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Safe Haven Law Saves New Lives in Indiana

Indiana's Safe Haven Law was enacted in 2000. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman
Indiana's Safe Haven Law was enacted in 2000. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman
October 1, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – A newborn child about 12-hours-old was recently discovered outside a church in Jennings County.

The baby is among those who have been surrendered since Indiana enacted its Safe Haven Law in 2000.

The law allows a parent, family member, clergy member, social worker or any other responsible adult to relinquish a baby anonymously without arrest or fear of prosecution.

Sandy Runkle, programs director with Prevent Child Abuse, explains the need for the law.

"Unfortunately, scared, perhaps, individuals were leaving their infants, usually upon birth, and then unfortunately if you have an infant like that, probably the rate of survival is not very high if they're not discovered and the child's abandoned some place," she states.

The baby must be left at a hospital, fire station or police station. In the Jennings County case, the child was found at a church, which is not permitted under the law.

Authorities say the baby is expected to be OK, but there are some ongoing medical issues that need to be addressed and they are trying to locate the parents.

Runkle notes that unless there are signs of abuse, no questions will be asked when a baby is surrendered. But she adds any information that can be provided is helpful.

"Like date of birth, maybe some medical history or the parent medical history, anything that might be helpful to the child's well being so that the caregivers can better care for the infant," she says.

There are medical, social and financial reasons why a parent may feel there is no other choice but to abandon a child. Runkle encourages parents who feel distressed to reach out to a friend, social worker or someone else for help.

"If somebody is close in their faith community, reaching out to them, and they may be able to offer aid and resources,” she says. “There's help out there that we would always hope that people would take advantage of."

Counseling and other information is available in Indiana by calling the Safe Haven Hotline, 1-877-796-HOPE (4673), or 211.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN