Safe Haven laws protect parents and unwanted children

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — After multiple babies have been abandoned across the country in the last week, many people are wondering why some parents are protected while others are not. There are “safe haven” laws in place, which vary from state to state, that protect parents and children who may not fit into the plan. Unfortunately, abandoned babies are nothing new and neither are the laws that are written to protect them.

In New York, where a baby boy was recently left in a manger at a church, parents have 30 days to surrender their unwanted infant to a responsible adult with no questions asked. In California, where a baby girl was recently found by a police officer buried under debris near the street, the laws are a little more strict. Parents are given three days to decide to surrender custody and specific locations are designated as safe haven drop off spots. In North Carolina, parents have seven days to determine if they cannot care for the baby. The children then may be dropped off at a multitude of locations, including hospitals and fire station.

“I think it’s a very good way for them to turn the child over to someone that can help them get the child in better hands so they do not do something that would be illegal,” says Greenville Fire Rescue Chief Eric Griffin.

The laws were put in place after many unwanted children were left for dead or killed. Griffin says there have been two children surrendered at the fire station in the city since the laws were put in place. One child was surrendered in 2014.

“They were able to take the child over to the hospital to have the child examined and given a successful safe haven application in that place,” says Griffin.

After the baby is given a clean bill of health, the child is taken to DSS and eventually put up for adoption. While the safe haven laws may seem unnecessary to some, first responders say they would much rather take custody of a child before anything traumatic happens than have to respond to a scene where the child has been injured or killed.

Vidant Medical Center says they have a procedure in place to respond to abandoned babies left under the safe haven law but would not go into detail about the protocol. The mother in New York will not face charges because she followed the safe haven laws in her state. The parents of the baby left in California are a different story. To learn more about the differences in the laws, click here.

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