Safe Haven Laws
A safe haven law (sometimes called a “Baby Moses” law) is when a state allows an individual to take their newborn child to a designated “safe haven,” such as a fire station or hospital, and anonymously place their child for adoption.
Safe haven laws have been created by some states to allow birth parents a safe, anonymous, and non-punishable way of relinquishing a newborn baby. These laws provide for safe locations where parents can deliver their newborns and where the newborns will be properly cared for while child welfare workers are called. Locations may be places like fire stations, hospital emergency rooms, police stations, or other public places where public workers can care for the baby. These laws usually only apply to very young babies. Often times, parents are asked for some medical information, but a parent’s privacy is respected.
States have passed these laws to avoid children being neglected or abandoned, and to allow a parent to place a newborn child for adoption safely and without the parent having to disclose their identity or answer questions. In the past, it was possible that a parent who desired to place a child for adoption anonymously could be prosecuted for child abandonment. The enacting of safe haven laws has provided varying degrees of protection for these parents.
In most states, either parent may relinquish his or her baby to a designated safe haven. In some states, however, only the birth mother may place; in other states, anyone with legal custody of the child may place. Regardless of the state or the details of the statute, all of the laws allow for a baby to be placed with persons who can provide for the immediate care of the child.
Typically, the safe haven provider will be required by law to contact the state or county welfare agency to take the baby into protective care. The child welfare agency is then responsible for placing the newborn in an adoptive or foster home and then proceeding with a termination of parental rights of the now unknown birth parents.
Not all states have safe haven laws. Find out if your state has a safe haven law and more details about your state’s program.
You can also use the AAAA Attorney Directory to find a local adoption attorney who can answer your questions about safe haven laws.
If your state does not have a safe haven law and you abandon a baby, even in a public place where it would be safe, you may be subject to abuse or neglect charges or more serious criminal charges. You may want to consider calling a local adoption agency to discuss your options before you consider abandoning a baby or child.