• June/July 2003
  • Vol. 4, No. 5

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Value of State "Safe Haven" Laws Debated

In response to a number of highly publicized infant abandonments resulting in severe harm or death, at least 42 States have now passed "safe haven" laws allowing legal anonymous abandonment of newborns at designated sites. However, several new reports raise questions about the outcomes of these laws.

A new report issued by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Unintended Consequences: "Safe Haven" Laws are Causing Problems, Not Solving Them, (A February 2003 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures ( www.ncsl.org/programs/cyf/ailaws.htm) claims safe haven laws have had "a limited effect." The report offers some information about the number of both legal and illegal infant abandonments in States where such laws have been passed and presents several areas of concern for policymakers to consider, including the need for such laws to be part of a more comprehensive strategy to prevent infant abandonment.

Proponents of the laws, meanwhile, continue to cite their intended benefits: protecting the lives and health of newborn infants, protecting birth parents from the legal and emotional consequences of unsafe abandonment, and connecting babies with loving families through adoption. If the life of even one infant is saved, they suggest, the benefits outweigh any potential concerns.

Related Items

A study published in the March 19, 2003, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) describes the characteristics of 34 abandoned infant cases in North Carolina during a 15-year period. An abstract of the study, "Newborns Killed or Left to Die by a Parent," can be found on the JAMA website at http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/289/11/1425.

Read more about the problem of infant abandonment in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • ">National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center Releases Publication on Expediting Permanency for Abandoned Infants" (October 2002)
  • "Study Looks at Increase, Changes in Boarder Baby Population" (July/August 2001)
  • "States Consider Ways to Curb Infant Abandonment" (April 2000)

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