Although baby safe-haven laws are invaluable in protecting innocent lives, they’re only useful if knowledge of their existence is widespread. The case of a newborn who was left abandoned in a stroller this week could have perhaps been avoided if his parents had aware of and took advantage of their local safe-haven laws.
Alex Diaz’s curiosity made him a hero yesterday when he looked inside an abandoned stroller and found a newborn baby. Diaz, who lives in Los Angeles, first saw the rundown stroller on a sidewalk on Monday night while on a walk with his own children. When it hadn’t moved the following morning, he noticed the blanket inside appeared clean, and his paternal instincts prompted him to take a closer look. It was then that he found a baby boy, so young his umbilical stump was still attached. While the thought of an innocent newborn being outside alone for so long without food or care is gut wrenching, the baby, who doctors estimate was a day old when he was left in the stroller, is now being treated at a local hospital and is in stable condition. Local authorities are reaching out to the public and reviewing nearby surveillance cameras in an effort to figure out who left the baby and why.
Quite puzzling is the fact that the baby’s stroller was left parked right across the street from a church. Perhaps it was a conscious decision in hopes that someone from the church would see the baby, but an unnecessary one, as in Los Angeles parents can surrender a baby within 72 hours of the child’s birth without facing legal repercussions. There was absolutely no need for this infant’s life to be put at risk by leaving it on the sidewalk.
Although the particulars of the law vary by location, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all 50 states have enacted safe-haven laws that allow parents to surrender a newborn without fear of prosecution. While the specific time period in which a baby may be surrendered varies by state, many states allow 72 hours for the child to be relinquished, while other states extend the period in which a baby can be surrendered without repercussions to one month.
States also have varying rules on the locations where a baby may be surrendered. While there are some states that require an infant to be left at a hospital or medical facility, many states also deem fire stations and police stations as legitimate safe havens for newborns. There are even states in which a church can validly take possession of an infant, provided the baby is left with someone and not placed at the church door. The National Safe Haven Alliance is a fantastic resource where you can find details on safe-haven laws in your particular state, including how long the safe-haven period is and where nearby safe havens are located.
Thanks to a concerned citizen, this little boy was found quickly and unhurt, but his future didn’t have to lie in the hands of luck. It’s vital that we educate ourselves and raise awareness of local safe-haven laws to prevent a tragedy from occurring in the future.