Leaders implement ‘abandoned

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2000

baby’ policy here


Staff Writer

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Dec. 21, 2000 10 PM

Babies being abandoned has not been a big problem here, but situations in other parts of Alabama have forced lawmakers and medical personnel to take action.

In May 2000, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill that created secret safe places for newborns and local authorities are ready to implement a plan if that ever happens here.

Thursday afternoon, Edge Regional Medical Center hosted a press conference to outline its plan, which includes the Department of Human Resources, the District Attorney’s Office and law enforcement.

The law establishing Safe Havens for newborns went into effect Aug. 1 of this year and officials have been meeting to outline procedures that will be taken in the event a child is abandoned in Troy.

Under the law, an infant up to 72 hours old can be brought to a hospital emergency room and left with no questions asked.

"The concern was that infants could be abandoned and put into circumstances and conditions not conducive to a healthy start in life," said ERMC administrator David Loving.

He said parents are sometimes "unwilling or incapable" to care for a baby and the law allows an infant to be turned over, unharmed, and cared for by hospital personnel.

"We feel it’s really important to, not only understand the law, but to provide protection for these newborns," Loving said. "Our initial commitment is to provide necessary services to that infant through our Emergency Department."

Because of all the efforts being made, Loving said authorities in Pike County "are prepared" if a baby is left at the hospital.

Although the law provides the person dropping off the child does not have to provide information, officials would like basic information, if possible. If the infant is unharmed, the district attorney will not prosecute the mother.

District Attorney Mark Fuller assured there will be no abandonment prosecution as long as the baby is brought to the hospital unharmed and within the 72-hour time period.

"We want to create a program that provides no barriers for the parent who feels that there is no other option," Fuller said.

"This program offers an alternative to abortion and abuse," Fuller said, adding it also helps those who can’t help themselves.

Once the infant is carefully screened and given any necessary medical care, the Department of Human Resources will take custody and begin looking for a home for the baby.

Paul Butler, acting director of the local DHR, said, now that procedures have been established, it is important to inform the public about the law.

"If a parent ever feels so desperate that she is contemplating abandoning an infant, we want her to know about this option," Butler said.

"No one believes a parent would willingly abandon a child," Butler said. "If a parent feels a need, they can."

ERMC has had only one incident of a baby being abandoned at the hospital in the past 20 years. The Charles Henderson Child Health Center has had one baby left in the basement 17 years ago.

"We have not had a case (since the legislation was enacted)," Loving said. "I hope we don’t, but if we do, we are prepared."

Jimmy Floyd, administrator of the CHCHC, said he is proud to be a part of the program.

"We certainly hope there’s not a need for it," Floyd said. "But, I feel everything will run smoothly if it does happen."

The legislation came about when Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson and the county’s Child Death Review Team reviewed 10 infant deaths over a two-year period.

Making a vow to stop the trend, Tyson and a television news reporter in Mobile teamed up to create A Secret Safe Place for Newborns.

Since the legislation was signed into law, six babies in Alabama have been saved because of the program and other states have passed similar legislation.