California’s Safely Surrendered Baby Law0

The bond between child and mother is primordial. Typically this connection begins at birth when mother and child finally “meet,” exchange affection and smells, and then peer into each other’s eyes for the very first time. In a normal birth, the baby is still physically connected to its mother by the umbilical cord (and as nature always tries to plan ahead, the cord should be the right size for the newborn to reach its mother’s breasts without cutting).

After physical separation from the mother, the newborn is helpless and totally dependent. Unfortunately, some parents are unable or unwilling to care for this newborn child, and they sever this bond by abandoning the child in an unsafe location.  In California, over the past decade 151 infants have been found alive following an unsafe, and illegal, abandonment.

Due to a special law started in California almost ten years ago, approximately 362 newborns have been “safely” surrendered.  This law, called the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, is intended to spare the life of an infant by encouraging parents or persons with lawful custody to safely surrender an infant at a “safe surrender site” within 72 hours of the child’s birth rather than abandoning the child in an unsafe location.

The law requires the baby be taken to a public or private hospital, designated fire station or other safe surrender site. If done within 72 hours of the child’s birth, no questions will be asked, it remains confidential, and the parents risk no fear of prosecution. The law is not designed to reward these actions, but simply to provide a safe alternative to desperate individuals who are unwilling or unable to keep their babies.

Babies who are safely surrendered at a hospital are given medical treatment and placed in a foster home or pre-adoptive home. At the time of surrender, a bracelet is placed on the baby for identification purposes and a matching bracelet provided to the parent or lawful guardian in case the baby is reclaimed. A parent or person with lawful custody has up to 14 days from the time of surrender to reclaim their baby. In addition to California, at least 46 other states have such laws in place to discourage baby abandonment.

For additional information about California’s program, click here.

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