Safe Haven

All states have Safe Haven laws. These laws allow a parent to anonymously surrender their unharmed infant to a designated Safe Haven provider within a specific time after birth.

In Rhode Island, per RI Law 23-13.1:

  • A child who is or appears to be 30 days old or younger may be left at a Safe Haven.
  • The child may be left by the parent or any person acting at the direction of the parent, who does not express the will return for the infant, or there is reasonable belief that the person does not intend to return for the infant.
  • The child may be left at any of the following facilities:
    • A hospital,
    • A medical emergency facility,
    • A fire station,
    • A police station

Protection for person(s) relinquishing baby:

The person leaving the infant may, but is not be required to, leave any information and/or medical information about the baby, themselves, the parents, or other family members of the infant. Any information obtained from the person leaving the infant shall be kept confidential by the hospital or other Safe Haven and shared only with the Department for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

A person who leaves an infant at a Safe Haven, or directs another to do so, shall be immune from prosecution only for the act of abandonment (RI Law 11-2-1 and 11-9-5(a)) provided that:

  • The person is the parent of the infant or is acting at the direction of the parent.
  • The infant is left in the physical custody of a staff member of the Safe Haven.
  • A comprehensive medical examination of the infant determines the infant has not been harmed or been victim to any abuse or neglect. (Injuries and/or conditions resulting from childbirth shall not be considered harm, abuse, or neglect.)

Parent(s) rights:

DCYF shall immediately respond to a report from a Safe Haven and place the infant in the temporary protective custody of the Department. DCYF will ensure the infant receives a comprehensive medical examination by a medical professional. After 90 days, if no person has asserted a claim to be the parent, the DCYF will begin the legal process to terminate parental rights so the child can be adopted.

If you change your mind after leaving your baby at a Safe Haven, you must petition the RI Family Court for custody before your parental rights are terminated (which will happen about 90 days after the infant was left at a Safe Haven). 

Resources:

The National Safe Haven Alliance 24/7 Crisis Hotline

1-888-510-BABY (1-888-510-5229)

Or, text “SAFEHAVEN” to 313131

www.nationalsafeavenalliance.org