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    Baby Safe Haven Essay

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    A local woman calls law enforcement after hearing a knock at 4:26a. m. Opening it she found a newborn infant laying on her door step. According to the reports from authorities, the infant was lying on a white towel wearing nothing and only appeared to be only two hours old. The infant was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated for hypothermia. Unfortunately child abandonment cases like the one fore mentioned is not uncommon and pose a huge form of child neglect that can lead to death. Before 1999 cases like this was common in many states such as Texas.

    Statistics show that one out of 3 did not stand a chance at life. Thus the Safe Haven (“Baby Moses”) law was implemented to aid in minimizing acts of child abandonment and infant deaths; by giving parents a place to safely relinquish custody in the allotted timeframe provided by their state without criminal charges. The Safe Haven benefits the rights of children and it keeps them from being harmed. The one thing that the policy does not include is absolute immunity. In certain states if a baby is unharmed the parent(s) are safe.

    In other states if the baby is safe the parent(s) receive affirmative defense against the law. In any state if the baby is harmed the parent(s) will receive prosecution in that case the baby would most likely not be turned over to authorities The “Baby Moses law” was first developed and implemented in Texas in 1999. There were many events and statistics gathered prior to the passing of the law. Before the Law approximately 33 infants was abandoned on a yearly bases. Unfortunately the federal government does not keep a number of abandoned babies in public each year.

    The Department of Health and Human Services conducted a search and found that there were reports of over 105 infants abandoned and 33 of those that were abandoned were found dead. Numbers were not gathered between the years of 1991and 1998 and it was excess of 31,000 “boarder babies”, which are babies left in the hospitals or deemed ineligible. Many parents resulted to such measures when they felt they could not care for their child and felt they had no options. At the time leaving a child with someone was a felony offence and was considered child abandonment.

    As you may see these statistics was an eye opener to the state of Texas which gave them much need for passing the law. The rest of the US started to pay attention and it was later adapted in every state. This law protects those parents who feel like that they are incapable of taking care of their child to safely relinquish custody without fault or criminal action taken toward them. For every state there is a different rendition of the safe haven law. The amount of time to report to a safe haven location varies from state to state.

    For example: Florida allows 7 days from birth for a parent to relinquish custody of a child. Other states allow as much as 90 days or as few as three days from birth. Missouri is the only states that allows up to one year from birth. An age restraint was issued late in Nebraska being the last state in the US to implement the law. After having issues with the word “child” early on when first implementing the law 21 children over the targeted age of infancy were dropped off to safe haven locations. There were reported cases of parents dropping off teenagers as old as 16 to hospitals because of the vague wording.

    One case involving a 16 year old girl being dropped off to a hospital in Nebraska and the child wasn’t even aware of the circumstances and resulted in her becoming a ward of the state. Because of the massive misunderstanding the legislation had to amend the law so that it only applies to infants up to three days old. Initially, this is a good start but I believe that the time limit in all states should to the very least be one year so that it can allot for time mothers go through post partum depression. The safe haven alliance has found that some of the cases of child abandonment and death are tied to severe emotional distress.

    But why do mothers, or parents in general, abandon their children? Well the answer varies: economic reasons, lack of resources tied with an unwanted pregnancy, marital instability or conflict, combined with economic problems. Marriage does not provide a guarantee against child abandonment, but family breakdown appears to have adverse effects on mothers and serves as a force for child abandonment. This may mean that the child was abandoned because of fear of the stigma attached to the state of unmarried motherhood in the community.

    It seems that if resources were available, most of the parents would not be forced to abandon their children; the action is not performed deliberately, but due to compelling circumstances. Theoretically, you can assume that a child may be abandoned because it is a rejected child. In this sense, we have to recognize the specific situations of a child for its own abandonment. The child could be ill, disabled, or require special needs. Under such circumstances, even if the pregnancy was desired, the infant may be rejected if the child is handicapped, or does not meet the expectations f the parent(s). This is particularly expected where the attitude on the part of the family and the wider community towards handicapped children as a whole is predominately negative, and the phenomenon is regarded as God’s punishment for the parents’ sins. In this regard, this reason does not give any room for the assertion that children are abandoned because they are rejected for being handicapped. Moreover, this assertion is not supported by the information obtained from the interviews with the police-men and women and other key resource persons in such cases.

