Safe Surrender Prepared by the Health Law Section of the NC Bar Association (Presenter’s Contact Information)
Overview • Safe Surrender Law • Law Prior to Safe Surrender • Available Resources • What Providers Can Do
Safe Surrender Law I was the detective that responded to our county landfill where employees had reportedly discovered a dead newborn baby. I had the misfortune of witnessing the aftermath of what happens to a baby after being thrown into a dumpster and sent through the bailing process. The baby had been compressed into an 8x6 bail and the baby’s legs were seen hanging out of the bail just seconds before she would have been dumped and buried amongst our filth. I saw a baby whose body had lacerations about her legs and her skin was ripped in different areas of her body. Her wavy brown hair covered head was cut in half and was mashed. Her legs were twisted beyond belief, and I tried to convince myself that I was not looking at a baby but the blood covered little hands and feet told me otherwise. I was looking at a real life horror story that I, for one, will never forget. An investigation ensued. An autopsy showed that the brown-haired, brown-eyed, six and one-half pound baby girl had been carried full-term and was born alive. The autopsy showed that she had air in her stomach and air in her lungs. The Medical Examiner determined that the baby had died as a result of "intentional suffocation.“ Testimony given by Sheriff Robert Holland Sheriff, Macon County, North Carolina House Judiciary Committee Tuesday, March 13, 2001
Need For This Law • Risk of homicide is 10 time greater during first day of life than any other time.* *NC DHHS
Need for This Law • UNC Study: • Published in JAMA, March 2003 (based on 1985-2000 data) • Estimated 85 newborns killed or left to die annually by a parent in US. • 2.1 per 100,000 newborns in NC killed or left to die annually. • 21% of women were married, 50% unmarried, remainder unknown. • 35% of the women had other children. • Approx. 1/4 had received prenatal care. • Avg. age was 19.1 y.o and more than half were 18 or older.
Need for This Law • UNC Study: • Asphyxiation and strangling accounted for 41% of such deaths • Another 27% of deaths were from drowning • Almost 60% of victims were boys • 41% were white, 53% black
Safe Surrender Law • In 1999 Texas was the first state to enact such a law. • No fewer than 48 states have enacted such laws. • Age for surrender varies by state from 72 hrs to 30 days. (NE is the only state to cover a child of any age.)
NC Safe Surrender LawNC Gen Stat §7B-500 • A parent may leave an unharmed infant up to 7 days old with the following who are required to accept it: • certain healthcare workers (i.e. those on duty or at hospitals, health departments, non-profit clinics) • law enforcement officers (on duty or at the station) • DSS worker (on duty or at the department • EMS worker (on duty or at the station) • A parent may also leave an infant with any other responsible adult, but such adult is not required to accept it. • The parent will not have broken any law, and can remain anonymous.
NC Safe Surrender Law NC Gen Stat §7B-500 • The surrender can be anonymous • The parent may be asked for identity or medical history, but must be informed that it is not required. • Anyone who accepts the infant must: • Take any act necessary to protect its physical health and well-being • Notify DSS or law enforcement
NC Safe Surrender Law NC Gen Stat §7B-500 • Immunity from liability for good faith actions in: • Accepting an infant • Providing for its well-being • Contacting DSS or law enforcement • Inquiring about identity and history as long as the parent is notified that it is not required
NC Safe Surrender Law NC Gen Stat §7B-500 • Can parents change their minds? • Statute contemplates that the parent must relinquish the infant with no intent to return. • An infant left abandoned for 30 days or more will be subject to parental rights termination proceedings and placed for adoption.
What can/should providers do if a parent changes his/her mind? • When abuse is suspected, retain physical custody of a child for up to 12 hours of certification. • Judicial approval based upon a written certification of the examining physician that either: • the patient should remain for medical treatment; or • based on the medical evaluation (signed by a physician), it is unsafe to return the child to the parent. • The certification must be signed by the physician and include the time and date judicial authority was given. Copies of the certification are given to the parent(s), attached to the medical record and sent to the court.
Consequences of Parent’s Noncompliancefor the Infant • The infant may be harmed or die
Consequences of Noncompliancefor the Parent and Others • Parents are subject to prosecution for: • non-support • concealing their whereabouts from the child • child abuse • homicide • Anyone who secretly buries or otherwise disposes of a dead newborn in an attempt to conceal its birth commits a felony. • Anyone who assists in such an act, commits a misdemeanor.
Need for Public Awareness • NC College student abandoned baby in Fla. 2003 • Foreign immigrant in NC left infant in an abandoned trailer in Mt. Olive. 2004 • 13 y.o. girl gave birth to twins in bathtub and then dropped them out a window in Columbia, NC. 2004 • Monroe, NC, a newborn is found dead in a ditch. 2005 • Newborn found dead in trash bag, Winston-Salem 2005 • Goldsboro, infant with umbilical found in wastewater system. 2006 • Warsaw, infant found dead on doorstep of vacant house. 2007 • Rocky Mount, infant found dead in Food Lion dumpster. 2007
Need for Public Awareness • Limited state funding for education. • State initiatives: • NC Bar Association www.ncbar.org http://health.ncbar.org/Legal+Resources/+Infant+Abandonment+Packet/default.aspx • NC DHHS http://www.safesurrender.net/
Recent Legislation • HB 485 – Ratified June 19, 2007. • Education about Safe Surrender Law is required as follows: • Annually • Students in grades 9 through 12 • Applies to all schools (public, private, charter, etc.) • Information is to include the manner in which a parent may legally abandon a newborn with a responsible person under the safe surrender law.
Where to go for more information • Toll Fee Crisis Line: • 1-800-694-2229 • Directories available on the Internet: • NC Hospitals http://ncha.org/public/members.html • Sheriffs by County http://www.ncsheriffs.org/ncmap.htm • Police By City: http://www.jus.state.nc.us/NCJA/ejlinks.htm • DSS by County: http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/local • North Carolina Bar Association: http://health.ncbar.org/Legal+Resources/Infant+Abandonment+Packet/default.aspx • Safe Surrender Law (NC Gen Stat 7B-500): http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Statutes/Statutes.asp