In what many are calling a Christmas miracle, an abandoned newborn was found crying in the manger of a New York church Nativity scene on Monday afternoon. A custodian discovered the baby after returning from lunch, wrapped in towels and laid in the manger, with the umbilical cord still attached.
The Rev. Christopher Heanue of the Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill, Queens, says the crying baby boy was placed in the creche or the manger scene where you would typically find baby Jesus at Christmastime. The baby was immediately taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was found to be healthy and stable. Authorities are still looking for his mother caught on surveillance footage since she failed to comply with state safe haven laws.
As we saw in the case of the mother who abandoned her two sons at a Houston fire station in September because she felt she couldn’t raise them alone, most mothers who give up a child like this are truly at the end of their rope. We can guess that because this mother appeared to give birth outside of a medical facility — since her son was left with the umbilical cord still attached — she was in dire need of help.
We don’t know her struggle, but we do know that this mother seemed to be doing her best to leave her baby in a safe place — in a church manger, where he would be seen right away. But even with the best intentions, this anonymous mom still broke local safe haven laws.
A safe haven law is just like it sounds. Also called “Baby Moses laws” in some states with reference to the Bible story, a safe haven law allows a parent to anonymously leave a newborn at a church, hospital, police station or fire station without fear of criminal charges. But here is the catch: A baby has to be left in the care of the authorities at the “safe place” for the law to have an effect. The New York safe haven law allows a parent to leave a newborn baby up to 30 days old anonymously and without question, when left with a designated person or when authorities are contacted right away.
Because this mother never made contact with an actual person, authorities are now searching for her identity. There’s no telling if she will be charged once she’s identified, but her story brings an interesting issue to light. Safe haven laws exist for a reason — more often than we think, a desperate parent may need to give up their child within the protection of this law instead of considering a more troublesome alternative.
New parents who fit these criteria can look up their state-specific state haven law to follow the instructions for anonymous drop-off or call the National Safe Haven Alliance toll-free crisis hotline for help. Finding a point of contact at the church versus leaving her baby in the Nativity scene could have allowed this new mother to drop off her newborn without any questions.
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s heartwarming to hear a “miraculous” Christmas story like this with a happy ending. The baby is safe and sound after being found quickly by church staff, but we can’t forget about the mother who left him there. Let’s hope she gets the help she needs and has some peace in knowing that her child is safe and that others learn from this story.