Safe Haven Laws in Georgia Protect Parents and Infants
Safe haven laws have been established to protect infants whose mothers are unable to care for them. These laws decriminalize the act of leaving infants at designated locations in order for the child to become a ward of the state.
States enacted safe haven laws in response to the rise of incidents in which parents abandoned or killed infant children. Parents are often driven to these extreme measures when they lack the financial means or support systems to raise a child.
In 2002, Georgia passed the Safe Place for Newborns Act of 2002, which allows new mothers to leave their children in qualified medical facilities. Safe haven statutes like these protect infants and ensure they receive the care they need.
What Are Safe Havens for Parents and Their Children?
Safe havens include hospitals, fire stations, emergency medical care facilities, and other locations designated by Georgia law. Parents are allowed to remain anonymous and their children are given adequate medical care.
Safe havens exist as a way to prevent the injuries and deaths that can occur when parents abandon their infants. The Safe Place for Newborns Act of 2002 defines a medical facility as any of the following:
- Licensed hospitals
- Birthing centers
- Health centers operated by a board of health
- Institutional infirmary
Parents may leave children with staff members or agents of safe havens. However, the child’s age must be no more than one week. Although the mother may remain anonymous under the law, she must present proof of identity.
Under the law, parents may not be prosecuted for any crime including child cruelty, deprivation, abandonment, and other criminal acts.
The Role of Safe Havens in Providing Care
Any facility that accepts a child will receive reimbursement from the Department of Human Services for medical and other costs related to caring for the child.
The facility must provide details related to the time at which the child was presented as well as the timeline related to medically discharging the child.
Once the child is discharged, physical custody is transferred to the Department of Human Services, who must carry out an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child.
Safety and Protection of Families
Safe haven laws send a message to the community that parents and their children will be kept safe should parents decide they’re unable to care for a child.
The law requires parents to leave their child in the physical custody of an employee or agent of the medical facility. The child’s mother may leave her name and address with the medical facility, but she’ll remain anonymous under Georgia law.
Safe haven laws give parents a safe option for their newborn children. They protect parents from legal prosecution and give children the medical care and attention they need.
The ultimate goal is to move the child into a loving and caring home. This can only be possible if parents have somewhere to turn when they lack the resources to support and care for their child.
Safe haven laws save the lives of children and their parents while supporting the wellbeing of the entire community.