Indiana’s safe haven law allows healthy infants to be surrendered

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In Indiana, anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect is occurring must make a report to child welfare officials. Here’s how to do that.

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In Indiana, an person may surrender a child in its first month of life anonymously and without prosecution.

The safe haven law, which has been on the books for over two decades, allows for the anonymous and safe surrender of infants, with the intent of preventing abandonment that could lead to injury or death. 

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Here’s what you need to know about the law.

What is Indiana’s safe haven law?

Indiana Code 31-34-2.5 allows for the anonymous surrender of an infant 30 days old or younger at designated locations without fear of prosecution. So long as there are no signs of intentional abuse or neglect, the person surrendering the child is not required to provide any information. 

How many babies have been surrendered under Indiana’s safe haven law?

At least 57 infants have been surrendered under the safe haven statutes since 2008, according to data provided by the Department of Child Services, including four so far this year.

What happens once the baby is surrendered?

Per Indiana law, immediately after the child is taken into custody, emergency medical personnel are required to contact the Indiana Department of Child Services. DCS then assumes custody and care of the infant, and within two days is required to contact the state’s clearinghouse for information on missing children to determine whether the baby has been reported missing.

Safe haven baby boxes: What to know about surrendering infants in Indiana

Children taken into custody by DCS under the safe haven statute are treated like any other child in state custody, except efforts to locate and reunify the parents with the child are not necessary

What if officials find signs of intentional neglect or abuse?

Child abuse is a crime and will be investigated by authorities. (Indiana law requires any adult who suspects abuse or neglect is occurring to call 911 or call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-800-5556.) 

What is considered a safe haven location?

Infants may be surrendered at fire departments, hospitals and emergency medical service stations.

What is Safe Haven 911? 

Safe Haven 911 is the newest addition to the law. In the event that an adult would like to surrender an infant but can’t make it to one of the designated safe haven locations, they can call emergency medical services, invoke the safe haven statutes and EMS personnel will come to them to retrieve the child.

The adult calling for services does have to stay with the child until responders arrive, but they may still remain anonymous.

What are safe haven baby boxes, and where can I find one?

Developed by Monica Kelsey, who learned as an adult that she had been abandoned at a hospital after birth, safe haven baby boxes are two-way devices installed in an exterior wall of fire stations or hospitals that allow for the anonymous surrender of an infant. The boxes are temperature controlled and programmed with several silent alarms to alert first responders.  

There are over 70 baby boxes across Indiana, as well as several in Ohio, Arkansas and Florida. To see a complete list of locations and addresses, visit shhb.org/locations. 

You can reach IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.

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Friday July 8, 2022