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Louisiana Safe Haven Law Provides Alternative to Abandoning Newborns

St. Tammany Case this week could have been prevented with use of law

BATON ROUGE - Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Secretary Ruth Johnson said today that a mom who allegedly abandoned a newborn outside her home in St. Tammany Parish on Monday could have utilized Louisiana's Safe Haven law, which provides a legal means for parents to anonymously give up custody of infants without the threat of prosecution for neglect, abandonment or child cruelty.

"Louisiana's Safe Haven law offers a loving, safe and anonymous alternative to abandonment, allowing overwhelmed parents to leave an unwanted infant at a designated emergency-care facility without fear of prosecution," said Johnson. "I recognize the difficult decision parents who want to give up their newborns must make. The Safe Haven law is designed to keep both baby and parents safe from harm."

Under the Safe Haven law, a parent may anonymously leave a baby up to 31-days-old in the care of an individual at a designated emergency care facility. The baby must be placed in the arms of an emergency care facility employee and must show no signs of abuse or neglect. Louisiana's designated emergency care facilities are any licensed hospital, public health unit, emergency medical service provider, medical clinic, fire or police station, pregnancy crisis center or child advocacy center.

DCFS created the state's current Safe Haven policies and procedures in 2004 and launched a public awareness campaign in February 2009. Thirty-eight percent of the relinquishments in Louisiana since 2004 have occurred after the start of the campaign. The last time the Safe Haven law was utilized was September 2010, when a 2-week-old male was safely relinquished at a Baton Rouge area hospital.

DCFS recommends that parents who want to relinquish their newborns take the following steps:

  1. Locate the nearest emergency care facility (i.e. hospital, public health unit, any EMS unit, medical clinic, fire or police station, pregnancy crisis center or child advocacy center).
  2. Locate an employee with the facility, hand your child to them and state that you want to utilize Louisiana's Safe Haven law. The child must be handed to an employee to fulfill the Safe Haven law. The child cannot be left unattended at any time.
After the child is given up, he or she is taken for a medical checkup. The relinquishing parent is provided a card with a toll-free phone number (1-800-CHILDREN or 1-800-244-5373) to call and receive information about parental rights and provide anonymous information about the infant's medical and genetic history, if desired. A parent who wishes to initiate proceedings to reclaim custody of the child has 30 days to contact DCFS.

Meanwhile, officials at the designated emergency care facility that received the child notify DCFS, which then begins the process to obtain legal custody of the child and to free the child for adoption.

A series of high-profile infant abandonment cases across the country prompted the Louisiana Legislature to combat the problem. In 2000, Louisiana enacted the Safe Haven law, amending the Children's Code Articles 1101 and 1193 and Title XVII of the Children's Code, Articles 1701-1706, to provide for the Safe Haven relinquishment of newborns. That Code again was amended in 2003.

According to the National Safe Haven Alliance, all 50 states have some form of Safe Haven provision.

For more information about the Safe Haven law, call 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373), which is supported by Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, or visit Safe Haven facilities can also request posters, brochures and other materials, as well as view a Safe Haven training video at the website.

Safe Haven Cases since 2004



May 2004

Slidell area

November 2004

Lafayette area

April 2005

New Orleans area

May 2005

New Orleans area

June 2007

Lafayette area

July 2007

New Orleans area

September 2007

Shreveport area

October 2008

New Orleans area

March 2009

Lake Charles area

April 2009

Lake Charles area

January 2010

New Orleans area

April 2010

New Orleans area

September 2010

Baton Rouge area