Each year, about 12,000 babies are left by their mothers in dumpsters, toilets, or in the woods, and most won’t live to see their first birthday. These mothers are generally financially or emotionally ill-equipped to raise their infant and often think they have no other choice but to abandon them in unsafe areas. Twenty years ago, very little help existed for mothers who couldn’t keep their infants, but now, a program exists that will allow a mother to place her infant in the care of others which in turn gives that baby an opportunity at life.
In November of 1999, the state of Texas adopted the Safe-Haven law which allows mothers to leave their infants in the care of a facility with no questions asked. Since this law has been in effect, all 50 states have adopted the Safe Haven legislature. Through this legislature, thousands of infants have been saved from an otherwise uncertain future. Even though the success rate of this program has been remarkable, babies are still being illegally and unsafely abandoned because women do not know there is an alternative.
The National Safe Haven Alliance was established to help women who felt there was no other option. It provides the opportunity to leave their unharmed infant without the fear of embarrassment, retribution, or prosecution at a designated facility. Instead of abandoning a newborn, it allows mothers, fathers, or whoever is in possession of an unharmed newborn, approximately 72 hours old or less, to leave them at a Safe Haven facility: Any Hospital, a staffed 24/7 Fire Rescue Station, or a staffed 24/7 Emergency Medical Service Station, with no questions asked and totally anonymous. This is a compassionate approach which is saving lives.
The safe haven provider is required to accept emergency protective custody of the infant and to provide any immediate medical care that the infant may require. When the safe haven facility receiving the baby is not a hospital, the baby must be transferred to a hospital as soon as possible. The provider is also required to notify the local child welfare department that an infant has been relinquished. Most facilities will ask the person relinquishing the infant about any family history or illness, which will provide health history to future parents of the child.
In Sierra Vista, all fire departments and Sierra Vista Regional Health Center are certified Safe Haven centers. “Our goal is to make sure that every infant in Cochise County has a chance at a happy and healthy future,” says Sharon Gaspardo, SVRHC Administrative Director. “If we can save one infant from being unsafely left anywhere, then we have saved a life and this program is worth its weight in gold.” The Wellness Depot located at the Mall at Sierra Vista will provide Safe Haven brochures beginning in May. For more information on the Safe Haven program, please call 417-3180. Remember, a child left at a Safe Haven facility is not abandoned.