‘There’s always another option:’ Georgia’s Safe Haven law explained
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Georgia has Safe Haven laws in laws in place to protect a baby from harm, and protect a parent from prosecution, if they feel like they have no other choice.
The Safe Place for Newborns Act went into effect in 2002.
“More than anything, we want to prevent this from ever happening again,” says Division Chief Jason Shivers with the Forsyth County Fire Department.
He says it was heartbreaking to learn Baby India was abandoned in the woods four years ago in their county, when she could have been safely placed in their arms.
“There’s always another option,” he says. “Instead of thinking the worst, you can hand that child off to someone who will, in fact provide care to it and get it in the right hands.”
Under the law, the parent can leave a baby in the care of someone at a fire station, police station, or medical facility.
A medical facility is further defined as a hospital, infirmary, or birthing center.
“It’s important that the child is handed off to a person. It can’t just be swaddled and left at the door,” explains Chief Shivers.
“It has to be handed off to someone in one of those three facilities.”
The parent will not be charged in that case, as long as the newborn is unharmed and no more than 30 days old.
They do not have to show identity or answer any questions.
“We can’t pry,” says Shivers. “And that’s not our concern, especially as firefighters. Our concern is that child’s health and welfare.”
According to the most recent data from the National Safe Haven Alliance, from 1999 to 2021, at least 4,505 infants were surrendered through Safe Haven laws nationwide. There were 115 surrendered in 2021.
Once the baby is surrendered to an employee or volunteer, that person will call the Division of Family and Children Services to take the proper next steps.
“Reach out for help. Use these opportunities, these things that are afforded to you by law to save a child’s life,” Shivers says.
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