Saving Newborns from Abandonment Is Goal of New Law

Parents who believe they are ill-equipped to deal with their newborn children have options, and safe places to leave their babies are available across the state was the message delivered at a news conference today in recognition of the Safe Delivery of Newborns Act. Under Michigan’s Safe Delivery of Newborns Act parents have a safe place to leave a newborn infant, confidentially and without fear of punishment.

“Prior to the Safe Delivery Law, there had been several abandoned babies in Michigan, one by the side of the road in Kalamazoo, one in a car wash in Lansing,” said Sen. Patty Birkholz (R-Saugatuck). “I was convinced that we, as lawmakers, could help the birth mothers who were often traumatized, confused and felt helpless. But most importantly, we adopted this law to save the lives of babies.”

The Safe Delivery of Newborns Act became law in 2001 in response to a growing problem of infants abandoned in parking lots, bathrooms, dumpsters and other unsafe locations.

According to the law, a parent can anonymously surrender an infant, from birth to 72 hours of age, to an Emergency Service Provider (ESP). An ESP is a uniformed, or otherwise identified, employee of a fire department, hospital or police station that is inside the building and on duty. As of Jan. 1, 2007, this definition was expanded to include on-duty EMS personnel.

The act allows the parent to surrender the infant without breaking any laws or giving any identifying information to the ESP. Although the parent remains anonymous, he or she is encouraged to provide family and medical background that could be useful to the child in the future.

After the newborn is placed in the custody of the ESP, the baby is examined at a hospital and if no signs of abuse or neglect are found, the child is released to temporary protective custody and is given to a private adoption agency for placement with an approved family. If indications of abuse and/or neglect are found, hospital personnel initiate a referral to Children’s Protective Services for an investigation.

“The Safe Delivery of Newborns Act gives people options and prevents needless abandonment,” said Bob Connors, MD, president, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Hospitals across Michigan stand united in readiness to accept these vulnerable newborns.”

“Since 2001, the Safe Delivery of Newborns Act has helped to save 49 infants from being abandoned in hazardous locations,” said Marianne Udow, director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. “This law gives parents an option to allow their newborn a chance to live a full and healthy life.”

Udow also emphasizes that the Safe Delivery of Newborns law gives parents that wish to adopt a chance to save a life that could have otherwise been taken away.

“There are scores of parents across our state that want to adopt a child and Safe Delivery gives children who would have otherwise been abandoned a chance to grow up in a home filled with love and care,” Udow said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as 100 newborns are abandoned in public places each year, with nearly a third of those infants found dead.

A toll-free, 24-hour telephone line has been established to provide information on services available to a perspective parents. The toll-free number is: (866) 733-7733. For more information about Safe Delivery, visit the DHS Web site.