Monday, May 23, 2011

Newborn Baby Survives Being Thrown Away into Trash Compactor; Know Your Safe Haven Options



Another newborn baby was thrown out with the trash this weekend. This time, despite going down a Brooklyn, New York trash compactor, the little one survived and is expected to make a full and healthy recovery (details below). In 2011, the majority of U.S. states have legislation allowing parents to drop unwanted newborns at "Save Haven" locations without repercussions of any kind, but it is an option Laquasia Wright must not have known of. Safe Havens started as an effort in 1999 in Texas to reduce the numbers of babies being abandoned and abused. Sometimes called the "Baby Moses Laws," they were established as an incentive for mothers in crisis to safely relinquish babies to designated locations where babies would be protected and provided with necessary medical care until a safe, loving, and permanent home is found. In most cases, a parent or person helping a parent may remain anonymous and is protected from prosecution in any form when a baby is dropped at a Safe Haven location. In the past 12 years, 49 states and Puerto Rico have established Safe Haven laws.


One problematic factor in infant Safe Haven locations is that there is no uniform protocol or drop locations nation wide. In some states it may be allowable to drop at a fire or police station, whereas in other states only hospitals or health clinics are legally able to accept an infant without question. In most states either parent may surrender his or her baby. In four states, only the mother may relinquish her baby. In 11 states, anyone with a parent's approval (an "agent" of a parent) may take a baby to a Safe Haven. Seven states do not specify who can drop off a baby.  Age of baby is another incongruent factor in U.S. Safe Haven laws. In 13 states, babies 3 days old or younger are taken in with no questions asked. In 16 states and Puerto Rico infants up to 1 month old are anonymously taken in. Other states have various newborn ages set in place for acceptance at Safe Havens.

In Wisconsin, for example, a "child may be left at a sheriff's office, police station, fire station, hospital, or other place where a law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member is located."  In addition, Wisconsin's safe haven providers:
  • Take custody of a baby the provider reasonably believes to be 3 days or younger who is left by a parent (mother or father) who does not express an intent to return for the child.
  • Take any action necessary to protect the health and safety of the child.
  • Within 24 hours after taking the child into custody, deliver the child to an intake worker.
  • Make available to the parent the maternal and child health toll-free telephone number maintained by the department.
  • The decision whether to accept the information made available is entirely voluntary on the part of the parent. No person may induce, coerce, or attempt to induce or coerce any parent into accepting that information.
  • If a parent who wishes to relinquish custody of his or her child is unable to travel to a safe haven provider, the parent may dial the telephone number.
New York's laws (where the last two babies were thrown away) are not as clearly laid out as Wisconsin. New York parents may drop off a baby at a Safe Haven that is up to 5 days old without questions asked to "an appropriate person at a suitable location."

In California, a baby may be given to anyone working at a fire station or hospital emergency room, with no questions asked and no fear of prosecution.

A baby of any age would be better off dropped at a Safe Haven than face abuse or neglect (or life endangerment) and with an increase in cases like this over the past 3 years, it may meet the needs of our little ones to establish more of an open, universal policy for Safe Havens.


Today, in 12 states, anonymity for a parent (or agent of the parent) is expressly guaranteed. In 24 states and Puerto Rico, a Safe Haven provider cannot ask a parent to provide identifying information. In 13 states also provide an assurance of confidentiality for any information that is voluntarily provided by the parent. In addition to the guarantee of anonymity, most states provide protection from criminal liability for parents who safely give up their newborn baby. As of 2010, 33 states and Puerto Rico had laws protecting parents from prosecution if a baby is given to a Safe Haven. If there is evidence that an infant has been abused or neglected, anonymity and protection from prosecution is forfeited.

Often, the very parents who do not know or understand that baby drop options exist are those looking for ways to escape the unwanted birth of their child, or find themselves struggling to cope with the heavy demands of a newborn parenting role they never desired to have.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a summary of State Infant Safe Haven laws here. Please become familiar with your state or local Safe Haven or "Baby Moses" laws and locations where unwanted babies may be dropped anonymously, and share this information in your circles of influence. If you work in a location (police station, fire station, shelter, hospital, clinic) that can serve as a Safe Haven for your state, please look into ways to establish this, and post signs to let everyone in the community know it exists. Although this may never impact you, it could save the life of a little one born to someone around you. If parents who throw away or inadvertently abuse their newborn babies knew that there were safe options for relinquishment, they may not resort to such drastic and damaging measures.


