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Across the nation, a person can give up an unharmed baby at a staffed hospital, firehouse or police station without fear of being arrested.
Under Safe Haven laws, the baby is placed up for adoption and the person who surrendered the child can remain anonymous — all in an effort to stop infant abandonment.
Nearly two decades after Indiana’s law went into the books, Crawfordsville firefighters/EMTs have been equipped and trained on how to respond when a parent comes to the station with a baby they no longer want.
“Our goal will be to start spreading the information out in the community that there are choices and options for these young moms,” said Karen Branch, executive director of the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau, which sponsored the training and supplies.
Firefighters/EMTs were trained on basic care from a representative of the National Safe Haven Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes the law. Both stations received an infant care package containing a diaper, onesie and blanket and Safe Haven signs were posted outside the firehouses.
After a baby is surrendered to the station, the infant would be checked out at the hospital before the Department of Child Services begins the adoption process. The law covers infants up to one month old.
“We’ve never had anyone drop a baby off here before,” fire chief Scott Busenbark said.
From 1999 to February 2018, more than 4,000 infants have been legally relinquished nationwide, according to the National Safe Haven Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes the law.
That figure is based on county and state reporting and may not represent the total number of relinquishments, the group stressed, since the federal government does not track how many babies are handed over to safe sites.
Over the same period, nearly 1,500 babies were illegally abandoned, according to the group’s figures. More than half of the infants were found dead.
“The statistics started going up and it got my attention,” said Denise Maxwell, a state representative for the alliance.
For more information about sponsoring a facility, visit www.nationalsafehavenalliance.org.