TACOMA – Records show dozens of babies were surrendered to Child Protective Services from 2009 to 2016 under a Washington state law that allows parents to turn their newborns over to protective care at hospitals and fire stations.
The News Tribune reported on Monday that 34 of the 43 babies relinquished under the “safe haven” law during that time were left at hospitals.
The law, enacted in 2002, only applies to children up to 3 days old.
Officials say a woman charged with abandoning her 5-month-old baby on a Lakewood lawn last week while high on methamphetamine could have turned to authorities for help with the child in other ways.
A state hotline, 866-END-HARM, helps connect troubled parents with CPS, which can then provide them with counseling for mental health or substance abuse issues, said Department of Social and Health Services spokeswoman Norah West.
The agency also offers services to parents considering adoption. Cases in which CPS gets involved do not automatically lead to parents losing custody of a child, West said.
“We really want to work with them to alleviate whatever that immediate crisis is,” West said in an email, “and help them safely parent their children, to whom they have a legal responsibility.”
All 50 states have some version of the safe haven law.
North Dakota’s law has the highest maximum age limit, allowing parents to hand over a child at any point before its first birthday. Parents in Nebraska were initially allowed to surrender their children up to 18 years old, but the state later changed the child age limit to 30 days.
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