Department of Social Services, Building a Stronger Louisiana - Kristy H. Nichols, Secretary
 
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2009

Contact: Trey Williams, 225-342-6700

Louisiana's Safe Haven Law Designed to Keep Unwanted Newborns Safe, Parents Free from Prosecution

BATON ROUGE - Louisiana Department of Social Services (DSS) officials reminded the public today that Louisiana's Safe Haven law gives new parents a chance to provide a safe environment for their unwanted newborn at any designated emergency care facility, hopefully preventing tragic events like the abandonment of a newborn in Kenner yesterday.

The Safe Haven law provides a legal means for parents to safely relinquish custody of unwanted infants without the threat of prosecution for neglect, abandonment or child cruelty. Since 2004, eight infants have been relinquished in Louisiana through the Safe Haven law, most recently in October 2008.

"Louisiana's Safe Haven law offers a loving, safe and anonymous alternative to abandonment, allowing overwhelmed parents to leave an unwanted infant at a designated emergency-care facility without fear of prosecution," said Nichols. "I recognize the difficult decision parents who want to give up their newborns must make. The Safe Haven law is designed to keep both baby and parents safe from harm."

Under the 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.

In 2004, DSS, in partnership with stakeholders, created the state's current Safe Haven policies and procedures. Since that time, eight infants have been successfully and safely relinquished to the state.

Safe Haven Relinquishments since 2004

Date Location
May 2004 Slidell area
Nov 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

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), visit the DSS Web site at www.dss.louisiana.gov or contact your local Office of Community Services. For a complete list of OCS offices, visit www.dss.louisiana.gov/OCSoffices.

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



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