The Florida Safe Haven Law was enacted in 2000 in response to an ever increasing number of abandoned newborns left to die in dumpsters, ditches, canals and other hazardous places by mothers who were hiding their pregnancy.
This law allows a parent of a newborn up to seven days old to relinquish the child legally, safely and confidentially at a hospital or fire/EMS station. This law is a safety net for both the parent and newborn. I sponsored legislation to increase the relinquishment period from 3 to 7 days. Often, beyond that time frame anonymity is not assured.
As to the incident that occurred at the Davie fire station, the individual who left the baby at the station had notified both Safe Haven and the authorities of his actions. Quite often, as was in this case, drugs were involved.
There are numerous opportunities available to assist parents of older children who feel they cannot or do not want to raise them; including contacting family members, church groups, 211 community helplines, placing a child up for adoption and more.
This program in Florida is one of the most effective laws in the nation and serves as a model for other states when it comes to implementing infant protection law. There have been incidents when babies older than the 7-day period were left in Florida at designated Safe Havens sites. The authorities believed that the mom’s intent was to leave the baby in safety and considered her action to be the spirit of the law. It is a very good law and it is certainly working as intended, resulting in 206 newborns safely relinquished in the state of Florida — 28 in Broward County alone.
Instead of more laws, let’s put more emphasis on community involvement and awareness of the numerous services available.
Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, represents District 38.