Parents Need to Know They CAN Opt Out of Parenthood

baby safe havenI could go the rest of my life without ever having to read another story about a baby who got hurt. Really, the REST of my life. And I hope to live a long and fruitful one, thankyouverymuch. Unfortunately, we're not there yet in society. And so today I read about a baby who was either thrown or dropped two stories off a hospital parking structure in California.

There's so much wrong with that sentence that I don't know where to begin. So I'm going to start with the fact that this was a HOSPITAL. The one place where we're all supposed to feel safe, but especially babies!

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Most places in the US have what are called safe haven laws (although I've heard them called Baby Moses laws too from that old story about the baby in the basket) that specifically allow for babies to be taken to hospitals and abandoned by their parents -- no legal ramifications, no questions asked. Parenting is tough. Depression sets in easily, and these laws are a godsend for adults who feel like they have nowhere to turn. They protect babies and parents both.

The rules vary by state, but they're all drafted to put babies in the hands of someone who can take care of them when their parents feel like they can't. The hospital is the obvious choice for a drop-off in many states. After all, who knows better how to deal with an infant than someone with medical training?

In fact, this story makes a good case for lengthier havens. In California, where this terrible incident occurred, parents only have until the baby is 3 days old to surrender their child with a hospital staff person. Sadly, this little boy is estimated -- by caregivers at the hospital where he's being treated for his injuries -- to be between 1 month and 3 months old. He had aged out. Who knows if his story would have been different if his parents could have given him to someone in the hospital and walked away. I don't know that it would change the mind of someone so sick that they'd allow a baby to fall off a parking structure. But who knows. It might have.

Jailtime is scary, but we don't HAVE to punish parents for realizing they can't cope. If they're taking a baby to a hospital, giving them to a responsible person, they're at least TRYING to do right by that child. Legislators in other states understand that it can take time for the stresses of being a new parent to build up. In New Mexico, parents have 90 days of protection from the state. In Texas, they get 60 days. North Dakota gives parents an entire YEAR.

Fortunately, the average parent will never use one of these laws. But if more desperate people knew they existed, if more of them took advantage of the protection, maybe some of these horrible "baby got hurt" stories would disappear from our news. There's always a better option than hurting your baby.

Do you know your state's safe haven law? Do you think it's long enough?

 

Image via cogdogblog/Flickr

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