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safe haven laws

If you have a newborn that you're unable to care for, you can bring your baby to a designated safe place with no questions asked. The safe haven laws—also known as Baby Moses laws—give parents who are unable to care for their child a safe and legal choice to leave their infant with an employee at a designated safe place—a hospital, fire station, free-standing emergency center, or emergency medical services (EMS) station. When left at such a designated safe place, your baby will receive medical care and be placed with an emergency provider.

In Texas, the Baby Moses law, also known as the Safe Haven or Safe Surrender law, allows a parent to surrender an unharmed infant, 60 days old or younger, to a designated safe place without fear of prosecution. The designated safe places include hospitals, fire stations, free-standing emergency centers, or EMS stations. The law's intent is to provide a secure and legal option for parents who are unable to care for their newborns and to ensure the baby's safety and well-being. When a baby is surrendered, they will receive medical care if necessary and will be placed with an emergency provider. The parent surrendering the child does not need to provide any identifying information, and as long as the baby has not been harmed, the parent will not face criminal charges for abandonment or neglect.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Texas Family Code, Section 262.301 - Possession of a Child Under Voluntary Delivery or Court Order
This statute is relevant as it outlines the legal process for voluntarily delivering a child to a designated emergency infant care provider without facing criminal liability.

Under Texas Family Code, Section 262.301, a parent may voluntarily deliver a child who is 60 days old or younger to an emergency infant care provider, such as a hospital, fire station, or emergency medical services station, if the parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child. The provider is required to take possession of the child, provide any necessary medical care, and report the delivery to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). The parent will not face criminal liability for delivering the child if there is no evidence of abuse or neglect.

Texas Family Code, Section 262.302 - Emergency Possession of Certain Abandoned Children
This statute provides the legal framework for emergency services personnel to take possession of an abandoned child under the Baby Moses law.

Texas Family Code, Section 262.302 allows an emergency medical services provider to take possession of a child who is 60 days old or younger if the child is voluntarily delivered to the provider by a parent who expresses intent not to return for the child. The provider must perform any act necessary to protect the physical health or safety of the child. The provider is then required to notify the local law enforcement agency and DFPS. The child is considered to be in the emergency possession of DFPS until a court order for further custody or possession is obtained.

Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 773.017 - Emergency Medical Services
This statute is relevant as it designates emergency medical services personnel as emergency infant care providers under the Baby Moses law.

According to Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 773.017, personnel of emergency medical services are designated as emergency infant care providers. This means they are authorized to take possession of a child who is 60 days old or younger if the child is voluntarily delivered to them by a parent. The statute ensures that emergency medical services personnel are part of the safe haven program, allowing parents to leave their infants with them without facing prosecution.

Texas Family Code, Section 262.303 - Procedures for Taking Possession of a Child and for Notification
This statute outlines the procedures that must be followed when a child is delivered to a designated emergency infant care provider under the Baby Moses law.

Texas Family Code, Section 262.303 requires an emergency infant care provider to perform any necessary emergency medical care for a child who is 60 days old or younger and has been voluntarily delivered by a parent. The provider must then report the delivery to the DFPS without delay. The report must include the date and time of delivery, the child's apparent age and condition, and any other relevant information. The provider must also give notice of the child's possession to the local law enforcement agency.

Texas Family Code, Section 262.304 - Immunity from Liability
This statute provides legal immunity to emergency infant care providers who take possession of a child under the Baby Moses law.

Under Texas Family Code, Section 262.304, an emergency infant care provider who takes possession of a child in accordance with Sections 262.301 and 262.302 is immune from civil or criminal liability. The immunity applies as long as the provider acts in good faith and exercises reasonable care. This legal protection encourages providers to participate in the safe haven program without fear of legal repercussions.

Federal Statutes & Rules

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) - 42 U.S.C. § 5106g
While CAPTA does not directly establish Safe Haven laws, it provides federal funding to states for prevention and treatment programs for child abuse and neglect, under which states may develop and maintain Safe Haven programs.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) provides federal funding to states in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities and also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for demonstration programs and projects. Additionally, CAPTA mandates states to have policies and procedures in place to ensure that children who are abandoned under Safe Haven laws receive the protections from child abuse and neglect. States that receive CAPTA funding must assure that their programs are in place to respond to the abandonment of infants in accordance with state laws, which may include Safe Haven laws.

Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 - Public Law 105-89
This Act emphasizes the safety of children, permanency, and family stability. It indirectly supports the intent of Safe Haven laws by ensuring that children who are relinquished to the state's care are promptly placed in stable and permanent homes.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 sets forth requirements regarding permanency planning for children who are in foster care or who have been abandoned. It requires states to ensure that children's health and safety are the paramount concerns in efforts to preserve and reunify families. When reunification is not possible or appropriate, the Act mandates timely adoption or other permanent living arrangements. Safe Haven laws complement this Act by providing a mechanism for parents to safely relinquish their infants, potentially leading to quicker placement in permanent homes.

Safe Haven Protection Laws - Vary by State
Safe Haven laws are state-specific statutes that allow parents to relinquish newborns safely, legally, and anonymously at designated locations without fear of prosecution.

While there is no specific federal statute known as the 'Safe Haven' or 'Baby Moses' law, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have enacted Safe Haven legislation. These laws generally allow a parent to give up an unharmed infant anonymously without fear of arrest or prosecution for abandonment. The age of the infant that can be legally relinquished varies by state, typically ranging from a few days old to one year old. The designated safe places also vary but commonly include hospitals, fire stations, and police stations. The laws aim to prevent infant abandonment and endangerment by providing a safe alternative for parents who may be in crisis or feel incapable of caring for their newborn.