Department of Public Welfare Reminds New Parents About Safe Haven Law

HARRISBURG (PRNewswire) – Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman is reminding expectant parents and parents of newborns that Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven law allows them to legally and confidentially turn over unwanted infants up to 28 days old to any hospital as an alternative to abandonment.

Earlier this week, a full-term newborn girl – just hours old – was found abandoned on the front porch of a Bucks County home, according to local authorities. A medical examination found her to be in good health. The infant was placed under the care of the county’s children and youth agency.

“While we are greatly relieved to learn that the baby was unharmed, this is exactly the kind of situation that our Safe Haven program was designed to prevent,” said Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman. “Young women who are not prepared for parenthood are often afraid and don’t know where to turn for help. Safe Haven gives those women a legal and confidential option that is safe for the child.”

There are nearly 270 hospitals in Pennsylvania where parents may safely surrender their baby if they fear that they cannot care for the child. Babies can be handed over to any hospital staff member or, if a person is unwilling or unable to wait, they will be directed by signs on where to place the baby. As long as the child is unharmed, the parents will not be asked any questions.

It is recommended that the parent provide medical information for the child, but it is not required. A baby turned over to a Safe Haven hospital will receive any necessary medical care. The county’s children and youth agency will work to find the baby a loving family through the state’s foster care system.

“The Department of Public Welfare works closely with the Hospital and HealthSystem Association of Pennsylvania and hospitals across the commonwealth to train and educate all hospital personnel on the proper way to respond when a newborn baby is left at the hospital,” Secretary Richman added.

In order to increase awareness of the Safe Haven program, DPW is developing new brochures, posters and related information as well as a new Web site targeted to expectant mothers. The Safe Haven Helpline offers advice and information for new mothers. The Helpline, available 24 hours a day, may be reached, toll-free, at 866-921-SAFE (7233).

Since Safe Haven’s inception in February of 2003, outreach materials have been distributed to nearly 9,000 community service organizations, schools, colleges, universities, libraries and health care agencies. A radio public service campaign also was conducted.

Pennsylvania is one of 48 states that have passed a Safe Haven Law. To date, two babies have been saved through the program.

More information about Safe Haven is available at 866-921-SAFE (7233) or http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/safehaven.

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