The Des Moines Register

Year’s first Safe Haven babies born in March

1 boy, 1 girl in DHHS custody awaiting homes

- José Mendiola Des Moines Register José Mendiola is a breaking news reporter for the Register. Reach him at jmendiola@dmreg.com.

Two babies born in March have been declared Safe Haven babies, the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday morning.

A baby girl born on March 17 and a baby boy born on March 20, who are now in the custody of Iowa DHHS, will be placed with foster families until a permanent home is found, according to a news release.

There have been 68 infants surrendere­d to the state since the law went into effect more than two decades ago, officials said.

What is the Iowa Safe Haven Act for newborns?

Under Iowa law, a parent, or someone with a parent’s permission, may leave an infant up to 90 days old at a hospital or health care facility without fear of legal action for abandonmen­t, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

A parent also can call 911 and give the baby to a first responder. Parents who relinquish their children under the Safe Haven Act are not required to give identifica­tion.

When did the Safe Haven law go into effect?

Iowa’s Safe Haven Act has been in place since 2002 after a teenager in Chelsea gave birth and left her dead newborn in a snowbank the year prior.

“I want parents to know that they have this safe and trusted option at such a critical time in their lives,” said Iowa HHS Director Kelly Garcia. “Accessing Safe Haven is assuredly not an easy decision, but this law exists to protect newborns and its success is evident by the number of families that have trusted in the Safe Haven Act.”

The goal for state officials is to protect newborns and provide them with the best permanent home possible, Garcia said.

How many babies were surrendere­d to the state in 2023?

Ten infants were given to the department’s Health and Human Services in 2023.

These have been the only babies surrendere­d so far in 2024, according to the news release.

How can I adopt a Safe Haven baby?

Those interested in becoming a foster parent or adopting a child in Iowa can go to iowafoster­andadoptio­n.org.

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