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Child abandonment is the process by which an individual relinquishes interest over his or her offspring with no intention of ever claiming it back. The abandoned infant is known as a foundling. On the other hand, infanticide is the killing of a child usually within the first 24 hours of life (Rose, 1986). Many laws have been enacted to address the issue of abandonment and infanticide following the increased cases of abandonment (John, 1998).
Safe Haven Laws
The infant safe haven laws, that were initially called the Baby Moses Laws, were enacted following an increase in the cases of abandonment. The infant safe haven laws were first passed in Texas in 1999 (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010). This was done to save the lives of infants that were unwanted by the parents. This move was done to ensure the safety of unwanted children from their mothers. Such mothers were given the opportunity to surrender their children into safe custody. As a result, these children were free from any dangers that may have accrued from the situation. This required the mothers to surrender their infants to relevant authorities or people who could provide immediate help such as medical attention until a permanent home could be found. These laws actually allow the parents or agents of the parents to withhold their identity without the risk of being prosecuted or held accountable. This was purposed to encourage surrendering the children under safe custody rather than exposing them in other dangerous situations. In New York, the cases of abandonment had always been on the rise and this prompted for the enactment of abandoned infant protection laws but cases of infanticide have been on the low.
The causes of child abandonment may be categorized into three; social, mental and cultural factors (Almeida, Merminod, & Schechter, 2009). Poverty is one of the major causes as one might deem it impossible to provide some of the basic needs to the baby in the future. Other cultures may also push some parents to consider abandonment as their only option. Such cultures might be the ones that have poor social systems. Some political situations such as difficulty in the adoption process might lead to child abandonment. A good example is the lack of institutions such as orphanages where children whose parents are unable to provide for their children can take them.
Safe haven providers are the people (or places) that have the capacity to immediately provide care to an abandoned infant and take the responsibility of taking care of it. In New York, the safe havens include the fire station, the staffed police and hospitals. These areas are considered safe enough. Safe haven providers are supposed to accommodate the infant and provide immediate protection. This includes caring about its health status. Any health issues and complications must be addressed immediately. When it comes to safe havens that are not hospitals, the first step to take-as required by law-is to transfer the infant to a hospital and as soon as the child is received (CWIG, 2010).
The respective child welfare institutions are alerted by the providers and this gives them valuable information on how to arrange for the future of the child. In some states, the providers usually ask the parents for the medical records of the family in order to be in a good position to monitor the health of the infant. Where possible the providers are to give information to the parents about the legal implications of abandoning the infant. In some states, the care providers give the parents a copy of a numbered identification gadget that would help them identify their child at later stages (Hopwood, 1927). In New York, the mother has the right to surrender his or her child to a safe haven. The safe haven providers are not usually held responsible incase anything happens to the infant under their custody. The only condition that would nullify their immunity is in the case of negligence on their part and following proper investigation on the matter (CWIG, 2010).
Abandoned infant protection Act
Infant protection Act was enacted and was developed to mediate on the issue of child abandonment that was rampant in New York. Many parent were seeking to abandon their newborns due to one reason or another. It was recently amended in order to provide additional advantages for whoever was planning to abandon the baby. This was also a way of avoiding the people who abandoned the child from putting the baby in any danger or harm. This law provided that any parent that was discovered to have abandoned a baby but in a safe way, would not be criminally liable. The amendments to the law also provided a specific time frame before which a child could be abandoned after birth. It was provided for by law that an infant could not be abandoned unless he or she was at least ten years old (John, 1998).
Increased cases of abandonment and infanticide have led to the development and enactment of various laws in many countries of the world. This was done to reduce the cases of infant mortality and unnecessary dangers to the lives of unwanted children. This has also provided care for the children who could not have previously received care from the parents due to poverty and other related issues. This move has helped save many innocent lives and reduced the cases of death of infants due to battering, impulse homicide and gentle homicide.
Almeida, A., Merminod, G., & Schechter, D. (2009). Mothers with severe psychiatric illness and their newborns: A hospital-based model of prenatal consultation. Journal of zero-to-three, 29(5), 40-46.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2010). Infant Safe Haven Laws: Summary of State Laws. Washington, DC: Children’s Bureau.
Hopwood, S. (1927). Child murder and insanity. Journal of clinical and experimental psychology, 73(96).
John, B. (1998). The kindness of strangers: The abandonment of children in Western Europe from late antiquity to the Renaissance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Rose, L. (1986). Massacre of the innocents: Infanticide in Great Britain. London: Routledge and Kegan.