State?s ?safe haven? law untested here

Marion County law enforcement officials are familiar with the Newborn Infant Protection Act, which governs safe haven laws in Kansas, but so far no one has tested it here.

The statute, which was enacted in 2007, according to a spokeswoman with Kansas Social Rehabilitation Services in Newton, is for mothers in crisis as a way to safely give up their babies up to 45 days old.

Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning and Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft say they are both aware of the law and see it as a viable alternative to hurting a baby.

?I dislike the thought of a mother abandoning their child that easily, but it is better than leaving an infant in a dumpster,? Kinning said about the law.

It?s a chance for parents to do the right thing, he added, rather than abandon the infant.

But if someone abuses or abandons their child, then Kinning said he sees no reason not to prosecute the offender.

Craft agreed, adding that thankfully to his knowledge the law has not come into play.

?If someone is in such despair with a new infant, there are options to consider,? he said, ?and this is one to think about.?


Why pass a law?

Kinning said the law was passed in response to the tragedies resulting from the unsafe abandonment of newborns.

?We started seeing (babies being left) all over the country in Dumpsters, back alleys or abused,? he said.

One SRS official said she remembers reading about a child dumped in Emporia a few years ago and another about a child buried in Hutchinson, having been found by a dog digging in the park.

?Something needed to be done,? she said.

How does it work?

Kansas safe havens include hospitals, fire stations and city and county health departments, according to the statute.

In the event a parent cannot keep an infant for whatever reason, the statute states that as long as there has been no bodily harm, it legal to relinquish the child.

The statute doesn?t require the parent to give their name, but one SRS official said it would help if they did.

?By providing some information about the child, it can help with possible genetic problems, cancer or any of several serious medical conditions,? she said.

Once the infant is given to someone at a safe haven location, the next step is protecting and providing the child with medical care until a more permanent home is found.

Unintended consequences

The intent of the law was in protecting unwanted newborns; however, in some states, according to SRS, many girls and women continue to leave newborns in bathrooms, parking lots or trash bins.

Another concern, the spokeswoman said, is that the law sends a signal, especially to young girls, that they don?t have to take responsibility for their actions.

Whatever the pros and cons are to the law, Kinning said he believes it?s about the child.

?The law gives the baby a chance,? he said.

SRS officials don?t see this law as a way for parents to escape their parenting role, but if someone believes they are unable to care for their child or unable to make an adoption plan, it is a legal alternative.

For more information or to talk with a Help Line staff about the safe haven program, call 866-320-5764.

For those wanting to view the Kansas statute, the number is KSA 38-2282.

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