The Damage Inflicted by Ineffective "Safe Haven" Laws

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Why Baby Dumping Laws should provide a Safe Haven for BOTH mother and child, encouraging families to remain together, instead of encouraging mothers to relinquish their child.

Forty-two states now have some type of safe haven legislation. (The following states do not have safe haven legislation: AK, HI, MA, NE, NH, VT, VA and WY.) Most of the laws designate hospitals, emergency medical services, fire stations and police stations as safe locations. One exception is New York, which stipulates that the baby may be left with a suitable person or may be left in a suitable location so long as an appropriate person is promptly notified. Immunity is granted generally to employees who are required to accept and care for relinquished infants. About half of the states will not prosecute parents who relinquish unharmed infants. The remainder allows an affirmative defense to prosecution. State laws vary on the age of infants who may be relinquished. The ages range from 72 hours old or younger up to 5 days old or younger. The most common ages found in the statutes are 72 hours and 30 days.

While the intent of lawmakers and supporters to save babies is a noble one, the solution by creating new "privacy laws" just as adoptees are succeeding in overturning older privacy laws, is a blatant manipulation by the adoption industry.

The alternative to creating new and damaging privacy laws should

be creating places where an overwhelmed mother can get financial and emotional assistance to care for and keep her own child by keeping families together, not tearing them apart. Promoting abandonment is not the answer.

If you doubt that the adoption industry is the prime financial benefactor to these new laws then look at how these laws effects some parts of adoption:

They contravene sections of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) which give tribes first custody rights in cases of child relinquishment and they deter adoption through traditional legal channels and replace standard practice with what some Safe Haven advocates call "non-bureaucratic placement". They deny the right of identity to infants abandoned "legally" and strip the infants of all genetic, medical and social history. They include little or no safeguards against third party intervention (father who doesn't want responsibility and embarrassed grandparents,). They ignore established birth parent revocation timeframes that permit a birth parent - usually the mother - to reclaim her child in a reasonable amount of time.

Fathers, Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents, Sisters and Brothers all deserve an opportunity to care for a child before a government sanctions the child as anonymously relinquished and incontrovertibly abandoned and bequeaths he or she (through adoption) to a total stranger with enough money.

Allowing 'Safe Haven' laws in their current form will encourage home or private births without medical attention which risk the health of the mother and the child. Many women have complications during and after childbirth. Women will be discouraged from seeking pre-natal and post-natal medical care

and counseling, thus endangering the health, well being, and even the life of both the mother and the baby. In Florida, receiving centers are PROHIBITED from even asking women if they need care.

You may have heard on the news that passing "Safe Haven" legislation will save the lives of babies, but you are being lied to. No serious studies in the US have been made on mothers who abandon or kill their newborns. Evidence suggests, however, that they suffer from a dissociative state in which the pregnancy is denied. Many suffer from substance abuse, mental disability, and physical abuse at the hands of family members and boyfriends. Anecdotal evidence from those who work with at-risk girls and women as well as testimonies of women who have abandoned suggest that "baby dumpers" will not utilize Safe Haven programs.

In states that have passed "Safe Haven" laws, babies continue to be illegally dumped. As of September 2001, Texas reported at least 12 infants had been abandoned illegally since the passage of its law, but the abandonments occurred before the start of a public awareness campaign. None have been abandoned outside safe havens since this publicity. Louisiana reported that five infants had been abandoned illegally since passage of its law. Three babies died, and the parents were prosecuted. At least five babies were illegally abandoned in California; two more of them were found dead. In Connecticut, one baby was discarded near a highway. Three babies had been abandoned illegally in Colorado. In one case, the mother attempted to regain custody. Michigan reported nine attempts including one in which a judge ruled that the case was not a safe haven surrender because the parents had not been given enough information on their legal rights. As of September 2002, California reported 21 illegal abandonments and 17 infants abandoned found deceased. Illinois reported four infants illegally abandoned and found deceased. Illinois averaged 25 illegal abandonments over the previous four-year period.

Does it really require states to advertise a blanket policy of "secret abandonment" as an easy escape from the pressures of parenthood to save the lives of these babies? No, it doesn't.

What it does take is education of the kids in school and the adults out there in the churches, private organizations, neighborhoods and crisis centers, P.S.A.s on TV and radio; Involving Social Services to act as supporters rather than child retrievers. If you teach young girls that 'sex equals pregnancy', then you have some of the battle won. Teach them abstinence. Now teach them about NOT dumping babies. I believe that if most of the officials and statesmen would check their EXISTING adoption laws, and promote them, then the battle might also be won.

We already have the tools in law. Creating more law doesn't fix things. Use the laws that are in place, first. Distraught women would see and recognize the alternatives to murdering their baby by leaving them in strange places. However, a girl who is going to dump a baby, is going to dump a baby. She doesn't care where it is, and she won't bother to check her state's statutes before doing it. Current implementation of Safe Haven laws do nothing to address the real problem, and the woman, who abandons her baby in a hospital one week, may be back nine months later to make another 'speedy delivery'.

Instead of teaching teenagers and adults that they can simply and anonymously turn their back on their responsibilities our federal and state government should increase funding to education.

