Iowa Specialty Hospital

Maternity Center: Safe Haven for Newborns

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The Safe Haven Act is a law that allows parents - or another person who has the Safe Haven Logoparent's authorization - to leave an infant up to 30 days old at a hospital or health care facility without fear of prosecution for abandonment. A parent may also contact 911 and relinquish physical custody of an infant up to 30 days old to a first responder of the 911 call. More than 40 children have been declared safe havens since the Iowa law was enacted in 2002. All states have Safe Haven laws, although provisions differ.

Who is a Safe Haven?

A Safe Haven is an institutional health facility - such as a hospital or health care facility or a first responder who responds to the 911 telephone call.

According to the law - an "institutional health facility" means:

A "hospital" as defined in Iowa Code section 135B.1, including a facility providing medical or health services that is open twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week and is a hospital emergency room, or

A "health care facility" as defined in Iowa Code section 135C.1 means a residential care facility, a nursing facility, an intermediate care facility for persons with mental illness, or an intermediate care facility for persons with an intellectual disability.

According to the law, “first responder” means an emergency medical care provider, a registered nurse staffing an authorized service program under section 147A.12, a physician assistant staffing an authorized service program under section 147A.13, a fire fighter, or a peace officer as defined in section 801.4.
 

Requirements for Safe Haven Facilities and First Responders:
Hospitals and health care facilities are encouraged to prominently display the Safe Haven logo.

First responders must transport any infant relinquished to them to the nearest institutional health facility and provide any parental identification or medical history information to the institutional health facility.
 

Hospitals, health care facilities, and first responders may:

  • Ask for, but cannot require the name of the parent or parents. medical history of the infant. or medical history of the infant's parents.
  • Perform reasonable acts to protect the physical health and safety of the infant with immunity from criminal or civil liability or omissions made in good faith.
  • Testify at any court hearing held concerning the infant.

Hospitals, health care facilities, and first responders must:

  • Notify the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) as soon as possible by calling 1-800-362- 2178 that physical custody of an infant has been taken under the Safe Haven Act. DHS will make the necessary court and legal contacts and assume care, control and custody of the child.
  • Submit the certificate of birth report as required in Iowa Code section 144.
  • Keep confidential any information received or recorded in connection with a good faith effort to voluntarily release an infant under the Safe Haven Act except as outlined in Iowa Code Chapter 233.
  • Failure to keep information confidential is a serious misdemeanor.


For more information about Iowa's Safe Haven Act, please visit the Iowa Department of Human Services website.  
https://dhs.iowa.gov/safe-haven

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