Safe Haven For New Mothers

by Howard Ankin
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The first Safe Haven law in Illinois was unanimously passed both the Illinois House and Senate and was signed into Illinois law in August of 2001. Illinois Safe Haven law provides options for mothers and their newborn child. According to the Safe Haven Law, a parent can anonymously take their newborn to a safe haven without fear of prosecution if the baby is thirty days old or younger. The law was created to help a parent who is under severe emotional distress or who might not able to provide the baby with its basic needs.

Illinois fire departments, police stations and hospitals have been designated as Safe Havens and will take an infant as long as there is no sign of abuse or neglect. In August of 2012, Governor Quinn expanded Safe Haven locations to include police departments of public or private universities as well as Illinois State Police district headquarters. The addition of these locations offer parents more options for leaving a baby at a safe location rather than abandoning them in a dumpster or in front of a home on a frigid winter night.

The law specifically spells out that, as long as the baby has not been harmed, a parent can hand their newborn (30 days old or younger) to personnel at any hospital, police station or staffed fire station in Illinois for adoption with no questions asked. The law instructs police, firefighters and hospital personnel that they cannot ask a parent’s name. In fact, police and fire department personnel receive training regarding the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

No criminal investigation can be started just because a newborn infant is relinquished unless there is evidence that the child is older than 30 days or there is evidence of child abuse or neglect. When a newborn infant is received, law enforcement personnel will make a physical appraisal of the baby’s and, if any signs of abuse or neglect are noted, the parent may be held until an investigation into the potential abuse is completed.

A parent who makes this heart wrenching decision is able to provide anonymous medical information, so that the baby grows up with a medical history. At a Safe Haven, medical forms will be offered; these can be filled out at the time or returned by mail at a later date. These medical forms are also available on the Illinois adoption web site, the State Central Registry. Any and all medical information provided is kept confidential.

If a parent does chose the option of bringing their baby to a Safe Haven and they do not return for them within 60 days they are considered to have voluntarily given up their parental rights and the baby can be adopted.

According to the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, over 1000 have been saved since the law was enacted in 2001. The law was intended to enable the parent of a newborn infant to relinquish the infant to a safe environment, to remain anonymous, and to avoid civil or criminal liability for relinquishing the infant. The Save Abandoned Babies Foundation focuses on making sure that desperate girls and women understand the option in order to save innocent new lives.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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