Beach- St Augustine- Lakeland- All Florida. We have a Waiting List of families hoping to adopt.
Adoption Questions? We have adoption answers. Open Adoption, connecting families since 2012. Adoption Services near you. Call us at 321-250-5683 or 1-855-899-LOVE