As social workers, our main goal is to provide support and assistance through various life-changing events. Our values remind us that it is our responsibility to protect children from abuse, neglect, and any other form of maltreatment. Year after year there have been countless infants abandoned in unsafe locations where they face the very real threat of death. With the Safe Haven law, there are ways to relinquish an infant without any legal repercussions (USA, 2019). Every state has its own Safe Haven Law. Illinois has the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act that permits mothers to relinquish infants who are 30 days old or younger by handing them directly to staff at a Safe Haven location (DCFS, 2020). Safe Haven locations include fire stations, police stations, hospitals, and emergency care facilities (DCFS, 2020). This would occur with no obligation to answer any questions. Since Safe Haven relinquishments can be few and far between, hospital staff may feel in need of further explanation about the procedures and exactly what happens with the relinquished infant after they leave the hospital. Our hope is that this article provides information for you in case you ever find yourself in that situation.
Any hospital presented with a newborn under the Safe Haven Law is obligated to provide the necessary medical care for the newborn. Once the newborn enters the medical care, the hospital must notify DCFS. DCFS will have temporary protective custody of the newborn until the infant is discharged to an adoption agency. All adoption agencies on the Safe Haven list must be licensed by DCFS to provide domestic adoption services and agreeing to accept all Safe haven referrals regardless of race/ethnicity in Illinois. Once the call is made to DCFS, DCFS will then contact an adoption agency based on the list of the agencies they have available. Calls are made to agencies based on who is next on the list. One call per agency and then onto the next. Hopeful Beginnings of St. Mary’s is an adoption agency located in Palatine with a main focus of ensuring that every child has a loving and safe home. Once we receive a call from DCFS regarding the Safe Haven relinquishment, we immediately go into the hospital and communicate with the staff regarding the infant’s care. Once the baby is discharged from the hospital, the infant would then go into interim care. Interim care is provided by a Hopeful Beginnings’ licensed family who is on standby ready to care for an infant at a moment’s notice. The care is provided in the home where the baby can receive love and attention at all times until their adoptive placement. We make sure that we take the recommendations of the hospital and the attending pediatrician throughout the process. This is a collaborative process with the collective goal of serving the baby. We keep in mind that we select a pediatrician close to the interim provider to make sure that every infant has the best care.
The first month of every infant’s life is extremely crucial for bonding and development. Hopeful Beginnings understands that this is a vital time for the infant and adoptive family. Our goal is to place the infant with their forever family as efficiently as possible. We take charge by contacting our attorney the next business day to begin the legal paperwork. We also contact the longest waiting adoptive family who has been approved to receive a Safe Haven baby. This process can be a stressful time for adoptive parents due to the possibility of the process not being legalized for an extended period of time. Per the Safe Haven law, birth parents have 60 days from the time of relinquishment to stop the potential adoption from legalizing. Keeping the infant and adoptive parents in mind, we make sure that everyone is aware of this timeframe. We are legally required to do post-placement visits that occur once the infant is placed with their family to ensure there is proper care and bonding.
Hopeful Beginnings of St. Mary’s understands that this 60-day waiting period is an exciting and stressful time for families. The transition and emotions that one goes through can be very overwhelming and we are here to provide counseling to individuals and families at all stages of the process. We offer counseling to pregnant and expectant mothers as well as mothers who struggle with adjustment to motherhood, perinatal mood disorders, and those who have suffered the loss of their baby either from miscarriage or stillbirth. Safe Haven cases are only a small portion of what we do here at Hopeful Beginnings. Our goal is to help raise awareness about the Safe Haven law here in Illinois to get the word out to new mothers who may feel alone and scared, wondering what their options are and also supporting hospitals when they receive an infant relinquished under Safe Haven Law. We understand a Safe Haven relinquishment does not often occur and training may be minimal, so we hope this article gives further insight for the hospital professionals involved as well.
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