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Home > Practice Areas > Baby Abandonment > Other Links and Resources

 
 

List of Enacted State Safe Haven Legislation

CWLA Summary for Florida

Which babies may be relinquished?
  • "Newborn infant:" Child that a licensed physician reasonably believes to be approximately 3 days old or younger.
Who may relinquish a baby?
  • Parent:
    • Voluntarily delivers a child to the safe haven.
    • Expresses an intent to leave the child and not return.
  • There is a presumption that the parent who leaves the child intended to leave the child and consented to termination of parental rights.
What are the incentives for a person to relinquish a baby at a Safe Haven?
  • Anonymity:
    • Parent has the absolute right to remain anonymous and to leave the safe haven at any time and may not be pursued or followed unless parent seeks to reclaim child.
      • Except where there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect.
  • Protection from Liability:
    • Limited immunity: Cannot be prosecuted for neglect or contributing to the dependency of a child solely based on leaving a child at a safe haven.
Who can accept a relinquished baby?
  • Hospital;
  • Fire Station staffed with full-time firefighters or emergency medical technicians.
What are the responsibilities of a Safe Haven?
  • Fire Stations:
    • Provide any needed emergency medical services;
    • Arrange for the immediate transportation of the child to the nearest hospital with emergency services.
  • Hospitals:
    • Admit the child;
    • Provide all necessary emergency services and care;
      • Relinquishment is implied consent for treatment.
    • Immediately contact a local licensed child-placing agency or contact the statewide central abuse hotline for the name of a licensed child-placing agency.
    • Notify the agency of the approximate time it can take physical custody of the child.
    • If there is actual or suspected child abuse or neglect, report the abuse or neglect instead of contacting a licensed child-placing agency.
Is the Safe Haven protected from liability for its actions?
  • Yes: Immune from civil or criminal liability.
Rights of the Relinquishing Parent
  • Procedure to Reclaim Custody:
    • If the department is contacted regarding a child left at a fire station or hospital, it shall give the caller the name of a licensed child-placing agency
    • Parent may claim child until the court terminates his/her parental rights.
    • Claim of parental rights must be made to the entity with custody of the child or to the circuit court before whom proceedings are pending, and may not be made after parental rights have been terminated.
    • If claim is made, the court shall order maternity/paternity testing.
    • The court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the child and order whatever investigation is necessary to determine the best interest of the child.
    • Court may not terminate parental rights solely on the basis that the parent relinquished the child.
Care for the Child/Placement for Adoption
  • Child is presumed eligible for coverage under Medicaid.
  • There is a presumption that the parent who leaves the child intended to leave the child and consented to termination of parental rights.
  • A criminal investigation shall not be initiated unless there is actual or suspected abuse or neglect.
  • Child is not considered abandoned unless there is actual or suspected abuse.
  • If the department is contacted regarding a child left at a fire station or hospital, it shall give the caller the name of a licensed child-placing agency.
  • State Adoption Information Center shall maintain a list of licensed child-placing agencies eligible and willing to take custody of and place children left at a hospital.
  • Names and contact information of the agencies shall be provided on a rotating basis to the statewide central abuse hotline.
  • Child-Placing Agency shall:
    • Assume responsibility for all medical costs and other costs associated with the care of the child from the time the agency takes custody;
    • Immediately seek an order from the circuit court for emergency custody;
      • Emergency order remains in effect until the prospective adoptive parents become guardians.
    • Seek to place the child in a prospective adoptive home as soon as possible;
    • Immediately request assistance from law enforcement officials to determine whether the child is a "missing child;"
    • Within 7 days after accepting custody, initiate a diligent search to notify and obtain consent from the non-relinquishing parent. Must include:
      • Inquiries of all known relatives of the parent;
      • Inquiries of all offices or program areas of the department likely to have information about the parent;
      • Inquiries of other state and federal agencies likely to have information about the parent;
      • Inquiries of appropriate utility and postal providers;
      • Inquiries of appropriate law enforcement agencies.
    • Notice that a child has been relinquished must be provided in the county where the child was left. Must include:
      • Identifying information for the child;
      • Information on whom a parent must contact in order to assert a claim of parental rights and how to assert that claim
  • Petition for termination of parental rights may not be filed until 30 days after the date the child was left.
  • Petition for termination of parental rights may not be granted until:
    • Consent to adoption has been given by a parent;
    • A parent has failed to reclaim or claim the child;
    • OR, the consent of the parent is otherwise waived by the court
  • If the non-relinquishing parent is identified and located, notice of the hearing shall be provided.
  • Judgment terminating parental rights pending adoption is voidable, and any later judgment of adoption is voidable, if, upon the motion of the parent, the court finds that a person knowingly gave false information that prevented the parent from timely making known his or her desire to assume parental responsibilities. The motion must be filed within a reasonable time, but not later than 2 years after the entry of the judgment terminating parental rights.
  • Except as specified, proceedings initiated by a child-placing agency for the termination of parental rights and adoption of a relinquished child shall be conducted pursuant to chapter 63.
Fathers' Rights
  • Conduct Reasonable Search:
    • Within 7 days after accepting custody, initiate a diligent search to notify and obtain consent from the parent other than the parent who relinquished the child. Must include:
      • Inquiries of all known relatives of the parent;
      • Inquiries of all offices or program areas of the department likely to have information about the parent;
      • Inquiries of other state and federal agencies likely to have information about the parent;
      • Inquiries of appropriate utility and postal providers;
      • Inquiries of appropriate law enforcement agencies.
  • Publish Notice:
    • Notice that a child has been relinquished must be provided in the county where the child was left. Must include:
      • Identifying information for the child;
      • Information on whom a parent must contact in order to assert a claim of parental rights and how to assert that claim
Efficacy of Safe Havens - Public Information Campaigns
  • Department of Health and the Department of Children and Family Services shall produce a media campaign to:
    • Promote safe placement alternatives for newborn children;
    • Inform the public concerning the confidentiality and limited immunity from criminal prosecution offered to a parent;
    • Inform the public concerning the rights of parents to reclaim or claim their child.
Notes
  • Creates s.383.50, 63.0423, and 827.035, FS. Amends s.39.01, 39.201, 63.167, and 63.182, FS.



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