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'Not enough people know about it': Safe Haven law allows parents to leave newborns safely

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MADISON, Wis.– The safe haven law makes it so parents who deem themselves unfit or unready for a newborn baby have the opportunity to leave it safely with no questions asked.

“Since 2001, we have had what we call a safe haven law and it does provide for a parent to relinquish a newborn child up to 72 hours old,” Wisconsin Family Action President Julaine Appling said. Wisconsin Family Action is a church-based, pro-life organization.

Wisconsin law states a child can only be given to a police officer, a 911 emergency medical worker or a hospital staff member. The baby must be given to a person and not left by itself.

People should be aware that fire stations can be empty at times. Madison Fire Department public information officer Cynthia Schuster recommends ringing the door bell. If no one answers, that person should either call 911 or take the baby to the police department or a hospital.

“That person has to try and get a little information from the parent or whoever is helping parent relinquish the child,” Appling said.

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has a form with questions about where and when the child was born, but it isn’t required to be filled out.

“The law is pretty clear that the anonymity of the parent and the person who might be helping (stays) pretty much protected,” Appling said.

Contact information is only required if the baby is more than three days old, was harmed, or the parent is being forced to give the baby up.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for people in these vulnerable pregnancies or something happens and and they say wait a minute, I can’t do this,” Appling said.

After the baby is turned over to law enforcement, social services will take the case.

“I think the problem with out safe haven law is not enough people know about it,” Appling said. “We don’t promote it anywhere.”

More information about the safe haven law can be found here.

Maternal and Child Health Hotline: 1-800-722-2295

Safe Place for Newborns Crisis Number: 1-877-440-2229

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