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.
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.