An Online Exclusive from EMS Magazine

By Lars D. White, EFO –
Since the inception of Florida Statute 383.50, Treatment of Abandoned Newborn Infant, 59 infants given up by their mothers have been taken into protective custody. In accordance with the law, these infants were left at fire stations, EMS stations or hospitals. Needless to say, this law has been effective in its purpose: to protect, and possibly save the lives of, newborn infants at risk of abandonment in unsatisfactory conditions. We in the emergency services are grateful that legislators recognized this crisis and made Florida one of the first states to enact the appropriate legislation.

The Gloria M. Silverio Foundation, a Florida-based 501(c)3, established its “A Safe Haven for Newborns” project in 2001 in response to a great need in our state for public education and other resources to address this issue. A Safe Haven for Newborns has remained the lead organization in championing the effort to provide resources to support the abandoned-infant law, and has won endorsements from such groups as the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association, the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association, and many others. The foundation provides:

  • Media assistance;
  • Statistical information;
  • Metal signs for fire stations identifying them as Safe Havens;
  • Procedural guidelines for the fire service;
  • Public awareness and educational materials;
  • A PowerPoint training program for the fire service;
  • A statewide crisis hotline: 877/767-BABY (2229);
  • A Web resource:

The fire service plays an important role in the overall success of the Safe Haven program. It remains our responsibility to implement procedural guidelines, provide public education and awareness, properly post our fire stations with signage and report abandoned-infant events to A Safe Haven for Newborns.

Although statistics suggest the law has been a success, we recognize that there remains room for improvement. We have, at times, been informed by the media that fire stations in their area do not have any signs posted, and by fire departments that they have not implemented guidelines or training to handle abandoned-infant situations. A Safe Haven for Newborns now offers metal signs that can be posted in visible locations outside fire stations. These new signs replace the window decals formerly provided by the Florida Department of Health. To date, more than 2,500 metal signs have been provided, free of charge, to fire departments, EMS stations and hospitals. Fire department procedural guidelines and training and public-education materials are also available from the foundation at no charge.

Occasionally, we experience confusion from fire service members concerning the difference between the Safe Haven for Newborns and Safe Place programs. The Safe Haven for Newborns program was created in response to abandoned-infant legislation, whereas the Safe Place program was designed to provide resources for youth in crisis and is not the direct result of a law. It is important that fire service members recognize the differences between these important programs. It is equally important that abandoned-infant events are reported to A Safe Haven for Newborns (don’t assume they already know) in order to compile statistics and provide resource support to the fire service, media and general public.

We remain grateful to the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association for their partnership with the Gloria M. Silverio Foundation and their continued support in saving the lives of newborn infants through the Safe Haven project. For more information, contact the Foundation at 305/882-1304, ext. 103, or

Lars D. White, EFO, is chief of Oviedo Fire Rescue in Oviedo, FL

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