Safe haven laws permit a child’s parent or another party with the mother’s permission to legally surrender a newborn child to a safe, designated location without facing prosecution or legal recourse for abandonment.
Safe Haven Laws Provide Protection
Minnesota Safe Haven laws provide protection for parents who may otherwise be considered guilty of abandonment when surrendering a newborn. Rather than abandoning their babies in unsafe places and under conditions that may cause injury or death, parents can legally surrender newborns to designated locations without facing child endangerment charges. Safe Haven laws grant immunity from prosecution, as long as the child’s surrender conforms with state laws.
In Minnesota, Safe Haven sites are designated hospitals licensed under state regulations. When a person surrenders a newborn, the surrendering parent is absolved of liability as long as the newborn was born within 7 days of surrender and is unharmed.
In addition, as long as a hospital, doctor, nurse, medical professional, staff employee, or mandated reporter abides by the following procedures, they are immune from any criminal or civil liability that may arise from accepting the newborn.
- The hospital must not call the police
- The hospital must not inquire about the parent’s identity
- The hospital is allowed to ask about the mother’s and newborn’s medical history
- The hospital must report the surrender to a local welfare agency within 24 hours, but only after the surrendering party has left the premises
If there is evidence that the child has been injured, abused, or neglected, legal protection for the surrendering parent will be voided. In these cases, the state child protection agency can step in and initiate legal proceedings to bring criminal charges and legal penalties against the parent.
The National Safe Haven Alliance
The National Safe Haven Alliance (NSHA), established in 2004, works to promote safe haven laws in Minnesota, as well as other states across the country. They support state efforts to prevent incidents of infanticide and newborn abandonment by making safe haven laws and locations known to at-risk mothers and/or parents. The NSHA has a wide support network that promotes safe haven laws through media outreach programs, public-service announcements, educational materials, and a national crisis counseling hotline.
Studies show that many young or underage mothers abandon their newborns because they can’t provide adequate care. In many abandonment cases, young mothers are not married, still living at home with parents, living on the streets, or suffering from drug addiction. NSHA provides information and help to at-risk mothers that save newborn lives.