Following by Sam Levin and Bob Kappstatter for The Daily News

Against all odds, a newborn baby boy survived being thrown down a Brooklyn housing project trash compactor Sunday. The infant was rushed to nearby Brooklyn Hospital, where he was in stable condition, officials said.

Police said the building's superintendent called police after hearing the baby's cries from inside a plastic trash bag attached to the compactor chute about 9:20 a.m. in the Fort Greene Houses. The baby landed in the attached trash bag, which may have helped break its fall. The child appeared to be about 12 hours old and still had its umbilical cord attached, the source said.

Laquasia Wright, who lives on the eighth floor of the Walt Whitman Houses in Fort Greene, was charged with attempted murder and endangering the welfare of a child. Investigators suspect the baby was tossed from the eighth floor of the building.

Neighbors stood outside the building, shocked by the news. "That's just sad and pitiful. They need to burn in hell, that's what they need to do," said resident Tisha Holmes, 26. "People are shocked here. They could've given it to anybody. Ain't nobody in their civil mind would do that."

Fontaine Simon, 38, was upset to learn what had happened in her building. "Oh God, I hope the baby is all right," she said. "I've been living here for 30 years, nothing ever happened like this before - never."

Earlier this month, Dawa Lama of Woodside, Queens was charged with dumping her newborn girl in a bathroom trash can inside the emergency room at Elmhurst General Hospital. The child died a few days later.

AMT Children of Hope/Baby Safe Haven President, Timothy Jaccard, stands in front of one of the New York organization's nine mobile billboard trailers letting parents know they have options. 

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17 comments:

  1. I don't buy it, Safe Haven laws have been common knowledge for years, I simply don't find it believe that anyone old enough to go through a pregnancy has: never seen a 'save haven' sign and explanation of the law at a doctors office/hospital, never seen a news article that mentioned Safe Haven laws, never seen a t.v. show that mentioned Safe Haven laws, or never saw a billboard/add/public service announcement mentioning the law. People don't abandon newborns because they are unfamiliar with
    Safe Haven laws, they abandon infants for the same reason they abort them, the very young are considered property of the mother to be disposed of how she wishes and the mothers who would do such a thing have a 'me' mentality of 'if I can't have them, no one can'. (Barring cohersion, but then it's not the mother doing it, it's whoever is cohersing her)

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    1. Actually, I'm 22 and about to have my second child, and I have never seen anything about Safe Haven or anything similar, nor have I heard about it until I read this article. So despite it being very devastating and I can't believe someone would just throw their baby away, I have to disagree with the statement that Safe Haven laws are common knowledge.

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  2. This makes me so, so sad. :-(

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  3. How could someone do that to a precious newborn baby? They are treasures. And there are so many parents out there who can give unwanted babies wonderful, amazing homes. So, so so so sad.

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  4. Jespren, I have heard of the laws but I have no idea where a shelter is around me. However I would go to an emergency room, police station and ask if they could take the baby. Although we do not know if the parents are on drugs or have any disability to where common sense is cloudy. With so many people TTC, there is no shortage of homes.

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  5. Jespren, I had never heard of this and I imagine most of my friends hadn't (I grew up in Utah). I learned about it when, after being sexually assaulted, I became a sexual safety and resource educator as a senior in college. So I truly believe that young women have no idea that Safe Havens exist. I taught 8th grade science at an inner city public school and not a single one of the 8th grade girls at the school had heard of Safe Haven points. Not a single one. That includes the couple who got pregnant.

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  6. Sure it's easy to be judgmental about could a person do such a thing to a child the rest of us would clearly cherish - and let's remember -especially if you've given birth, post partum there are so many hormones flushing through your system (or drugs if you had drugs with your birth) and while I'm not saying postpartum women lack rationality by any stretch of the imagination, I do remember after thr birth of my son feeling feelings I never thought I could or would and suddenly understanding how Toni Morrison's character in Beloved killed her daughter to protect her from a life of slavery. Add in the fatigue post delivery and other life circumstances that this young woman could clearly face and well, my heart goes out to her as well as the baby - they both need help.

