INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- New signage is going in to help Hoosiers know how to correctly use the state's safe haven law. The signs give instructions on how to drop of a newly-born child and helps ensure the baby will be taken care of properly.
Since Indiana established the Safe Haven law in 2001, 34 infants have been safely surrendered in Indiana, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services. The law enables a person to safely surrender an unwanted infant (less than 30 days old) anonymously without fear of arrest or prosecution.
“What we’re trying to do is educate the community on where a safe haven location is," said Jeannie Keating, the assistant deputy director of communications at DCS.
The new signs are white rectangles that read, "Indiana Safe Haven" in big letters. Underneath it reads, "IMPORTANT! Please leave infant with an emergency medical service provider (on duty firefighter, police officer, paramedic, nurse or physician) inside this facility. State law allows you to surrender the infant anonymously without fear of arrest or prosecution if the infant is less than 30 days old and shows no signs of intentional abuse or neglect. Girls and women who have just given birth should consider being seen by a physician, as childbirth in some cases can be a medical emergency."
Keating said the news sign will hopefully encourage whoever is dropping off a child to provide a little information about the child before leaving.
“We aren’t looking to get the information of the parent, what we want is the additional information of the child that might be beneficial in the future," she said. "Medical history, if there might be a history if diabetes in the family, that sort of thing and to give that comfort as well to the person dropping off the baby, knowing it took a lot of courage to make this decision. They’re making this decision because they feel it’s in the best interest of the child and to just give them that human touch.”
Safe havens in Indiana are considered to be any place with medical professionals always present, such as fire stations, hospitals and police stations.
“There’s always going to be that young mother who has an infant that is scared or feels vulnerable and doesn’t know what to do," Keating said. "If we can increase our efforts to educate them that is what’s in the best interest of the child.”
Signs were recently taken to the Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters. Officials there are working with DCS on how to best display them before putting them on display.
In 2016, two infants were dropped off at Indianapolis fire stations. Those cases led to the department sitting down with DCS officials to find the best procedures when dealing with future cases regarding the safe haven law.
Keating said anyone considering surrendering a child and would need more answers could call the DCS hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
DCS officials hope more agencies will be willing to take the new signs to make it more clear what places are safe havens.