The birth of a child can be a magical time, but to some it is extremely overwhelming. Many new parents feel scared, cannot afford the financial responsibilities a child brings about, or lack a support system to help raise a child. Unfortunately, parents in these situations and similar ones often resort to abandoning their children in an unsafe place. Newborn children require specific care and medical attention. If not provided, the newborn can experience extreme health issues and even death.
In order to address these concerns, Georgia enacted the “Safe Place for Newborns Act of 2002” on August 13, 2002. This Act allows a parent to leave his or her newborn child in the protective care of a medical facility. In basic terms, the law is designed to “prevent injuries to and deaths of newborn children that are caused by a parent who abandons the newborn.”
What is the Process?
Normally, a parent who abandons his or her infant may be charged with cruelty to a child, abandonment, or contributing to the delinquency or deprivation of a minor child. These are serious crimes that also carry harsh penalties. With the creation of this law, a parent may leave his or her infant at a medical facility and avoid criminal prosecution. Under the law a medical facility is “any licensed general or specialized hospital, institutional infirmary, health center operated by a county board of health, or facility where human births occur on a regular and ongoing basis which is classified by the Department of Community as a birthing center, but shall not mean physicians’ or dentists’ private offices.”
However, a parent may not simply leave the child in an entryway or waiting room. Instead, a parent must leave his or her child “in the physical custody of an employee, agent, or member of the staff of a medical facility who is on duty, whether there in a paid or volunteer position, provided that the newborn child is no more than one week old and the [parent] shows proof of [his or her] identity, if available, to the person with whom the newborn is left and provides [a] name and address.”
A party will not have to explain the situation or offer any reason for the decision to leave the child. This law is not intended to guilt or shame, but as previously stated, the parent will be required to provide a name in case the staff finds evidence that the child was abused or neglected. Again, this options only available if the child is less than one week old. If the child is older than one week, the parent must work with an adoption agency instead.
What will Happen to the Child?
After the child is placed in protected care, he or she will be examined and administered medical care if needed. Once the child is healthy enough to be discharged, he or she will be placed in the custody of the Department of Human Services.
If you or someone you know is pregnant and contemplating options, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. We can work with you during this time to discuss your options and help decide how best to move forward.