NJ wants new parents to know about safe-surrender law
In April 2018, four infants were abandoned in Trenton, Jersey City and Highland Park.
Three of the babies did not survive.
In response, a new push is being made increase awareness about New Jersey’s Safe Haven law.
The Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, adopted in 2000, allows individuals to safely surrender an infant legally and anonymously at designated public safety sites across the Garden State, including hospitals, police stations, fire houses and ambulance and rescue squad facilities that are staffed 24/7.
The parents, or someone acting on their behalf, can leave an unharmed baby 30 days old or younger at these facilities with no questions asked and no fear of being prosecuted for infant abandonment.
According to Christine Norbut Beyer, the commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, a multi-pronged campaign has been launched to make sure everyone knows about the program.
During a visit to Capital Health in Pennington, she said market materials have been updated, the Safe Haven website has been modernized, new public service announcements have been produced that will air on radio and TV stations, “and we’re hoping to spread the message through New Jersey’s high schools and institutions of higher education, so that everyone knows where to turn when they need help.”
She said they’re also looking into the idea of getting information about the program worked into school health curriculum.
Social media is also increasingly being used to promote Safe Haven.
New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy pledged the administration’s full support to promoting the Safe Haven program.
Said noted that surrendering a baby is never an easy decision, but some new moms, especially younger ones, may feel desperate, not sure what to do or how they will survive.
She said they need to know “New Jersey will not cast blame on any mother who surrenders their child through Safe Haven.”
"We’re only interested in providing an option for those parents who aren’t ready for the responsibility and feel they really have nowhere else to turn," Murphy said. “We know the alternative to seeking help through Safe Haven is tragedy.”
Norbut Beyer said “we have a new generation of young people coming up, and we think it’s important to continue to put the message out.”
So far this year, a baby in Ocean County was surrendered through the Safe Haven program.
Last year, three babies were turned in. In 2017 and 2016, there were two each year. Three babies were surrendered in 2015 and three in 2014.
Since the Safe Haven law was enacted, 71 infants have been successfully surrendered and placed in foster care.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com