BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Officials with the St. George Fire Department (SGFD) say a mother recently had to make the difficult choice in surrendering custody of her baby to firefighters.
It’s one of the places designated as a “safe baby site,” where parents can drop off their child. The woman was able to safely and legally relinquish custody of her baby due to a law currently on the books called Louisiana’s Safe Haven Law.
Around 2 a.m. on Sunday, May 2, a St. George Fire Department communications officer answered the call from a mom asking specifically for a woman to come outside and take her newborn baby, which was born just three hours earlier.
“It feels good that the mother made, what I applaud, the decision to bring the child to life and for whatever reason, whatever circumstance, just felt that the child could have a better life with someone else,” said Eldon Ledoux, the public information officer for St. George Fire Department.
The baby girl is healthy, according to St. George Fire paramedics. Emergency medics picked her up and took her to Woman’s Hospital. St. George Fire Station Headquarters is known as a safe baby site, meaning parents can anonymously surrender their babies as long as there’s no sign of abuse or neglect.
“My heart still breaks every time I read about a child discarded in a dumpster, in a ditch, or wherever. This program was set up to prevent that and, in this case, not saying that would have been the child’s ultimate fate, but in this case, it worked the way it was supposed to,” added Ledoux.
That’s why there are signs on other fire stations, hospitals, or other legal sites that can take care of the child.
“The Safe Haven Law enacted in 2000 in Louisiana, so it provides a safe, legal, last resort to abandonment, you know, allowing that parent to give up custody of that newborn up to 60 days,” said Lori Miller, the child protective services manager for the Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services. “It’s free of abuse and neglect.”
As long as the baby is less than 60 days old, parents can drop their child off at any safe baby site or call 911 and an emergency responder will pick up the baby. Parents have 30 days to change their minds and decide if they want their child back. The program is meant to remind parents there are other options if they want their child to have a better life.
- As long as the parent leaves their baby with an employee and the baby shows no signs of abuse or neglect, the parent can walk away knowing that their baby will be safe.
- The relinquishing parent may also call 911, allowing the parent to relinquish a baby to an emergency responder in a location chosen by the parent.
- Mothers in need of assistance can call 1-888-510-BABY or text SAFEHAVEN to 313131 to connect to DCFS’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline.
There are programs supported by the Safe Haven Law, including guidance for parents who are looking for options.