Pregnancy can be scary, and so can being a new parent.
In the 1990s, there was a surge in the number of newborns being abandoned by their birth parents. Since they were left in places where no one thought to look, many of them died. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by pregnancy or parenthood, maybe you can imagine how these parents might have felt when they left their babies alone: frightened, uncertain, and desperate.
In response to these deaths, many states enacted what are known as Safe Haven laws. These laws say that a birth parent can leave an infant at a designated location – usually a hospital, police station, or fire station – and as long as the baby has not been harmed, the parent will not be punished for leaving them. Proponents of the laws hoped that they would encourage birth parents who felt they couldn’t care for their children to leave them in a place where the baby could be found and cared for, rather than in a random location where they might not be safe.
The well-being of children is our top priority at Adoptions Together, and we believe that Safe Haven laws work well when they keep babies from being harmed. However, we feel that it is crucial for birth parents to know that using a Safe Haven law is very different from choosing adoption for your baby through a non-profit agency.
If you are pregnant or a new parent and feel like you need someone else to take custody of your baby, take a moment to learn about the differences between using Safe Haven laws and choosing adoption.
Difference #1: Adoption gives you time to be certain about your decision.
Everyone feels overwhelmed at times. Some problems seem unsolvable, but much of the time there is help available, even if it seems difficult to find. For example, many new mothers suffer from post-partum depression, which can make caring for a child feel impossible to them; but post-partum depression can be treated through counseling and medication, and there are resources available for folks who need that sort of help. An ethical adoption agency will help you access those resources, and then if you still don’t feel like parenting is the right choice for you, they can work with you from there. With Safe Haven, you don’t get that type of support, and you can’t just change your mind once you’re feeling better; you’ve already given up custody of your child. Plus, if you decide one day that you want to know how your child is doing, you won’t necessarily have the right to get in touch the way you would if you arranged for an open adoption through an agency.
Difference #2: With adoption, you are in control.
Ethical agencies like Adoptions Together put you in control of your baby’s adoption process. This means that you can choose the family you want to raise your child and that you can determine what kind of adoption relationship you’d like to have with your child’s family, whether that means yearly letter-and-picture updates, in-person meetings, or other arrangements. If you relinquish custody of your baby under a Safe Haven law, the baby will go into the social services foster care system and will be adopted from there. Not only can this take up to a year – which is a long time for a baby not to have a permanent family – but you don’t have any control over who eventually adopts your baby. Nor can you specify what type of contact you’d like to have with them and with your child in the future.
Ultimately, we all want children to be safe. If leaving your child at a Safe Haven location is the best way for you to keep them out of harm’s way, then we trust you to make that choice. But we also want you to stay safe, both physically and emotionally, and we don’t want you to give up your right to be a part of your child’s life if there might be another way. If you’re in crisis and worried about caring for your baby, we hope you’ll call us or another licensed agency so we can figure out a plan – together.