A 19-year-old Chicago woman is facing charges of dropping her newborn daughter from an eighth-floor window in Uptown, killing the baby, because she feared discovery of the pregnancy by her family, prosecutors said.
The Illinois Safe Haven law, now in its 14th year, is in place to prevent this type of tragedy, and the program has grown in impact over that time.
The law allows for an unharmed baby, up to 30 days old, to be given to personnel at a Safe Haven location. Locations include hospitals, police stations, fire stations, sheriff’s offices and emergency medical care facilities.
When an incident like what happened in Uptown occurs, the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a grass-roots group that worked with legislators to craft Illinois’ law, springs into action to remind people about the options that caregivers for the babies have, the group’s president says.
The group will target the area where the incident occurred by contacting hospitals and area fire and police stations to remind them of the law and ask if they will help distribute brochures in the community, said Dawn Geras, the group’s president. The group contacts the alderman, state representative and senator for the area to help get the word out.
Geras, a venture capital consultant from Chicago, launched the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation in 2000 after reading a news report about an abandoned baby. The foundation is staffed completely by volunteers.
Abandoned babies in Illinois since law was passed
Since Safe Haven law was signed in 2001
Chart shows the number of babies relinquished legally compared with those abandoned since the Abandoned Newborn Protection Act, or Safe Haven law, was signed in August 2001. Since then, about half of the 75 abandoned babies died. None of the 110 legally relinquished babies have died.
Age of parent giving up newborn
Parents can remain anonymous but still give information about themselves and the baby. A packet of information is given to them, and some fill it out and turn it in.
Legally relinquished newborns by race
Illegally relinquished newborns by race
How the law has changed since 2001
- 2003: llinois school code changed to require that sex education covers the Safe Haven law.
- 2004: Police stations designated Safe Haven locations.
- 2006: Health education program amended to require teaching grades 6 to 12 about the Safe Haven law.
- 2007: Law passed requiring Safe Haven locations to display a sign. (At least 26 other states require the sign.)
- 2008: Alaska and Nebraska sign Safe Haven laws, the last two states to do so.
- 2009: Law extended to cover newborns up to 30 days old. (The initial law was 3 days old or younger.)
- 2011: Safe Haven sites expanded to include college or university locations when police department employees are present, and district headquarters.
What happens when a baby is taken to a Safe Haven?
- Once the baby is handed over, and it is unharmed, the parent is free to leave. No personal information is required, and no questions will be asked.
- An exam and any needed medical care for the baby is performed at the nearest hospital.
What happens after the parent leaves a Safe Haven?
- The Department of Children and Family Services will check databases like the missing child registry and then contact the adoption agency. The adoption agency will contact a pre-approved family who can immediately pick up the child. Some families have been waiting more than five years to adopt a child.
Other services and more information
- If needed, support for parents giving up children is available, including medical care, counseling services, and information on rights and options. The Save Abandoned Babies Foundation can be reached at 312-440-0229, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on the web.
Can a parent change their mind?
- The parent has 60 days to reclaim their infant. The parent must go through counseling and an inquiry by the Department of Children and Family Services
- The parent can petition the court to regain custody in the first 60 days. A petition to terminate parental rights is filed after 60 days.
Sources: Dawn Geras, Save Abandoned Babies Foundation
Jemal R. Brinson
November 17, 2015 8:27 AM
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