The Baby Safe Haven Laws in each state allow parents to anonymously leave their unharmed infant with designated authorities without fear of prosecution. Since 1999, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted such laws. The infant may be left at a hospital, fire station, police station or at a religious institution as long as there is a provider that can care for the child, no questions asked. These laws were enacted to save the lives of children, while protecting the parents from prosecution. The details of laws in each state vary.
Why would a parent choose to do leave their infant at a Baby Safe Haven facility? Desperation and being in a state of crisis is one answer. Lack of support and finances are other reasons. Fear is another cause why a woman or man would choose to leave their infant with a stranger.
These are also some of the same reasons that parents choose to make an adoption plan for their infant. Why would parents choose the Baby Safe Haven over making an adoption plan? One of the answers to this question is lack of information regarding the option of adoption. Baby Safe Haven gets a lot of press; whereas positive adoption education is lacking in our society. Those of us who have been touched by adoption need to educate the general public that adoption is a positive, loving choice that biological parents make for their child. Making an adoption plan is the most difficult decision parents can make for their baby; yet it is one of the bravest and most courageous acts.
Several years ago, we received a call from a hospital about a young woman who was going to leave her baby under the Baby Safe Haven Law. She had planned to give birth at home and then bring the baby somewhere. She ended up in the hospital to give birth and spoke with a social worker who encouraged her to explore adoption. After some very intensive counseling, this young couple decided to make an adoption plan and chose a family for their baby. They felt good that they had the option of receiving letters and pictures over the years and opening up the adoption in the future. In the meantime, they had a picture in their mind of the safe and loving home where their child is being raised. Their wishes were respected and everything was handled with discretion and in complete privacy. They had not known about the option of adoption prior to meeting with the social worker.
For this child’s sake, there is now a history which will follow him. This child will grow up knowing that his parents made a loving choice for him; to give him parents who could give him the life he deserves. This will be the life that his birth parents felt that they could not give him at this point in their lives. The birth parents will continue to have choices regarding exchange of information and openness. These options are not available when choosing the Baby Safe Haven Law.
Fast forward a few years and this has become an open adoption. The adoptive and birth families have regular, direct exchange of information with one another. They have met one another and plan to continue this contact. With time and counseling, the birth parents felt comfortable sharing the birth of their child and adoption story with members of their extended family. These relatives have also met the child and his family. This is also an option not available through Baby Safe Haven Law.
Making an adoption plan, rather than opting for Baby Safe Haven gives the biological parents the opportunity to partake in counseling with a professional that can help them cope with their grief and sadness. A caseworker/counselor can help the biological parents work on their life circumstances that led them to make the difficult decision regarding adoption or Baby Safe Haven. Adoption gives the biological parents choices, such as choosing the family for the baby and designing an open adoption, closed adoption or semi-open adoption.
The Baby Safe Haven program has saved children’s lives. It is a much better choice than leaving a baby in a dumpster.
We need to let couples or individuals who are facing parenthood for which they are unprepared know that adoption is a positive option for them. Adoptions can be planned in total privacy while respecting the wishes of both birth parents.