By Nick E. Silverio, Founder of The Gloria M. Silverio Foundation
Newborns are left to die by mothers who believe, for whatever reason, that they have no other alternative. Infants are being abandoned across the United States in canals, toilets, dumpsters, rivers, bags and other hazardous places. Many do not survive. The Florida Legislation passed a state law in July 2000 which provides a mother, who might otherwise abandon her baby, with an alternative—she may leave her unharmed newborn, up to 3 days old, at a hospital emergency room, fire or EMS station, anonymously, and free from the fear of prosecution.
Yes, the law is passed but almost no one knew the law existed. So, The Gloria M. Silverio Foundation, a 501(c) 3 Florida charitable organization has been created and our first project is to draw attention to “A Safe Haven for Newborns.” Everyone associated with the organization is a volunteer.
While no one fully understands why a person would endanger a vulnerable infant, two common denominators present themselves—isolation and denial. Mothers (and fathers) who abandon a newborn infant often believe that they are utterly and completely alone. Living in this isolation they are left to wrestle with problems that they are not psychologically or emotionally equipped to handle. No one knows for sure how many babies are dying hidden, far from people who would provide love and care.
The accepted stereotype of a person who abandons a newborn infant is that of a teenage, underprivileged mother. However, research indicates that this is a tragedy that crosses all categories of age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
This tragedy affects all of us. In Orange County, a young teenage girl gave birth secretly on New Year’s Eve and then abandoned her baby in a neighbor’s boat. Sadly, the baby did not survive. Recently, in Brevard County police dug up the body of a newborn after a 15-year-old girl told them she gave birth to a stillborn daughter and buried her in the backyard. In Monroe County, a newborn girl was found dead, with the umbilical cord still attached, in a Key West hotel by a security guard doing his rounds. Now these girls’ lives have been changed forever. I would like to believe that if they knew about “Safe Haven” law, they would have exercised that option.
Obviously the bills are not the final answer to the social problems contributing to the cause of infant abandonment, but they provide a compassionate approach to saving the lives of innocent and helpless babies. This law is a positive situation for all involved; a child’s life is saved; a mother or father is saved from a lifetime of guilt and anguish’ the hopes of a family waiting for adoption can be fulfilled.
The Safe Haven for Newborns is committed to saving and preserving lives.
Some of our statewide efforts to date include:
- A 24-hour toll-free multi-lingual help line is available with a statewide database which includes: All Fire Rescue, Hospitals, EMS, Licensed Social Services Agencies, etc in the State.
- A 30-second Public Service Announcement video available in English, Spanish and Creole
- Ten billboards are posted throughout the state
- An active media awareness campaign
- Establishment of an Advisory Board
- Numerous presentations have been conducted in public and private sectors
- Production and distribution of posters, flyers in English, Spanish and Creole
- Production of an educational video targeting teenagers and young adults, to be distributed to all middle schools, high schools, colleges, hospitals, fire rescue, EMS, health organizations, law enforcement, religious and civic organizations
- Established Safe Haven for Newborns Chapters in 35 counties with all 67 counties targeted by 2003
- Informational Website: www.asafehavenfornewborns.com
Since the law was enacted and we began our public awareness campaign, more than a dozen babies have been saved either by the spirit of the law or the letter of the law.
The public awareness campaign is working by more needs to be done. Working together in your community we will continue to saves lives by:
- Distributing “Safe Haven” materials
- Contacting the media
- Training/Education Programs Division Chief Lars White, City of Oviedo, has developed a “Safe Haven” Power Point presentation, which is available to you. Contact him at (407)977-6101 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org . The presentation can be used for training and to earn required C.E. U.s, subject to your medical director’s approval.
- Presentations—as you conduct various presentations in your community include information and literature regarding the “Save Haven for Newborns” mission
- Partnering with local Safe Haven Chapter in your area. Many Healthy Start Coalitions are coordinating the Safe Haven mission. All materials, videos, and the Power Point presentation are available to your organization at no cost.
Firefighter Ken Vandermeir received a newborn baby on October 15, 2002 at 3:00 AM. It was the last thing he was expecting when he saw a young man carrying a newborn baby boy. The young man asked if the station was a “Safe Haven” and handed the baby over to Vandermeir. Vandermeir checked the baby’s airway and his vital signs. Based on this experience, Firefighter Vandermeir has developed a Newborn Comfort Pac, to be used by all Emergency Medical Service providers. Ken can be contacted at email@example.com or on the web at
For more information about “A Safe Haven For Newborns” contact :
Nick E. Silverio, Founder
(305)882-1304, Ext 103
24/7 multi-lingual help line: 1-877-767-2229
The Gloria M. Silverio Foundation, “A Safe Haven for Newborns”
6801 N. W. 77th Avenue, suite 404
Miami, Florida 33166