This past weekend, another tragic incident of baby abandonment led to the needless death of a newborn whose mother gave birth at a party and dumped the child into the garbage. What makes this story even worse: the baby was put into the garbage steps away from a designated surrender site. In the interests of education and in the hopes of preventing such tragedy from occurring in future, here are the salient points of California's Safely Surrendered Baby Law:
1. What is the Safely Surrendered Baby Law?
It is a confidential way of safely surrendering a newborn to proper authorities, without penalty nor prosecution, within 72 hours of the child's birth.
2. Who can surrender the newborn?
The parents or legal guardians can surrender the infant at the designated surrender locations.
3. Where are the surrender locations?
Newborns may be taken to public or private hospitals, firestations, certain churches, and other locations indicated by the Safely Surrendered Baby sign affixed prominently.
4. What happens when the baby is surrendered?
When the newborn is safely surrendered at a hospital, there are no questions asked. The newborn is given medical treatment, placed in a foster home or pre-adoptive home. At the time of surrender at a hospital, the baby is tagged. The surrendering party is given an identical bracelet, in case they wish to become reunited with the child within fourteen days.
5. How much time is allotted if the surrendering party changes her/is mind?
From the time and date of the surrender to a full and uninterrupted fourteen days later is the time allotted to reunite with the baby.
6. What is the age of the child that is to be surrendered?
The scope of the Safely Surrendered Baby Law enables the parent/legal guardian of any newborn to surrender the child within three days of birth.
This, of course, does NOT mean that infanticide is in order if on the fourth day, the ninth day, the fiftieth day, etc. it is found that parenthood is too much to handle. In these cases, the best case scenario is to surrender the child(ren) to a hospital, fire station, police station, church, synagogue, mosque, social service agency....anyplace where they will be cared for and SAFE.
7. Why is this law useful?
No shame. No blame. No names. The baby is enabled to live free from the dangers of freezing to death, being attacked by wild animals, suffocation in a plastic bag, bleeding to death from internal injuries, etc. The parent is freed from criminal child abandonment charges and the legal prosecution that naturally attends. In addition, the parent is often reviled and shunned, especially in cases when the media is involved.
The focus of the Safely Surrendered Baby Law is to provide parents with a way to gracefully, sanely, and humanely give their newborn a chance a life while giving themselves the time and space necessary to wrestle with their inner turmoil. In view of this, it is urged that all who are involved with those who do not wish to accept the rigours of parenthood at this time, safely and securely surrender their child following these parameters.
DOULA ANGELITA, San Jose's Community Doula, is a designated Baby Safe Haven Maven*TM. She works with parents where they are, has a wide variety of experiences, and is not interested in passing judgement, only at giving newborns a chance of life.
DOULA ANGELITA is a trident doula/parenting coach/nutrition guide/women's advocate who lives and works in sunny San Jose, CA but who answers the call of birth from wherever it comes.
DOULA ANGELITA can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sanjosedoula1=TWITTER
If you are thinking about abandoning your newborn, contact DOULA ANGELITA first.