Did you know NJ lets moms safely abandon their babies?
Authorities continue to investigate three separate cases of infants being abandoned in New Jersey over the past week.
The remains of a baby girl in a suitcase were discovered along PATH tracks in Jersey City; an infant wrapped in a blanket was left in front of a home in Trenton; and police in Middlesex County have arrested a teen for leaving an infant outside a home in Highland Park. The baby was rushed to a nearby hospital after being discovered but died a short time later.
New Jersey has a safe haven law that allows babies to be given up anonymously. But new questions are being raised about whether many Garden State residents, especially younger ones, are even aware of it.
Christine Beyer, the acting commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, says the safe haven program allows someone to drop off a baby at any police station, hospital, fire department or first aid squads that are manned 24-7, with no questions asked and no threat of any criminal prosecution.
She says the department had been preparing to mount an expanded multimedia and social media public awareness campaign about safe haven before these latest tragic incidents took place.
“We need to remind everyone that safe haven exists as a blame-free alternative to abandonment," she said.
Beyer stressed the ability through the safe haven program “to safely legally and anonymously surrender an unwanted child means that we can then take care of that child; we don’t have the tragedy of a child death.”
At the same time, she pointed out that “people can feel that they’re not going to face criminal punishment if they’re to abandon their child. And the anonymity of it also eliminates the shame that people feel when making this kind of a decision.”
Beyer said DCF officials have also been discussing reaching out to the state Department of Education and “asking to send our public awareness materials out to the superintendents and the school districts, particularly for distribution within our high schools.”
State Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, an original sponsor of the safe haven law in New Jersey, is now pushing a plan to require schools to get involved in helping to publicize it.
“I happened to be talking to my granddaughter when she was in high school and asked her if she knew what safe haven was, she looked at me and said no," he said.
Bucco said he was surprised at this, so he’s sponsoring a measure to require schools to make students aware of the program.
“This is important so that the youngsters know there is an alternative, rather than stuffing it into a garbage can," he said.
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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com