Boston Creates “Baby Safe Havens” for Children
I just saw this article in the Boston Globe today about the creation of what is being called “Baby Safe Havens.” The idea is to curb the number of abandoned newborns under 7 months by creating a safe house where mothers can relinquish their children.
These Baby Safe Havens reminds me of the Public Baby Cradles and Baby Boxes that countries such as Japan and India have created. The only difference is that the PBCs and BBs do not necessarily have a baby age limit (correct me if I’m wrong).
More unwanted newborns will survive and live with caring families across the state now that lawmakers have made permanent the Baby Safe Haven Law, Department of Social Services officials said yesterday.
Governor Deval Patrick signed the law last week to allow a safe alternative for mothers who might otherwise abandon their babies. The law, passed in 2004, had been set to expire next year.
“The Baby Safe Haven Law saves lives,” Angelo McClain, commissioner of the Department of Social Services, said in a statement. “By making this important piece of legislation permanent, Massachusetts offers parents a safe alternative and helps protect babies from abuse and neglect. DSS enthusiastically supports the law, and we are pleased to see it extended.”
The law allows a parent to surrender a newborn 7 days old or younger to a designated Baby Safe Haven, which includes any hospital, police station, or manned fire station, without the threat of a prison term. Six babies have been safely surrendered since the law’s inception, DSS officials said.
A surrendered child goes immediately into DSS custody and, after a medical screening, he or she is placed in a preadoptive home. DSS spokeswoman Denise Monteiro said preadoptive homes allow for the newborns to have the best chance of staying with one family, as opposed to placement in a foster home.
The law not only eases the surrendering of children, but offers information to expectant mothers. One of the most successful components of the program, Monteiro said, has been the Baby Safe Haven Hotline, which gives would-be parents information about the law, crisis intervention services, and referrals to teen pregnancy shelters.
“We have the services out there; we just need to connect the expecting mothers to the service,” Monteiro said.
Through the hotline, 35 mothers have developed a successful pregnancy plan with the staff, ensuring that those newborns were not abandoned, DSS officials said. The Baby Safe Haven Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 866-814-SAFE.