Safe Haven Act
Act 201 of 2002, also known as The Newborn Protection Act, took effect in February 2003 and was amended in 2014. The law permits that a parent of a newborn may leave the child in the care of a hospital or a police officer or police station without being criminally liable providing that the following criteria are met:
- The parent expresses orally or through conduct that they intend for the hospital or the police officer to accept the child, and;
- The newborn is not a victim of child abuse or criminal conduct.
The parent may provide information about the child’s medical history and any identifying information. The parent is not required to provide this information and will not be asked any questions. A newborn is defined by this act as a child less than 28 days of age as reasonably determined by a physician.
Pennsylvania’s program for newborn protection is known as "Safe Haven of Pennsylvania."
The Act requires that designated hospital staff or police take protective custody of a newborn. If the police take custody, they must ensure that the child is transported to the hospital and placed into the care of a health care provider. The hospital will perform a medical evaluation and any act necessary to care for and protect the physical health and safety of the child. The hospital is also required to notify the county children and youth agency and local law enforcement. The county children and youth agency is to make diligent efforts to notify a parent, guardian or other family member of the whereabouts of the newborn (unless prohibited by court order) and the reasons for the need for protective custody. The county children and youth agency will find a safe and permanent home for the baby. A statewide hotline has been established for women in crisis and individuals seeking information. Callers are able to speak with a person regarding the program and to find out the location of the nearest hospital or police station.
Since 2003, 25 newborns have been relinquished under the Safe Haven of Pennsylvania program.
Click here for a FAQ sheet from the Department of Public Welfare Safe Haven website.