New Arizona mothers can leave newborns at safe havens, no questions asked

Nico Santos explains what is the Arizona Safe Haven Law and how it works.

TEMPE, Ariz. - Police are trying to track down the person or people responsible for leaving a newborn baby girl in a backpack found in a shopping cart at a grocery store in Tempe Sunday evening.

The main question is why didn’t the person walk literally across the street to the Tempe Fire Station 1?

All fire stations in Arizona are mandated safe havens to anonymously relinquish newborn babies younger than 72 hours with no questions asked.

If the baby is unharmed, there is no risk of facing charges of child abuse.

“Over 3,00 newborns have been saved [nationwide] since the laws have been enacted,” said Damien Johnson of the Arizona Safe Baby Haven Foundation, a volunteer-based organization created to raise awareness of the safe haven laws in our state.

Johnson a former paramedic, said 40 newborns have been dropped off at secure locations using the safe haven laws In Arizona since 2001.

He was inspired to get involved after he tried to revive a baby as a paramedic. The baby, found in a trash can, did not survive.

But he said the law has made a difference.

“We look at the positive side of it and say, ‘That’s 40 lives that have been saved,’” he said.

Compare that to the alternative.

“[Normally] the headline is 'Babies found in dumpsters,'” said Dr. Jon McGreevy, a emergency room physician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

A passerby finding the newborn girl in a shopping cart at a grocery store in Tempe, so close to a drop off location, leads advocates to believe there isn’t enough awareness.

“It’s hard for us to really target one specific population or one specific profile,” Johnson said of those likely to give up a baby.

So share this story with family and friends, just in case.

A parent can leave an infant after three days of being born (72 hours) in Arizona.

Safe haven locations include hospitals, where all employees receive training, and fire departments.

Some fire departments even have mobile safe haven units, such as the Mesa Fire & Medical Department.

There are also adoption agencies and churches that can get licensed to be safe havens.

It’s 100 percent anonymous, and some locations even have drawers where you can place a baby without coming in contact with anyone.

A medical staff member will be alerted to make sure the baby is healthy and safe.

All 50 states, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, have safe haven laws.


The age limit varies up to one month, depending on the state.

 “It’s probably not an unreasonable suggestion [to expand the time limit], especially given many times the babies are still in the hospital longer than three days,” said McGreevy.

Our laws may not be perfect, but it’s a way to hopefully save some lives. 

If you are, or know, a new mother in crisis -- abuse or abandonment can be avoided, as well as the potential criminal charges associated.

You can call 1-866-707-BABY to receive anonymous crisis information and to learn more about Safe Baby Haven drop-off locations throughout the Valley.

Unharmed, healthy babies are often housed with a loving family within 24 hours of being turned in.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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