AAMC Offers “Safe Haven” for Unwanted Newborns
Under a state law signed last spring, AAMC has declared itself a “safe haven” for parents who want to give up their babies without fear of prosecution. “No questions asked,” said Karen Doyle, executive director of Women’s and Children’s Services at AAMC. Maryland is the 38th state to institute a Safe Haven law. This law allows a parent to anonymously give up a newborn as long as the baby is left at an appropriate place, such as a hospital or with a responsible adult, such as a priest, lawyer, or physician.
“Many parents don’t know what their options are and wind up making mistakes with terrible consequences.”
Meg Samek-Smith, VP of Community Impact for the Annapolis Junior League
“We are committed to this program,” said Katherine Cvach, R.N., who has spearheaded the Safe Haven program at the Women’s and Children’s Center. “The baby should be handed to an employee and told, ‘This is a Safe Haven baby.’ The person seeking a new life for the baby is free to go.”
The Safe Haven Act states that a parent may leave a baby up to 3 days old at a Safe Haven location by giving up the baby to any responsible healthcare worker at a designated Safe Haven site. The act was designed to prevent newborn babies from being abandoned in trash cans and other unsafe public places.
However, using a Safe Haven location should be the last resort. Parents can call 1-800-243-7337, a crisis hotline number, to speak with counselors about all the options available. “The truth is,” said Meg Samek-Smith, VP of Community Impact for the Annapolis Junior League, “many parents don’t know what their options are and wind up making mistakes with terrible consequences.” The Annapolis Junior League has worked jointly with AAMC for the last four years in a mentoring program for teen mothers.
She said, “When teens sign up for the teen mother class at AAMC, in addition to the class, we offer to mentor them through their pregnancy and the baby’s first year. We serve as examples, since many of us are mothers of young children as well. They join our playgroups and we try to help them through all the trials of motherhood.” She said about 100 women had been mentored over the last four years.
Ms. Samek-Smith said that the public advocacy arm of the Junior League identifies laws that are unfunded that have a negative or positive impact on women to create a public awareness program. “The Safe Haven law is exactly the kind of law we want to promote,” she said. This summer, First Lady Kendel Ehrlich visited the AAMC Clatanoff Pavilion to deliver this important message. The Junior League organized videotaping a commercial promoting Safe Haven that will be broadcast throughout Maryland as a public service announcement. For more information about the Junior League’s program, visit www.jlannapolis.org.