*The identity of the individuals involved must remain anonymous. The call came in with their phone number blocked. To protect their privacy, we will not identify the town or hospital.
In 2017, 24 newborns have been safely relinquished under the Safe Haven law. However, 478 infants have been abandoned in Georgia in 2017. There is a huge gap between the safe placement and tracking of an at-risk baby through the Safe Haven program and the abandonment of a baby in dangerous and life-threatening circumstances. That gap can be the difference between life and death for a vulnerable life.
A couple of weeks ago, the Safe Haven hotline received a call. Timothy Jacquard quickly answered the call from a blocked number. On the other end of the line was an upset woman speaking softly. She was in labor. We asked her how we could help and reassured her we wanted to help. We asked for her location, but she refused to disclose it. She also refused to give her name so we called her Jane Doe Hope.
As we continued to talk about what she would need to deliver her baby, she began to relax. We asked if we could send someone to help her deliver the infant. She declined, so we started the delivery process over the phone. Nervously she asked, “If I drop my baby off at a hospital, do I have to give any information or can I just leave?”
We informed her that she had the right to leave without providing any information. We also shared with her that she had several other alternatives for her baby including making a parenting plan or making an adoption plan. She declined both. As a last resort, we shared the details of the Safe Haven law and how she could safely and legally relinquish her newborn up to 30 days after birth to a hospital, police station, or fire department without providing identifying information.
Once again, we encouraged her to go to the hospital to deliver. We explained that she had the option to register as Jane Doe Hope. Again, she refused. We would deliver this baby together over the phone. After she retrieved the needed supplies, we began the delivery. It took 1 hour and 53 minutes and Jane Doe Hope gave birth to a baby girl.
After taking care of Jane’s needs and the baby’s needs, we moved to the next step. We discussed relinquishment of the infant. Jane agreed to bring the baby to a parking lot near her. We called the chief of the local Fire Department and informed him of the Safe Haven relinquishment. This would be their first, so we walked him through the best approach.
The chief and his medics responded with an ambulance with no lights or sirens. An ambulance is an extension of the Fire Department so it can be used for a relinquishment. We encouraged the chief to have only one medic exit the ambulance to receive the infant. We did not want to frighten the birthmother. The infant was received safely and the chief assured the birthmother everything would be ok. He said, “Jane, I want you to know that you are a woman I admire. You did what you had to do for you and your infant. Thank you.”
The next morning, we received a call from an attorney at DFCS requesting more information on the new Safe Haven policies and procedures. Jane Doe Hope’s baby was received into the Safe Haven program. When a mother enacts the Safe Haven law, the baby is placed into the protective custody of the state and the mother may receive medical treatment under the name Jane Doe if she needs help. A Safe Haven baby will receive all necessary medical care by the state and will be placed with a loving forever family.
THE HOPE BOX is the Safe Haven chapter representative for the state of Georgia, but we also provide Safe Haven support across the United States. We provide guidance for Safe Haven drop locations, as well as DFCS. We also follow every Safe Haven baby to ensure they receive proper medical care and all the support they need to thrive until connected with their forever family. If she chooses, we also serve as a support for the mother—making sure she receives the medical care and support she needs during this difficult time.
Also, our Executive Director, Sarah Koeppen was asked to be on the Board of Directors for the National Safe Haven Alliance in Washington, D.C.
We cannot do the work of saving babies and helping at-risk mothers without your help. As the year ends, will you please give a special year-end gift to THE HOPE BOX to help us continue this vital work of saving lives into 2018?
THE HOPE BOX is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded to address the issues of infant discardment, abandonment, neglect, and abuse through legislation, education, advocacy, and Safe Haven drop centers. THE HOPE BOX is the Safe Haven chapter for the State of Georgia and was instrumental in amending House Bill 391 in 2017.
Learn more about our 2018 goals