From 1991 to 1998, the incidence of newborn abandonment in public places increased 62% across the country. Dramatic accounts in the media highlighted the problem. In March 1998, a baby was found by two 13 year old boys who saw a body floating in 14 feet of water in the California Aqueduct. The red-haired, 20 inch girl was tagged Baby Jane Doe No.21 and given the name 'Grace'.
Similar issues across the country prompted states to follow the lead of Texas and provide some form of Safe Haven law.
The Safe Haven Law in Illinois allows a parent to safely relinquish an unharmed infant anonymously, without fear of prosecution.
This law provides a safe alternative to parents who might be under severe emotional distress or unable to provide for the basic needs of the infant.
- Distressed birth parents can legally and anonymously relinquish an unharmed newborn.
- Provides a safe place for newborns.
- Protects the parent(s) from arrest or prosecution for abandonment.
- Does not require that names be given when the unharmed infant is safely relinquished.
- Babies are handed in to an staff member at any hospital, police station, sheriff office, fire station, or emergency care facility.
- The parent has 60 days to reclaim the infant, after counselling and an inquiry. After 60 days, parental rights are terminated.
- Parents can voluntarily complete a medical and family history questionnaire for the newborn. This could be very useful for the child and the adoptive parents.
Remember, parents don't have to use the Safe Haven law. They could also consider a traditional adoption or an open adoption where records are kept and the possibility of future contact with the child is maintained. Public assistance and food stamps can help those who might be too poor to look after a child. The Family Services Agency can help young mothers afraid of the reaction of their parents.