Department of Public Welfare Reminds New Parents About ‘Safe Haven’ Law

HARRISBURG – Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman reminded 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.

On Aug. 6 in Erie, the body of a newborn girl was found wrapped in plastic in the bathroom of an on-campus apartment at a college. According to investigators, the infant was suffocated shortly after birth.

“Far too often we learn that a child has been harmed when there are viable options available to parents in need,” said Richman. “When a young woman is pregnant and not prepared for the responsibilities of parenthood, often they are afraid and are unsure of where to turn for help. The safe haven program provides a safe, legal and confidential option for them and their child.”

There are nearly 270 hospitals in Pennsylvania where parents may safely surrender their baby if they fear 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 indicating where they should place the baby. As long as the child is unharmed, the parents will not be asked any questions.

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

Pennsylvania is one of 48 states with a safe haven law. To date, five babies have been saved through the program.

To learn more about the safe haven program, visit the Web site or call toll-free, 866-921-SAFE (7233).

All Pennsylvania hospitals are Save Havens as part of the program.

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