Springfield - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation expanding the number of “safe havens” available to abandoned newborns. Senate Bill 2583 adds police stations to the list of places parents and guardians can safely abandon their newborn infants.
“This is an important step in protecting the state’s most vulnerable children,” said Governor Blagojevich. “More young lives may be saved by making the process easier for parents of newborns who are unable to care for them and are looking for answers.”
Senate Bill 2583, sponsored by Rep. Beth Coulson (R-Glenview) and Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), passed unanimously in both chambers.
The original 2001 Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act granted parents immunity from criminal prosecution if they safely abandoned their infants within 72-hours of birth. However, the law only allowed hospitals, medical emergency facilities and fire stations to accept the newborns. The new law expands the list of available sites to include police stations used by the state’s more than 1,100 law enforcement agencies.
During the past three years, 22 abandoned infants who met the age requirement under the act were reported to DCFS. At least two of another 13 infants who were not relinquished to an appropriate safe haven had been brought to police stations.
While abandonment of an infant can be done anonymously, staff at police stations and other accepting facilities may provide an information packet to the parent or guardian to help explain their rights and available resources, as well as the Illinois Medical Information and Exchange Form to provide medical information, which might prove useful for the baby later in life.
If a newborn infant is relinquished to a police station, the staff will transport the infant to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. . If the parent of a newborn infant returns to the police station within 72 hours after relinquishing the infant, staff at the police station must inform the parent of the name and location of the hospital where the child was taken. A parent wishing to regain custody of their infant must petition the court within 60 days.
Illinois became the 15th state to pass a “safe haven” law that protects abandoned infants and offers immunity for the parents and guardians who relinquish them; 45 states now have similar laws.
“Our state was an early leader in this important effort, but we should constantly look for better ways to save children from harm,” said Director Samuels. “The risk of babies in dumpsters without regard for the infants' safety is still real, and is usually the act of a young mother who is desperate and believes she has no alternative. Our partnerships with private groups, the public information campaigns and the willingness of thousands of medical facilities, fire stations and police stations to open their doors to accept abandoned infants collectively sends a message that we care and are ready to help.”
The number to call for parents or guardians who are thinking of abandoning their newborn infant is 1-866-694-BABY.
Senate Bill 2583 is effective immediately.