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Illinois' Safe Haven Act

In 2001, the Illinois legislature passed the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, also known as the Safe Haven Act, with the hope of protecting the number of newborn infants abandoned due to a mother's severe emotional distress. The Safe Haven Act was proposed and passed in 2001 in response to a number of abandoned newborns who were injured or killed as a result of the abandonment. The law provides women who have just given birth the option, within 30 days of birth, to bring a newborn infant anonymously to hospitals, police, and fire departments without having to face civil or criminal liabilities. The policy was to provide a safe environment for newborn babies in the event that a new mother decides she does not want or cannot take care of the newborn.

How the Safe Haven Law Works

Upon the relinquishment of the newborn infant, it is presumed that the mother has given consent to the termination of her parental rights to the child. It is also presumed that a mother who is relinquishing the infant is also the infant's biological parent and either expressly or impliedly relinquished the child without the intent of returning for him/her. A parent of the child who has been given up must show evidence to rebut the presumption that she consented to the termination of her parental rights and that she did not, expressly or impliedly, intend on returning for the infant.

The Hospital's Role in the Safe Haven Law

Under the statute, hospitals are required to accept all newborns and provide any necessary emergency care for him or her. The act of giving the child up to the hospital provides consent to the hospital to perform all necessary and reasonable examinations of the infant. The hospital will be found to have temporary custody of the child until the child is taken into custody by an adoption agency.

The Role of Police Stations and Fire Departments in the Safe Haven Act

If the parent relinquishes the child to a police station or a fire department, it is up to the police station or the fire department to transport the child for medical evaluations to the nearest hospital. The relinquishing parent has up to 72 hours to return to the fire department or police station, and the authorities must provide the hospital information to the relinquishing parent.

Under the Safe Haven Act, immunity is given to relinquishing parents only in the case where the infant has not exhibited signs of abuse or trauma. The Act does not provide immunity for civil or criminal liability where the child shows sign of abuse.

The Safe Haven Act in Effect

In Chicago, the Safe Haven Law has seen success, as in the 13 years that it has been active, there have been 89 children that have been relinquished. Of the 89, almost half (47 percent) of the infants were white, with 29 percent and 16 percent being black and Latino, respectively. Almost 34 percent of the women who relinquished their children were between the ages of 13 and 17 years old (16.82 percent) and 31 and 41 years old (16.82 percent).

The Safe Haven Law was put into place because of the new drive to protect newborn children abandoned in unsafe environments. There are a variety of legal issues and concerns when deciding to give up your child, whether through the extreme decision of the Safe Haven Law or through the more usual route of an adoption plan. Adoption is a difficult decision, whether you are deciding to put your child up for adoption or you would like to adopt a child. It is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney when determining whether adoption is right for you.

If you have questions or concerns about whether adoption is right for you and your family, and need help understanding the legal ramifications of your decision, please contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney. A family law attorney will be able to guide you through the adoption process.

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