Safe Haven Awareness Month
In Illinois, April has been declared Safe Haven Awareness Month with the goal of informing residents of the Safe Haven option for their newborn child. The Safe Haven law, also known as the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act, enacted in 2001 in Illinois, is designed to provide struggling parents with a safe, legal alternative to illegal infant abandonment. Under this law, an unharmed newborn child up to 30 days old may be relinquished to staff at a hospital, police station, or firehouse without any questions asked or fear of prosecution. The baby is then placed with an adoptive family through a licensed adoption agency. Although it’s preferable for a birth parent to create an adoption plan, relinquishment through this law is a safe option for those who feel they are unable to go through the adoption planning process. Not only is the baby placed in a safe, permanent home, but the parent is also provided with information about postpartum care, grief counseling, and adoption options.
As a licensed adoption agency, ACFB has placed several Safe Haven babies with adoptive families. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of our previous board members and ACFB adoptive parent Melissa, whose daughter was a Safe Haven baby. Melissa and her husband had been waiting to adopt for a few years when they received a call from then ACFB director, Tobi, that a baby girl had been relinquished under the Safe Haven Act and would be placed with them. Melissa recalls Tobi discussing the legal process of Safe Haven and the 60-day window that would need to pass before the court could allow the adoption to move forward. Although it was possible that the birth parent could return during that time, Melissa and her husband were still overjoyed. Within a few hours of receiving Tobi’s call, they headed to the hospital and met their daughter Alicia* for the first time.
Today, Alicia is a happy, healthy 16-year-old girl. Although they do not know any identifying information about Alicia’s birth family, Melissa and her husband have always been open about her adoption story. When Alicia was young, Melissa told her, “I know you wonder about your birth mother and think of her often.” She felt it was important that she acknowledge Alicia’s connection to her birth family. Even if she doesn’t know them, they are still a big part of her daughter’s life. Melissa has always recognized that her daughter has love for her birth family and she encourages her to talk about that connection. Melissa doesn’t know if Alicia will search for her birth family one day, but she knows she will always support whatever her daughter chooses.
Being raised with an open understanding of her adoption has taught Alicia to be proud of her story. She is vocal about adoption and loves sharing her experience with others. Every summer, Save Abandoned Babies Foundation hosts a gathering for Illinois Safe Haven babies and their families. Melissa and Alicia attended for several years, meeting other families, and connecting over their shared experiences. The very first time they joined the gathering, Alicia was given a necklace pendant with the Safe Haven logo, which she still proudly wears every day. Both Melissa and Alicia are grateful to have found a community of people who understand the uniqueness of adoption through Safe Haven.
Today, Safe Haven laws exist in all 50 states. According to Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, over 4,500 babies have been safety surrendered across the country and illegal abandonments have significantly decreased. Despite the evidence that Safe Haven laws are effective, there continues to be ongoing discussion about legislative changes in many states. While it is preferable for a birth parent to work with an agency to establish an adoption plan, the Safe Haven laws recognize that not every birth parent feels capable of that. While talking about the importance of the Safe Haven laws with Melissa, she expertly noted that, “Anonymity is so important for so many people.”