On November 23, 2015, a custodian at a local church in New York City heard a baby crying. He looked around the empty chapel, but he did not see anyone. Then, he looked at the church’s nativity scene and noticed the baby Jesus looked human and appeared to be crying. It was human; and it was crying. Laying in the manger and wrapped in towels, the baby boy was less than 24 hours old. He was rushed to the hospital and determined to be in good condition.
New York’s newborn surrendering laws allow new mothers to abandon their infants at churches as well as hospitals (and in some counties, fire stations), however, they must surrender their child to someone. They cannot just leave the child unattended.
California also has a law for new mothers to give up their newborn babies. It is known as the Safe Surrender Baby Law (but also known as the Safe Haven Law or the Newborn Abandonment Law). The law has been in effect since 2001. Its purpose was to prevent babies from being injured or killed because they were abandoned. Specifically, the law allows a parent (or legal guardian) to surrender a baby to a fire station or hospital emergency room. The baby must be three days old or younger and not been abused or neglected. The person has the option of keeping the surrendering confidential, and also will not be arrested and/or prosecuted for the child’s abandonment. The child will receive any necessary medical treatment and ultimately be placed for adoption.
At the time of surrendering, a bracelet is attached to the baby’s wrist and a matching bracelet is given to the parent. If the parent changes his/her mind and wants the child returned, he/she must do so within 14 days of the surrendering and produce the matching bracelet. The 14-day time frame is provided to allow for a “cooling off” period to prevent permanent decisions made in haste and/or times of high stress and anxiety.
Although not required, the surrendering parent may provide personal information regarding the child, such as a family medical history and/or any other information the parent may deem important for the life of the child. The information provided remains confidential and cannot be used against the parents.
Prior to the law, many newborns were abandoned in dumpsters, public restrooms, alleys, etc., and often the newborns died. Now, because of this law and the parent’s safe surrendering of the child, the child will be placed in a foster home with the intent of permanent adoption to live a safe, healthy, and happy life.
In California, to find a safe surrendering site in your county, call 1-877-BABY-SAF (1-877-222-9723).