Abandoned Babies, Safe Havens and Adoption Laws

Picture of baby safe haven sign

Orphans Significantly Outnumber Adoptions

Typically when children in American foster care systems are available for adoption, the legal rights of biological parents have been terminated, and the children will never be returned to their birth parents. While there are over 400 thousand orphaned children in the United States, according to the U.S. State Department, U.S. families adopted around 7,000 children in 2012 and the highest number of children were adopted from China.

Abandoned Baby Statistics and History

In 1993 latimes.com reported that over 22,000 babies in the USA were abandoned each year (1). They also reported that 75% of the children were exposed to drugs during gestation. The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System from the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that in 2003 there were 26,667 children under one year old in foster care and a total of 402,378 from the ages of 0 – 18 (2).

Dating back all off human history the abandonment of children has been the theme of many unique and inspirational stories. The story of the baby Moses placed in a basket and abandoned to the River Nile. The story of Oedipus left to die by a herdsman ordered to kill the baby.

There have also been terrible stories. In the United States from 1854 to 1929 over two hundred thousand orphans were forced onto railroad cars and shipped west, where any family desiring their services as laborers, maids, and servants could abuse them. “Orphan trains” gave rise to laws that promoted adoption rather than indentured servitude.

Laws on Abandoning a Child

A simple Google search for “baby found in trash” is all it takes to understand why law had to be created that would allow a safe way for a mother to “get rid of” a baby.

Safe Havens for Newborns

In the United States, laws are in place that allow a mother to abandon her rights to an unharmed infant without any questions. The laws protect the mom and the infant. (3) Given the term “Safe Haven” certain institutions will be designated throughout a state where mothers may abandon their baby without any legal repercussions. Depending on your state, the amount of time the mother has varies. For example: In Florida a mother now has up to seven days after giving birth to abandon their child at a Hospital, Emergency Room or a Fire Station.

Adopting a Safe Haven Baby

Depending on what state you are in, the adoption laws can vary and the task can be rather difficult. Adoption Agencies that are licensed in a specific state are great places to learn about the process. Lawyers who practice with adoption laws can eliminate many of the headaches associated with adopting a child, but they can also get rather expensive.

The process of adopting a child will depend on how one wants to adopt. Private adoptions typically employ the services of an attorney who works between birth parents and adoptive parents to legally finalize an adoption. Adopting a child in foster care typically requires working with an adoption agency.

For more on the Adoption Laws click here.

1) http://articles.latimes.com/1993-11-10/news/mn-55141_1_boarder-babies
2) US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb
3) http://alwayshopepregnancycenter.com/SafeHaven.html

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