November 23, 2011
Every year in America hundreds of infants are abandoned shortly after birth. Tragically, their mothers are unaware of laws in all 50 states, including Nevada, that allow them to anonymously turn their children over to authorities for care and adoption without fear of criminal prosecution.
Now Humboldt General Hospital will join the effort to ensure the safety of every newborn child by establishing two "Safe Haven" locations on its 118 E. Haskell Street campus.
According to Humboldt General Hospital CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish, the hospital decided to help promote child-abandonment-amnesty laws because officials there feel there is a need.
"It is my understanding that Winnemucca has had several cases where Safe Haven laws could have saved the lives of infant children, and we believe there will likely be times in the future when our willingness to provide a safe haven may very well mean the difference between life and death for an infant," said Parrish this week.
Humboldt General Hospital's Emergency Medical Services and Emergency departments will both become safe havens for infants.
"With these laws in place," said Parrish, "there is no reason why there should ever be another tragedy involving an unwanted infant in Winnemucca."
In general, Safe Haven Laws allow a parent to anonymously hand over an unwanted newborn to employees in a safe place, such as a hospital, emergency medical services agency, fire station or law enforcement agency, and not have to worry about facing criminal penalty. The baby will then be given to the state's child welfare department.
Nevada's Safe Haven Law has been in effect for 10 years, but only five babies have been surrendered in that time. Many others have been abandoned with tragic consequences.
Many point to the fact that Nevada's Safe Haven Law is not very well publicized and few people, especially the very young mothers who typically abandon babies, seem to know about it.
"We want people to know this option is available," said Parrish. "We want to make sure that unwanted babies are left in a safe place and not abandoned where they may not be found until it is too late."
The Safe Haven Law only applies to babies less than 30 days old. If a child is older, the Department of Family Services can provide ways a family can surrender a child for adoption.
Humboldt General Hospital has Safe Haven signs posted at the entrance to its Emergency Department and its ambulance station.
"That's a start," said Parrish, "but we need the public's help to get the word out about this law. We need our community to know that HGH is ready to accept and care for unwanted infants 24 hours a day."
For more information on Nevada's Safe Haven law, please visit www.safehavennv.org. Confidential information is also available 24 hours a day by calling (877) 885-HOPE. Calls are answered by the Crisis Call Center of Nevada.