[r85] Pond Report: More Awareness Needed for State's Safe Haven Laws (2/3/2011)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Start Date: 2/3/2011 All Day
End Date: 2/3/2011
Angela Croarkin stepped outside of her Merrillville home last week on one of the coldest nights of the winter. The wife of a local police patrol officer quickly realized she was not alone outside her home. A covered cardboard box sat on the couple's front porch with a newborn baby girl wrapped in a sweater inside it.

The baby left on the Croarkin's was taken to Methodist Hospital's Southlake Campus in Merrillville and is in good health. In addition, numerous couples have already contacted local and state adoption agencies about giving this baby a home.

This incident in Merrillville, though, illustrates the lack of knowledge most Hoosiers have about the state's Safe Haven laws for newborn babies.

Indiana's Safe Haven law allows an individual to anonymously give up an unwanted newborn infant without being arrested or prosecuted. Within 45 days of the child being born, according to the state law, a parent, family member, friend, minister, priest, social worker or responsible adult can leave the baby at a hospital emergency room, fire station or police station. It also does not require questions to be asked on why they are utilizing this law; the only thing needed is the child's date of birth and a few medical history questions.

Every state in the nation has some form of a Safe Haven law. Indiana provides the fifth longest time period and most options for parents to decided whether to utilize the Safe Haven laws.

There are far worse places and ways the parents of the child in Merrillville could have handled the situation and I compliment their efforts to find a safe place for the child. However, there are much safer places they could have taken their baby than the home porch of a local police officer.

There are no official government statistics on the number abandoned babies in the United State - those types of statistics would be nearly impossible to accurately count. However, it has been estimated that about 20,000 babies per year are abandoned throughout the nation.

One of the ways we can decrease to the number of abandoned children in this country is to better inform people about the Safe Haven laws.

Simple things such as providing pamphlets at hospitals, police stations and fire stations could go a long way to better informing potential parents about their options. In addition, towns posting signage indicating a location is a Safe Haven zone could help this process. These are all things local communities can provide to ensure that they do not have a tragic incident with an abandoned baby.

Full-term potential parents who do not want their baby need to know that there are options. In addition to talking with guidance counselors, distressed parents can get more information about Safe Haven laws by calling the Safe Haven Hotline at (877) 796-HOPE or going to www.safehaven.tv.

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State Rep. Phyllis Pond (R-New Haven) represents portions of Allen and DeKalb counties.