What are Safe Haven Adoption Laws?

Women who find themselves with crisis pregnancies often don’t know what to do. They may be scared and unsure who to turn to for support. To respond to this, many states have adopted some version of what are known as Safe Haven Adoption Laws. These laws are intended to prevent infant abandonment and child endangerment by allowing mothers to safely relinquish their children without fear of prosecution. While every state’s Safe Haven law is different, they each share some common features.

Safe Haven laws generally allow the mother, or her agent, to anonymously give up a child for adoption. Every state has its own list of specific designated locations where children can be taken. Usually these are places such as hospitals or other medical facilities; law enforcement agencies; and fire stations. Other states also allow children to be given up at EMS stations or houses of worship, provided they are staffed. A child that is taken to a designated facility must be left in the physical care and custody of a proper individual. In other words, the child cannot simply be left on the doorstep. It’s a good idea to check your state’s list of acceptable drop-off facilities before deciding to adopt out your infant.

The child should also not be harmed at the time he or she is given up. If the child is harmed, or there is evidence of neglect or abuse, the mother will likely not be protected by the Safe Haven law. There are also age limits that typically restrict a child to no older than an infant. Parents are usually not required to identify themselves but may be asked to provide medical information about themselves or the child. This is to ensure that any health problems the child may have, such as substance abuse from the mother, are properly addressed.

If the mother follows all requirements under the Safe Haven law, she will likely not be prosecuted for child neglect or abandonment. An attorney can help explain your state’s specific legal protections. However, mothers should be aware that giving up their children for this type of adoption will affect their parental rights. When an infant is adopted out under a Safe Haven law, the assumption is that the parent will not return later to retrieve her child. Giving up the child will therefore be considered a termination of the mother’s parental rights, and will allow child protective services to begin legal proceedings to place the infant in foster care or adoption.

The Takeaway

Parents who are considering adopting out their children under Safe Haven laws should consult a family law attorney first to understand the legal consequences of doing so. They should also make sure they understand all requirements, such as age limitations and proper drop-off locations. Safe Haven laws are a positive option for meeting the growing problem of unwanted children, and ensure that infants will be properly cared for.