Family Law

Safe Havens and Child Abandonment

Sometimes a woman panics after giving birth and doesn't know what to do. Perhaps she has been hiding her pregnancy. Perhaps she didn't even know she was pregnant. Or perhaps she is just overwhelmed by an unplanned baby and has no place to turn. She doesn't know what to do and considers abandonment.

To prevent cases of abandonment of a baby in a trash can or a remote location, every state has some version of a Safe Haven law. Also called Baby Moses laws or abandoned infant laws, these laws allow a parent to give up a baby without putting the baby in danger.

Safe Haven Age Limits Vary

Many safe haven laws apply only to newborns. California, for example, sets the age limit at three days. Texas, on the other hand, allows babies up to 60 days old to be dropped off. In Missouri, the child can be up to one year old. If the child is older than the allowed age limit, the safe haven law does not apply.

Safe Haven Locations Vary

Each state sets rules about where a baby can be safely dropped off. In California, you may only leave the child at a hospital or other location designated by the county as a safe haven. Arizona, on the other hand, also allows you to take the baby to an adoption agency, church, or fire station. New York allows you to leave the child with any responsible adult. If you're not sure, you can call the local police station for information - without leaving your name.

Using a Safe Haven Protects the Parents

Most safe haven laws protect parents from criminal charges if they haven't harmed the child. If the baby seems to be in good shape, a parent will be allowed to leave. If the child appears to be neglected or injured, however, the safe haven laws don't apply. You will be detained until the police arrive.

What Happens to the Abandoned Baby?

As soon as a baby is dropped off at a safe haven location, the staff must notify child services and get the baby to a doctor. Once the baby has been medically cleared, child services arranges for foster care. Since the child has been abandoned, child services begins arrangements for adoption. In some states, and within a short period of time, parents can change their minds and ask that the baby be returned.

A Family Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding abandonment of a baby under safe haven laws is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.

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