Recognizing Indiana’s Safe Haven Law
August 5, 2013
A Granger, Indiana woman awaits trial for a Class A felony neglect charge after police found her newborn dead in a dumpster behind a restaurant in July. Investigators say that the child was born alive and was at least 28 weeks old. The woman has entered a not guilty plea, but she hasn’t spoken publicly about what led her to dispose of her baby in a dumpster, if all reports are true.
The heart wrenching fact is that this mother could have used the Safe Haven Law and the child would likely be alive today. The Safe Haven Law is a lesser known law that many states – including Indiana – have on the books. This law allows a mother or other caregiver to give up a child at a police station, firehouse, or emergency room with no strings attached.
According to the National Safe Haven Alliance Indiana’s law:
- Allows a distressed parent to give up an unwanted infant safely, legally and confidentially
- Preserves the parent from arrest or prosecution for abandonment
- Requires no names or records
- Permits babies less than 30 days old to be given up at any hospital emergency room, fire station or police station in Indiana
- Makes medical treatment and social services available to the birth mother
- Puts the child into the custody of the Indiana Division of Family & Social Services Administration, which places the infant in a foster or pre-adoptive home
According to a July 2013 report in the Purdue Exponent, the Safe Haven Law has only been used four times in Indiana. According to the same article, nationally 2,879 babies have been safely abandoned so they can go to adoptive families. Comparing Indiana’s rate to the national rate, it appears the law is under-utilized in Indiana.
The Safe Haven Law gives children a chance at life when the mother feels she has no other option. It’s worth our time and energy to share the Safe Haven Law with our friends, family and community so that the law can protect future children because their mothers knew they had an option.
At the recent Friends for Life Boot Camp I saw pro-life speaker Monica Kelsey of Save the 1 address students in a breakout session with a plastic doll. First she threw the doll in the trash. Then she handed the doll to a firefighter. She used the illustration to explain the Safe Haven Law, and why the second abandonment was legal. Monica is also a firefighter herself, so she’s trained to accept a child if one is dropped off at her fire station.
The police officer who found the baby in the Granger dumpster will never be able to block that memory out. Likewise, a police officer who answers the door at a police station may never forget being handed a baby without even getting the mother’s name. But let’s pray the second situation is what Hoosier police officers, firefighters and emergency room workers experience the next time a local mother feels she has exhausted all her options.