Andrew Gant
Daily News

She is the first baby left at an Okaloosa County hospital since the state’s Safe Haven law took effect

December 16, 2008 2:13 PM
Andrew Gant
Daily News

FORT WALTON BEACH – Baby Jane Doe is safe, dropped off at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center by her mother, who chose to give her up, authorities say.

The girl, barely more than a week old, is a rare example of the state’s Safe Haven Law at work.

She is the first baby left at an Okaloosa County hospital since the law took effect in 2000, according to records at the Gloria M. Silverio Foundation, a Florida partnership that raises awareness of the law.

Only one baby has been left anywhere on the Emerald Coast in the past eight years – an infant at a Safe Haven site in Santa Rosa County.

“It is extremely rare but every one case just proves its value,” said Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Michele Nicholson. “It’s a situation where they know there are no repercussions.”

“The mother was obviously mature enough to know that she couldn’t care for it, and someone else can.”

Jane Doe was born at about 2 a.m. on Dec. 8, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities don’t know her birthplace.

The mother took the baby to a nurse at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, who called the Sheriff’s Office to report it. Meanwhile, hospital staff put the baby in the nursery.

There was no sign of abuse or any criminal act, Nicholson said. The state Department of Children and Families does not investigate Safe Haven incidents unless abuse or neglect is suspected.

The law allows a parent to leave a newborn baby up to 7 days old at any hospital emergency room, staffed fire rescue station or staffed EMS station in Florida. The parent may remain anonymous and leave without answering questions.

A parent who abandons a baby anywhere else can face criminal charges.

Safe Haven babies are eligible for adoption through licensed agencies. A parent who leaves a child has about 30 days to change his or her mind and reclaim the baby.

Versions of the Safe Haven law have passed in all 50 states. In Nebraska, which passed a version earlier this year, parents could drop off children of any age – and some have left behind teenagers as old as 17.

So far in 2008, 19 babies have been left in safe havens in Florida. The Silverio Foundation says 120 Florida babies have been saved since 2000.

WANT TO ADOPT?

For more information on adopting a Safe Haven baby, call (800) 96-ADOPT or visit asafehavenfornewborns.com

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