Are you a young teenager or college student who does not want to parent your baby but abortion and adoption are the farthest concepts from your mind? Let’s look at some reasons an expectant mother might want to place her baby with the state. This might mean he or she ends up in an orphanage or placed in foster care but there are ways to guarantee that an expectant mother’s baby does not end up in a much worse situation.
Reasons an Expectant Mother May Want to Place Her Baby with the State
Expectant mothers could be young, scared teenagers who are alone and do not have a support system to aid in their decision. They could be in college but not have the time between class, homework, and work to care for a baby. Expectant mothers may not understand what adoption means and think their only options are abortion, which they are against, or foster care. They might be a mom who has an addiction problem and believe their child would be better if the state takes care of him or her. Expectant mothers may know they will not be able to financially care for a child. An expectant mother could be a single parent and have more children to care for than she can support.
Whatever an expectant mother’s reason may be, she does not necessarily choose to place her baby with her state. The state makes that decision. Some situations call for babies to be placed, especially if there is a history of domestic violence or addiction and there are children from the same family in the foster care system already.
Every state has its laws when it comes to placing an expectant mother’s baby within that state. This article will touch on the steps states have in common but, to learn specifics to your state, please contact your state representative for more information.
What Is Safe Surrender?
Safe Surrender, Safe Haven, or Baby Moses law, as it is called in many states, was passed in response to the unsafe abandonment of newborns and the resulting tragedies of disease, illness, or even the death of the baby. This law provides a safe alternative for parents who might otherwise abandon their baby. According to the law, “custodial parents may abandon their unwanted newborns not older than 30 days without fear of prosecution. The identity of the parent shall be kept confidential.”
There are many states whose Safe Haven laws differ and, while mothers are usually mentioned, according to USA Today there are fathers and third parties who have done this same thing. Something else to be aware of is that unless an expectant mother hands her child to an actual person at a safe haven location, it could be deemed abandonment. This is not true of every state but is in others.
How an Expectant Mother Can Place Her Baby with the State
As mentioned above, most states have many of the same laws but might differ on the rules and the way the process works.
Crisis mode happens to some women after giving birth. When expectant mothers are in crisis mode they may not be in a good headspace to determine what to do with their babies, especially if they know they do not want to parent. Being a young teenager or college student could cause crisis mode more so than someone ready to be a parent. The majority of the states that have safe haven laws allow either the birth mother or birth father to leave the baby at a safe haven place—usually a hospital, police station, fire station, or even a church. As an expectant mother, this would be a difficult decision to make even if the expectant mother is not ready to be a parent, but the baby will be better off in a safe haven if expectant mothers choose to not parent.
Safe Haven or Baby Moses laws started in 1999 when there was a growing need for a place where a birth mother or father could leave their infant without the worry of being prosecuted for abandonment by the law. Most states keep the identity of the birth mother or father private. There are some states, however, that do not. In most states, the identity is kept private unless medical history needs to be made known. In those cases, the parent who places the baby at a safe haven may be asked who they are and anything else that may aid in caring for the baby.
An expectant mother should make certain that she leaves her baby in a designated safe haven area. Because some states do not always have someone with whom the birth mother or father can leave their baby, they provide baby hatches or baby boxes, where a baby can be placed and kept warm until aid arrives.
Things to Understand About Safe Haven Laws
No matter what an expectant mother’s decision is, there may come a time when the medical history of her baby needs to be known. So, depending on the state you live in, your name may not be left out of the public eye. Safe haven volunteers must ask about any medical history as the baby is being given to them so there is more of a guarantee of getting your baby medical help should he or she need it.
Safe haven laws are widely criticized in some states. Some people believe that placing a baby in a safe haven removes the expectant mother’s responsibility of taking care of her baby. Others feel that the baby and whether they are taken care of is all that matters. Those who are critical of the safe haven laws say that it diminishes the need for the temporary surrender law in those states, which allows a parent to place their baby with the state while deciding whether they believe they can raise the baby. The biggest controversy regarding the safe haven law happened in 2008 when the law was still written that any child under the age of 18 could be left at a safe haven; this was controversial because many children were left to fend for themselves on the streets. This knowledge instigated the change that only babies a month old or less could be left at a fire station, police station, hospital, or baby hatch.
Another critical element of the safe haven law in every state is that there are people who support the Baby Moses law. They may feel that if a birth mother or birth father can place their baby with a safe haven and remain anonymous then the likelihood that the baby will be cared for will go up exponentially. Many groups support father’s rights and claim that allowing a birth mother to be the one to give the baby to the state removes the rights of the father to have a say in what happens to the baby. If you, the birth mother, are the one who wants to place your baby in a safe haven environment, the safe haven worker that takes your baby must make you aware that they will make a reasonable effort to contact the birth father to give him a chance to choose to parent. If he wants to relinquish his rights as well, he may do so. In most states, a reasonable effort is made to locate the other parent, whether it be the father or mother, before finding an agency or home for the baby. This is to ensure that both parents agree to place the baby with the state. Far too often the birth father is overlooked, but some would rather raise the baby than take him or her to a safe haven.
Depending on your state, the safe haven individual must make sure you are aware that you are allowing your baby to be available for adoption. Placing your baby not only relieves you of any abandonment issues but also removes your parental rights; so, before you make a hasty decision, be certain this is what you want to do. Some states allow the birth mother or parents to reclaim their right as the child’s parents by submitting an affidavit to the court requesting to have their child returned to them. This does not happen in every state, so you will want to make certain that your state allows this if there is any chance that you might change your mind. Before making such a decision an expectant mother might want to talk with a family law attorney in her state as they will be able to walk her through what will happen and what her rights are before and after she places her baby. An attorney will be able to give her a better picture of what she is up against should she choose a safe haven.
Another way that expectant mothers can place their babies with the state is to let the hospital staff know while they are in the hospital that they have no intention of keeping the baby but they want him or her to go to a good home. This generally leads to the baby being placed in foster care while he or she awaits adoption. Foster homes can be a good place for babies because some couples and individuals love caring for children so much that they make excellent foster parents.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, if your infant is placed directly with the state instead of with a safe haven, he or she will more than likely go to the foster care system at least for a while but may stay there until he or she turns 18 and ages out of the system. Most children who do not become adopted after being placed in the foster care system, even as newborns, have a more difficult time acclimating to adult life as they may not have been taught important things like how to work, get an education, save money, and the like.
Should you make the honorable choice to place your baby with the state after giving birth, make certain that you are aware of what that means. By placing your baby either through the state or using a safe haven location in your state, you are relinquishing any right you have to the baby. If you think that you might have second thoughts or you just need some time to think about whether you can parent your baby or not, you might want to look into temporary surrender, which would give you the time you need to decide and still allow for someone to take care of your baby. If you decide after the temporary surrender that you want to parent your baby, make certain that you have a support system of people who have been where you are, namely parents, counselors, and individuals or groups who know what it feels like to be where you are at. It may even be best if you found people who also chose to parent because they would be a great comfort to you as you wrestle with the decision of whether to place your baby with the state or not.
When you have made your choice, just remember that it all boils down to what is best for you and your baby. To check out the safe haven laws for your state, you can call your state representative for information.
Disclaimer: Although this is a guide to assist expectant mothers in their choice to place their baby with the state, it in no way takes the place of finding a family law attorney or speaking with your state representative to find out the laws particular to your state.