HARRISBURG – In the wake of the tragic death of a newborn in northeastern Pennsylvania last week, acting Secretary of Public Welfare Gary Alexander has reminded parents that Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven program provides a safe and confidential option to protect infants.
“Safe Haven allows parents to drop off a newborn at any hospital in Pennsylvania with no questions asked,” Alexander said. He noted the program exists specifically to avoid the type of horrific events that recently occurred in Wayne County, where a man allegedly killed his newborn daughter because he and his girlfriend apparently feared they could not afford to care for the child.
“Had this young couple used their local hospital as a safe haven, this child would still be alive,” Alexander said. “If any parent finds the responsibilities of caring for a newborn to be overwhelming, Safe Haven is there to help the parent and the child.”
Safe Haven allows parents to confidentially turn over unwanted infants, up to 28 days old, to any hospital as an alternative to abandonment.
There are more than 250 hospitals in Pennsylvania where parents may safely surrender a baby if they fear they cannot care for the child. Babies can be handed over to any hospital staff member. If the parent is unwilling or unable to wait, they should look for signs instructing them to where to safely place the baby. Some hospitals even have a designated Safe Haven bassinet. As long as the child is unharmed, parents will not be asked any questions, nor do they have to provide any personal information.
While it is recommended, it is not required that the parent provide medical information for the child. A baby turned over to a hospital will receive necessary medical care after which time the county’s child and youth agency will work to find the child a family through the state’s foster care system.
Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven law took effect in 2003. To date, 14 babies have been saved through the program.
To learn more about the Safe Haven program, visit www.secretsafe.org or call, toll-free, 1-866-921-SAFE (7233).