Being a Safe Haven baby makes eight-year-old Riley feel awesome and strong. With much charm and confidence, Riley says, “When I first knew I was a safe haven baby, I thought, that was one special kid”. Cheryl, Riley’s mother, said she hadn’t heard of the Safe Haven Law until that one life-changing call she and her husband received while waiting to adopt a baby. Cheryl remembers, “They had a baby who was relinquished in Chicago at a hospital and they had called our adoption agency to place the child and we were chosen from our adoption agency to be that family. So that was my first experience even hearing about the Safe Haven Law which was enacted 9 years before she was born.”
Riley happens to be Illinois’ 64th baby saved because her biological mother knew about and chose to relinquish her to a designated safe haven facility.
“If I had Riley’s birth mom here to talk to, I would have nothing but thanks for her, and the amazing courage it takes to do that. Ultimately, I think it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right choice for them to make”, says Riley’s dad Shawn.
Both of Riley’s parents say that because of the woman’s decision to relinquish her child, their family was made complete when Riley was born. Additionally, they say that everything about her, everything about who she is, makes her another one of their daughters that was just, “meant to be”. Gracie and Mackenzie, Riley’s two 15-year-old sisters, wholeheartedly agree.
Gracie says, “She’s pretty fun. She’s very outgoing and loud and has a lot of energy”.
Cheryl remembers the time prior to safe haven laws being enacted. “It was heart-wrenching. You’d watch the news, you’d hear about babies left in garbage cans, babies left on front porches or hiding in bushes and most of them would die.”
Since the country’s first safe haven law was enacted back in 1999, the National Safe Haven Alliance reports:
3,524 newborns were legally relinquished using Safe Haven
1,397 newborns were illegally relinquished
773 newborns were found deceased
and 462 newborns found alive.
Cheryl wishes more expectant mothers, who find themselves in a crisis situation, knew about this option. Specifically because it is one that helped to create their family and make it complete.
Mackenzie notes, “It helps babies survive”.
“There’s an option for parents who feel overwhelmed or, for whatever reason, feel like they can’t parent that child that they can legally relinquish the child, give the child the life the child deserves and move on with their own life”, Cheryl says. Gracie agrees and says that it’s a decision that a parent can make after having their child.
Both Illinois’ and Iowa’s Safe Haven Laws state that a parent can relinquish an unharmed newborn that is up to thirty days old.
“If you want your baby to have the best life that they can, and that you know you can’t provide for them, it’s a good option, especially because if you don’t want anyone to know you can do it anonymously,” says Gracie.
Cheryl believes that Riley’s biological mother was courageous, brave and selfless. She says, “I could not imagine being in her position”.
Riley says that one of her favorite things is when all the Illinois’ Safe Haven families gather for a reunion every summer. She fondly recalls this year’s bouncy house and says that what she loves most is seeing other kids, some teenagers and some newborns, who have stories just like her.