DES MOINES — Iowa Department of Human Services officials today announced that a baby girl, born Oct. 12, was released to DHS custody, marking the 47th time they have used the state’s safe haven procedure since the law went into effect.
Through Iowa’s Safe Haven 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. Specific details are withheld in order to protect the identity of the parents and the children.
“The purpose of this law is to protect the lives of newborns who are in danger of abandonment,” said Janee Harvey, administrator of the DHS adult, children and family services division. “We want to ensure Iowans know that Safe Haven is an available option if they cannot care for their newborn safely. We recognize that these decisions are often made in the midst of crisis and the protocols are built accordingly.”
The Safe Haven procedure prioritizes the health and physical safety of the infant(s), as well as the anonymity of the parent or authorized individual who relinquishes custody of the child, according to state officials.
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. Infants who are safe haven babies are placed with currently approved foster or adoptive families.
All states have Safe Haven laws, although provisions differ, officials say.