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  News  

Governor Blagojevich signs bill making Illinois'
'Safe Havens' for Abandoned Babies Act permanent; Reminds public that law protects parents who turn newborns over safely

Removes 'sunset' provision of Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act

(Click here for more information)

SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod. R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that removes a "sunset" provision of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act and makes permanent the list of places parents and guardians can safely relinquish their newborn infants.

"We heard tragic reports this week of three separate incidents where babies were abandoned illegally, one of whom died. These stories emphasize the importance of continuing the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act in Illinois and helping desperate parents avoid leaving their babies in unsafe settings. By removing the sunset provision, we may save more lives and protect a process that gives parents a safe and legal way to give up their newborn babies in confidence - no questions asked as long as the baby is left in one of the many 'safe havens' covered in the law," said Governor Blagojevich.

The Governor's approval of House Bill 175 comes during a week when three babies were abandoned in the Chicago area.

House Bill 175, bi-partisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Beth Coulson (R-Glenview) and Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) and approved unanimously by the General Assembly, removes the scheduled July 1, 2007 expiration of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

The Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act grants parents immunity from criminal prosecution if they safely abandon their infants within 72 hours of birth with personnel at designated "safe havens," which are police stations, fire stations, hospitals and medical emergency facilities.

"Clearly there is a demonstrated need for the continuation of this law and for funding for outreach to educate parents about the opportunity to give their children what they themselves feel they cannot provide, a start at life," said Sen. Trotter. "This week has been marked by the tragic death of a newborn infant who was abandoned and the miraculous recovery of another infant who was found in time. We've got to stop these senseless tragedies, and this law gives us a fighting chance at doing so."

Since the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act was approved in 2001, 16 abandoned infants who met the age requirement were reported to the Department of Children and Family Services. While abandonment of an infant can be done anonymously, staff at accepting facilities can provide an information packet to parents or guardians to help explain their rights and available resources.

They also can distribute the Illinois Medical Information and Exchange Form to gather medical information about an abandoned infant on an anonymous basis, information that might prove useful for the baby later in life.

If a newborn infant is relinquished to staff at a police or fire station, they will transport the infant to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. If the parent of a newborn infant returns to the police or fire station within 72 hours after relinquishing the infant, staff 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.

"The law has more than proven its effectiveness by saving 16 infants since it was passed in August, 2001," said Rep. Coulson. "Sadly, during the same period that 16 infants were saved, a total of 36 infants that were unsafely abandoned were recorded, and of those only 17 were found alive. It's clear that the more the word gets out, the more infants can be saved."

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; at least 45 states now have similar laws.

"Illinois was pleased to be among states with a safe haven law, but even more so now that it's been made permanent," said DCFS Director Bryan Samuels. "Also, our agency continues to promote public education throughout Illinois in an effort to save innocent babies that deserve loving homes," he added.

In April, DCFS joined the Abandoned Babies Foundation to launch a campaign to raise public awareness of the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. In addition to helping fund the production and distribution of public service announcements, over the last year DCFS also has:

· Distributed posters and brochures in English and Spanish to public schools and private organizations and communities throughout Illinois.
· Sent agency representatives to speaking engagements to educate organizations and other state agencies about the Newborn Abandoned Infant Protection Act
· Maintained information about the Newborn Abandoned Infant Protection Act on the DCFS website, www.state.il.us/dcfs/library/com_communications_sumlicen_abinfant.shtml

"We feel great pride today to see the law become permanent, especially during a week when its need is powerfully demonstrated," said Dawn Geras, President of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation in Illinois. "Now we can concentrate on the public awareness needed to save more babies. There are not many times in life that you have an opportunity to make a life or death difference. This is one of them. Please help us spread the word. Tell a friend. Tell a neighbor. Talk about it. It truly is a matter of life and death."

The number to call for parents or guardians who are thinking of abandoning their newborn infant is 1-866-694-BABY.

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Diane Jackson
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
312-814-6847

 

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