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  7. Sometimes I wonder if having an abortion isn't better than that.... so sad!

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  8. I don't even know what to say. I've thrilled both babies are doing well.

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  9. I wonder if that baby had his genitals mutilated later.

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  10. I'm the adoptive mother of a "Safe Surrender" baby. We just have no way of knowing the situation of this mother that drove her to do such an unthinkable thing.
    My baby was born to a mother who did not know she was pregnant until she heard the baby cry. Fortunately for my daughter, paramedics were called to rescue this 3 lb. 2.8 ounce baby from the campground where she was born. I do not know, and will likely never know, if the birth mother made the call or got help or if she was found by someone.
    I hope that this baby has a happy ending like mine did. More on our story if you are interested at http://thebreastfeedingmother.blogspot.com/2010/10/i-always-knew-i-wanted-to-breastfeed-my.html

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  11. i wish people would stop calling these people parents. just because they gave birth does not make them a parent. parenting, nurturing, caring for a child actually makes you a parent. call them the birth person or something...

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  12. Wow. I just read this. How heart breaking! Why are children and babies such lost voices?!

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  13. Safe Haven has good intentions but is a more than terrible idea. Anonymity should NEVER be promised or granted, because every child/eventual adult deserves to know who they come from and who their parents are. Now we're going to have yet another generation of human beings who have no idea where they are from and will likely never know, even with DNA testing. Not only that, but it's dangerous and negligent to leave them with zero medical history or contact with the other parent or relatives.

    If a baby is relinquished through Safe Haven, every option should be given to the mother to help her through whatever situation she is facing that is making her so desperate and to help her keep her baby. The fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of mothers want their babies. Some just need help to enable them to be good parents. Barring mother/child preservation, relatives should be found and considered. Stranger placement should be an absolute last resort.

    Besides that, how can you actually be certain it's a parent dropping the child off? Another problem is that two people are involved in the creation of a child. Why is it that only one (if you are assuming it is indeed a parent dropping the kid off) is needed to get rid of it? No parent has the right to relinquish the parental rights of the other, possibly non-consenting, parent.

    Safe Haven is nothing but a band-aid. It does nothing to address the actual causes of why people abandon or abuse people, and in its history it can already be proven that the people who dumb their child in the river are not the same ones who will surrender to Safe Haven.

    And to whoever said it: No parent is a "birth" anything. They are the child's parents. They may be terrible ones, but that is who they are. If a child is brought up in substitute care, the kid may end up with one or two (or more) other parents, but that does not change the fact that the people responsible for the child's conception and birth are, and will always be, his/her parents. To deny that bond and connection is to deny the child's very existence and invalidates his/her origins and heritage.

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  14. Wow, it never cease4s to amaze me when I hear stories like this. How could someone live with themselves after committing such irresponsible acts; is beyond me. Although i am not looking to judge anyone; I just do not understand why these things like baby abandonment take place so often. Strict laws on this issue makes it difficult for a concerned citizen to do the right thing; at times.

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  15. Discarding babies is fairly common these days. A couple of years ago one was found alive and well in a cardboard box in Launceston car park (Launceston UK) Its astonishing that a mother should throw away their own child but as they say up north "There's nowt as queer as folk".

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  16. I think if you are old enough to be sexually active and to make the decision to HAVE unprotected SEX then you have to ALSO know the repercussions of those actions. These people know that life is MADE from intimacy so if you GET pregnant, get some help. Don't wait until your baby is born and then try to dispose of it secretly...I mean, I just don't know how you can do that. I understand some women go through postpartum and so forth but still...you are looking and holding a crying living soul in your hands and the only option you see that is open to you is to toss it out like day old trash? I just can't believe anyone who has a heart can do this to an infant. Sorry...but I cannot see an excuse for this kind of action or a defense of any kind. It's just evil, cruel, and selfish. I hope these individuals can't sleep at night....because thinking of this happening right now makes it hard for me to sleep! May God keep these little ones safe...they are the most innocent and defenseless.

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