Last week authorities announced that the 17th Iowa baby was safely surrendered using the Iowa Safe Haven Law. This event might make people wonder what Safe Haven means.
The Safe Haven Act is an Iowa law that allows parents, or another person who has the parent's authorization, to leave an infant up to 14 days old at a hospital or health care facility without fear of arrest or going to court. The parents cannot be charged with abandonment or neglect of the infant.
The Safe Haven Act is a result of a 2001 Tama County incident when the body of a newborn baby was found in the snow. The teenage girl who gave birth to the baby was eventually arrested and charged with the baby's murder.
A Safe Haven is an institutional health facility such as a hospital that is open 24 hours a day, seven days per week, such as an emergency room. A Safe Haven is also defined as a health care facility, such as a residential care facility, a nursing facility or an intermediate care facility. The key is that it must be open 24 hours a day, with nursing staff on site.
In Marshalltown, Safe Havens include Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center and Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center Emergency Room. Grandview Heights, Iowa Veteran's Home, Southridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Villa Del Sol and State Center Manor are other Marshall County facilities considered to be a Safe Haven.
When an infant is left at a Safe Haven, the custody of the infant is given to the Iowa Department of Human Services. Any identifying information given when leaving the infant is kept confidential. A hearing to terminate the rights of both parents will be held within 30 days and the infant will be placed for adoption. If either parent changes their minds, they may go to Juvenile Court to ask for custody of the child. At that time, the parent or parents must show evidence that granting custody to them is in the infant's best interest.
The Safe Haven Act has provided a safe option for parents and has allowed 17 Iowa children to be adopted into permanent homes.
Child Abuse Prevention Services, 811 E. Main St., is a non-profit human service organization that believes that prevention is the key to child abuse. A variety of prevention programs serve Marshall County and the surrounding areas.