Government

Iowa 'safe haven' law used for 45th time

Procedure allows parents to give up custody of newborn

A safe haven sign hangs in the entrance of Helen G. Nassif Center for Women's & Children's Health at UnityPoint Health-S
A safe haven sign hangs in the entrance of Helen G. Nassif Center for Women’s & Children’s Health at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. (Gazette file photo)

DES MOINES — A baby girl, born Sept. 13, is now in the custody of the state, marking the 45th time Iowa’s “safe haven” law has been used since the law went into effect.

Under the law, parents, or their authorized representative, can leave infants age 30 days or younger at a hospital or health care facility without fear of prosecution for abandonment.

“The purpose of this law is to protect the lives of newborns who are in danger of abandonment,” said Janee Harvey, administrator of the Iowa Department of Human Services Adult, Children and Family Services division.

No other details were released about the baby to protect the child and the parents’ identity.

“We want to ensure Iowans know that Safe Haven is an available option if they cannot care for their newborn safely,” Harvey said. “We recognize that these decisions are often made in the midst of crisis, and the protocols are built accordingly.”

The safe haven law was approved in the wake of a high-profile case in 2001 involving a teen mother in Eastern Iowa who killed her home-delivered newborn.

Safe haven babies are placed with foster or adoptive families. All states now have safe haven laws, although provisions differ.

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