A press conference – Protecting Our Children, Strengthening Our Community – was held this afternoon at Children’s Health Education Center in Milwaukee, in reaction to the many tragic cases of infant death and child abuse we have been seeing in Southeastern Wisconsin. Representatives from Children’s Hospital and Health System, the City of Milwaukee Health Department, Department of Children and Families, Parenting Network and Children’s Trust Fund came together to bring to light the many resources our community has to offer to keep children and families safe. One of the resources I personally have been part of working on is the Safe Haven Law in Wisconsin.
Safe Haven was enacted into law in Wisconsin in 2001, and allows a parent to anonymously surrender an unharmed infant less than 72 hours old to police or medical personnel. The intent of the Safe Haven law is to ensure that relinquished infants are left with individuals who can provide the immediate care needed for their safety and well-being.
Bottom Line: The law is in place to make sure the newborn is safe.
Here are some statistics you might find surprising:
- Approximately 80 babies have been relinquished in Wisconsin since Safe Haven began.
- In 2008, a total of 24 babies were surrendered, most in the Milwaukee area.
- A number of babies have been adopted from Safe Haven placements.
Here’s how Safe Haven works in Wisconsin:
- A child 72 hours of age or younger may be relinquished by his or her parent to an Emergency Department or by calling 9-1-1.
- The child may be received at a sheriff’s office, police station, fire station, hospital or another place where a law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician or hospital staff member is present.
- Anonymity for the parent is guaranteed by statute.
- There are procedures in place to reclaim an infant within a specified time period before parental rights are officially terminated.
If an infant is dropped off at Children’s Hospital, we:
- Take every action necessary to protect the health and safety of the infant.
- Take custody of an infant whom the provider reasonably believes to be 72 hours old or younger who is left by a parent who does not express intent to return for the infant.
- Deliver the child to an intake worker within 24 hours after taking in the infant.
- Make the maternal and child health toll-free telephone number of the local department available to the parent. The decision to accept this information is voluntary on the part of the parent.
- If a parent wishes to relinquish custody of his or her child and is unable to travel to a safe haven provider, the parent may dial the telephone number.
We need to get the word out so babies are not left abandoned. I encourage you to share this information with your schools, your churches and your communities. The Safe Haven law provides a real alternative to give the child a chance at life.
- Nancy Korom, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, vice president and chief nursing officer, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is designated a Magnet hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.