- Family and Parenting
What is Safe Haven?
Safe Haven laws -- sometimes referred to as “safe baby” or “Baby Moses” laws -- are statutes that decriminalize the act of abandoning a newborn baby under certain circumstances. Safe Haven laws aim to decrease the rate of infant mortalities due to abandonment and offer immunity from prosecution to parents who give up their newborn babies following Safe Haven guidelines. Texas passed the first Safe Haven law in 1999, all since 2008, the other 49 states and the District of Columbia have all followed suit, meaning there are now Safe Haven laws in every state across the U.S.
Thousands of parents abandon their newborn babies across the country every year. Some infants are found and saved, but many more die before they are discovered. Even more newborns fall prey to scared parents who murder their babies out of desperation. Save Haven laws aim to reduce the incidence of newborn murder, abortion and abandonment by giving parents an easy, legal way to surrender their infants without revealing who they are or opening themselves up to criminal charges.
How Safe Haven Works
When a parent decides she does not or cannot keep her baby, she can surrender her baby anonymously to a designated Safe Haven center. Once surrendered, the parent may have to sign a waiver that terminates her parental rights to the baby. The center then takes custody and turns the baby over to a state child services caseworker, who can place the baby in foster care until a permanent adoptive family is found.
Safe Haven Centers
Every state designates Safe Haven for newborn surrenders, although almost all states designate a few places where the parent can surrender a newborn, including any hospital, fire station or police station within the state. Some states may designate additional areas for parents who wish to surrender their newborns, while other states have developed Safe Haven houses specifically to accept and care for surrendered babies until a new family can be found.
To find Safe Haven centers in your state, contact your local police department or hospital.
Safe Haven Restrictions
Almost all states restrict the age at which a parent can abandon a newborn; some states permit parents to surrender babies up to around six to eight weeks of age, while others only allow parents to surrender newborns who are 72 hours old or younger. A parent who tries to surrender an older baby under the law is not protected or immune from criminal liability.
Additionally, a parent cannot surrender a newborn under Safe Haven laws when the baby’s other parent is willing and able to take custody. A parent who attempts a surrender specifically to hide the baby from the other parent is not only subject to criminal liability for abandonment, but could also face other civil and criminal penalties.
Termination of Parental Rights
Once a parent surrenders a newborn to a Safe Haven center, her parental rights are immediately and permanently terminated. Most states do not allow parents to seek parental rights again once the surrender is complete. Few states require the surrendering parent to provide personal information, including the parent’s name and address; in these states, it may be possible to seek parental rights after surrendering, although the process is long and arduous and there is no guarantee a parent will ever be able to do so successfully.