Providing a Safe Haven for Newborns When Parents are in Extreme Distress
March 20, 2023
Many of us have heard tragic news reports about newborn babies left to die in a field or a dumpster. Our hearts break for women who feel they have to abandon their child. Many face financial stress, homelessness, mental health issues or lack of family support.
The State of Florida's Safe Haven Law offers a life-affirming alternative. Passed in 2000, the law allows parents to drop off a newborn at any hospital, emergency medical station, or firehouse in the state. Parents can leave the baby with a staff member, no questions asked, as long as the child is unharmed, the parent will not be detained.
To date, the Safe Haven law has protected more than 360 surrendered babies in Florida. The babies were later placed in adoptive homes. And, like all adoptees in Florida, these children can get free tuition at any public state university (and some private ones).
Tremendous Relief and Gratitude
“I feel tremendous relief and gratitude when parents surrender a baby,” says Mary Roberts, RN, director of nursing for Memorial Hospital West Family Birthplace. “It is often a very painful decision for them. I want them to know that surrendering a child is an act of love when you know you can’t give that child what they need. Adoption and love are the same things.”
Safe Haven for Newborns
Grief Support for Parents
Providers admit surrendered babies to the hospital. There, they perform all the usual health checks and newborn screenings. The staff informs the Florida State Department of Children and Families. But state officials typically do not get involved. Instead, one of several local adoption agencies takes custody of the baby. Within weeks, the agency places the child with a loving adoptive family.
Some parents linger after dropping off their baby or leave contact information behind. When possible, the adoption agency reaches out to provide grief support.
Support for Pregnant Women in Crisis
A Florida-based organization called A Safe Haven for Newborns offers extra help. They provide extensive resources for pregnant women who are struggling. Resources include counseling, social service referrals and information about adoption. The organization’s confidential, 24/7 helpline is available in English and Spanish.
The Safe Haven law gives parents seven days after birth to surrender their baby unharmed. However, after seven days, Roberts says, A Safe Haven for Newborns can still provide guidance, support and resources.
“Parents don’t need to panic or feel desperate or abandon their child in an unsafe situation,” Roberts says. “No matter what, someone at A Safe Haven for Newborns can help you make the right decision for you and your baby.”