Issues

Recent infant murders show that state Safe Haven Laws need more publicity

newborn, safe haven

The recent cases of two mothers who are accused of murdering their infant children in Colorado underscore the need for the state’s Safe Haven laws to be better advertised.

The Safe Haven law allows a newborn to be surrendered at a fire station or hospital, with no consequences to the parents. Each state has its own version of the law, which was first enacted in Texas in 1999. In Colorado, a newborn may be surrendered at a hospital or fire station within the first 72 hours of birth. The child must be handed directly to a person (rather than left on a doorstep, for example), but no questions are asked. The law has been in effect since 2000, and since that time, 66 babies have been safely surrendered.

The law is meant to curtail infant abandonment by providing another option for parents who feel they may be unable to care for a child. Unfortunately, it isn’t being fully utilized. Two Colorado women have recently been charged with killing their infant children — crimes that could have been avoided had they brought their child to a safe haven location.

READ: Spread the word: Desperate parents need to know that Safe Haven laws exist

According to the Colorado Sun, 20-year-old Payton Green was charged last week with the murder of her infant child in September 2020. In June, 18-year-old Amy Carr was charged with murdering her newborn baby girl after she was born in January 2021. As the Colorado Sun reports, neither woman was yet born when the safe haven legislation passed in 2000, and they may not be aware that the law even exists.

To help spread the word and ensure that more people are aware of this option, the group Colorado Safe Haven for Newborns successfully campaigned for legislation in 2019 that requires sex education programs in schools to teach students that they can surrender a baby through the safe haven law.

But the recent infant murders underscore the need to continue to get the message out. “We really want to let parents know that they have support and they have options,” said James Connell, of the state Division of Child Welfare. “This is here as the last safety net for them.”

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