Department of Social Services, Building a Stronger Louisiana - Kristy H. Nichols, Secretary
 
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2009

Contact: Trey Williams
225-342-6700


Newborn Safely Handed Over at Safe Haven Facility,
Second Since February Launch of Public Awareness Campaign

BATON ROUGE -- A newborn was safely handed over to an employee at a Safe Haven facility in Southwest Louisiana earlier this month, marking the second time in just over a month that a mother has utilized the Louisiana law. It also marks the second time the law has been utilized since the Department of Social Services (DSS) launched a public awareness campaign in February to educate parents about Louisiana's Safe Haven Law.

The baby boy, who is in good health, was handed over to workers at a Lake Charles area hospital earlier this month after his mother received information from a worker with DSS' Office of Community Services about her options to use the Safe Haven law.

"While the decision to give up custody of a child is incredibly difficult, it is encouraging to see that this mother was aware of her options and made the safe choice to protect her newborn," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "In this case, our efforts to raise awareness about Louisiana's Safe Haven law reached a parent in need, preventing needless harm to the baby and prosecution for the parent."

The Safe Haven law provides a legal means for parents to give up custody of unwanted infants without the threat of prosecution for neglect, abandonment or child cruelty.

DSS launched its Safe Haven awareness campaign in February after the tragic death of an abandoned newborn in Kenner. Secretary Nichols has since conducted media interviews across the state. The agency has also developed a Web site, www.LouisianaSafeHaven.com, and created a presence on popular social networking sites, such as Facebook. The agency is also developing brochures, outdoor advertisements and radio and television commercials for the campaign which should start airing in the next three weeks.

This is the second Safe Haven case in the Lake Charles area since DSS implemented policies and procedures in 2004 relating to the state's Safe Haven law. In that time, ten infants have been successfully and safely relinquished to the state.

Safe Haven Cases since 2004

Date

Location

May 2004

Slidell area

November 2004

Lafayette area

April 2005

New Orleans area

May 2005

New Orleans area

June 2007

Lafayette area

July 2007

New Orleans area

September 2007

Shreveport area

October 2008

New Orleans area

March 2009

Lake Charles area

April 2009

Lake Charles area

Under the Safe Haven law, a parent may leave a baby up to 31-days-old in the care of an individual at a designated emergency care facility. The baby cannot be left unattended and must show no signs of abuse or neglect.

Louisiana's designated emergency care facilities are any licensed hospital, public health unit, emergency medical service provider, medical clinic, fire or police station, pregnancy crisis center or child advocacy center.

DSS recommends that parents who want to relinquish their newborns take the following steps:

  1. Locate the nearest emergency care facility (i.e. hospital, public health unit, any EMS unit, medical clinic, fire or police station, pregnancy crisis center or child advocacy center).
  2. Locate an employee with the facility, hand your child to them and state that you want to utilize Louisiana's Safe Haven law.

After the child is given up, he or she is taken for a medical checkup. The relinquishing parent is provided a card with a toll-free phone number (1-800-CHILDREN or 1-800-244-5373) to call and receive information about parental rights and provide anonymous information about the infant's medical and genetic history, if desired. A parent who wishes to initiate proceedings to reclaim custody of the child has 30 days to contact DSS.

Meanwhile, officials at the designated emergency care facility that received the child notify DSS. The Office of Community Services (OCS) begins the process to obtain legal custody of the child and to free the child for adoption.

A series of high-profile infant abandonment cases across the country prompted the Louisiana Legislature to combat the problem. In 2000, Louisiana enacted such a law, amending the Children's Code Articles 1101 and 1193 and Title XVII of the Children's Code, Articles 1701-1706, to provide for the Safe Haven relinquishment of newborns. That Code again was amended in 2003.

According to the National Safe Haven Alliance, all 50 states have some form of Safe Haven provision.

For more information about the Safe Haven law, call 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373), which is supported by Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, or visit www.LouisianaSafeHaven.com.

-- 30 --

 
   
627 N. Fourth St. | Baton Rouge, LA 70802 | PH: (225) 342-0286 | FX: (225) 342-8636 | www.dss.louisiana.gov



PROFILE OPTIONS: Subscribe | Unsubscribe | Archives
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you are having trouble viewing this message, please click here.