NJ expands safe haven law, allowing babies to be left behind after birth
Since New Jersey's Safe Haven program went into effect decades ago, the state has typically seen three or four infants per year being surrendered safely at firehouses, police stations, hospitals, and other safe sites.
But a new change to the law could lead to more surrenders going forward, as new moms now have a much easier and accessible option for giving away their newborns.
Safe Haven Law update now includes newborns at hospitals
Under a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, mothers can choose to leave their babies behind right at the hospital where had just given birth. If the person is discharged and expresses no intent to return for the baby, the hospital can get the ball rolling on the process to get the newborn in a foster or pre-adoptive home.
“Giving parents more options to safely surrender their newborn after birth not only protects more infants from otherwise dangerous or deadly situations, but it also prevents parents from being prosecuted as well," said Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Passaic, a sponsor of the measure.
All the sites where babies can be dropped off
Hospitals have been part of New Jersey's Safe Haven program since it became law in August 2000, but they were only listed as drop-off sites, along with 24-hour rescue squads, firehouses, and police stations, for babies who are less than 30 days old.
Kerry McKean Kelly, vice president of communications for New Jersey Hospital Association, said it's uncertain how the tweak to the law will impact surrender numbers going forward, but there are generally no concerns about a potential influx of participation.
"No matter what the number is, hospitals are on board, they're prepared," McKean Kelly said.
How many babies have been saved by the law?
As of April 2023, 86 babies have been surrendered under Safe Haven, including four this year, according to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
New Jersey's law allows an individual to give up an unwanted infant without fear of arrest or prosecution, as long as the baby doesn't show any signs of intentional abuse.