Adoption vs. Safe Haven Laws: What You Should Know

pregnant woman thinking about adoption and safe haven laws

Adoption vs. Safe Haven Laws: The Important Differences

In the 1990s, there was a surge in the number of babies being abandoned by their birth parents. Because they were left in unsafe places, many of them died. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by pregnancy or parenthood, it’s easy to imagine how these parents 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. Safe Haven Laws allow parents to 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, instead of abandoning them unsafely where they might not be found.

The well-being of children is our top priority at Adoptions Together. 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 Safe Haven 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 too hard to solve. But most of the time help is available, even if it seems difficult to find. An ethical adoption agency will help you access resources that can help you decide whether parenting is the right choice for you.  And adoption agency’s job is to help support you and help make a plan that’s right for your family. Safe Haven placements are designed to be anonymous- 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 adoption agencies like Adoptions Together put you in control of your baby’s adoption process. This means that you can choose the adoptive 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 give up custody of your baby under a Safe Haven law, the baby will go into the social services foster care system and their future will be determined 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.

10 Responses to “Adoption vs. Safe Haven Laws: What You Should Know”

  1. Giving parents the time to be certain about their decision to give their child up for adoption is really big! Going with a licensed adoption agency seems like it would be better because they give you time and they give you resources to deal with the emotions that parents feel after giving up a child. I’m sure the safe haven is good too but if I was in this situation I’d go with the agency. What are the benefits of using the safe haven option?

  2. The benefits of safe haven are for teenagers or women who may have hid their pregnancy or for non citizens who can’t reach out to medical services who didn’t plan the pregnancy, and for those who may have been raped or in denial or perhaps used drugs during pregnancy. Once the baby is born they can’t deny what happened and may still not want to deal with it. Safe haven keeps the baby safe and the birth mothers name off paper and her pregnancy out of sight out of mind.

  3. I have been through the adoption and im a teen right know. it at least make me realize that holy shit moment where my parents had sex and had 2 kids close together and gave both of them up but 4 years later you think you finna be able to handle another one if u couldn’t handle 2 how you going to handle another one. and I have a younger brother he doesnt understand anything he has so many different thoughts n his head. he knows some but not all. it is just mind blowing to me that you could just give up your kids and when I ask my parents why they did it they really dont give me a responds or they tell me bull shit lies that just pisses me off bc now im in my teens I think I can understand anything wild ass thing that comes out of their mouth now. but I just hope you all think about what u are doing before u do it. and think would have I wanted my parents to do that to me so ima not do that to my kid/kids but I understand in some situations it is hard but just try your best to push thru. 🙂

  4. It’s good to know that adoption gives you time to be certain about such an important decision. My sister is pregnant but unsure if she will be able to take care of the baby. I’ll pass this information along to her so that she can make an informed decision about what to do with her child.

  5. Looking for help. My daughter hid her pregnancy then when in labor went to the hospital. She was scared traumatized and has pain meds from delivery in her system when asked what her plan was , she expressed maybe adoption but wasn’t sure, she wasn’t explain anything and the next morning was released from hospital thinking her baby was going to be up for adoption. Instead the hospital social worker said she safe haven led the baby. She had her rights taken and we haven been fight to get him back. Safe haven is awesome to prevent abuse or abandonment but should be something a hospital social worker can decide for a mother. She receive no counseling no crisis info hotline nothing. The hospital has all her info as well as family contact they never attempted to contact us. I my family is devastated over this , any advice Will be appreciated. Please keep us in your prayers

