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What Are Safe Haven Laws?


Question: What Are Safe Haven Laws?

Safe haven laws or "Baby Moses laws" were enacted to prevent infant abandonment and infanticide. Safe haven laws allow mothers in crisis to anonymously relinquish their infants in the care of an designated safe haven provider until a permanent home is found. Most safe haven laws allow for the parent to avoid being prosecuted for abandonment or neglect.

The focus of safe haven laws is the protection of newborns. Several states infants must be less than 72 hours old to be relinquished at a safe haven. Other states and Puerto Rico accept an infant up to 1 month old. Each state varies on age limits in their statutes as well as who can relinquish the infant. Some states say the parents, others specify the mother, still a few states note that an "agent of the parent" can drop the infant off at a safe haven.

Part of the draw for some parents to utilize a safe have is the anonymity. Approximately 13 states guarantee it in their statue. While 28 States and Puerto Rico, say that the safe haven provider can't force the parent or agent of the parent to provide identifying information. 13 States assure confidentiality for information that is voluntarily provided by the parent.

Another important factor with the safe haven laws is the protection from criminal liability. Approximately 30 Sates and Puerto Rico do not prosecute a parent for child abandonment when the child is relinquished to a safe haven provider. However, anonymity and immunity will be forfeited in most States if there is evidence of child abuse or neglect.

Once relinquished the child welfare department places the infant in a pre-adoptive home and petitions the court for termination of parental rights. However, once again each State handles these things differently. 12 States require that the child welfare department requests local law enforcement agencies to determine if the baby has been reported as a missing child. 4 States require the department to check with the putative father registry before termination. 5 States allows non-relinquishing fathers to petition for custody. 18 States have procedures in place for the parent to reclaim the infant, within a specified time period and before any petition to terminate parental rights has been granted. 12 States and Puerto Rico, believe that the act of relinquishment is the end of the parental rights and no further parental consent is required for the child's adoption.

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