Legalizing something that is wrong will not make it right. It simply creates a barricade to identity and truth for the few babies that do end up left in a fireman's or nurse's arms. If funding is increased and focused to education and it is used it to create programs that educate women about their choices early on, and offer support for expectant mothers who are in school, then yes, solving the education funding problem will alleviate baby abandonment. To some bill makers, education funding is too hard of an issue, and not really as glamorous as the perceived 'quick fix' of creating new privacy barricades through "Safe Haven" laws.

Instead of providing the adoption industry with more "baggage free" children to sell, and sentencing them to a future in which they will be removed of genetic heritage, devoid of medical history, and true origins, politicians should enact legislation that will provide a "safe haven" for BOTH the child and the parent.

The people's money in the custody of the government should be spent keeping families together, not encouraging them to separate. It isn't government's role to use our money to reverse years of discouraging abandonment by now start promoting it. Why not relegate this issue to the churches, private organizations, neighbors and crisis centers and sponsor their support in educating to reduce the number of fatalities due to child abandonment?

Passing additional Safe Haven bills and allowing the ones that exist to continue, is a wasteful and onerous Band-Aid to put on the problem.

Politicians, statesmen and other elected officials should be interested in more than the cosmetic appearance of an issue by realizing that underneath it all, enacting this bill will do more harm to the public's welfare. "Safe Haven" legislation puts us in contravention of customary international law, in particular, Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the

Child. No child should be stripped of his or her identity with the collusion of the government. Countries that have enacted or tacitly allowed abandonment have done so in times of SEVERE social upheaval, such as war or famine, or as a result of embedded archaic law and tradition. Even after 911

the Columbia tragedy, unrest in Korea and War in Iraq, the current plight of the USA does not qualify as "social upheaval".

Safe Haven legislation:<br>

<BR>* Obliterates the identity rights of the abandoned child.

<BR>* Ignores the causes of infant abandonment and the urgent needs of mothers in crisis; no counseling or social services are accessible either pre- or post-abandonment for abandoning mothers.

<BR>* Reverses a century long trend in child welfare policy discouraging abandonment.

<BR>* Directly conflicts with existing state and federal legislation and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as birthmother revocation periods, birthfather notification, and the Indian Child Welfare Act.

<BR>* Discourages the collection of medical and other background information. It also prevents anyone from being able to verify that the person leaving the baby is in fact the parent.

<BR>* Opens the door to potential fraud and abuse. People like Georgia Tann , convicted Tennessee adoption black marketeer of the 1940's, who perhaps now exist in NH, would benefit from these bills.

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Despite the newspaper headlines that follow if "Safe Haven" laws pass in each state, babies won't be saved. In an age where more and more states are gradually opening their records to adoptees, Safe Haven laws threaten to take that away from the future adoptees. In the fifties and sixties, "statesmen" thought they were doing the right thing when they enacted sealed

records to "keep babies out of dumpsters". Whether politicians know it or not, they are being manipulated by the same forces that are against open records for adoptees. They are enacting a new type of privacy law for which there may be no future remedy. They might fool themselves into thinking the nameless child searching for their identity 20 years from now owes their life to "Safe Haven" laws, but more than likely, they will be abandoned BECAUSE of this legislation. Almost 15,000 adults who were adopted have requested their original birth records from the four states with open records in as many years. According to "Open Records Trigger Requests by Adoptees," by Cheryl Wetzstein, published in the January 20, 2003 edition of the Washington Times, over 80 percent of the 854 birth parents who contacted the four states (Alabama, Delaware, Oregon and Tennessee) consented to the adult adoptees contacting

them. Just 15 birth parents in Delaware have vetoed the adoptees' request for records, while 472 of 502 adopted persons have received their records.

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The children who are victims of "Safe Haven" laws will not be able to request records as adults, because none will exist for them. I encourage you to stop these laws, for their effect goes past encouraging the abandonment of children in the present, but spans into the future of a multitude of orphans who grow into adults with no record of origin. Creating nameless foundlings is not an acceptable trade off. There are always other solutions.

By Ray Buffer

<a href="Adoptees'" onclick="linkClick(this.href)" rel="nofollow">http://caucus.cjb.net">Adoptees'; Caucus for Truth</a><BR>

<a href="Identity" onclick="linkClick(this.href)" rel="nofollow">http://identitytheft.cjb.net">Identity Theft</a>, Crimes Against Adoptees: <BR>

Have an Adoption Reform Website? Join this<a href="http://start.at/way">; Web Ring</a>.<BR>

Ray's Professional Site: <a href="http://raybuffer.comhttp://raybuffer.com">http://raybuffer.com</a><BR>;

Ray was born September 2, 1969 in West Palm Beach, FL, <a href="Read" onclick="linkClick(this.href)" rel="nofollow">http://adoptee.cjb.net">Read his story here</a>.<BR>

He is the Moderator of <a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/adopteeactivists">; Adoptee Activists </a>on Yahoo.

<BR><BR>Send an <a href="mailto:raybuffer@socal.rr.com">EMAIL</a> to Ray.

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