"Safe Haven" is Successful Law - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

"Safe Haven" is Successful Law

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Monday night a newborn child is in the care of a foster family. The little boy is the fourteenth baby surrendered to a hospital under Iowa's "Safe Haven" law. The law went into effect in 2001. It allows parents to leave a newborn, no older than fourteen days, at any Iowa health facility. The baby is turned over to the Department of Human Services, which finds a potential adoptive home.

DHS keeps almost all the information about the parent and child confidential - including where in Iowa the baby was left. As hospital workers point out, this not only protects the families, it enables the law to work.

As a registered nurse who cares for infants all day, Betsy Smith feels strongly about Allen Hospital's role as a "Safe Haven".

"I think it is the most amazing law, because it allows children that either would be abandoned, aborted, or abused in certain situations, to have the opportunity to have a full life," she said.

She can't legally give any particulars, but believes this law has given at least one local mother an option... and one child a chance at life.

Jim Waterbury from the Allen Foundation explained, "typically, those babies were the ones you would wind up seeing abandoned, literally put in a garbage can or a dumpster where the baby was usually found dead."

The law allows a parent to leave their newborn in a medical facility - no questions, no paperwork.

Waterbury said, "the focus is on, obviously saving the baby's life, but also on shielding those parents from prosecution, to encourage them to come in."

More than a dozen people, unable to conceive on their own, are parents today. And they have the "Safe Haven" law to thank.

Smith added, "when you see that family get that child, it is the most amazing complete feeling. And you know that it's the right thing."

Participating hospitals post the "Safe Haven" sign generally at their main lobby or front door. Unlike other states, you will only see it at medical facilities, not churches or fire stations.

Under the law, a child can be left anywhere on a health facility's property. The parent will not be charged with abandonment as long as they call and let someone know exactly where the infant is.

Online Reporter: Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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