Child welfare leaders in Ohio are raising awareness about the state’s Safe Haven law, after the recent arrest of a college student for allegedly abandoning her newborn child.
The baby girl was found dead in a trashcan on Muskingum University’s campus, and it’s a tragedy that some say could have been avoided.
David Boyer, executive director of Muskingum County Adult and Child Protective Services, explains the Safe Haven law allows a parent to leave a newborn with an employee at a hospital, fire department or police station.
“A mother can take these children who are unwanted, unloved, unsupported and – no questions asked – drop the child off, and that child will be protected and provided a permanent, stable, loving home,” Boyer says.
A parent may take the newborn to a safe haven location at any time up until the child is 30 days old. Medical attention will be provided if needed, and the baby will be placed in an adoptive home.
If a parent is unsure what to do, an adoption social worker can explain the options and connect that person to family support services.
Boyer says he understands that new parents face many challenges. But he contends that abandoning a baby should never be an option because there are plenty of foster and adoptive families available.
“There are many, many homes of great people that would be more than willing to take on a child,” he stresses. “They are more than eager. They are trained, licensed and ready to assume that noble role.”
While the law only allows for children up to 30 days old to be left at a safe haven, Boyer says there are options for other struggling parents.
“Just because someone reaches that 31st day, still come in and seek help,” he urges. “There are several options that can take place, and we can facilitate any number of options, but they do not need to hurt the child or neglect the child or abuse the child.”
Boyer encourages any parent who is feeling overwhelmed to seek assistance. He says Child Protective Services and other agencies can provide resources that can help remove the barriers causing dysfunction in the family.