Every new parent has felt overwhelmed. But some new parents, like those suffering from mental illness or domestic abuse, despair to the point of abandoning their child. To them, this may seem like the only choice. Unfortunately, many do not know about Safe Haven program, designed to help parents who feel this anguish.
In Pennsylvania, distressed parents can safely and legally leave a newborn (up to 28 days old) with hospital or police personnel without fear of prosecution for abandonment. If a baby is dropped off at a location other than a hospital or police station, parents could face charges for endangering the child.
At a hospital or police station, it is certain that medical staff will provide care for the baby until a good home can be found through the children and youth agency. Safe Haven laws offer relief to despondent parents who can be assured that the child is in safe hands.
As long as the baby shows no signs of neglect or abuse, parents have the option to remain anonymous. While they are not obligated to answer any questions, parents are encouraged to complete a questionnaire regarding known family medical history so that the child can benefit from this information as they age.
Since the Pennsylvania law was enacted in 2003, it has saved 27 babies. Yet there have also been heartbreaking stories of newborn babies discovered in dumpsters, toilets, and plastic bags along roadsides. If more people learn about it, imagine how many more newborns can be saved from a tragic demise.
Help increase public awareness of this important alternative by spreading the word about Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven program.
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By Jennifer Southerton, PCC Intern and Student at DeSales University