In August, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) officials used the state’s Safe Haven procedures for the 30th time since the law went into effect in 2002.
A girl was born August 21 at an Iowa hospital and the infant was released to the custody of the DHS. Through Iowa’s Safe Haven law, parents have the option to safely hand over custody of babies age 14 days or younger without fear of prosecution for abandonment. The parent or their authorized representative can leave the newborn at a hospital or health care facility and can remain anonymous.
Mahaska Health Partnership is among the health care facilities in Iowa that proudly provides Safe Haven zones.
“Having Safe Haven zones creates both comfort for the mother and protection of the baby,” said MHP Birthing Center Director Heather Cook. “These two things are very important when it comes to saving or helping an infant’s life.”
The Safe Haven zone at the MHP Emergency Department is accessible 24/7, providing a service to help ensure the safety of newborns. The hospital’s Birthing Center is also a safe zone. The Safe Haven law was approved in the wake of a high-profile case in 2001 involving a teen mother in eastern Iowa who killed her home-delivered newborn. Infants who are Safe Haven babies are placed with currently-approved foster or adoptive families.
Immunity from civil or criminal liability is provided for hospitals, health care facilities, and persons employed by those facilities that perform reasonable acts necessary to protect the physical health and safety of the infant.
“A parent must simply bring a baby to a safe haven location and make sure they locate a person who can receive the child,” Cook said. “As long as the child shows no signs of intentional abuse, no name or other information is required—it’s a ‘no questions asked’ situation.”
The Save Abandoned Babies Organization currently has 83 success stories on its website of families who have adopted a baby that was left at a safe haven zone. MHP has joined other healthcare facilities in the state to provide the opportunity to create more.
“To think of all the lives that have been touched because of this law, it’s really amazing,” Cook said.
To learn more about Safe Haven, visit dhs.iowa.gov/safe-haven
Mahaska Health Partnership, located in Oskaloosa, is a non-profit health system accredited by the Joint Commission. It is guided by its mission to provide exceptional customer service and health improvement, linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. For more information about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, visit mahaskahealth.org.