Safe Haven Laws offers new parents a way to give their newborns another chance

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 5:18 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - New parents in Wisconsin who don’t feel ready or able to raise their newborn child can still give those infants a chance at a new life without the fear of legal repercussions.

The state’s Safe Haven, or infant relinquishment, law allows parents to turn over a baby to certain qualified individuals within 72 hours of them being born, with limited exceptions and without legal consequences.

The law mandates the parent leave their baby with a police officer, a 911 emergency medical staff member, or a hospital staff member, according to the Wisconsin Dept. of Children and Families. The agency added the parent does not need to give their name or address, unless:

  • The baby has been harmed;
  • The parent is being forced to give up the child;
  • The infant is less than three days old.

DCF notes the parent may be asked to fill out a form, but emphasizes that they don’t have to. The form is offered to help provide better care for the child going forward.

Parents needing more information on Safe Haven laws and crisis support can find it on the Safe Place for Newborns website or by calling its crisis number at 1-877-440-2229. A Maternal and Child Health Hotline also provides information and links to services for pregnant and postpartum mothers and children and can be reached by calling 1-800-722-2295.

NBC15 News reached out to the Madison Fire Dept. about the Safe Haven law and were told, unlike other the fire departments, they do not have someone designated to a watchroom 24 hours a day. Therefore, all firefighters could be out on a call and may not be able to receive or take care of the baby until they return, which could have detrimental effects on the baby, especially in winter.

Both UnityPoint Meriter and SSM Health said they abide by safe haven laws and have protocols in place to accept the infants.

“The safety of the infant is our top priority, so this process may be done confidentially and the baby does not need to be born at Meriter. If someone is unable to care for their infant, we encourage parents to seek help or bring the baby to hospital, police or EMS,” a UnityPoint spokesperson said.

A parent who surrenders their baby under the Safe Haven protocols and later changes their mind can initiate an action to recover the child, after completing several steps.

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