New Parents Reminded About 'Safe Haven' Law

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Department of Public Welfare Secretary Estelle B. Richman reminded expectant parents and parents of newborns that Pennsylvania's safe haven law allows them to confidentially turn over unwanted infants, up to 28 days old, to any hospital as an alternative to abandonment.

On Nov. 10, a newborn baby boy was found on the porch of a home in Penbrook, Dauphin County. According to police, the mother -- a teenager who was later identified -- had no connection to the home where she left the baby. The child is now under the care of the Dauphin County Children and Youth Services.

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"While we are greatly relieved to learn that the boy was unharmed, it is important to note that this is exactly the kind of situation that Pennsylvania's safe haven law was designed to prevent," said Secretary Richman. "When young women are not prepared for the responsibilities of parenthood, they may be afraid and are unsure of where to turn for help. We want them to know that there is a safe, legal and confidential option for them and their child."

There are nearly 270 hospitals in Pennsylvania where parents may safely surrender a baby if they fear they cannot care for the child. Babies can be handed over to any hospital staff member. If the parent is unwilling or unable to wait, they should look for signs instructing them where to place the baby. As long as the child is unharmed, the parents will not be asked any questions.

It is recommended, but not required, that the parent provide medical information for the child. A baby turned over to a hospital will receive necessary medical care. The county's child and youth agency will work to find the child a family through the state's foster care system.

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