Thomasville Fire Rescue and the Thomasville Police Department recently concluded a three-day educational training program on the safe haven law. The training was co-sponsored by TFR and The Hope Box, a non-profit organization based out of Acworth, GA, founded to address the issues of infant discardment, abandonment, neglect, and abuse through legislation, education, advocacy, and safe haven drop centers. The education focused on providing TFR & TPD, as safe haven drop facilities, with the best practices for receiving and processing safe haven newborns and general care instructions for both mothers in crisis and their infants.
In May of 2017, Governor Brian Kemp signed House Bill 391, which annotated Title 19 of the Official Code of Georgia, the Safe Place for Newborns Act of 2002, making it acceptable for parents to leave their newborn child in the protective care of a medical facility without facing criminal charges. “Through the revisions of HB 391, safe places for newborns were expanded from hospitals and health departments to include fire stations and police stations as locations where a newborn child can be left,” said Tim Connell, TFR Interim Fire Chief. “The revisions also changed the allowable timeline for a newborn to be left at a safe haven location from seven days to up to 30 days after birth.” He added, “The final revision allows parents the option to decline providing identification when leaving a child in the physical custody of an on-duty staff member of a medical facility, fire department or police department.”
According to Connell, the decision to establish TFR stations as drop facilities is about the community. “Programs such as safe haven are necessary resources for our community,” he said. “In 2017, 478 infants were abandoned in Georgia which was the second-highest rate in the country. However, the safe haven law has saved the lives of over 4,000 newborns.”
Thomasville Police Chief Troy Rich said that each of the 50 states governs safe haven laws, also known as “Baby Moses laws,” differently and stressed the importance of understanding how it varies in each state. “Varying aspects of the state-to-state laws include age limit, persons who may surrender a child, and circumstances required to relinquish an infant. In Georgia, the law states that only a mother may relinquish a child while in other states it could be a father or even someone other than a parent,” said Rich. “Understanding the law can be the difference between legal and illegal child abandonment. We want to educate and assist our local families that might be in distress.”
The classroom sessions were beneficial for all levels of TFR & TPD personnel. “The scenarios presented to us will better prepare us to assist at-risk infants and mothers during a safe haven drop while providing education that can assist us to better identify various forms of child neglect while on the job,” said Connell. “The Hope Box also provided our leadership personnel with tips and materials for the best ways to serve as educators on child neglect and abandonment for our local community.”
“We had a great training experience. The education better prepares TPD and TFR personnel to serve mothers who find themselves facing the necessity to abandon their infant,” said Connell. “The last three days definitely opened our eyes to issues surrounding child neglect, discardment, abandonment, neglect and abuse. Today, TPD and all TFR Stations are safe haven drop facilities where we can aid a mother or family in distress.”
For more information on the safe haven law, visit Thomasville.org, call Thomasville Fire Rescue at 229-227-4099, or call the Thomasville Police Department at 229-227-3249.