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Safe haven laws -- sometimes colorfully called Baby Moses laws -- allow a person to get rid of a newborn child anonymously. They exist throughout the country and differ in the details but all exist to help children whose parents cannot keep them. There is a safe haven law in all fifty states.
The National Safe Haven Alliance, headquartered in Virginia, has a map on its website that shows the baby safe haven laws in each state. If you find yourself in the impossibly difficult situation of having to make a decision to abandon your child, make sure that what you are doing is within state law.
Timeframe and Location
The time range for leaving a baby in a safe haven varies widely -- for example Nebraska provides that a child can be left at any hospital within the first 30 days of birth, while California only allows babies up to 3 days old to be surrendered and requires that they be left at specific hospitals designated by the counties.
Wherever you are, these laws exist to protect children. So, if a child is abandoned and there are signs of intentional abuse, the parent cannot escape prosecution. But the point of these laws is to provide safety for the baby, not to judge or punish parents. As such, a child with no outward signs of intentional abuse will be accepted without any questions asked.
What Happens to the Baby?
Newborn children who are left in hospitals or other designated locations under safe haven law are examined medically and turned over to Child Protective Services in that state. The Baby Safe Haven website has stories of children who were abandoned and adopted into families for whom having a child was impossible.
In other words, abandoning your baby may feel like an unhappy ending. But for the baby, it might be the start of an easier life, and for adoptive parents it is an amazing gift.
If you are a pregnant woman concerned about keeping your child, or a prospective parent hoping to adopt, speak to a family law attorney. Learn your options and get help making decisions.