December 9, 2013: IIn Northern California last week, according to Lorna Rodriguez in the Humboldt Times-Standard, the Arcata (Humboldt County) Fire Protection District has agreed to join the Humboldt Bay Fire Battalion in designating stations as safe surrender sites. (In Humboldt County, only hospitals are currently authorized to receive safe surrenders; as fire officials point out, delicately, many people trust firefighters more than hospital officials in what might be considered nonjudgmental compassion in such situations.)
Infant abandonment rises to the top of public awareness at this time of year; maybe it's the cold, maybe it's the ubiquitous images of in a feeding trough. Whatever the impetus, California's "safe surrender" program (passed into law in 2006) is worth revisiting. (The state confirms that 518 infants have been surrendered in the seven years since the law was passed. The state Dept. of Social Services says it is, "currently working to improve data gathering and statistics for abandoned infants in order monitor the effectiveness of the Safely Surrendered Baby Law...")
Under California law, a person may bring an infant into a designated site (hospitals, fire stations, e.g.) within 72 hours of birth, without fear of prosecution (if the child is not a victim of abuse or neglect). The person surrendering the baby need not be the parent; it must be someone, however, who has the parent/s' permission.)
When a legal guardian comes to a safe surrender site, participating locations talk to the person, provide information on the program and offer a voluntary medical questionnaire to obtain as much information as possible about the child's medical history. Once the baby is surrendered, an ambulance company is notified, and the baby is transferred to the hospital.
No more than 48 hours later, child welfare services is alerted, and takes temporary custody of the child, [according to the Dept. of Health & Human Services]. A social worker is assigned, and investigates the details of the case to make sure there's no abuse or neglect. A unique identifier bracelet with a tracking number is placed on the baby, and a matching one is given to the guardian in the event the baby is reclaimed. According to DHHS, a parent has 14 days from the time of surrender to reclaim the baby if the home is assessed by child welfare services and determined to be safe.
In El Monte (LA County) in September, sheriff deputies found the body of a newborn in a trash bin after doctors at a local hospital reported that a woman had walked into the facility bleeding profusely, then broke down and said she had just given birth and discarded the newborn in front of her apartment.