Changes to 'Safe Haven Law' go into effect - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Changes to 'Safe Haven Law' go into effect

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

New state laws went into effect on Thursday, including one meant to give more protection to newborn babies.

Since 2000, the safe haven law has been on the books to combat infant abandonment.

Starting Thursday, parents have 60 days, instead of 30, to make a tough decision about their newborn.

Under the safe haven law, a parent can bring a healthy newborn to a safe location, like a fire or police department, and give up custody - no questions asked.

"Pregnancy sometimes is overwhelming, and being responsible for a newborn - for some people - might be overwhelming and so they're looking for an answer," said Department of Child and Family Services spokesperson Trey Williams.

DCFS reports since the early 2000s, 28 newborns have been turned over to the state under the safe haven law.  Now with an additional 30 days to give up custody of infants. How will things change?

Mike Chustz with East Baton Rouge Emergency Services thinks this extension will mean more babies given up.

"When you have a baby, you're in the hospital for the week. You get home, you have people helping you for the first few days and then you're on your own. All of a sudden after two or three weeks, you only got a week left to go at that point. So I think if situations can get worse in that time frame, people may be more apt to use it," said Chustz.

Williams says past cases lead him to think otherwise.

"We don't know, really, if this additional 30 days is going to provide more people coming and utilizing the safe haven law. We don't think it will be a great number because most of those decisions are done right there at the birth," said Williams.

While this law is meant to keep babies safe, DCFS encourages parents to seriously consider traditional adoption if they think they won't be able to care for the child after birth.

Nine infants have been relinquished this year in Louisiana, including two in July.

For more information, call 1-800-CHILDREN or visit www.LouisianaSafeHaven.com.

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