The Illinois Safe Haven Law
A newborn baby girl was recently found on the steps of the Nazareth Family Center in Chicago. A cleaning person allegedly found the child wrapped in a blanket around 3 a.m. How long the child was on the steps is not clear. She was treated at St. Mary’s and was then taken to Lurie Children’s Hospital. The child is reported to be in good condition. The Department of Child and Family Services is now the child’s guardian and, along with the police, is investigating the situation.
New parents who are unable to provide adequate care for their newborn children may abandon their infants in unsafe circumstances where they may be vulnerable to the weather or other dangerous conditions. Under Illinois law, parents who abandon their children face civil liability and criminal prosecution. To provide a safe alternative for parents who cannot care for their babies, Illinois has a Safe Haven law.
Under the Safe Haven law, parents in Illinois are immune from prosecution or civil suit for abandonment if they abandon a child in accordance with certain restrictions including the following:
- The baby is under 30 days old;
- The parent does not harm or neglect the child; and
- The parent relinquishes the child into the custody of a staff member at any hospital, emergency medical facility, police station or staffed fire station in the state.
If there is no evidence of abuse or neglect, then the parent may remain anonymous. The child is taken for a medical checkup and is quickly placed in an adoptive home or in foster care.
Abandoning a child in accordance with the Safe Haven law does not constitute the relinquishment of parental rights. However, no sooner than 60 days following the abandonment, proceedings for terminating parental rights and placing the child for adoption will commence. If the parent wants to regain custody and prevent the termination of parental rights, he or she must petition the Court.
Illinois policy prefers traditional adoption methods if a parent is unable to care for a child; however, lawmakers recognize that if no safe alternative is provided, parents may abandon their children under unsafe conditions. Some parents simply are not capable of adequately caring for their children, so Illinois’s Safe Haven law encourages them to relinquish their children in a safe manner by protecting them from lawsuits or prosecution. The Safe Haven law was passed in 2001. Since that time, more than 100 infants have been abandoned.
If you have questions about adoption or Illinois’s Safe Haven law, an attorney can advise you and help you ensure that your child goes to a loving home and that you avoid any legal troubles. Please call skilled Palatine family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson to schedule a free initial consultation.