A newborn baby found abandoned in a Tucson airport bathroom last month is pushing officials to remind the public of Arizona’s Safe Haven law.
The state passed the Safe Haven Law in 2001. It means struggling parents can legally leave a newborn baby, less than 72 hours old, at a designated safe haven location.
“Perhaps they're in mental state where they are unable to take care of it, perhaps it comes down to health problems,” said Tucson Airport Authority firefighter Paul Nathe. “It allows us a chance to receive the child and make sure they get secondary care.”
Designated safe haven locations include fire stations and hospitals. Churches and adoption agencies can also be designated, as long as they have the safe haven sign out front.
“The provider then can receive a child from a parent who intends to leave a child and not come back for it, so long as the child does not appear to be abused in any form or fashion,” said Nathe.
Infants found at safe haven locations are able to skip over the foster care system and go straight to adoptive families.
“The shortest I’ve ever seen a safe haven baby go into a loving home is six hours,” said Damien Johnson, Executive Director of AZ Safe Baby Haven Foundation. “The longest I’ve seen is 24 hours.”
About forty Arizona babies have been surrendered to safe havens since 2001.
One of those is Porter Olson, who was adopted in 2011 after being left at a safe haven site in Mesa.
“In my opinion, my son's birth mom is my hero,” Porter’s mother, Nicole Olson, told KPNX in Phoenix. “She made a really hard choice, but I know that he was loved and he was placed for a reason.”
Officials want to remind people that the drop-off is only legal at designated safe haven locations. The Tucson Airport Authority’s fire station is one of those locations, but the airport itself is not.
Nathe said it’s critical that parents leave their newborns in the designated places, because care in those first few days can be a matter of life or death.
“We're here to help, we're here to serve,” he said. “We encourage people to, if they feel that they have no other options, give us the child and allow the child a second chance.”
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