California's Safely Surrendered Baby Law
Infant abandonment is an event that does not occur very often, but when it does, it often results in serious injury or death. In 2000, the California Legislature passed SB1368. The purpose of this law is to encourage parents to bring their infants, up to three days old, to hospital emergency rooms, rather than abandon them in dumpsters or bushes. No names are required and the parent(s) will not be subject to prosecution for child abandonment. The baby will receive needed medical treatment and be placed in an adoptive home.
You can help spread the word about this law. In Contra Costa County, the Board of Supervisors has designated fire stations, County clinics, and Kaiser medical offices as additional sites where infants may be safely surrendered.
To follow are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What is the Safely Surrendered Baby Law?
The Safely Surrendered Baby Law allows a parent or person with lawful custody to surrender a baby confidentially, without fear of arrest or prosecution for child abandonment. This law allows for at least a 14-day cooling off period, which begins the day the child is voluntarily surrendered. During this period, the person who surrendered the child can return to the hospital to reclaim the child.
How Does it Work?
A distressed parent who is unable or unwilling to care for an infant can legally, confidentially and safely surrender their baby within three days of birth. All that is required is that the baby be brought to a hospital emergency room or other designated site. As long as the child shows no signs of abuse or neglect, no name or other information is required. A bracelet will be placed on the baby for identification. A matching bracelet will be given to the parent. The bracelet will help connect the parent to the baby if the parent wants the baby back.
Does a Parent Have to Give Any Information to the People Taking the Baby?
No. Nothing is required. Hospital personnel will give the parent a medical information questionnaire designed to gather family medical history, which would be useful in caring for the child. It is up to the parent if they wish to give any additional information concerning the baby.
What happens to the Baby?
The baby will be examined and given medical treatment, if needed. Then the baby will be placed in a foster or pre-adoptive home by Child Protective Services.
What Happens to the Parent?
Parents who safely surrender their baby may leave the hospital emergency room or other designated site without fear of arrest or prosecution for child abandonment. Their identity will remain confidential and they will have the comfort of knowing their baby will remain in safe hands. If during the cooling off period the parents decide that they want to reclaim the baby, they can take the identifying bracelet back to the hospital, where staff will provide information about the baby.
Why is California Doing This?
The purpose of the Safely Surrendered Baby Law is to protect babies from being hurt or killed because they were abandoned.
You may have heard tragic stories of babies left in dumpsters or public toilets. The persons who committed these acts may have been under severe emotional distress. The mothers may have hidden their pregnancies, fearful of what would happen if their families found out. Because they were afraid and had nowhere to turn for help, they abandoned their infants.
Abandoning a baby puts the child in extreme danger. It is also illegal. Too often, it results in the baby's death. Because of the Safely Surrendered Baby Law, this tragedy doesn't ever have to happen in California again.
Who Can I Contact for More Information?
If you or someone you know wants to surrender a baby, please take the child to any hospital emergency room in Contra Costa County, any Contra Costa County health center, any Kaiser medical offices in Contra Costa County, or any fire station in Contra Costa County.
You can call the Contra Costa Crisis Center at 1-800-833-2900, for more information about surrender sites or other community resources. For more information on staff training or public education materials, call Lorena Martinez-Ochoa, Contra Costa Health Services, Family, Maternal and Child Health Programs at 1-925-313-6254.