    As far as the places where the children are usually abandoned, we can deduce two common sense assumptions. The first assumption is that those mothers who abandon their children because of economic problems often leave them around hospitals, public squares, churches, nearby charity institutions and market places. The underlying reason for child abandonment for this category of mothers is that they have a problem in raising their children and they want to give the responsibility to others. Another assumption is that abandonment is motivated by cultural factors.

    For instance if a child is born out of a wedlock or rejected due to special physique or impairment, mothers abandon their children in the bushes, on river banks under bridges, and in pits and ditches. Unlike the first category of mothers, the latter want to get rid of their children in any case. This also reflects on why taken maximum precautions not to be seen by the public and avoid arrest for their deeds. One incident occurring in Illinois involved an 8 month old baby girl. Her mother had dropped her off to a police station on New Year’s Day in her stroller.

    Her mother was charged for misdemeanor child neglect and the child was later found again alone in the car at the Department of Motor vehicles. When interviewing the mother of the child neglecter, she informed the press that the mother had doubts throughout the pregnancy and even looked into adoption fearing she would not be able to take care of the child. The mother stated she encouraged herself saying that it would get better after the baby was born and eight months later the mother attempted to abandon the child on two occasions.

    By increasing time of the Safe Haven laws, it can save more infants lives by allowing more time for the parent or parents to relinquish custody. Who can actually leave a child in a safe haven? In most states any one of the parents can leave the infant at a safe haven location. However, four states laws require that it can only be the mother that can relinquish custody. Those states are Georgia, Tennessee, Maryland and Minnesota. In other states any one that has consent from the parent can relinquish custody to any of the safe haven locations.

    The only requirement for most is that they be a responsible adult i. e family member, friend, minister, etc. Year to date in six states there isn’t a preference or requirement enforced. Safe Haven providers vary from state to state. In most states a hospital is a common safe haven. For some such as New York any responsible adult at a suitable location is equally as acceptable. Other Safe Haven locations include police stations, emergency medical services, clinincs, fire stations and churches. In some states an emergency medical technician responding to a 9-1-1 call can accept an infant.

    Texas also allows you to leave an infant with the child welfare agency. In most states and in all cases all of the safe haven location must have trained staff to respond medically for the infant if needed and the workers need to be present when the parent leaves them. The child also has to be unharmed and alive to avoid charges being bought against you. In most cases there is no information asked. However if offered it is often helpful to the well being of the baby. The sole purpose of the law is to save the lives of the innocent. To avoid the stories still in the media of babies found in dumpsters and toilets.

    Now after all of what has been said about the safe haven law, does it really help solve the issue at hand, has it really made a positive difference? Based on the most extensive research to date on the issue – shows that safe haven laws not only do not solve the problem of unsafe infant abandonment, but actually may encourage women to conceal pregnancies and then abandon infants who otherwise would have been placed for adoption through established legal procedures or been raised by relatives. With little public debate, research or scrutiny, 42 state Legislatures have passed laws creating “safe havens” during the last few years.

    Their intent is admirable: to save infants whose lives are placed at risk, and who sometimes die, when they are deserted in trash receptacles, bathrooms and other dangerous places. Because lawmakers have moved so quickly, however, usually in response to one or more well-publicized incidents in their states, they typically have not studied the causes of abandonment, conducted research to determine the most effective response, or collected data to evaluate the efficacy of the laws they have enacted. There is no question that we have to do what we can to save the lives of infants.

    For instance, examining the evidence, there’s no reason to think that infants left at ‘safe havens’ would necessarily have been deserted if such facilities didn’t exist – so it seems we’re encouraging a practice that we normally disdain: child abandonment. And if the ultimate goal is to prevent such incidents, then the solution has to address the problem’s roots – which current laws don’t even pretend to do. There is no evidence that “safe haven” statutes are actually working – principally because they do not address the causes of the problem. They also appear to be causing negative, unintended consequences.

    In addition to undermining adoptions conducted through established legal procedures, the negative consequences include: •depriving biological fathers of their legal right to care for their sons or daughters, even if they don’t have the personal resources to do so; •creating the opportunity for upset family members, disgruntled boyfriends, or others who have no legal rights, to abandon babies without the mothers’ consent; •inducing abandonment by women who otherwise would not have done so because it is perceived as “easier” than receiving parenting counseling or making an adoption plan; •ensuring that the children who are abandoned can never learn their genealogical or medical histories, even when the consequences for their health are dire; •sending a signal, especially to young people, that they do not necessarily have to assume responsibility for their actions and that deserting one’s children is acceptable. The Adoption Institute’s research indicates that safe haven laws are based on flawed premises.

