Jay Perman, M.D., chief of pediatrics at the UM Hospital for Children, discusses the Safe Haven program.
In an effort to save the lives of unwanted infants, the University of Maryland Hospital for Children is declaring itself a "Safe Haven," a place where parents can safely abandon their babies. Maryland was the 38th state to institute a Safe Haven law, allowing a parent to anonymously abandon a newborn baby without fear of prosecution, as long as the baby is left with a responsible adult, such as a priest, lawyer, or physician, or at an appropriate place, such as a hospital or firehouse.
Recent high-profile cases, such as the incident in New Jersey in 1996 where two teenagers were convicted of killing their baby, after the newborn was delivered in a Newark motel room, have highlighted the need for Safe Havens. Closer to home, there have been several cases where newborns were abandoned and left to die. The exact number of babies abandoned throughout the country is unknown because there is no reliable method for collecting this data.
"We are committed to the health and welfare of newborns and are happy to do our part in this important program," says Jay Perman, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of pediatrics at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children.
The Safe Haven program at University of Maryland Hospital for Children will provide a safe place for women in crisis to bring their infant without fear of legal repercussions. They can also call 1-800-243-7337. It is a completely anonymous and confidential process. The infant will be given medical care if needed and then be referred to Child Protective Services.
From there, the child will be placed for adoption through the foster care system. Texas was the first state to enact the Safe Haven law after more than a dozen babies there were abandoned. States vary on what age child will be accepted in a Safe Haven program. In Maryland, the child can be up to 3 days old. Any hospital personnel can accept the baby -- and no questions will be asked of the parent.
"If this program can save just one infant from an unsafe abandonment, or reach one woman in crisis, it will be worthwhile," explains Catherine Hewitt, MSW, a clinical social worker with the University of Maryland Hospital for Children.
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