Every year in America hundreds of infants are abandoned shortly after birth.
Tragically, their mothers are unaware of laws in all 50 states, including
Nevada, that allow them to anonymously turn their children over to authorities
for care and adoption without fear of criminal prosecution.
Humboldt General Hospital has joined the effort to ensure the safety of
every newborn child by establishing two “Safe Haven” locations
on its 118 E. Haskell Street campus.
According to Humboldt General Hospital CEO Jim Parrish, the hospital decided
to help promote child-abandonment-amnesty laws because officials there
feel there is a need.
“It is our understanding that Winnemucca has had several cases where
Safe Haven laws could have saved the lives of infant children, and we
believe there will likely be times in the future when our willingness
to provide a safe haven may very well mean the difference between life
and death for an infant,” said Parrish.
Humboldt General Hospital’s Emergency Medical Services and Emergency
departments are both safe havens for infants.
“With these laws in place,” said Parrish, “there is no
reason why there should ever be another tragedy involving an unwanted
infant in Winnemucca.”
In general, Safe Haven Laws allow a parent to anonymously hand over an
unwanted newborn to employees in a safe place, such as a hospital, emergency
medical services agency, fire station or law enforcement agency, and not
have to worry about facing criminal penalty. The baby will then be given
to the state's child welfare department.
Nevada’s Safe Haven Law has been in effect for 15 years. The Legislature
passed the Safe Haven law after six unwanted babies were either dumped
or killed by their parents in Nevada over a period of five years. Since
2001, newborns in Nevada have continued to be found in trash bins, restrooms
or other unsafe places.
Many point to the fact that Nevada’s Safe Haven Law is not very well
publicized and few people, especially the very young mothers who typically
abandon babies, seem to know about it.
“We want people to know this option is available,” said Parrish.
“We want to make sure that unwanted babies are left in a safe place
and not abandoned where they may not be found until it is too late.”
The Safe Haven Law only applies to babies less than 30 days old. If a child
is older, the Department of Family Services can provide ways a family
can surrender a child for adoption.
Humboldt General Hospital has Safe Haven signs posted at the entrance to
its Emergency Department and its ambulance station.
“That’s a start,” said Parrish, “but we need the
public’s help to get the word out about this law. We need our community
to know that HGH is ready to accept and care for unwanted infants 24 hours
For more information on Nevada’s Safe Haven law, please visit www.safehavennv.org.
Confidential information is also available 24 hours a day by calling (877)
885-HOPE. Calls are answered by the Crisis Call Center of Nevada.