    That is, they typically provide anonymity and immunity from prosecution for people who leave infants at safe havens, assuming that the fear of being identified or prosecuted is a major motivation for women to leave their infants in dangerous circumstances. There is no evidence to support that supposition. Moreover, research shows that anonymity ultimately undermines the legal interests of the children and their birth parents, while creating a host of unintended, negative consequences such as those noted above. The Adoption Institute’s study indicates that any policy aimed at solving this problem should therefore incorporate the following elements, which address the current laws’ deficiencies and offer children a more secure future: researching the causes of abandonment to better tailor an effective policy response; •educating students, teachers, parents, counselors and clergy about how to identify concealed pregnancies, and enabling affected teenagers and women to get help; •providing confidential counseling to at-risk pregnant teens and women about prenatal care and safe alternatives for their babies, such as care by other biological family members or adoption, when they cannot or do not want to parent; and •making educational materials and support services available that would help mothers, fathers, and other biological relatives raise infants when they wish to do so.

    Additionally, infant abandonment laws are not informed by (and often contradict) the accepted best practices of existing child-welfare practices and adoption laws. The bottom line is that anonymous legal abandonment is contrary to our cultural ethics and well-conceived public policies that promote the safety and welfare of newborns and their mothers. You don’t need a law to tell a woman it’s not a safe idea to leave a baby in a trash can. It’s the ease with which babies can be legally abandoned that concerns me. Women who may be thinking twice about having a baby, or who may be suffering the initial stress after delivery, might use these laws as an excuse to simply dump on someone else rather than seek counseling or place them with a relative.

    Those who are in enough of a crisis to abandon a baby will probably still do so anyway whether there is a safe haven law or not, and they’re not getting the help, the real help that they need. After carefully analyzing and researching the Safe Haven law I have drawn to the conclusion that with it or without it babies lives are at risk. The very reason for the law can either make or break humanity as a whole. There are so many pros and cons to the safe haven law thus the reason for my mixed feelings toward it. On one hand safe haven provides a little hope. it is a God send to have a place for mothers. For mothers who love their child to a point where they say “I love you too much to have you suffer or see you go hungry. The parent or parents that know in their heart that the child would have a better life and rather not go through the legalities and emotional battle that adoption can bring. Even the very mothers who suffer with emotional distress and before the point of killing their child place him in the arms of a firefighter. This law protects people like them who are simply trying to do the right thing. It can save the lives of innocent infants who did not ask to be here. It creates options, while giving the parent(s) a humane way of relinquishing custody of a child. It helps those that want their child in a better environment that they may not be able to provide.

    Safe Haven is a safe place to limit the death rate of abandoned newborn infants. On the other hand the safe haven law provides a way of escape for those that have no true intention to care for the child. Part of a parent’s responsibility is to meet the basic needs of a child, including food, shelter, cloth them, and access to medical care. These laws also hurt more than they help by actually encouraging women to abandon their babies. You just may as well call safe havens just as others may have called it a “baby dump”. At one point in time it was illegal for parent who abandons a child can be charged with child neglect, abandonment, or child abuse.

    Now under the safe haven or “baby Moses” law, criminal accountability is no longer an issue and claims to be an alternative to child abandonment if the child is brought to a location within a set time frame. The law also poses negative outcomes towards the child also. The child will still be abandoned and unjustly deprived of knowing their blood parents or relatives. Who’s to say that these children will grow up better off in the system as oppose to a loving family whether it be relatives or by adoption. So what can be done to the current safe haven legislation to address the source(s) of the issue? Well for one, implement a policy which requires those relinquishing custody to forgo counseling geared toward their specific cause for making their decision.

    Another step would be to extend the time frame parents have to arrive to a safe haven location in order to save the lives older than newborns. This issue will continue to be an uphill battle. We can only be grateful for the lives that it does saves until a revision takes place or child abandonment ends altogether. http://www. foxnews. com/story/0,2933,446384,00. html www. nationalsafehavenalliance. org/ http://articles. chicagotribune. com/2010-01-18/news/1001170418_1_safe-haven-law-babies-abandoned http://www. hhs. state. ne. us/children_family_services/SafeHaven/GovernorColumn. pdf http://www. usatoday. com/news/health/2008-09-25-Left-kids_N. h

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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