Safe haven needed for babies as well as parents
Not every biological parent has the stability or means to raise a child. While some would argue people should use preventative measures if they are sexually active yet have no desire for children, or lack the necessities to raise a child, sending a baby to a safe place is much more admirable than simply abandoning a child where it will have no chance of survival.
Starting today, a parent can use the state’s Safe Haven Law to relinquish a baby up until they’re two months old. Previously, the age limit was set at 30 days.
Under the law, parents who are unable to care for a newborn can leave the child at any designated facility instead of abandoning the child in an unsafe environment. Louisiana’s designated facilities include any licensed hospital, public health unit, emergency medical service provider, medical clinic, fire or police station, pregnancy crisis center or child advocacy center.
A parent wishing to reclaim custody has 30 days after relinquishing the child to contact the state.
Since 2004, 28 infants have been relinquished in Louisiana, including two last month in the New Orleans area. Several infants were also relinquished in the Lake Charles and Lafayette areas right here in Southwest Louisiana.
Parents who would like to give up custody of their child, but whose child is not in immediate danger of harm, are encouraged to use a planned, permanent adoption through an adoption agency that accounts for medical and genetic history. However, Louisiana Safe Haven Law provides a last resort to abandonment.
Employees at designated Safe Havens are trained to keep a newborn safe and the situation confidential. As long as the parent leaves their baby with an employee and the baby shows no signs of abuse or neglect, the parent can simply walk away knowing that their baby will be safe. Leaving a baby unattended, on a doorstep or in a bathroom, for instance, is illegal and will not meet the criteria of the Safe Haven Law.
Parents do not have to give their name or any other information. Safe Haven employees keep everything confidential. Parents can call 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373) to learn about their parental rights or anonymously give medical information about their baby to be used for adoption purposes.
If a parent is unable to travel to a Safe Haven facility, he or she may call 911, and a law enforcement officer or EMS provider will pick up the infant and transport the child to a hospital.
The baby will be brought to the nearest medical facility for a health assessment and to receive any necessary medical care. Then the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) will find a family to care for the baby. DCFS will begin proceedings to obtain custody of the baby to free the child for adoption.
A series of high-profile infant abandonment cases across the country prompted the Louisiana Legislature to combat the problem. In 2000, Louisiana enacted the Safe Haven law, amending the Children’s Code Articles 1101 and 1193 and Title XVII of the Children’s Code, Articles 1701-1706, to provide for the Safe Haven relinquishment of newborns.
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