  6. Dan Skender

    I dont have any advice seeing how I’m only a teen in high school but in my Health class, we have been learning about safe haven, and personally… I disagree with the argument of it all. I was adopted which means if I want to find my birth parents I just need to dig a little and I know my birth name. With Safe Haven or “The Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act” they allow the mother to abandon her child without the punishment of the child abandonment penalty. Since I am not very good at explaining myself I will just copy and paste my argument. “Child abandonment is illegal in the United States, but some states consider it to be a felony offence, while others categorize it as a misdemeanour, so punishments range from a $2,000 fine to up to five years in prison and a $125,000 penalty”. Yet the mother that abandons her child isn’t affected by this law, we might as well not have the abandonment law in the first place. As I said before I am adopted and I have grown up well and I just don’t understand why we need the Safe Haven law in the first place if the whole point is just so the mother doesn’t need to give her name. If the other has the guts to abandon her baby then she should have the guts to put him/her up for adoption which gives you more control and time to confirm that you want to do this. Also every time I look up the laws for the Safe Haven laws, I never see anything about father rights. What if the father wants to keep the baby (That is already born so its not like an abortion) then why don’t I read or hear anything about the father’s rights in this situation. The father should have just as much of a say in the abandonment of their baby as the mother, if the mother is just a teen who forgot a condom or something and doesn’t know the father then let her have all the rights but there will always be times where there is a known father who might want to keep the baby and raise him/her on his own as a single dad or raise the baby with a different partner. I know this was long but this was my personal thoughts about the Baby abandonment without punishment law. When you think about it there are two child abandonment laws, one where you could get 5 years in jail or one where literally nothing is said or done to you, you can choose, it’s just a matter of how close you get to a hospital, fire station, or police department. If you go inside you are fine but if you don’t go inside and leave the baby outside you could get 5 years in prison. I think that adoption is a far better choice because all the people that were adopted that I know never went searching for their parents, so the mother doesn’t need to worry about that and if you give your child up for adoption you can decide if they are fit to raise your child and you can even leave the child with a gift, a sense of their past identity like how my parents did for me with a little angle doll that signed when squeezed with a note. Lastly, the mother doesn’t know if her baby will have a future medical problem and require blood (such as o- bc it is rare) so the mother in adoption could be found if really needed to be in a matter of life or death and donate blood to her child, and the same is with a kidney or liver or something… IDK Im not very good with that but I hope you get my point. Contacting or knowing who the parents are and knowing if they could help in a medical emergency is important, otherwise, you might as well leave your baby at the Mississipi river (which by the way people still do even with this non-punishable abandonment of babies which is basically an unlawful law because it is basically doing the opposite of an older law). Again I know this is long, but keep in mind I have a hard time explaining what I want to say sometimes but I disagree with this abandoning on a personal level since I was adopted.

    • atadmin

      Hi Dan!
      First, thanks so much for your incredibly thoughtful reply. We really appreciate the perspective of adoptees. Your voice is incredibly critical to organizations like ours, and learning more from you is so helpful.
      First, we hope you can see from our post that we believe adoption is a better option than Safe Haven Placement- when it’s possible. We don’t consider Safe Haven Placements “abandonment” when done using the appropriate avenues where they exist. For example, if a woman chooses a Safe Haven placement in a hospital setting, a baby is taken into a safe, qualified care setting that will protect and nurture her infant.
      There are many reasons it’s important for Safe Haven laws to exist, and you’ve covered so many of them. Most critically, women who are unable to parent their infants have to be able to relinquish custody of their infants in ways that prevent them from being criminally charged with abandonment. When Safe Haven laws became more popular, they saved the lives of many infants. This is so important.
      We work closely with professionals in settings where Safe Haven placements occur so that they can counsel women considering a Safe Haven placement to understand her legal options, and to help her consider the alternative option of adoption. If a woman considering Safe Haven understands the alternative option of adoption, she can choose a closed adoption, which allows her similar confidentiality, but may also allow her to change her mind in the future if she decides to seek contact with her child. This also allows her child to learn more about his or her birth story and biological family (including important medical information, etc). At Adoptions Together, we maintain (at minimum) annual updates for all of our birth parents, regardless of whether they choose open or closed adoptions so that birth parents have the option of contacting us at any time to learn more about their child if they decide to do so. We believe openness is a critical part of adoption identity, and your comment about Safe Haven laws really speaks to that.
      Although Safe Haven laws aren’t perfect, they’re still really important because they exist to protect women and infants who may be at immediate risk of abuse and neglect. We respect the choice of women to use Safe Haven laws when necessary, and seek to do our very best to ensure our community is informed about *all* options so that they can make informed decisions when they’re facing these incredibly hard choices.
      Again, thank you so, so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences as an adoptee. You’re incredibly intelligent and it shows.

  7. My sister and her husband want to adopt a child so that they can add one more kid to their family. I like how you mentioned that adoption agencies can help people make plans that will be right for them. I’ll be sure to mention to my sister that she needs to find a good agency to work with. Finding a family lawyer to work with would probably be an important thing to do as well.

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