Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced that two additional babies were brought to hospital emergency departments in March and said the law giving parents a safe alternative to abandoning a newborn baby has been very successful in saving the most vulnerable among us.
“The Safe Havens Law is accomplishing what we intended," Governor Rell said. “There is a safe alternative that gives the baby and a new family a wonderful life.”
Two more Safe Havens babies were brought to a Connecticut hospital emergency department in March. That brings to 11 the number of babies age 30 days or younger who have been protected from potential abandonment since the law took effect in 2000. In March, babies were brought to Connecticut Children's Medical Center and Middlesex Hospital. All the Safe Havens babies have either been adopted, are in the process of getting adopted, or are living permanently with family members.
Under the Safe Havens Law, if the baby is 30 days old or younger, the parent can bring the child to any hospital emergency department in Connecticut, and the parent will not face criminal prosecution. The parent is not required to give information, and the baby will be cared for and quickly placed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) with a licensed family that wants to adopt. Despite the law's existence, four babies have been abandoned – two in 2001 (in Greenwich and Brookfield), another in July 2004 (in Branford) and one in August 2006 (in Groton). All survived.
DCF Commissioner Susan I. Hamilton said the Connecticut experience with the Safe Havens law demonstrates that much of the public is aware of it. But Commissioner Hamilton said the need to re-educate is ongoing.
“Every year there is a new group of youngsters at risk for becoming parents before they are ready and confronting the fearful decision of what to do with a baby they feel they cannot care for,” Commissioner Hamilton said. “Today, we have the strongest possible demonstration of why no baby should ever be abandoned.”
State Representative Pamela Z. Sawyer of Bolton said word of mouth is an important tool for public awareness.
“The Legislature intentionally made this law simple so that there could be no confusion,” Rep. Sawyer said. “People need to talk about it because you never know when the information can save a baby's life. Each new generation needs to know that there is an option.”
As has been done each year since the law took effect, DCF sent thousands of pamphlets to all 169 Connecticut municipalities and school systems for distribution to middle and high schools.
The emergency room at Saint Francis Hospital received a Safe Haven baby on Christmas Day in 2007.
“We saw firsthand the importance of the Safe Havens Law when a baby girl arrived at our doorstep. We are proud to have provided a ‘safe haven’ for the baby thanks to our experienced team of doctors and nurses who cared for her,” said Christopher M. Dadlez, president and CEO, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center.
How the Safe Havens Law Works
* Infants 30 days old or younger can be left at Safe Havens (hospital emergency rooms)
* The parent will be given a packet about the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which will assume custody of the infant
* If the parent changes his or her mind, they should contact DCF and immediately apply to the court for an attorney
* Parental rights will be terminated so that the baby can be adopted
* Parents who do not harm their infant cannot be criminally charged with abandonment if they use a Safe Haven
* A nurse will meet the parent in a private room to obtain medical history, but the parent does not have to answer any questions