The Safe Haven laws—also called the Baby Moses laws—began in Texas in 1999, and have since expanded to all the other states. These laws allow parents to leave their unharmed infant or child, depending on the specific state’s regulations, at a hospital, fire station, or a police station without having any criminal charges brought against them. The parents who choose to use the Safe Haven laws remain nameless and anonymous, and the left child becomes a ward of the state and is placed in the foster care system, if not immediately placed with an adoptive family. If the baby shows signs of abuse or neglect, the anonymity that is usually promised under the Safe Haven laws is no longer afforded to that person.
The Safe Haven or Baby Moses laws were the result of numerous, growing reports of child and infant abandonment. Many states discovered that year after year, more infants were being left in dangerous places where no one could care for them. In hopes that those numbers would drop, the Safe Haven laws were established.
The Safe Haven laws vary by state. Each state has its own regulations and guidelines that it strictly follows. Some states see it as abandonment and file court complaints. On the other end of the spectrum, some states see using the Safe Haven laws to be a surrender or waiver of parental rights. Even with the varying regulations, since 2008, all states have passed their own Safe Haven laws.
One of the major differences between states is the specification of who is entitled to leave a child under the Safe Haven laws. In most states, either the mother or the father may leave the child at the designated Safe Haven locations. In Minnesota, Tennessee, Maryland, and Georgia, only the mother has that right. The state of Idaho specifies that only a custodial parent may relinquish a child under the Safe Haven laws. And still, there are other states who allow anyone with the parent’s approval to drop off the child. Some states have no requirements of who can leave an infant. If you are considering using these laws, research your specific state to learn more about how it classifies and defines the Safe Haven laws as it applies to your situation.
Nebraska’s Safe Haven laws have been the most talked about and the state on which the media has focused. This is because Nebraska’s law did not specify an age limit of a child. As a result, over 30 children—most over the age of 10—were left at safe havens across the state. Since then, Nebraska has revised the law. Now, there is a 30-days-old limitation for eligible infants.
The Safe Haven laws are meant to provide safety and security for infants and children whose parents may not be able to care for them appropriately. It provides a safe place for struggling parents to leave their child without having to resort to potentially harmful alternatives. These laws were established for the protection of our children’s future.