Safe Haven Laws
The focus of Safe Haven laws is protecting newborns from endangerment by providing parents an alternative to criminal abandonment, and therefore the laws are generally limited to very young children. Infants who are 72 hours old or younger may be relinquished to a designated safe haven.
Who May Leave a Baby at a Safe Haven?
A parent of a child not older than 72 hours may relinquish the child to a safe haven provider with the intent not to return for the child.
Safe Haven Providers
A law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member may accept custody of a child not older than 72 hours If a parent who wishes to relinquish custody of his/her child is unable to travel to a sheriff’s office, police station, fire station, hospital, or other place where a law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member is located, the parent may dial the telephone number "911" and express his/her desire. In an area in which the telephone number "911" is not available, the parent may use the number of an emergency medical service provider
Responsibilities of Safe Haven Providers
The safe haven provider is required to accept emergency protective custody of the infant and to provide any immediate medical care that the infant may require. They also must file a birth certificate for the child within 5 days of accepting custody.
Any officer, employee, or agent of the state or of a political subdivision of the state may attempt to locate or ascertain the identity of an assisting person or parent who relinquishes custody of the child. However, they may attempt to access identifying information if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been a victim of child abuse or neglect; or that the person assisting the parent has forced the parent into relinquishing custody of the child.
Any person who obtains any information regarding the relinquishment of a child shall keep that information confidential. The person may not disclose the obtained information to anyone else. However the information may be disclosed to the following persons:
- Birth parent of the child, if the birth parent has waived his/her right to remain anonymous; or the adoptive parent of the child, if the child is later adopted.
- Appropriate staff of the Department, County Department, or Licensed Child Welfare Agency that is providing services to the child.
- A person authorized to provide or providing intake or dispositional services.
Immunity From Liability for Providers
Any law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member accepting custody of a child is immune from any civil liability to the child's parents, or any criminal liability for any good faith act or omission occurring solely in connection with the act of receiving custody of the child from the child's parents. However, they are not immune from any civil or criminal liability for any act or omission occurring in the care of the child after accepting custody.
Protections for Parents
The parent relinquishing the child and the person assisting the parent in relinquishing the child has the right to remain anonymous. The parent or the assisting person shall not be compelled to disclose any identifying information. However, they may be forced to disclose information if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been a victim of abuse or neglect; or that the person assisting the parent is coercing the parent to relinquish custody of the child.
Similarly, the parent or assisting person may leave the premises of the safe surrender site at any time after surrendering the child. They may not be followed unless there is a reasonable cause to believe that the child was subject to child abuse or neglect; or that the person assisting the parent is coercing the parent to relinquish custody of the child.
Consequences of Relinquishment
Once the safe haven provider has notified the local child welfare department that an infant has been relinquished, the department assumes custody of the infant as an abandoned child. The department has responsibility for placing the infant, usually in a preadoptive home, and for petitioning the court for termination of the birth parents' parental rights.