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

 
 

List of Enacted State Safe Haven Legislation

CWLA Summary for Montana

Which babies may be relinquished?
  • "Newborn:" Child who a physician reasonably believes to be no more than 30 days old.
Who may relinquish a baby?
  • Identity not specified:
    • Individual does not express an intent to return for the child.
What are the incentives for a person to relinquish a baby at a Safe Haven?
  • Protection from Liability:
    • A criminal prosecution for abandonment may not be initiated.
Who can accept a relinquished baby?
  • Emergency services provider:
    • On-duty, uniformed or identifiable employee of a:
      • Fire department
      • Hospital
      • Law enforcement agency
    • Any law enforcement officer.
What are the responsibilities of a Safe Haven?
  • Comply with the requirements of this section under the assumption that the child is a newborn.
  • Take child into temporary protective custody.
  • If not a hospital, must transfer the child to a hospital.
  • Child shall be examined by a physician.
  • Take action necessary to protect the health and safety of the child.
  • Make a reasonable effort to:
    • Inform the parent that by surrendering the child, the parent is releasing the child to be placed for adoption.
    • Inform the parent that he/she has 60 days to petition the court to regain custody.
    • Ascertain whether the child has a tribal affiliation, and if so, ascertain relevant information pertaining to any Indian heritage of the child.
    • Provide the parent with materials that include notification that:
      • Parent is releasing the child for adoption;
      • Parent has 60 days to petition to regain custody;
      • Parent may not receive notice of court proceedings;
      • Information the parent provides to emergency services provider will not be made public;
      • Parent may contact the safe delivery line for more information and counseling;
      • Any Indian heritage brings the newborn within the jurisdiction of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
    • Encourage parent to provide relevant family or medical information, including information regarding any tribal affiliation.
    • Provide the parent with the information pamphlet and inform the parent that he or she may receive counseling or medical attention.
    • Inform parent that information the parent provides will not be made public.
    • Ask for the parent's name.
    • Inform the parent that in order to place the child for adoption, the state is required to make a reasonable attempt to identify the other parent and to obtain relevant medial family history and then ask the parent to identify the other parent.
    • Inform the parent that the department can provide confidential services to the parent.
    • Inform the parent that he/she may sign a document relinquishing custody to be used at a hearing to terminate parental rights.
  • If the physician suspects the child has experienced abuse or neglect, or believes the child is not a newborn, he/she must immediately report to the Department of Public Health and Human Services. Otherwise, reporting requirements do not apply.
  • If the child's actual date of birth is not known, the physician shall determine a birth date based on the examination.
  • Notify the Department of Public Health and Human services no later than the first business day after taking possession.
Is the Safe Haven protected from liability for its actions?
  • Yes: Immune in a civil action for acts or omissions under this law, except in cases of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.
Rights of the Relinquishing Parent
  • Provide Information to Relinquisher:
    • Safe haven shall make a reasonable effort to inform the parent that:
      • By surrendering the child, the parent is releasing the child to be placed for adoption.
      • He/she has 60 days to petition the court to regain custody.
    • Safe haven shall make a reasonable effort to provide the parent with materials that include notification that:
      • Parent is releasing the child for adoption;
      • Parent has 60 days to petition to regain custody;
      • Parent may not receive notice of court proceedings;
      • Information the parent provides to emergency services provider will not be made public;
      • Parent may contact the safe delivery line for more information and counseling;
      • Any Indian heritage brings the newborn within the jurisdiction of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
    • Safe haven shall make reasonable efforts to inform the parent that the department can provide confidential services to the parent.
  • Procedure to Reclaim Custody:
    • Any person claiming to be a parent may file an action for custody within 60 days of the date of surrender of the child.
    • Court shall determine if the person is the biological parent.
    • Based on the court's finding of the child's best interest, it may grant custody to the parent.
    • A parent who surrenders a child and does not file a custody action within 60 days is presumed to have knowingly waived parental rights.
Children's Rights
  • Medical Information:
    • Safe haven shall encourage parent to provide relevant family or medical information and inform parent that information the parent provides will not be made public.
  • Identifying Information:
    • Safe haven shall make a reasonable effort to ascertain whether the child has a tribal affiliation, and if so, ascertain relevant information pertaining to any Indian heritage of the child.
    • Safe haven shall ask for the parent's name.
    • Safe haven shall inform the parent that in order to place the child for adoption, the state is required to make a reasonable attempt to identify the other parent and to obtain relevant medial family history and then ask the parent to identify the other parent.
Care for the Child/Placement for Adoption
  • Safe haven shall take child into temporary protective custody.
  • The court has jurisdiction over a relinquished child and may appoint a guardian ad litem.
  • Department of Public Health and Human Services shall:
    • Immediately assume care, control, and temporary protective custody of the child.
    • Reimburse hospital for expenses of caring for child.
    • If parent is known and willing, immediately meet with the parent.
    • Temporarily place the child.
    • Request assistance from law enforcement officials to search missing children information programs to determine that the child is not a missing child.
    • File a petition requesting appropriate relief with the goal of permanent placement at the earliest possible date but not later than 48 hours after assuming custody.
    • Make a reasonable effort to identify and locate a parent who did not surrender the newborn within 30 days. If identity and address of that parent are unknown, provide notice by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the child was surrendered.
  • Not required to attempt to reunify the child and parents.
  • Not required to search for or give preference to relatives if the department does not have information on the identity of the child or parents.
  • Place the child with prospective adoptive parents as soon as possible.
  • Montana birth certificate may be issued, based on the actual date of birth, if known, or the date of birth determined by the physician who performs the medical examination.
  • A parent who surrenders a child and does not file a custody action within 60 days is presumed to have knowingly waived parental rights.
  • A criminal investigation may not be initiated solely on the basis of a relinquishment in the absence of reasonable suspicion of actual abuse or neglect.
Fathers' Rights
  • Search Putative Father Registries:
    • The putative father registry provisions under Title 42, chapter 2, part 2, apply to any court proceeding.
  • Publish Notice:
    • Department shall make a reasonable effort to identify and locate a parent who did not surrender the newborn within 30 days. If the identity and address of the parent are unknown, publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the child was surrendered.
Efficacy of Safe Havens - Public Information Campaigns
  • Department of Public Health and Human Services shall establish a safe delivery program, which must include a pamphlet that provides information to the public about the safe delivery program and a toll-free, 24-hour telephone line (a component of the department's existing child abuse toll-free line) with information about:
    • Prenatal care and the delivery of a newborn
    • Names of health agencies that can assist in obtaining services and support for the pregnancy-related health of the mother and child
    • Adoption options
    • The best place to surrender a child is a hospital
    • Prenatal care and delivery services can be confidential
    • Safe haven programs: legal and procedural requirements
    • Indian Child Welfare Act
    • Legal consequences for endangering a child
    • Surrendering a child is an affirmative defense to charges of abandonment
    • Resources for counseling and assistance with crisis management
  • Pamphlet must be distributed and the safe deliver program publicized in order to reach females of childbearing age, including delivery of the pamphlet to high schools for use in health courses.
Long-Term Solutions
  • Repeal Dates: June 30, 2004
Notes
  • Amends Sections 40-4-211 and 41-3-102, MCA.



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