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Safe Haven baby law to expand in August

In Louisiana, a Safe Haven law allowing babies to be easily relinquished and abandoned in a legal and safe manner is scheduled to be expanded on August 1. Currently, the law applies to the abandonment of newborn children within 30 days of their birth, but the modification will expand that time period to 60 days. Children abandoned in this manner may, in many instances, be temporarily placed in foster care or institutions, but can be made available for adoption, which expands the number of children available for adoption in the state.

The law is designed to encourage parents of infants who are unable or unwilling to care for them to bring their children to designated emergency care facilities. The law does prohibit just leaving a child unattended at such facilities or otherwise abusing or neglecting the child. A total of 28 infant children have been relinquished under the law in Louisiana since 2004. In the last month alone, two such cases occurred in the New Orleans area.

The law enhances the safety of the children. But if the abandoning parent or parents comply with it by safely turning over a child to an emergency care facility in the prescribed manner, they can avoid the possibility of prosecution. If a parent or parents were to abandon a child in an unattended manner, which presents the very real risk of the child getting sick or even dying from exposure or accidents, prosecution will likely occur.

The facilities designated for this purpose include public health units, medical clinics, police and fire stations, child advocacy centers, pregnancy crisis centers and licensed hospitals. Children taken in at these facilities are immediately given a medical checkup. Birthparents or others with physical custody of newborn children should hand the child over to an individual employee of such a facility to invoke the protection of the law. This law is a very good thing in that, rather than focusing on being judgmental of birthparents wishing to relinquish custody, it recognizes that some are simply incapable of caring for the child.

Source: The Daily News, "Changes made to Louisiana Safe Haven Law" No author given, Jan. 07, 2014

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